Liesl Clark from Claris Photography gives some great advice on scheduling your wedding day formals.
One of the most important but sometimes least favorite parts of the wedding day are the “planned” photos - the “formals” as some may call it. This portion of the day, while essential, is often looked upon as a “grip and grin” section of the wedding that a bride and groom want to just “get through”. At the same time, most everyone will agree that without this part of the day, some very valuable photographs of family and friends would be overlooked and later one may have regrets that they weren’t captured.
This part of the day doesn’t have to be dreaded. With proper planning (ie. scouting of the locations, a thorough shot list provided by the bride and groom, and a detailed photography schedule) the photography needs of the couple and their families can be met without any headache, frustration or confusion.
Communicate early (up to a month or two) with your planner and/or photographer by filling out a “shot list” which is a detailed account of the groups you are hoping to capture. By doing this, you will avoid missing an important grouping. Additionally, you will avoid possible hectic confusion trying to find all the individuals involved in the shot on the wedding day. Your photographer should take this information and create a photography schedule for your review which will show the timeline for the entire wedding day which includes details of when and where each photo will take place. Finally, take this schedule along with you and “scout” or walk through the location where these photos will take place if possible. Couples can even make extra copies of this photography schedule and pass them out to key members of the bridal party at the rehearsal to enlist the help of others.
Additionally, this is a good time to decide if the couples want to see each other ahead of time for these formal photographs. This is a topic of much debate as the tradition of not seeing one another until the ceremony still stands strong in most couples. The choice is a very individual one but from a photographers point of view has may benefits (ie. everyone is at their “freshest” and it gives the entire bridal party, including the couple, a chance to enjoy all or a portion of the cocktail hour).
Again, this portion of the day can be well planned out in advance to allow the moment when a couple will see each other for the first time to be dramatic and special. With your photographer, scout a location where this wonderful moment can take place. Generally about an hour total is allotted for “formal” photos so allow 5 or 10 minutes to relish this moment and let it sink in - your photographer will most likely be shooting away without your knowledge. Then move right into a romantic photography session with just the two of you. After another 15 - 20 minutes of these shots together schedule it in a way that the bridal party and the family show up to complete the photography process before the ceremony (usually another 30-40 minutes). There are other variations on this “before the ceremony” photography idea such as doing it half and half - see each other ahead of time and have those amazing shots together and/or with the bridal party then do just the family shots following the ceremony. This will still allow the couple to still enjoy a portion of the cocktail hour.
The benefits to planning ahead by creating this photography itinerary - either seeing each other beforehand or not - are many. Take the time to talk it over with your planner and/or photographer and get all those amazing shots you had hoped for! You will look back and be so glad that you did!
Below is an example of a schedule Liesl might use:
3:00 - 3:45 Photographs of Kate and Bridesmaids in the last stages of getting ready
- Kate w/ Mom and Dad and individually
- Kate w/ Bridesmaids
- Kate w/ MOH
- Kate Alone
3:45 - 4:00 Travel to church (St Andrews by the Sea)
4:00 - 4:30 Photos of Mark and Groomsmen waiting and guests arriving
4:30 - 5:30 Ceremony
5:30 - 5:45 Travel time for Photography - Locations TBD
6:00 - 7:00 Photos to include:
- K & M w/ Lemkes and Keatings
- K & M w/ Arnfields
- K & M w/ Cathleen and Robert, Brett
- Kate w/ Brett
- K & M w/ Cathleen and Robert
- K & M w/ All Parents (Cathleen & Robert,Donna & John)
- K & M w/ Donna, John, Mike and John
- Mark w/ John and Mike
- K & M w/ Donna and John
- Mark w/ Donna and John
- K & M w/ Robert (Grandfather)
- K & M w/ Bridal Party (8)
- K & M w/ Stephen and Alyssa (after this shot they are finished)
- Kate w/ Bridesmaids
- Mark w/ Bridesmaids
- K & M w/ MOH and BM (6)
- Kate w/ Jessica and Jaime
- Mark w/ Groomsmen
- Kate w/ Groomsmen
- Groom w/ Chris and Andy
- K & M Alone
- Kate Alone
- Mark Alone
7:00 - 10:00 Reception Coverage
Photos during reception:
- Kate w/ College Friends
- Kate w/ HS Friends- Mark w/ HS Friends
- Cathleen and Robert with Dzielaks and VanAlstines
Here’s some of Liesl’s work:
To read more on wedding photography schedules check out: