How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer: Planning the Big Day

Third in a series.

OK, you’ve booked the photographer for your wedding. You’ve signed a contract and paid a non-refundable retainer to ensure your reservation. You’ve planned ahead, so it’s still six to nine months before the big day. 

Now what?

The Engagement Sitting

<i>Meggan and Blake visited with me earlier this winter. They are planning a wedding next summer and wanted to make sure we got some engagement photographs to be used for their planning materials.</i>

If you have purchased an engagement sitting, now is the time to schedule it. Engagement sittings are important for you and for your photographer. Most couples have never been photographed professionally — so it’s good to learn what that feels like before your wedding day, and to learn to enjoy it.

For the photographer, an engagement sitting is a chance to develop a rapport with you. The photographer can watch how you interact as a couple, and you can have some fun and develop a level of trust before the pressure of the wedding day.

<i>Mamie and Nick embrace at sunset during their engagement sitting. Almost always, the pictures I make at the end of the sitting are better because the couple is more relaxed.</i>

It’s hard to overstate the value of trust. Being able to trust the photographer’s suggestions is critical if the photography is to go smoothly at your wedding. The fewer things you have to worry about, the more you’ll enjoy the day.

After the engagement, you can also pore over the proofs online or in hard copy form, much like you would your wedding photographs. So that helps you to understand the order fulfillment process. We always include a slideshow with our engagement sittings, which makes for a great diversion at work or home and gets you and your families excited about the big day.

<i>Heather and Gary kiss during their engagement sitting. When I start a sitting I usually take more formal photographs and then work up to something more dramatic as it goes on.</i>

Scheduling the Day

Even if you decide not to do an engagement session, don’t stop talking to your photographer about your wedding. 

Good wedding photographers are usually obsessed with your wedding day schedule, and it’s important (especially if you’re not using a wedding planner) to discuss the agenda with your photographer well in advance of your big day.

What all wedding photographers really want and need is time.

Time for family pictures.

Time for portraits of the two of you.

Time enough to get from the ceremony to the reception and photograph the hall and the cake before the guests arrive.

Time to be able stop and see pictures they may not have seen while under the pressure to get from here to there.

Finding time on the wedding day is like finding water in the desert. It’s a precious resource to a photographer, and it should never be wasted. That’s why working closely on your schedule with your photographer will ensure time enough to make all of the pictures you want — and time enough for the photographer to find the pictures he or she wants.

In our business, we lay out the wedding day in a precise timeline. Here’s an example of a typical plan:

    1:30 p.m. Bride arrives at the Garden of the Gods (GOG)/photographers arrive

    1:35-2:15 p.m. Bride preparation in suite

    2:00-2:30 p.m. Groom arrives at the GOG/groom prep in locker room

    2:30 p.m. Private moment at the reflecting pool. (In case of weather, at the Garden Terrace)

    2:40-3:05 p.m. Portraits of bride and groom

    3:15-4:15 p.m. Wedding party and family formals

    4:15 p.m. Guests arrive/bride and groom retire to waiting areas

    5:00 p.m.- 5:45 p.m. Ceremony

  • Processional
  • Serenade
  • Communion
  • Vows
  • Rings
  • Kiss
  • Recessional
  • Guest release
  • 5:45-6:30 p.m. Cocktail hour

    6:30-6:45 p.m. Group photograph of all guests (outside weather permitting)

    6:45 p.m. Call to dinner/reception

    7:00 p.m. Bride and groom entrance

    7:05 p.m. Welcome/blessing

    7:05-8:05 p.m. Dinner

    8:05 p.m.Toasts

    8:20 p.m. Cake cutting

    8:30 p.m. First dance

    8:35 p.m. Parents’ dance

    8:45 p.m.General dancing

    11 p.m. Departure and bubbles

Your Game Plan

For the sake of brevity, I didn’t include the list of family photographs in this timetable. But I always put one together with help from the bride and groom well before the wedding day. This list includes all the family and wedding party pictures the wedding couple wants. It also includes the names and relationships of family members and the wedding party to the bride and groom. 

In addition, we ask our couples if they have any “must have” pictures. Many times these are pictures that parents may have in their own wedding albums, and we are asked to duplicate them. As long as the couple makes the time, we will make sure to honor all of their requested photographs.

The schedule for your wedding day is essentially your game plan. While circumstances will almost always result in some improvisation on the day of the event, it’s much easier to adjust when working from a plan.

Next: What to expect on the big day and how photographers handle inevitable changes in plan.

3 Responses to “How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer: Planning the Big Day”

  1. Thanks for this Sean!

  2. This is a great idea, do you have the clients that you book subscribe to your blog, or send them new posts? Could I print a small excerpt from your blog on mine, crediting and linking to you? Thanks, Jill

  3. Many thanks to you Sean,
    Deep thinking ideeas and well organidez too.
    Useful for photographers as well for brides and grooms.

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