If you’re engaged, then you already know that figuring out how to schedule a wedding is really really tough.
You’re going to want candid pictures of both bride and groom getting ready, creative pictures of the bridal party, intimate portraits of the couple, and timeless portraits of the families.
You’re also going to want to have enough time around these events that you don’t feel rushed or like you’re being shuffled from one photoshoot to the next all day instead of experiencing your wedding day.
It goes without saying that you want to make sure every one of your wedding pictures is the very best it can possibly be.
The first step in getting these pictures is choosing the right photographer.
The second step is knowing how to schedule a wedding with photography in mind.
Photography literally means “writing with light,” so it’s no surprise that one of the most important elements of a picture is the light. When you schedule your wedding for the best photographs, you’re going to want to schedule it around the light.
As the sun rises, hangs in the sky, and eventually sets the quality and direction of light is constantly changing. And in different time’s of year the light changes at different rates. During the summer sunset lasts much longer than in the fall.
But if you’re looking to have an outdoor wedding in Houston, you’ll probably want to get married in the fall (so your groomsmen don’t melt because you made them wear suits in July). That means you’ll have a smaller window of beautiful light, which means knowing how to schedule a wedding becomes even more important.
To help you make the most of it, here’s some tips on how to schedule a wedding for beautiful photos.
1. Have the ceremony during “golden hour”
The 60-90 minutes right before the sun sets (or after it rises) are called golden hour because the light is a beautiful golden hue that makes everyone’s skin look good and doesn’t leave harsh shadows.
It’s absolutely the best time to photograph anything. We schedule all of our engagement and bridal sessions during golden hour. That warm golden light shining in the back is part our signature look.
It’s also the easiest and most forgiving light. Which is why it is perfect for during the ceremony.
Any other time of the day, we can grab you and say “Let’s do this over here, the light is better.” We could maybe do that during a wedding ceremony, but I don’t think it would be a good idea.
We can use flashes the rest of the day, but the constant flashing would be a distraction from the sacredness of a wedding ceremony.
So since we have the least control over the light during a ceremony, the best solution is schedule your wedding ceremony during golden hour. Just make sure the sun is behind you during the ceremony and you’ll be set.
When is golden hour? Well, it changes based on time time of year and your location. But you can find out here.
2. Have a small family portrait list
Immediately after the ceremony, your guests will all go to the bar and your family will stay for some of the most important pictures of the day: the family portraits.
These pictures are a part of your family history. Your wedding album will be a family heirloom partially because these pictures will be in it. Great grandmother to you will be great-great-great-grandmother to your grand-children. These photos will help your children and grand-children know where they came from.
That’s not something we take lightly.
Between retrieving the cousin that headed to the bar already, arranging everyone in a way that helps keep family units visually evident (we don’t want your brother’s kids standing on the other side away from the rest of his family), and making sure everyone has their eyes open, it takes about 3 minutes for each portrait.
Twenty portraits would take an hour!
You get about an hour of beautiful golden light. So lets do some math:
Your ceremony takes 30 minutes of that hour, so we have 30 minutes left for family pictures.
You have 30 minutes for family pictures and it takes 3 minutes for each one. We have time for 10.
We usually recommend doing a “legacy portrait” of everyone and then 10 family portraits that include both bride and groom (pictures of just the bride OR groom with heir parents/siblings/grandmother happen at another time).
Keeping your family portrait list down to the 10 you’re most excited about helps us to create the very best pictures!
But what about the rest of the portraits?
That will all be taken care of if you . . .
3. Have a first look
First looks are our number 1 tip (well, number 3 here, but number 1 in importance) for people wondering how to schedule a wedding.
A first look is a moment for the bride and groom to see one another alone before the ceremony. There’s a lot of reasons to have a first look, but for now we’ll just focus on the scheduling benefit.
If you see one another earlier in the day we can go ahead and get meaningful portraits of your reactions to one another and of the tender moment that follows. We can also take creative portraits at this time, meaning after the ceremony and family portraits you’re ready to go to the rehearsal.
Once your creative portraits are done we’ll have time to take all the portraits of the entire wedding party together too.
You won’t feel rushed, we won’t be trying to beat a rapidly setting sun, and your bridal party can get their portraits taken right after having their hair and make-up done instead after standing in the heat for 30 minutes for the wedding ceremony.
And speaking of getting hair and make up done . . .
4. Get ready near a window
The WORST light of the day will be noon. The sun is directly overhead giving everyone raccoon eye shadows. We don’t want to be doing any outside portraits during this time.
Which is fine, because this is usually around the time everyone is getting ready. And the ugly noon day sun will actually be beautiful streaming in through a window.
Something as simple as turning your face towards the window will turn unflattering fluorescent lights into the most flattering natural light imaginable. Photographers spend 1000s of dollars to set up lighting systems in their studios that mimic window light, and you can get it for free in a hotel room just by changing which direction you face.
If you haven’t decided yet where you’ll be getting ready on your wedding day, take into consideration whether or not the space has enough window light. We promise you’ll be thankful you did.
5. Don’t depend on the sun
We’re not shy about our love for natural light, but sometimes you want something that natural light just can’t get. If you want a photo in front of the Houston skyline at night like Gabby and Nolan, you’re gonna have to . . . take that shot at night.
Schedule in some time for us to sneak off with you during the reception to get some creative portraits. If we can get 15 minutes with you before the ceremony, 15 minutes after, and 15 minutes during the reception we can get enough variety to create images that make it look like we spent all day taking your portrait.
Scheduling is all about getting the most out of your time. Making 45 minutes look like a few hours is a huge benefit in your schedule.
6. Give yourself plenty of time
You’ve probably already heard someone tell you that your wedding day will go by fast. And it will. That’s one of the reasons we try our best to capture as many moments as possible.
And you won’t realize how fast it’s going until someone tells you you’re running behind. It happens. It’s part of a wedding.
You need to stay on schedule. But you also need to take it all in. Trying to keep that balance is why people have so many questions about how to schedule a wedding.
The best schedule in the world will fall apart when you realize a groomsmen got the wrong color suit and has to go back to the tux rental place an hour away (two hours round trip) to exchange it. That’s a true story, by the way.
To keep everything running smoothly, you schedule buffer time into your day. Assume everything is going to take longer than you think it will. That way if something falls behind, you can relax a little knowing you’ve got plenty of time.
And if everything runs on time, then congratulations because we have more time for great portraits, you’re the first wedding in history where everything is on time, and you can have a lucrative career teaching courses on how to schedule a wedding.
This isn’t the end all be all list on how to schedule a wedding. Of course, every wedding is unique and some of these tips may simply not work for your needs. The biggest tip of all is to hire a wedding planner and photographer who will work with you to help you schedule your day instead of just showing up.
If you’re looking for a photographer like that, we know some.