From our own personal wedding and from the hundreds of weddings we’ve photographed we have settled on the idea that a great wedding is two things: The greatest party you’ll ever throw, and the start of life’s best adventure.
The second part is why we call our photo-shoot the adventure session and this is the part where we want to create a few stunning images of the two of you that you will be proud to look back on in 20 years.
The “greatest party” part is what the most of this article is about. Couples have told us, they found it helpful to not even use the ‘wedding’ word when thinking about their day. The wedding industry will tell you that you need a thousand things for your wedding to be a success. However you can get 99% of the way there is you focus on these 3: choose/create a kick-ass space for a great party; have loads of food and drink; have a great band and/or music to create atmosphere.
The rest of this article is our attempt to undo some of the ‘advice’ spewed out by wedding blogs and help bring you back to a simpler, more practical and more real concept of what a great wedding is.
Wedding DAY TIMINGS
We've put together a day-plan for a typical 'summer' wedding. which we hope will be helpful when it comes to planning your own day.
It's a good idea to note that we have made a couple of assumptions for this day-plan. If your wedding differs and you are unsure how it might affect the day-plan, or if you just want to make sure you get the best out of your photo coverage; you may want to book us for a custom planning consult.
- Sunset is at 9pm - you can check the sunset time on your day, and adjust this schedule forward/back to suit.
- There are no hills/buildings that will significantly affect the available light near sunset.
- The ceremony and reception are at the same venue, i.e. no travel time.
- The getting ready locations are < 10mins travel time the venue and each other.
- This is for a mixed gender (not same-sex) wedding.
- Girls and guys are getting ready at different locations.
- You are having a 3 course meal.
- You have booked us for 11 hours coverage (8 hours coverage will take us approximately until the end of speeches - let us know if you would like to extend your coverage).
NZ Summer Wedding, Example Day Plan:
12:30pm photographers arrive at the girls house - usually hair & makeup is just finishing up
1:30pm one photographer leaves to the boys house - at this stage, boys should be showered, but *not* yet dressed
2:00pm girls hair and makeup finished, and time to get dressed
3:00pm boys arrive at ceremony location
3:00pm photographers leave to ceremony
3:30pm ceremony invite time
3:45pm ceremony start time (see notes later on this page)
4:00pm ceremony finished, hugs & kisses
4:30pm family/group photos
4:30pm cocktail hour starts
5:30pm guests are invited to be seated
5:45pm MC welcome
6:45pm 1st set of speeches (up to 3 speeches)
7:00pm mains is served
7:15pm couple photo session (see "couple photo session, what time is best" for more info)
8:30pm 2nd set of speeches (up to 3 speeches)
Before the Ceremony
The time before the ceremony is often the party before the party; traditionally the bride and groom squad’s get ready in separate houses, but this doesn’t have to be the case; this is the most casual part of the day and so you are completely free to make it what you want – for example we are finding more modern couples, are getting ready in the same place – especially if they have few, or no, bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- If you are having separate getting ready places; try to keep them close together (10 mins drive max) so we can get photos in both locations.
- If you are booking a Bach/Airbnb – choose a place with lots of natural light, neutral (light or dark) colored walls, and if need be, tidy away as much clutter as possible.
- For the girls: allow about 1 hour between hair and makeup finishing, and when you want to leave the house – this will allow enough time to get dressed + a bit of buffer in case the hair and makeup runs longer than expected (this often happens!).
- For the guys: be showered, but don’t be dressed before the photographer gets there.
A Note on the ‘First Look’
In our opinion, first look's are overrated (a first look is where the bride and groom make time to see each other before the ceremony). There are a very small number of people we would recommend them too, but for most people the con’s outweight the pro’s. This is for a few reasons: the light is worse in the middle of the day; it puts a lot of pressure on creating an emotionally charged ‘moment’ (the reality isn’t always like that); lastly, we find our couples find it hard to fully relax, because the whole rest of the day is still to come.
However if you are someone who is anxious and find a huge amount of comfort in your partner, or if you are getting ready together, or if you are having your ceremony close to or after sunset – then we would recommend a first look, and here are some tips we’ve found that make it work.
- A first look is not a replacement to the adventure session because light in the middle of the day usually leads to sub-par photos. If time is too tight later in the day for the adventure session consider doing post-wedding e.g. the next day (this is a common add-on we offer).
- Keep it private. Don’t invite the wedding party – this is a moment for the two of you to support each other and face the rest of the day united.
- Prepare something special for each other. Most common is to write a note to each other, or rehearse your vows for each other. But you could also buy flowers for your partner, or even play them a song if you are musical.
Should we have an unplugged ceremony?
It has become the norm very quickly to have an unplugged ceremony (where guests are asked turn-off their mobile devices). We personally love that this has become the case because we have always believed your ceremony is extremely special and that it is such a privilege as a guest to be invited to witness this event. We just love the idea that these are people you have invited are here to be present and to share in the special ceremony happening before them. If you do have an unplugged ceremony, I would suggest asking the celebrant to say something like:
“The bride and groom have specifically asked you to share their special ceremony with them today because of how much you mean to them, I would like to ask you to turn off your phones, ipads and cameras and put them away and just be present to celebrate with them, not for my sake but for the love and care you have for them.”
Invite time vs start time
Something that often causes lots of confusion is the start time of the ceremony and what time to put on your invitations. The “invite” time is the time on your invitation. The earliest guests will show up about half an hour before this, so be prepared for that. And then there are the late guests. No matter the size of your guest list, you can put money on the fact that ten of them will be around ten minutes late, even if they’re all staying down the street from the venue. Do yourself a favor and plan on starting the ceremony fifteen minutes after your invite time to avoid any awkward guests trying to sneak down the aisle in-between the bridesmaids.
Setting up the signing table
We want to encourage to enjoy this part of the ceremony. This is where you actually make those beautiful vows legal. So pause take a moment together – “are you ready for this babe” – before you sign away. We highly recommend having two chairs so you can both sit together when you do this.
Ps. By default we will not ask you to look up and take a cheesy posed shot, we will document it as real and beautifully as possible. If you do want a posed photo – let us know.
Group & Family Photos
The family and group photos are usually done soon after the ceremony, we allow your guests a bit of time to congratulate you, and then when the time feels right, we check with you if you would like to get started.
We have created a template and pre-filled the list with some common groups, or you can remove these to add your own.
Most people have about 6 groups, and we recommend keeping the list to 10 groups or less, if everything goes smoothly this works out to approx. 30mins for the family photos.
COUPLE PHOTO Session
We believe with this wedding you guys are embarking on a huge adventure together as a couple, that we hope lasts for the rest of your life. We want to create some stunning, epic photos with you that reflect this adventure that you are starting. We love to feature big, bold landscapes when the location allows, and we always hunt out the most interesting light possible.
For these sessions we are focusing on getting a few great photos of just the two of you so we usually don’t bring the whole wedding party. This keeps everything simpler and lets us get you back to the party asap.
What time is best?
The general rule is; the later in the day, the better the light. A good aim is to start the session between 2.5 – 1.5 hours before sunset – in the southern summer this usually means we are going out during dinner, just after you guys have eaten and while the guests are still getting served.
How long should we allow?
We recommend to allow about 1 hour for this session; our goal for the whole day is to allow you to have as much time as possible when you can just hang with your guests. By having a shorter session with just the two of you, we are hoping you will be able to have more time with the people you have invited to celebrate with.
Where do we go for photos?
We always scout for an awesome photo spot for every wedding, so if you are happy just to trust us with this, that’s fine. If you do have suggestions or there is somewhere close by that has special significance we’d love to hear about it and see if it would work photographically. We try to stay onsite or close by your venue when we can, but occasionally we might find an incredible spot that is just too good and we need to jump in the car to get there. If that’s the case, it is fine 99% of the time to ride with us in our car (we’ll let you know if that won’t work for some reason)
What happens if it rains
We scout a day or two before the wedding so by that time we should have a good guess of what the weather will be doing (most of the time what looks like a rainy-day in a weather report is actually quite fine for shooting). This will give us time to find locations to suit – even indoors if need be – but we all might need to be a bit more flexible on the day to go with the flow. If it is raining but it is only light or intermittent we will often still try for photos outside because the soft light and heavy clouds that you get on days like this let us make these unique moody portraits that you will just love!
When it gets to the reception we are happy to go with the flow of the evening. Your caterer will often develop a timeline with you because it heavily impacts their table service. There are a few things we would like you to keep in mind when developing this timeline:
- Make sure you have allowed time for the adventure session if the best light is after the reception has started. A natural time for us to duck out for this is during dinner service, just after you have eaten and while the guests are still getting served.
- Try and avoid coloured up-lighting, fluorescent, and spot lights. If you would like to add a bit of mood to your evening – string festoon lights are a fantastic way to do this.
- If you have a cake to cut, it is best used as a metaphorical exclamation point – at the beginning or the end of a particular event. e.g. you could cut it as soon as you walk into the reception as a way to kick off the evening, or you could use it at the end of your speech as a way to wrap up the end of the formalities.
- If a pumping dancefloor is a big deal for you and your friend group, definitely invest in a good band or DJ – a spotify playlist is never as effective as a person who can read the room and change the mix to keep the d-floor busy.