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How To Build a Portrait-Friendly Wedding Timeline

North Carolina Beach Wedding

Wedding planning. It’s a lot to take on. And how are you supposed to know how to plan a wedding if you’ve never planned one before?! It’s not always in the budget to have a  fancy planner do all of this for you… or maybe you just want to make sure your day is approved by a photographer even if you do have a planner. 

The great thing about creating a timeline that’s portrait friendly? It also simultaneously allows you to have a much more stress free day. The best photos are when the emotions are clear, and if your emotion pyramid is based on STRESS, that’s most likely going to affect how well you can show the most important feelings, the ones that really matter, and the ones you’ve dreamt about since you were a little kid.

So the first decision you’ll have to make when writing up a portrait-friendly timeline is whether or not you want a first look. A first look is great for SO many reasons, but especially for photos. Here’s why!

first look wedding photographer

Instead of planning getting ready around your ceremony start time, switch gears and start planning to be completely ready for your first look. This means that you will be ready much earlier in the day (however early you want), and then couple pictures, wedding party pictures, and immediate family pictures will be DONE before your ceremony even starts!! It’s such a fun way to get excited and prepared for your ceremony rather than anxiously awaiting all of the things you have to get done before you walk down the aisle. Plus, I know you want to get into your reception… so having most of the pictures out of the way BEFORE hand rather than after means you might actually get to enjoy your cocktail hour… what a concept! 

I’ll save all of the other great reasons to have a first look for another blog post, because you’d be here all day, but just this one reason might be enough to convince you!!

Another thing to think about when making your timeline is how much time it will realistically take you to get ready… and then add at least an hour to that. Why so much time?

I always make sure my couples have wiggle room during their getting ready part of the day to relax. I even suggest writing something like “downtime” in the timeline and blocking it off, because you never know what you might decide on a whim should go in that space. Too many times I’ve experienced brides running around doing things on their own the morning of their wedding day because they feel like everyone is running out of time, so they have to take matters into their own hands. Add in the extra hour, drink a mimosa, and I’ll hang out with you and photograph some of the most special moments of your morning in a manner that’s memorable rather than curated. Your mom can take her time buttoning the hundreds of buttons on your dress and straightening your veil just right, and I think your hair and makeup artist might thank you for that extra hour, too!

virginia wedding getting ready

This tip is arguably the most important tip & it’s something I very strongly recommend to every couple! Normally dinner falls right around golden hour, and that is the perfect time in our schedule to slip back outside for a few more portraits. So think of this… you have your first look portraits in one location… your post-ceremony couples portraits in another location… and now you get one more set of beautiful images with gorgeous light before your party even starts. That’s three different scenarios that only need to take about 15 minutes each (or more if you’d like), but will provide you with gorgeous diverse portraits as newly weds. It’s also a perfect time to have a quiet moment away from the chaos of your reception to enjoy the sunset and appreciate the day.

virginia wedding photographer

Finally, one simple idea to ensure your party lasts all night long yet you still achieve that perfect sparkler shot before your photographer leaves- once it gets dark and there is a good little break in the dancing, have your DJ keep the party alive while you and your immediate family and wedding party SNEAK outside. This is important. Be ninja like with this one or extras might try to tag along!! You only need about 10 people for this, and could even achieve it with less. Do your sparkler shot with this small, trusted group of people instead of inviting all of your drunk guests out at 11pm to handle fire (Let’s be honest, it’s not the safest tradition). This way, you can run back and forth as many times as you want, so if your photographer doesn’t get what they want the first time, no big deal- just keep going! Also, everyone will be coordinating in your chosen wedding colors, so your sparker shot won’t have any distracting bright colors, and now you can party until the break of dawn and get as wild as you want!!

Virginia Wedding Photographer

All of these portrait breaks in the day slow your day down just a little so it doesn’t fly before your eyes, and each moment is another opportunity to take a deep breath and experience the love you have for one another. You’ll be happy you gave yourself the extra time throughout the day, and your gallery will reflect just how prepared you were!!

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I’M JAMIE

WELCOME TO THE BLOG

I’m a wedding, elopement, and portrait photographer serving Richmond, Virginia and beyond. With my interest in photography beginning way back in middle school, I’ve found my passion in people- documenting people’s important seasons of life in a way that feels like a fond memory.

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