Wedding Day Flow

Every photographer has their own unique style. Some like to blend in and shoot in a more photojournalistic way. And others prefer to choreograph every image. But most land somewhere smack in the middle.
Over time you will begin to get a feel for the routine that works best for you in order to get the images you need out of the day. There is a certain routine to follow to help your wedding day run smoother, and ensure you capture every important image. We’re not talking about a pose list , we’re talking about a flow of events that makes sense for most wedding days and that simplifies your job more than you can imagine.

We’re breaking down the three standard ways to capture a wedding in order for you to find your style and comfort zone.

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If you’ve decided that you’re a photojournalistic photographer, you’ll be shooting in a lovely, casual b&w candid style without posed images, and capturing the day as it unfolds. And your couple truly loves your pure documentary style. Sounds nice, until you have the mother of the groom in your face on the wedding day, wondering why you haven’t started the table shots yet, all 35 of them?
If you are hired to capture the day unmanipulated, then make sure all parties involved are aware of your style, even the ‘rents and beyond. And no matter how loose your style is, there are a few traditionally posed shots that must happen no matter what: bride and groom together, bride’s immediate family, groom’s immediate family, and bridal party.
Or, let’s say you sway to the opposite end of the spectrum, and you are going to choreograph every move. You’ve got this day planned to the minute. We don’t vehemently oppose this option. However, for those of you that have been shooting weddings for years know, a timeline can unravel quicker than a cheap sweater. Also, when you over-control the day, it leaves little room for relaxed, candid moments to happen, which we can all likely agree are the best moments.
If you sway heavily to one extreme or the other, and you feel confident, then sell it with passion. But be prepared to take a little heat.
However, if you would like your wedding day to have a bit more harmony, then we believe it is good to land somewhere in between those two extremes. We like the idea of having some structure to the day, but within that structure allowing the couples’ unique personality to shine through. Blocking your time into manageable sections can be an effective way to do this. Basically, you assign blocks of time for various groups and capture what you can within that timeframe. The blocks can be moved around if need be. This method will also help you really focus on just the subject at hand, and not be distracted by the other events of the day. And if your time blocks start to slide together, you can always send your second-shooter to start getting the next block while you finish up the current one.
Here is an example of how you might “block-out” your day: 1 hour of getting ready and details, 30 minutes of bride and her bridesmaids, 30 minutes of groom and his groomsmen, 30 minutes of guests arriving and ceremony set-up, 30 minutes of actual ceremony, 30 minutes of bridal party and family, 30 minutes of bride and groom alone, and then photograph cocktail hour and/or reception as it happens.  
It is a good idea to start with the bride and her bridesmaids for two reasons. The first is that the bride doesn’t want everyone to see her before the ceremony. She will appreciate having her portraits finished, and having her hidden before guests arrive. The second, is that the bride is seldom ready on time. But the groomsmen can be ready in about 10 minutes, allowing those two blocks to be easily be switched if needed.
Now let’s confront the one part of the day that most of us loathe, the family formal portraits. For family portraits, we like a “peel-off” method. So start with the big group on one side (for instance, bride’s side) and peel-off individuals.
  • Photograph the entire bride’s family, then remove aunts, uncles, cousins
  • Take a portrait, then remove grandparents.
  • Take a portrait, then remove siblings.
  • Take a portrait, with just mom and dad.
  • Lastly, bride with just mom, and bride with just dad. Bride with just siblings (if she wants it).
  • And then repeat it for the groom’s side.
This method will streamline the process, and help keep you on track.
Now if you are going to use this technique, then don’t start directing without everyone present. We recommend having a designed family member/wrangler who the couple feels will be the best one to ensure all family members show up to the appointed spot, on time. Wait until you have the whole group there to start, or you will have to backtrack and repeat. Also make sure that whatever portraits you take of one side of the family, you do with the other side, unless they inform you otherwise.
Let the couple know you will be using this technique before the wedding so they can advocate the process as it goes. Also remind them that you will be walking around the reception capturing several groupings of her guests and to let you know on the spot, if they would like a portrait with a special person or group.
Your life is a little easier if you can persuade the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony, so you can get all the posed portraits completed while everyone is fresh. And if that can happen, we still recommend blocking out the various groupings at specific times.
By blocking out your day into segments to really focus your creativity, along with streamlining your family formals, you should be able to get all the shots you need and keep your photographic style intact.
Special thanks to Tom Pumford for the lovely wedding images featured in this article.

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