A frequently asked question I receive from my couples planning their Wairarapa wedding is "how long do we need a wedding photographer for?".
Here are six practical tips to help you work it out. Essentially: it's up to you and the timeline for your day.
Step 1: What time is your ceremony?
Start planning your wedding timeline with the most significant part of your wedding day: your ceremony. After all, this is why you're here!
Write down your ceremony start and end times (allowing for some "fashionably late buffer time!"). Ask your celebrant if you're unsure.
Allow for some mingling and congratulations straight after the ceremony.
If you would like some family portraits documented, please allow 3 minutes per group. Some people would like formal portraits of them with their parents, grandparents, extended whānau, different groups of friends, work colleagues etc. Have a careful think if this is what you like and plan time accordingly. Alternatively you may prefer your family and friends to be captured interacting naturally together in a documentary manner. Just bear in mind that if family groupings don't occur naturally, you won't have photos of those people together.
Would you like some portraits of you as a newly-wed couple and your wedding party (if you have one)? Some couples choose to have a mini photo session at the ceremony location or off site at a different place. Depending on the size of your wedding party and what you would like, allow 30 minutes for the portrait session. Remember to allow for travel time too.
Some couples choose to have a first look. This could entail meeting your partner prior to the ceremony and guests arriving; and enjoying each other's company in private. It's a lovely moment you get to share together. The first look is often followed by couple portraits, with their wedding party and family photos. The benefit of doing all of this prior to the ceremony is you get to spend the maximum amount of time with guests.
Step 2: What time is the bride (if any) starting hair and make up?
Once you have your ceremony time confirmed, work back to the start of the day. One of the things I regret with the photos from our wedding day, is not getting many photos of my mum and I getting ready. This was the only time during the day we were together.
Discuss with the people styling your hair and make up what time they need to start. They could be professional hair stylist and make up artists; talented friends or yourself.
You may want to consider your photographer starting the documentary of your wedding day when hair and make up is halfway through being completed. There are some beautiful moments captured between you and your wedding party; and close family during the getting ready time. The feelings of excitement and anticipation can be electric!
Step 3: Are you getting ready together or separately? You and your partner may be getting ready together (in the same room); at the same location (separate rooms); or at different locations entirely. I personally believe it's important to document the full story of your wedding day, which means photographing both partners getting ready.
This is especially meaningful in the days, months and years after your wedding day. If you're getting ready separately you gain an insight into what emotions your soon-to-be-spouse was feeling right before you committed to each other for the rest of your lives. That's powerful!
If you are getting ready separately, you will need to consider travel time. Your photographer will be required to get themselves from one location to the other; plus time to drive to the ceremony venue.
Step 4: What time is your reception starting and what will it include?
So you've now got a time line from the start of the day until after your wedding ceremony. What time will your reception start? Write this down.
What will happen at your reception?
Will you be announced to your guests as you enter the venue?
Will there be food served at tables over three courses or will everyone help themselves from food trucks? Are you having a cocktail style function with canapes, mingling and champagne? Will there be a gourmet picnic served from baskets overlooking the ocean? Discuss with your caterer the timings they have for your reception. It's important you are aware of your caterers requirements regarding time as they want to provide the freshest and hottest/coldest food (and drinks!) for you.
Will people be making speeches?
Will you have a cake and be cutting it in front of your guests?
Will you be doing a first dance?
You may be doing all or none of these things, and that's totally fine.
If you are choosing to do certain things at your wedding they must be important to you. Therefore they should be documented for you to remember into the future.