You’ve done a lot of the work, and chances are you’ve spent a considerable amount of money on your wedding. Don’t overlook the final strategic planning that ties everything together.
There’s a lot of information out there. Quite frankly, it can be information overload, but having a clear starting point will help you make the necessary adjustments to make your event truly yours. So, I’ve put together the most popular elements of a traditional American wedding in a simple and clear way.
If your photographer isn’t communicating with you about prep, not only is that a problem in and of itself, but now you’ll have to come up with a plan with no professional guidance. Fortunately, I obsess about these things, and I’ve got your back!
Photo Credit: lydia harper on Unsplash
GETTING READY AND THE DETAILS
General Time Allotment (Details): 30 – 60 Minutes
General Time Allotment for (Getting Ready): 30 – 60 Minutes
Consider the number of details that must be photographed, and that your photographer usually takes Getting Ready photos in both the Bridal Suite and the Groom’s Suite. This usually takes place at the ceremony venue. Shots of the bride and groom preparing for the ceremony will be taken, along with a few posed portraits.
Photographing the details prior to the ceremony and reception is a big win for everyone involved. The photos are taken before anyone can tamper with the details, and it free-ups the photographer’s time to photograph the people and take other creative shots during the ceremony and reception.
BRIDES: Please have the following items in the Bridal Suite for your Photographer:
• Dress Hung
• Shoes and Accessories
• Bridal Bouquets
• Family Heirlooms or Keepsakes
• Wedding Invitation
Consult with your photographer about ideas of where to hang the dress, or let him or her take the lead on it. Bring a nice hanger for it as well, a detail often overlooked.
GROOMS: Please have the following items in the Groom’s Suite for your photographer.
• Family Heirlooms or Keepsakes
Your photographer will have ideas on how to photograph these items. You’re always welcome to share your ideas as well.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
General Time Allotment: 15 – 20 Minutes
The First Look is a trendy photo that’s been picking up steam in recent years. It’s a pre-arranged first visit between the bride and groom that takes place before the ceremony. Excluding the photographer, this is a private moment when the expressions are captured as the bride and groom see each other for the first time. One popular tradition is having the groom stand face away from the door. He’s either told to turn around or the bride will pat him on the shoulder. Sometimes it’s flipped, and the Bride turns around. We can capture this awesome moment many different ways. Also, some couples will skip this tradition all together. If you want a first look, speak with your photographer about it in advance so that a cool place to do it can be well planned.
Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash
General Time Allotment: Times vary
Because of the wide range of traditions, customs and religions, these times greatly vary. Your photographer should be made aware of all of the dynamics of your ceremony.
Here’s a list of some things your photographer should know.
• Time and Length of Ceremony Confirmed
• Indoor or Outdoor
• Restrictions on where the Photographer and Assistant may stand and move around
• Restrictions on Flash Photography Inside or Outside of the Venue
• Whether it’s a religious ceremony or not, discuss the process
• Seating arrangement of Wedding Party and Family
• Special Heirlooms or Keepsakes that will be used
• Specific Moments
• Plans for Departure
Below are some common elements you’ll find in traditional American ceremonies.
• Prelude: Guests arrive and are shown to their seats
• Processional: Bridal Party arrives/walks down the aisle
• Welcome: Officiant offers a few words and a welcome
• Readings: Readings by Officiant, Family or Guests
• Question of Intent: Commitment/Consent confirmed
• Vows: Some are short, some are longer
• Lighting of Unity Candle: Varies by religion and customs
• Pronouncement: Officiant pronounces marriage/closes ceremony
• Recessional: Bride and Groom exit, then Wedding Party, Family and Guests
• Departure: Departure of Bride and Groom from ceremony
Please provide a copy of your timeline to your photographer along with all your other vendors and keep them in the loop with any changes.
Photo by Jon Erives at Grand Archive Photography
WEDDING PARTY AND FAMILY GROUP PHOTOS
General Time Allotment: 20 – 30 Minutes
The Group Photo Session is probably the most formal shoot during the wedding in many cases, so it should be well planned with your photographer.
There are some sources that make a good case for having these photos taken before the ceremony. In most of the weddings I’ve covered, it takes place immediately after the ceremony. Whichever way you choose to do it, you and your photographer can execute it by planning strategically. This will save lots of time and energy. Your photographer will explain to you what he or she needs to know for prep.
Sometimes immediately after the ceremony, one or more people (who should be in the photos) will vanish into thin air. They’ll just decide to wonder off and explore, or to go and mingle with other guests. The simple fix is to delegate the task of rounding them up, and bringing them back to one very reliable person from each side of the family.
Photo by Andreas Rønningen on Unsplash
RECEPTION AND THE TRADITIONS WITHIN IT
General Time Allotment: 2 – 4 Hours
Dynamics are incredibly different in every family. The expectations are even unattainable due to divorces or the death of relative. The details listed below are only a general guideline and can be subbed with anything you want. So, feel free to mix things up. This is your wedding. Have it like you want it, and enjoy it.
Below are some of the common elements you’ll find in traditional American Receptions.
• Cocktail Hour, Casual Bride and Groom Portraits with Guests
• Guests Take Seats and Settle in
• Welcome from the Host, Father of the Bride, Groom (or whomever you choose)
• Dinner is Served
• Toasts from the Best Man and the Maid of Honor
• Bride and Groom visit with guests at their tables
• Dinner Continues
• Cake Cutting Ceremony
• First dance – Bride and Groom
• Father, Daughter Dance
• Mother, Son dance
• Last Dance – Bride and Groom
• More Casual Portraits as evening comes to an end
• Bouquet and Garter Toss.
• Departure of Bride and Groom (Sparklers, Bubbles, etc.)
Remember, these mini-events within your wedding must transition from one to the next as flawlessly as possible. Many times these transitions are announced via a designated person or the DJ.
Take a close look at these customs and traditions. Consider what you want to keep, delete or replace. Determine the length of time of your ceremony and reception. Make proper time for each element that you want to include in your wedding schedule. If you hire a wedding planner, they often will assist you with this as part of their service, but as always – keep your photographer in the loop!