When you’re consulting with your Dallas-area wedding professionals — whether they be experienced planners or family members who have been central to their fair share of nuptials — you’re likely to receive varying opinions on what constitutes a solid schedule for the day’s events. On one hand, you want everyone to have a nice time; in order for that happen, a certain amount of flexibility has to come into play. On the other hand, there has to be a structure in place, or things can go off the rails. That doesn’t necessarily mean that catastrophe will bubble to the surface: rather, it’s comforting to have a solid lineup so nothing accidentally falls to the wayside.
I’ve been involved in more than 100 Dallas-Fort Worth-area weddings over the years, big and small, and in that time, I’ve managed to acquire a pretty comprehensive feet-on-the-ground knowledge of what’s necessary to make the biggest day of your life go off without a hitch. And sure, I come from the position of a Dallas wedding photographer, so far be it from me to tell the caterers, florists and venue operators how to do their jobs. But as a Dallas-Forth Worth wedding photographer, it’s my job to document every element of the wedding day with a level of professionalism that says, “Don’t worry about this — I’ve already got it taken care of.”
So, I have my own set of recommendations for the order of things. No matter the unique nature of your Dallas wedding, I hope that you’ll find some scheduling tips below that will help ensure that the big day goes off as seamlessly as possible. Not only will collaborating on this basic template help to make sure that we get the pictures that you want, but I hope it’ll help inform you to the point where you can gather some new questions you wouldn’t have thought about otherwise — questions that I’ll be more than happy to answer.
THE BEST LAID-PLANS OF BRIDES AND GROOMS
The first thing to know, even if you have 20 rehearsals, is that the schedule you’ve laid out for your wedding day is probably not going to go off without a hitch. Things will get delayed, and you know what? That’s ok. That’s why you’re hiring experienced pros to pick up the slack so you don’t have to. Here’s a short list of what can happen:
The bouquet has sunflowers instead of tulips;
The hair on the maid of honor needs tweaking (and she’s not a fan to start with);
One of the groomsmen gained 15 pounds since the tuxedo fitting;
Uncle Steve got into a fender bender on the way to the church;
The “something blue” has gone missing.
And, the list goes on. But having a schedule that plans for these hiccups? That’s where the slack can be picked up. I can help with issues like these, or at the very least, accommodate such eventualities into my schedule. As far as I’m concerned, I never want you to think, “Oh, no — this is going to mess up the photography.” Because it won’t.
RELY ON YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
I say this a lot, because it’s true: hiring your photographer early is one of the most important things you can do. Think about it... aside from your planner, who is the one individual at your wedding who is going to be interacting with every person, backdrop, bouquet, cake, outfit and emotion? It’s the person you’ve hired to take the pictures.
Talking early on, and allowing me to get inside your head, gives me as thorough an idea as possible as to what you want from your wedding photography, and gives me everything I need to put together a playbook. If you and I are on the same page? At best, I’m another set of hands. And if things go haywire for a moment? I’ve got everything I need, months in advance, to make sure I’m ready for every contingency. A wedding photographer in Dallas is a source of energy for the wedding party and for your guests, but he or she is also a jack of all trades who’s as dedicated to the specialness of your day as you are.
YOUR ROUGH SCHEDULE
Every wedding is different. Some are informal, small affairs; others are grand soirees that pull double duty as the social event of the season. But no matter the extent, abiding by a basic timeline will give all the buffer room necessary to take care of whatever comes up. Sticking to an outline like this will give time for an occasional stumble, but hey! If things go smooth, there’s nothing wrong with having an extra 10 or 15 minutes built in, so you can actually take a moment to relax, breathe deep, look around, and enjoy yourself.
This is when the bride and the groom will be prepping. The groom’s party will be fiddling with bow-ties; the bridal party will be tending to hair and makeup. Hopefully, everyone has a moment for a glass of Champagne! Plan 2 hours for this portion.
This one is up to you, but I recommend it. Taking 10 minutes before the wedding to see each other, fully decked out and in a private setting, can be a joyful, emotional experience that will lend itself well to memory (and make for some great photos!).
1 hour to 1.5 hours, depending on the size of the wedding party, is a good time-frame to plan around. This is when we’ll be getting the shots of the couple, but also of the people closest to them, who are helping to see them off into their lives of marital bliss. We start with some posed shots, but I always like to leave enough time for the candid shots that are especially memorable. Some couples prefer to do this after the ceremony, but like the first look, I always recommend before. It’s up to you.
BRIDE AND GROOM PORTRAITS
Once the wedding ceremony begins, the bride and groom no longer really “belong” to the photographer — stealing away the bride and groom for a photo session in the middle of congratulations is a little tricky, after all, so setting aside 1 hour for pictures of the bride and groom (before the ceremony) is important. Believe me, these are the shots that are usually the most central to a couple’s finished album, so you want to make sure that time has been taken to make them sing.
The heart and soul of the event, the ceremony can take 20 minutes, or it can take 1 hour, depending. This can be a little more predictable, time-wise, and we’ll have definitely talked beforehand about what my level of presence should be — up close and personal, or telephoto from a distance.
We’ll talk about this beforehand too, but taking 40 minutes to get those priceless family portraits is always a good move — the reception hasn’t started yet, so nobody is getting scattered to the wind. Plus, all the formalities are out of the way, meaning that the remainder of the pictures throughout the night can be those fun candid ones at the reception.
Now we’re at the fun part. Your reception might vary in length, but in general, we’re talking about 3-4 hours. If you want to go on until the wee hours? That’s up to you, so have a blast! But for photography purposes, three hours is generally enough time to get the shots that are worth getting.
A FEW MORE THINGS TO CONSIDER
This rough breakdown is pretty useful. But there are an infinite number of variations. Some are personal preference, some have to do with location, and others are based on the particular needs of the wedding’s religious affiliation. I’ve shot at every combination of venues, and for almost every denomination and affiliation, so let me know if you’re curious about how much time to add or subtract and we’ll customize everything.