Why is it important to hire a photographer for your wedding? Because you want beautiful pictures that document one of the best days of your life, right? So this particular question has been nagging at me for some time and I decided it’s time to blog about it. Why, if you spend so much money on a photographer, do you try to rush through your formal photos? Many of the weddings I did last year were on a time crunch. We had a very short amount of time to take the post ceremony formal wedding photos because the bride and groom were afraid that people would get agitated at having to wait on them and leave. Too many times I have heard people in attendance complain that it’s taking too long, that they are hungry, or bored, or have somewhere to be. This is what I don’t understand- it’s your day right? The bride and groom are the ones who are getting married, the bride and groom are the ones who are being celebrated, and the bride and groom (or their parents) are the ones shelling out thousands of dollars on a wedding photographer….so why do the attendants feel the need to rush them? Weddings are a celebration. They’re a time when families and friends get together and celebrate two people starting on a journey that will last a lifetime, so sit back, relax, have a drink, mingle with family, share some laughs and chill out. If nothing else pull out your cell phone and cruise Facebook or Instagram while you’re waiting.
Too often I hear about brides who unsatisfied with their wedding photos because they don’t get the dream pictures they envisioned, but if you rush your photographer and only give them 15-20 minutes to take your pictures you aren’t going to have those photos. A post ceremony formal photo session should last you a minimum of 40 minutes. Think about it, you have both sides of the family to photograph (we’re talking grandparents, parents, any step parents, sibling, and any children that the bride or groom have…and this is for both the bride AND groom) and setting those photos up is no easy task. We have to survey what everyone is wearing, how tall everyone is, if there’s anybody who needs assistance walking/standing for the photos, and we need to arrange everyone. Then we need to make sure we get the shot (if your photographer is anything like me I will take 2 or 3 pictures because I’m always counting on somebody blinking or sneezing or making some awkward face) and then do it all over again. We have the bridesmaids, the groomsmen, the best man, the maid of honor, the flower girl and/or ring bearer pictures that need to be snapped, and then we have the lovely and intimate pictures reserved for the bride and groom. Those alone should take at least 20 minutes at a minimum.
So this is my advice to you when planning a wedding- plan for a cocktail hour. It’s called a cocktail hour for a reason, because it should last at least an hour. Your invitation should clearly state a starting time for your ceremony and a starting time for your reception, especially if they are being held at different places. So if your wedding is starting at 5:00pm and will last 30 minutes, you should plan for your reception to being at 6:30 or 7:00pm. I would say 7 if you have to incorporate travel time. If you’re having the reception at the same place as the ceremony than an announcement should be made prior to everyone leaving the ceremony area. Whoever is marrying you should say something along the lines of “Mr. and Mrs. So and So invite you to join them in celebration at such and such a place. They will be arriving at such and such a time so please make sure you are there in time for their grand entrance, which will be after their formal photos are finished.”
I always get the age old question of- what do we do if we aren’t serving alcohol at the reception. I understand some places do not allow alcohol in their facility, and that some people do not drink. You should have some type of refreshment there and lots of little Hors d’oeurves for people to munch on. If you’re not serving alcohol that should leave some room in your budget for other things- perhaps a fun photo booth station, some Polaroid cameras around the tables for guests to snap silly pictures and then place in a specific location, perhaps a game where they guess how you two met, and music should absolutely be playing. As long as they have something to keep them busy they will forget about how long it is taking until your arrival. I never really understood why people rushed to be the first ones at the reception anyway!
If you need ideas for cocktail hours check out these links:
Bottom line: be firm with your guests about the need for formal photos. If they’re rude enough to try and make you feel guilty about lavishing in your special day they don’t belong at your reception anyway. Party poopers not needed! Enjoy yourself, get your dream photos, and throw back some champagne. You only get married once!!!