Weddings are beyond stressful to plan, with so much build up and pressure for one day of bliss. And when it’s all said and done, all you have left are your photos, video and memories.

It’s tough to choose a wedding photographer, but once you swipe right on an aesthetic style, the work is not done! While we loved our engagement photos, they weren’t a perfect predictor for our wedding day photos. We didn’t know, what we didn’t know so learn from us to get wedding day portraits you want, with zero regrets.

How to Structure Wedding Day Timeline to Get Key Photos

#1. Run DRAFT Timeline By WEDDING Photographer Before It’s final

We hired a same day planner develop since we had two venues, one hour apart. Our invites were already in the mail with ceremony and reception start times before we realized we’d only have enough time for photos if everything went according to plan. Spoiler alert: it never does. And if your photographer sounds hesitantly optimistic, heed the warning bells and make more room. Sometimes they can be too can-do or accommodating.

#2. Add Even More Buffer Time into Your Wedding DAY Schedule

To hammer the above point home, we had plenty of 15 minute buffer windows throughout the day, including food breaks to avoid hanger outbursts but we still ran out of time. Trust me, you will have zero concept of time on your wedding day, especially if you are being present and taking everything in so create more space in the schedule!

#3. Do WEDDING Ceremony & Reception at Same Location if You Can

This wasn’t an option for us since our souls fell in love with a ceremony location that was too small to accommodate our reception. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but commute time can take away from photo time. It’s not a James Bond movie, it’s your wedding. Also ask your photographer in your pre-booking interview how they handle changes to the schedule and stresses on the day. In a time crunch, what is their priority?

Bride and groom get married in front of floral arch at Toronto Hunt Club

The battle to have our ceremony here was long but worth it. Best part of our day hands down!

#4. Do Family Photos After WEDDING Ceremony if You Can

We did immediate family photos after our ceremony and planned to catch aunts, uncles and cousins at our reception venue half an hour before show time. This can be risky since it leaves room for people to be late (cough cough, my parents). This was by far the least enjoyable part of the day. It’s important to have photographers who can take the lead and rally the crowd (or someone else who can). Bonus: Use a Mic to call out people’s names.

How to Communicate With Your Wedding Photographer BEFORE Wedding Day

#5. Specify literally every photo combination for family portraits

While I have some photos with my parents individually during prep (mostly candid), we were sequestered in a room and it wasn’t as scenic as the outdoor spaces. I failed to write “Bride + Mom” and “Bride + Dad” in my portrait list because I thought that was a given! It didn’t come up during the final prep call and none of us realized the miss on the day.

#6. Don’t Be Afraid to Specify Detailed Wedding shots that Seem Obvious

I know you’re paying good money to people who have shot hundreds of weddings. I didn’t want to micromanage either. BUT now I only have two photos of my 1km aisle walk – one from the front and one from the back. I would have asked for 5 to 10 shots from multiple angles had I known the limited end result. This goes for every moment you value!

Bridal Entrance with Father at Toronto Hunt Club

One of only two shots of my epic long aisle walk – a key bridal moment I wish I had more footage of…

#7. Clarify who your Immediate Family is to Avoid Randoms in Candid Guest Shots

I was not asked but wish I had proactively outlined priority tables for candid guest shots at the wedding reception. I also wish I created a page with VIP names and faces for the photo assistant. I literally have 350 guest photos out of 1,000 (this wasn’t a key priority) with none of my aunts and uncles from mom’s side. They are in two family portraits and that’s it. #badniece

#8. What You Tell Wedding Photographers Will be Taken Literally

I said we wanted to capture the natural emotion of the day. As a result, Vito and I only have three photos where you can clearly see both of our faces looking at the camera. These types of photos are good for Thank You Cards and to give loved ones, though they aren’t particularly artsy and are considered a bit passe by most photographers. Specify a ratio/spectrum for your photo preferences instead of leaving it in absolute terms.

Bride and Groom sunset photos at Arlington Estate in Kleinburg

Hey mom, we’re actually looking at the camera (in 3 out of 1,000 photos)!

What to do on Wedding Day for Optimal Wedding Photos

#9. Be Mindful of your Bridal Hairstyle so your Face iS VISIBLE

After my e-shoot, I was adamant on having my hair pinned back so you could clearly see my face from all angles (this is a non-issue for up-do’s). But I lost a battle with my mom on my wedding day, so half my hair was loose and cascading. My photographer often told me to look at Vito and I was not aware of what side was leading. I didn’t ask my photographer to be mindful of this and my photographer didn’t always reposition me out of her own instinct and so there are some Cousin IT vibes going down (though still pretty).

Bride and groom kiss in front of Lake Ontario waterfront at Toronto Hunt Club

Dude, where’s my face? Wish I spoke up about looking at camera! Or won the morning hair battle. Or was aware of my good side. #cousinIT

#10. Vocalize When You Aren’t Feeling Photo Direction on Wedding Day

Halfway through our portrait session, I finally stated “I don’t like looking down”. This is a common photo direction as it looks “romantic” (and key to our photog’s aesthetic) but it felt very inauthentic to my personality and the joy I felt that day. I believe eyes are the windows to the soul and there are way too many photos without them. Whatever you aren’t feeling on the day, don’t be afraid to use your voice!

Bride and Groom among the trees at Toronto Hunt Club

After this photo was taken I finally said “enough with the looking down!”

#11. Tell Your Family Members to Be Proactive and Vocal

Even if you communicate perfectly, you may miss specifying a VIP non-family member or still not get all requested shots due to how hectic the day is.It’s difficult to keep track of which photos have been taken by what device (cell phones, photographers etc.) To avoid coming up short, empower your key guests to request photos of you and/or photographer that day.

#12. tell SAME DAY Planner to Run Major Schedule Changes By You

Because we got so off course on the wedding day and my planner promised to keep all vendors on schedule, she tried to cut into our portraits to make up time (20 mins vs. one hour). I wasn’t proactively given multiple options to choose from and inserted myself to get photo time back.

We also had sunset photos scheduled and my photographers were given five minutes. In general they were pretty skittish, which ultimately is no bueno. While planners want to handle shit and not bother you, ultimately you are the client that has to be satisfied in all respects including timeline trade-offs.

Bride and Groom Smokebomb photo session at The Arlington Estate

Don’t get me wrong, candids & action shots have their place! #SmokebombsForTheWin (actually got burned though)

In the end, we love ALL the photos we DO have – they are dreamy, whimsical, natural, vibrant, while also being light and airy. While we don’t regret choosing our photographer, you can’t look back on pictures that were never taken. Had our photographer’s gotten a few extra shots we felt were missing, we know they would have been captured beautifully! And we would have had zero photo regrets.

Tell us, do you have any wedding day photo tips to add that we missed?

Photo Credit: Thank you to Samantha Ong Photography for capturing our special day

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