My 2014 wedding season officially started on the 19th of this month and it was a STUNNER! Everything took place at the beautiful, historic Homestead in Hot Springs, VA and besides the wonderful venue and super fun wedding party, my favorite part of the day may have been the amount of time the bride and groom gave me for pictures. From about 2:15 to 4:45 on the afternoon of Mary Ann and Matt’s wedding, I took pictures! But not just any pictures…pictures of the bride, groom and their wedding party. Or in other words, the “fun and formal” pictures, as I like to call them.

That’s right. 2.5 hours for pictures of just the bride, groom and wedding party. And let me tell you…IT WAS AWESOME! I didn’t have to rush. I could try new things. I could put together multiple group shots and take bride-groom portraits galore. Mary Ann and Matt decided to get ready about five hours before their ceremony started and to see each other with a “first look” so we could have that time. As a result, we were able to fully take advantage of the beautiful venue by visiting various areas of the resort for differing backdrops, no one was frazzled because we didn’t need to rush through any pictures, the wedding party was able to come in and out of pictures all while enjoying some downtime (and drinks!), and I’m able to give them a TON of portraits (think 400+ images for “fun and formal” instead of 200 or less). It was a WIN for everyone involved because Mary Ann and Matt decided to make time for their pictures…and I was reminded of what a gift that was for me as a photographer (thanks SO MUCH, you two!).

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So how can you make time for your pictures (and gift your photographer, too!) on your wedding day? Here are a few of my suggestions…

1. A First Look! Yes, the bride and groom seeing each other before the ceremony goes against tradition, but many of my couples have found it to be quite comforting…and giving (for pictures). Alone time together, a chance to rid of the nerves, added portraits and an opportunity to get all “fun and formal” portraits done before the ceremony. Instead of the time restriction between the ceremony and reception limiting your “fun and formal” portraits, make more time for those pictures by getting ready a little earlier and seeing each other beforehand (about three hours before ceremony depending on travel, venue, etc.). Reserving 2.5 consecutive hours for picture-taking is totally doable with a first look!

(Pictures from Mary Ann and Matt’s first look)

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2. Give a FULL Cocktail HOUR (or more)! I realize that most weddings do include a cocktail hour as a transition for guests from ceremony to reception, and to allow time for pictures. But actually let your guests enjoy the full hour…or even more, especially if you want lots of pictures and if you’re not doing a first look. From my experience, most guests enjoy that sort of downtime. They get to mingle with friends and family, enjoy some drinks and food, and enjoy a little freedom before all the formalities of the reception. If you’re afraid of your guests getting bored, consider featuring a photo booth, corn hole or other activities during the cocktail hour. And get this: if you do a first look, you’ll probably be able to enjoy the cocktail hour, too! Mary Ann and Matt did. 🙂

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3. No Receiving Line! If you’re not a fan of the first look and do want to take most of your pictures between the ceremony and reception, give yourself even more time by not having a receiving line immediately after the ceremony. Crowds of 100 guests or less can usually breeze through a receiving line in about 15 minutes or less. But when you’ve got groups of 200+, you’re looking at adding 30 or more minutes to your timeline, and that cuts picture-taking way down if your reception is starting within an hour or so of the ceremony end. Make a point to visit each table at the reception after you’ve eaten in place of a receiving line. Yes, this prolongs the reception festivities, but if you’ve got enough entertainment for your guests (photo booth, corn hole, food and drinks, candy buffet, good DJ), hopefully they won’t mind sticking around a bit longer for things to happen.

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4. Ask Your Photographer How Much Time They’ll Need! Maybe your photog works best under pressure and really only needs or wants 20 minutes for “fun and formal” portraits? Or maybe they need a bunch of time? Ask them what they need to give you the image collection you deserve before putting together details for your official timeline before the wedding day, including the ceremony and reception start times. I prefer to have at least an hour for fun and formals with the bride, groom and wedding party so we’re not rushed and so I can present a fair amount of portraits. Even though an hour isn’t always possible, I work with every couple before the big day to make sure we’re taking advantage of our time together with a photography timeline that’s suitable for everyone.

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Because Mary Ann and Matt chose to do a first look and give me 2.5 hours for “fun and formal” pictures, the above images are JUST a sampling of what we captured on their wedding day. Hoping to share their full wedding post on Friday, so be sure to check back! And if you’re getting married, be sure to consider giving your photographer as much time as possible to capture beautiful images for you on your most special day. 🙂

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THE PICTURES ARE JUST BEAUTIFUL!! AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, YOU DID A FABULOUS JOB!! AS THE SUBJECTS, MARY ANN & MATT WE GREAT!! I AM SO HAPPY TO VIEW THE PICTURES, AS WE WERE NOT THERE TO WITNESS THIS WONDERUL UNION IN PERSON. THANKS FOR SHARING!!

[…] Wednesday’s blog post, I shared about how Mary Ann and Matt gave me 2.5 hours for “fun and formal” portraits, […]

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