January 12, 2024

What to Expect on a Typical Wedding Day From a Wedding Photographer in Raleigh

You spent the better part of a year planning for your wedding day. You have agonized over the details and the experience. Even if you have been to weddings before, it can still be difficult to know what really goes down behind the scenes. Luckily, as a wedding photographer in Raleigh I have been to hundreds of weddings and can give you the inside scoop! Here’s what to expect on a typical wedding day.

You will need an early start

Wedding hair and make-up services generally take about an hour per service, per person ( A service is defined as hair or make-up). Some artists also schedule two hours for the bride’s hair and one hour for the bride’s make-up.

Depending on the number of wedding hair and make-up artists you hire and the number of people in your party this can mean that you will need to start hair and make-up services at least 3 hours prior to your “be ready” time for photos (which we will cover later).

You also want to build in a little extra buffer time in case something runs late so that you are not starting your day behind schedule!

What time your wedding photographer in Raleigh arrives for your wedding will depend on if you are doing a first look

One of the very first things that I ask my clients about when we start developing their custom wedding photography timeline is whether or not they are planning to do a first look before the wedding.

If you are not familiar, a first look session is where we plan for you to see your partner before the wedding ceremony and document this special moment.

One of the major benefits of choosing to do a first look at your wedding is that it allows us to complete all of your formal photos before the wedding ceremony. That also means that we need to add time on the front end of your schedule to accommodate.

On a typical wedding day without a first look I generally begin photography approximately 2 hours before the ceremony, whereas weddings with a first look can start 3 or more hours ahead.

Details, details, details

No matter what you choose regarding a first look I always begin my wedding photography coverage by photographing your wedding details. One of my favorite things to photograph as a wedding photographer in Raleigh is your wedding details, so I want to make sure that we schedule ample time to get you lots of different images from this part of your day!

The first 45-60 minutes of your coverage consists of me photographing your wedding dress, shoes, rings, invitation suite, and any other special details.

It is incredibly helpful if you have all of your details organized and ready to go prior to my arrival so as soon as I arrive and greet everyone I can get right to work! Designating a spot in the room or putting everything together in a box can help keep things organized.

Getting Ready

By the time I finish photographing the detail photos you will be just finishing up with hair and make-up so we can grab a few photos of your final touch-ups.

After your touch-ups we will take any bridal portraits you may want in your robe or wedding day lingerie as well as robe photos with your bridesmaids. After these photos I will send the bridesmaids off to get dressed so that they can be in your photos of putting on your dress or shoes. This is also the time that you would want your mother to be on site and dressed if you plan to have her in any of your getting ready photos. While you get ready to put on your dress I will tidy up the area where we will be putting on your dress.

Next we will photograph you putting on your wedding dress. I generally have you put your dress and undergarments on in private and then come out to an area that I have chosen with good lighting for the photos. Sometimes this is in the getting ready room, and other times we will choose another spot in the venue. These photos are a great chance to incorporate your mom, bridesmaids, and new mother in-law by having them help you with your shoes, jewelry, and veil!

After you are dressed and ready we can take some bridal portraits of you in your dress or this is also the perfect time for a first look with your dad if that is something that you would like to incorporate into your schedule.

Once I have finished with your getting ready photos I will locate the Groom and photograph his getting ready as well if my second photographer has not already photographed this. If your Groom has special wedding details that he would like photographed separately, please be sure to let me know ahead of time in your questionnaire so that we schedule a time specifically to do flat lay detail images of the Groom’s details in his getting ready space. If he does not have any details he wishes to have documented, I will generally photograph him getting ready just prior to the ceremony.

The First Look

Since I first started as a wedding photographer in Raleigh in 2009 the trend regarding first looks has changed, but I would estimate that now about 75% or more of my couples opt to do a first look session prior to their wedding ceremony.

When it is time to get set up for the first look session I will take your partner to a location that I have scouted and get them set up, explaining what to expect. Once you arrive at the location I will get you in position, make sure that you look perfect, and then give you instructions.

The instructions are super basic and easy to follow because I know you’ll be nervous!

Once your partner turns around and sees you there are no expectations for what you need to do, just be in the moment! These images are so sweet and unique to you as a couple.

Couples Wedding Portraits

The next thing that we photograph after the first look will be the portraits of you as a couple. (If you opted not to do a first look these portraits, the bridal party portraits, and family portraits will all be taken after the ceremony, but in reverse order with the family portraits taking place first.)

We try to schedule at least 20-30 minutes for couples photos early in the day and more time may be required if we need to travel from one location to another or if we are working at a large venue that requires us to move to different parts of the property.

If you chose to do an engagement session with me prior to your wedding, you will already be comfortable in front of the camera and know exactly what to expect from your couples portraits. If we were unable to meet before the wedding day, or an engagement session was not logistically possible I will spend a couple minutes explaining my approach to photographing couples before we get started.

One of the most common questions when choosing a wedding photographer in Raleigh is what to expect when it comes to taking the actual photos. I totally get that lots of people don’t love having their photo taken or aren’t comfortable in front of the camera! Each wedding photographer has a different style and way of working with couples. I use a mixture of posing and prompting when photographing couples to get that editorial look where there are some photos of the couple – often against a dramatic backdrop – looking at the camera and smiling, but the majority of your images will be more candid focusing on movement, emotion, and interaction.

Couples often comment how this part of the day is actually way more fun than that had thought it would be! All you need to do is relax and be in the moment with your favorite person and I do all the rest.

Wedding Party Formals

I call these photos wedding party formals and while they are generally more posed than your couples photos there is still lots of room for fun!

We will photograph you and your wedding party as a group, individually with the bride and groom, in smaller groups of Bride with Bridesmaids and Groom with Groomsmen, and then we will also do some candid photos of everyone interacting as a group.

While I avoid the overly cheesy, Pinterest wedding party photos I do love it when you bring me editorial inspiration for your group images!

Family Formals

After we finish with the wedding party we will photograph your family formals.

In your questionnaire prior to the wedding I ask for a list of your desired groupings along with names for everyone involved. This allows us to be very organized during this portion of your photography and complete these photos in a very efficient manner.

It is helpful to designate a meeting place for family members and ask that they all arrive a little earlier than we have planned for the start time just in case of any delays so that as soon as wedding party photos are complete we can begin family photos.

If we are photographing the family formals directly after the ceremony be sure that everyone knows where to go after the recessional (do not let them just mingle with the crowd or we will need to spend time rounding them all back up!) or have your officiant announce for them to remain seated after the ceremony while the remaining guests leave for the cocktail hour.

The Wedding Ceremony

We schedule all group photos to end a minimum of 30 minutes prior to the start of the wedding ceremony so that the couple can be tucked away before guests begin arriving. This also gives me a chance to photograph your ceremony site and details without guests present. If possible I will also photograph the cocktail hour space during this time.

If you do not wish for there to be cell phones or other devices (I’ve been a wedding photographer in Raleigh for a long time and I’ve seen people taking photos with full size iPads more than once!) it is a good idea to express to you guests that you would like a screen free wedding ceremony. I usually recommend doing this both on your invitations or wedding website prior to the wedding as well as during the wedding either with signage or by having your officiant make a request at the beginning of the ceremony.

During the wedding ceremony itself I always photograph from the very back of the aisle or the sides so that I am out of the way for your guests. The one exception to this is the processional which I photograph from the from left side of the aisle to capture everyone coming down the aisle and the groom’s reaction to seeing the bride. As soon as the bride reaches the front of the aisle I slip past and move to the back of the ceremony site to remain as unobtrusive as possible.

If you are being married in a church, be sure to check ahead of time if they have any photo restrictions. The majority of churches do not allow flash during the ceremony, but some also restrict movement to certain times or areas. It is helpful to know this in advance to set expectations for the type of photos you can expect from your ceremony.

Cocktail Hour

If you did not opt for a first look, this when we would photograph your family formals, wedding party formals, and couples portraits. This is the more traditional timeline, but I often recommend first looks because it not only gives you more time to mingle with your guests, but it also ensures that we do not run out of time for couples portraits if things run late. With this timeline they are unfortunately the place where we often are forced to cut time if we get off schedule and I always want to make sure that you get plenty of photos of the two of you!

During the remainder of cocktail hour my second shooter and I will be circulating and taking small group guest photos and candid photos of guests interacting. Feel free to grab us at any time during the cocktail hour or reception if you would like photos with specific people or groups!

The Wedding Reception

There are really no rules as far as the schedule for your wedding reception goes, so feel free to schedule the events in whatever order you want! Some couples choose to do their first dance right after being introduced, while others save it for after dinner as a way to signal the dance floor is officially open.

There is no right or wrong way to plan your reception timeline!

I also advise couples not to stress too much about planning the reception down to the minute. This part of the evening can be much more flexible with timing based off of the pace and vibe of your crowd.

After your are introduced into your reception and I photograph any events prior to dinner, I will eat at the same time that you are eating so that I will be available to photograph again as soon as you are finished. My contract does include that a meal will be provided for myself and my second shooter (by this time we’ve probably been with you for 4-5 hours and we’re hungry just like you!) My general preference is to take my meal to a private space rather than being seated with guests so that my second shooter and I can review the day and discuss logistics while we eat. It is helpful to make sure that the caterer is aware which of your vendors will be eating and when so that they can prep meals, plates, and silverware to be available at the appropriate time.

After dinner is completed we will be almost completely like a fly on the wall for the remainder of the reception watching for fun moments and capturing the action as it unfolds. Just be sure that if something photo worthy is about to happen, you give us the heads up!

Sunset Photos

At every wedding I try to schedule us for 20-30 minutes of sunset photos approximately 45 minutes before sunset. How this fits into your schedule can vary greatly depending on the time of year since the sun can set as early as 5pm in December or as late as 8:30pm in June.

These photos are usually some of my favorites and also offer you a chance to document if you have a separate reception dress! This is a great time for us to cut loose and have a little fun creating more relaxed dynamic images.

Your Grand Wedding Exit

If you are planning an exit at the end of your wedding reception, you will want to coordinate with your dj or band to play the last song about 10-15 minutes before your scheduled end time.

This will allow your guests time to move to the exit location, collect their sparklers or other items, and get themselves organized and lined up.

Remember at this point most of your guests have had a few cocktails and going them from one location to another will take more time.

Whatever you have chosen for your exit, make sure to walk slowly down the aisle between your guests and for bonus points stop half way down and do a farewell kiss or dip!

What to expect from your wedding photographer in Raleigh after the wedding

As a wedding photographer in Raleigh it is my main priority to ensure that you have a great experience both at your wedding and after the wedding is over!

After your wedding I will edit a few of my favorite images from your wedding day and send them to you as sneak peaks (usually within 48 hours of your wedding!). I often post these on my Instagram account, but based off of your privacy requests and preferences I may also text or email them to you.

Your full gallery of wedding images will be ready for you about 6 weeks after your wedding day. I also deliver your first draft of your wedding album at this time for you to review.

Ready to book your wedding photographer in Raleigh?

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