new-york-city-hall-wedding-esther-jq-9

Ahh! The dreaded timeline!

Folks, it’s time to roll up those sleeves, literally. Whenever it comes time to put one of these together, I can always imagine the collective anxiety building up on the other side of screen. Most folks fall into the “I don’t even know where to start!” category, judging by all the frantic emails we find in our inboxes everyday. On the other end of this spectrum, we have clients who send us detailed, color-coded spreadsheets of where everyone/everything is going at precise times throughout the wedding day. If there is a mason jar out of place, these clients would probably know immediately. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it, of course, but the wedding day itinerary still needs to be done. We certainly don’t expect our clients to be professional brides and grooms, so that’s where we come in.

So what’s the secret to planning the wedding day timeline?

venetian-garfield-nj-wedding-01

I hate to break it to everyone, but there really is no secret. It doesn’t matter if it’s a daytime wedding or evening wedding. It doesn’t matter if the photography team is offering 6 hours or 600. It doesn’t matter if it the couples are getting married in the countryside, city hall, or even in the middle of the woods. Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist weddings? They all follow pretty much same format. Weddings, at their core, have not changed very much since the beginning of civilized humankind; the bride/groom’s going to get ready, they’re going to get married, and they’re going to celebrate (with food, dancing, whatever they can possibly dream of). Since the advent of photography, the only decision the bride/groom need to make regarding this timeline is when they wish to take their photos. That being said there are basically only two kinds of timelines:

Getting ready ➞ First Look/Photos ➞ Ceremony ➞ Reception
or
Getting ready ➞ Ceremony ➞ Photos ➞ Reception

It simply boils down to whether the clients wish to take photos before or after the ceremony. It’s not my place to say if one approach is better than the other, because it comes down to the needs and desires of the clients. Every client is different. We always start our clients off with 10 hours of coverage in our most basic only package, which allows them the freedom to go either way. Why? Because one less headache for the client is one less headache for us.

st-john-usvi-wedding-27

There are only three things that brides and grooms need to consider when putting together a sensible timeline: (a) Locations, (b) Time spent at locations, and (c) Travel time between locations. Generally speaking, the ceremony time will serve as the anchor for most wedding days, because it serves as the invitation time for your guests (which was probably also set well in advance). Working backwards from the ceremony start time, we can usually determine the best time to start getting ready.

oceanbleu-westhampton-bath-tennis-wedding-11

Here are some tips that should be helpful:

  1. Budget 30-45 minutes for each bridesmaid’s hair & make-up. If moms, grandmoms and flowergirls are getting professionally done too, they need to be factored in as well.
  2. Budget 2 hours for the bride’s hair & make-up.
  3. Guys will need roughly 30 minutes to get ready. Doesn’t matter if it’s 2 groomsmen, or 10. Sucks to be a guy, I know :).
  4. Whatever you budgeted for travel or what Google Maps says, tack on another 30%. For us NJ wedding photographers – if we have to cross the Hudson River to go into New York City or Long Island, we always double the recommended travel time.
  5. If the wedding falls on a Friday, consideration for rush-hour traffic must be taken.
  6. Most photographers will want 1 hour of exclusive time for formal portraits, which will allow them to photograph the bride/groom, bridal party and family. We always budget two hours. Whether we do it all at once, or sprinkle in this time throughout the day, it’s entirely up to the needs of the clients. Because we offer more than enough coverage for all of our clients, it affords us the flexibility to accommodate their needs.

That being said, here’s an example of a typical itinerary with a first look:

10:30pm // Bride starts hair/make-up no later than now
11:30pm // Photography coverage starts now
12:30pm // Bride done with hair/make-up
12:45pm // Bride in dress
1:00pm // Bridal Party en route to Photo Location
1:30pm // First Look, Photos with Bride/Groom, Bridal Party and Family
3:30pm // Bridal Party en route to Ceremony (off-site)
4:00pm // Ceremony Start
5:00pm // Bridal party en route to venue
5:30pm // Cocktail Hour Start
6:30pm // Formal reception start
10:30pm // Formal reception end

And here’s an example of a typical itinerary without a first look:

10:30pm // Bride starts hair/make-up no later than now
11:30pm // Photography coverage starts now
12:30pm // Bride done with hair/make-up
12:45pm // Bride in dress
1:00pm // Bridal Party en route to Ceremony (off-site)
1:30pm // Ceremony Start
2:30pm // Bridal Party en route to Photo Location
3:00pm // Photos with Bride/Groom, Bridal Party and Family
5:00pm // Bridal party en route to venue
5:30pm // Cocktail Hour Start
6:30pm // Formal reception start
10:30pm // Formal reception end

Every itinerary is going to be slightly different, but will more or less follow the same structure. Pretty simple, right?

And for the brides who didn’t read this entire post, and simply want the abridged version:

  1. You’ll need to start your hair/make-up roughly 3 hours before you need to head out the door.
  2.  I will probably show up during your prep roughly 1.5-2 hours before we need to head out the door, roughly the same time the groom/groomsmen should be getting ready.

You’re welcome :).

Believe it or not, I’ve been trying to convince clients to let me photograph them under/near the Verrazano Bridge for YEARS now. While the Verrazano may not be anywhere nearly as famous as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Verrazano will always have a special place in my heart. As a gateway from my childhood home in Brooklyn to pretty much everywhere else in the world (that was not Manhattan), traversing this bridge always marked the beginning of yet another awesome family trip (which would invariably include stops in Staten Island and New Jersey, of course). As a latchkey kid with workaholic parents for pretty much my entire life, I always cherished this family time together, along with the fascinating opportunity to drive across one of the longest spans in NYC. Growing up, I’ve always thought that I was alone with these sentiments – that is, until I met Evita & Paul, two fellow Brooklynites who also share my affections for this bridge. So when they proposed to shoot their engagement session on BOTH sides of the Verrazano, you best believe I was ALL OVER IT! Unbeknownst to me, I had met them previously at another wedding several years ago. We’re so looking forward to seeing all those familiar faces again!

On a side note, Paul is quite handy with the sax. Despite my best efforts, I was not able to convince him to play us some “Careless Whisper” to set the mood. I officially have no shame. #sexysaxman #fail

Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Verrazano Bridge engagement session in Brooklyn and Staten Island, captured by NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.

  • Paul - Thank you Ben, these are beautiful!

    I love your sentiments about the Verrazano, it has always been a find part of my childhood too! Evita and I have always loved it’s aesthetic beauty as well as its personal significance.

    We both found it hard to believe that no one has ever wanted to shoot with you at the bridge and we are glad to have been your first!

    See you in a few weeks!

    PaulReplyCancel

With this engagement session, I’ve officially photographed on/under/near every bridge in the NYC metropolitan area, including the ones that have yet to be built! Susan & Nikko’s fun engagement session took place on the Westchester side of the (Old) Tappan Zee Bridge, along the streets of the ever-picturesque Tarrytown. Nikko, who spends his days as a metal worker, felt right at home amidst all the noises and construction of the (New) Tappan Zee Bridge. After wandering past many of the historic sites around Tarrytown, we wrapped up the day with tacos. Seriously, I can’t imagine any better way to end the day!

Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.Tarrytown Engagement session in Westchester, captured by Westchester wedding photographer Ben Lau.

When Sarah & Bryan were thinking of photo locations after their NYC City Hall wedding, they wanted a place that was especially meaningful to them. While I mentally prepared myself to photograph in some romantic, albeit poorly lit space, I was beyond elated to learn that they had chosen the Whitney Museum and the surrounding Meatpacking/Chelsea area. Not only did we manage to get some stunning views of the Hudson River, but it was quiet and private – which is probably why Bryan proposed to Sarah here in the first place! It’s wonderfully nice how things come full-circle sometimes, right?

Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding photos in Chelsea, Meatpacking and the Whitney Museum after a NYC City Hall wedding, captured by NYC City Hall wedding photographer Ben Lau.

I love shooting along Long Island’s Gold Coast, for obvious reasons; the awe-inspiring architecture of all these old mansions, the perfectly manicured gardens, and most importantly – the opportunity to rack up a bajillion steps on my fitbit :). AnnaVy & Brian wanted something natural, romantic for their engagement session – and they found the perfect spot to do just that: Old Westbury Gardens. We wrapped up this romantic Long Island engagement session with the golden-hour views of Manhattan from Long Island City’s waterfront. Though my legs had become a tasty buffet for several dozen mosquitoes that day, it was all worth it!

Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.Old Westbury Gardens engagement session & Long Island City engagement session - captured by fun NYC wedding photographer Ben Lau.