Wedding day tips, planning & scheduling advice for a stress free day.
I decided to write this guide to help new brides & grooms with their wedding day schedule & list general ideas that can help your day run smoothly. For the most part, the schedule remains very similar from wedding to wedding, but I’ve gathered some tips from previous weddings which may assist upcoming brides/grooms.
Real honest advice to help your wedding day run as smoothly as possible...
Choosing your wedding ceremony time
Yes, this is an important one to get right, choosing the right ceremony time is setting your wedding day schedule up for success. You don’t want to choose a ceremony time of 2pm in December as available daylight for location photos would become an issue at 4:30pm. I highly recommend a 12:30pm ceremony time during the winter and 12:30pm to 1pm all other times of the year. Having your ceremony & location photos done earlier, ensures you can arrive at your reception in good time to enjoy the celebrations with your friends & family before the dinner bell rings.
Wedding day hair & make up schedule
Three main items to consider here, 1) timing, 2) where in your house/hotel room is the best location for hair & makeup & 3) what you wear is important, let me explain why...
1) The bigger the bridal party, the longer it takes for hair & makeup. If you have 4 bridesmaids, your Mum, the grooms Mum and maybe a sister for hair & makeup, your position in the queue is important. What I mean by that is, do not be last in line for hair & makeup, ideally you should be first or second in line if you have 1-2 bridesmaids or second in line if you have 3-4 bridesmaids. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Why do we need you first or second in line? So that once your hair and makeup is done, you are looking your best for the morning’s candid photos. It allows you to be getting into your dress while your bridesmaids are having their final preparations done. If your husband to be has flowers delivered, you are fully made up for photos as you answer the door, if you pop some champagne with the girls, you are fully made up for the photos. Don’t let yourself be in a situation where all your bridesmaids are looking great for the morning’s photos, but you have yet to do your makeup. If you only take one piece of advice away from this article, let it be this one.
Bridal prep wedding day tips
2) When choosing a location in your home or hotel bedroom for hair & makeup, certainly window light is important, your make up artist (MUA) will guide you on where is a good place to sit. Do however keep in mind that a larger room would be best as opposed to a smaller room if the light was suitable in both. A sitting room is always a good idea, large enough to allow the photographer room to move around to capture those moments of laughter as you chat with the girls. Try not to position your chair closely facing a wall or corner, it limits the angles available for photo/video.
3) What the bride & the bridesmaids wear on the morning during hair & makeup is important. Firstly a robe of some sort is highly recommended, it looks flattering in photos. Wearing tight T-shirts is not advised as when you sit in a high chair and lean forward, even with a supermodel figure, it is not the most flattering for our mid sections. Second, try to colour match what the bridesmaids are wearing, having an assortment of multicoloured PJ's, shorts, robes & T shirts in differing colours does not look great in a wedding album. This does not need to be expensive, for example if the bridesmaids are wearing the same colour robes and leggings or shorts, that's perfect.
Placing all your details in a single location the night before your wedding
Bride's wedding details - you don't need to style them as above, just keep them all together in one location ready for the photographer to photograph them in the morning.
This is very helpful; it saves your photographer time in the morning when starting to photograph details. If everything is left in the same place with all wrapping & tags removed, less time can be spend photographing the details leaving more time to capture moments. This includes the wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, the flower girl’s dress, wedding shoes, the page boy’s suit, perfume, jewellery, spare invitations, rings, wedding bands, wedding flowers, garter, gifts or a head piece etc, essentially anything that is important to the bride or that she will wear on the day.
Gifts & cards
Not too much to say here, sometimes gifts are given to the bridesmaids or the groomsmen by the bride or groom, it can be a good opportunity to capture some additional images so it can be a good idea to wait for your photographer before exchanging those but it’s down to personal preference. If your wife/husband to be sends you a card on the morning of the wedding, reading it in a quite place can produce some nice moments for photos. Likewise popping a glass of champagne with the bridesmaids before getting into your dress makes for some fun photo opportunities<
Bridal prep celebrations at the G hotel in Galway
Timing | when to get into your wedding dress
I always say the most critical milestone in terms of the wedding day schedule is the “getting into your dress” time. If this goes according to schedule, the rest of the day seems to fall into place. Before your wedding day you should have a clear idea of when you need to be getting into your dress, I discuss this in advance at the pre wedding meeting and advise brides to notify hair & makeup of that time, so they can ensure you are ready or as close to ready as possible at that time.
The bridal suite at the Hardiman hotel in Galway
For example if your ceremony time is 1pm and you live 10 minutes from the church, I would advise getting into your dress at 11:45am. It can take anywhere up to 15 minutes to get into the dress so we also factor in that time. That gives you time to have your bridal portraits taken, some images with the bridesmaids & your family and most importantly, a breather to gather your thoughts before leaving for the ceremony.
Mommy is getting married today
Keep Dad hidden in the basement until your ready! Always great to see their expression when they see their daughter in her dress for the first time!
The first time Dad gets to see his daughter in her dress can be an emotional event, some laugh with joy & some cry. Where possible I try to ensure Dad does not get to see the bride in her dress until the bride is fully ready & I ensure I am there to capture the moment when he does.
Involving your son(s) or daugher(s) on your day
In my opinion it’s so important to include your children in your wedding day images, that being said, it’s important to have someone on hand to take care of them, feed them & dress them on the morning of the wedding. Again this goes back to “the art of delegation” which I touch upon below. I have two boys myself and I know how much they can crave for your attention, especially when there are groups of people around. Having the piece of mind that a family member will take care of them in the morning is important, it’s keep your to do list small and allows you to focus on enjoying your prep. Ask that they are fully dressed 1 hour before you leave to the ceremony location/church so they can be included in any family photos before leaving.
If you have children, they are a special part of your day, ensure to talk to your photographer about including them in your wedding day photos
The best approach to photograph children is just leave them to their own devices and take candid photos of them doing their own thing.
The art of delegation on the morning of your wedding
Your to do list on the morning of your wedding to have next to zero entries. You’ve done all the planning & hard work in the lead up to your wedding, it’s your day, you should be pampered on the morning of your wedding, not checking items off a list. In the run up to your big day, have a chat with family members or your bridesmaids/groomsmen and delegate any wedding day tasks you can. For example, who is locking the door before leaving for the ceremony, who is bringing bags to the hotel & who is bringing the alter flowers to the reception etc etc. These are little things, but they add up and can be avoided once delegated in advance. I’ve seen this cause stress to many brides, especially in those last 20 minutes before leaving for the ceremony.
Empty to do list = stress free brides!
Groom prep at Screebe House in Connemara, Galway
Some tips for the lads: be yourselves and forget about the cameras, get ready as you would normally if there was no cameras there. Ensure your groomsmen are on time to your getting ready location and just have a laugh, enjoy the getting ready process.Tip: Upon arriving at your ceremony location, ask your Dad or the person giving you away to help you out of the wedding car as opposed to the driver, it's more intimate and makes for better photos.
Consider an unplugged wedding ceremony - no phones or iPads allowed!
I'm totally in favour of this one, and I'm finding it's getting more & more popular to have an unplugged wedding ceremony. It can be quite disappointing when a guest reaches out into the aisle with an iPad as the bride is walking up the aisle. So how do we get the message out to people? My advice is to place a fairly large sign in the ceremony entrance area with wording like "Welcome to our unplugged wedding, we invite you to be fully present with us during our ceremony, please put down all electronic devices and be part of our celebration with us." Ask your priest or celebrant to announce at the start of the ceremony that the bride and groom kindly request the guests to refrain from use electronic devices to take photos during the ceremony. This is also a good way to ensure guests are not posting photos of your wedding on social media during the ceremony, if that is something you would prefer not to happen. But we do need to give the guests an opportunity to take some photos so either the priest may invite people to take photos during the lighting of candles, the signing of the registry or at the end of the ceremony when I typically take a photo of the bridal party together before the newlyweds walk down the aisle.
Walking up the aisle
First up: the little ones. Page boys and flower girls come in all ages, and as such you need to be prepared for the odd temper tantrum with the smaller kids. I do find most do a great job and it can be a good idea to have the older kids accompany the smaller ones up the aisle. Also an option for smaller kids coming up on their own is to have a parent waiting for them at the top of the aisle as it puts them at ease.
Advice I give the groom before the bride walks up the aisle; very bride looks forward to the moment when her husband to be turns around to see her walking up the aisle. It’s a magical moment when their eyes meet, any butterflies or tension they feel disappears. I’ve seen laugher, tears, giggles and moment of pure joy, it truly is a moment I look forward to at each and every wedding.
Earlier in my photography career I observed some grooms would turn too early or would not turn at all until the bride is upon him. Now, at every wedding I have a quick chat with the groom before the bride walks up the aisle. I advise him to keep looking forward towards the alter until I give him the nod, then he turns around to look at his bride. This allows me to capture his tense or excited expression as you approach the half way point, then I photograph the bride’s expression as they see each other for the first time.
Take your time.... Be sure the aisle is clear before you start to walk, that way your photographer can ensure to get unobstructed images of you. The same holds true for the bridesmaids, sometimes bridesmaids speed up the aisle and bunch up near the top making it more difficult to get clear images of each. Your photographer will remind you of this again at the bottom of the aisle. Any nerves that you may have soon disappear once you see your husband/wife to be...
Dad shedding a tier after walking his daughter up the aisle
Holding hands is a promise to one another that, for just a moment, the two of you don't have to face the world alone.
If you would like to sign the register with something a little more fancy, ensure to bring along your own pen or have a family member mind it until you need it. Just in case the one left on the table is a Bic pen..
Signing the register at the Claddagh church, Galway
Galway Cathedral wedding photography
At the Claddagh church in Galway
Location, location, location
Finally, some alone time
For the outdoor location images, we only need the bridal party, no parents or flower girls etc need to attend. In general I spend 1 hour max taking these photos, more often 45 minutes, the smaller the bridal party is, the faster we can move around & thus the time is reduced. It can be done in less than 30 minutes if this part of the day is not so important to the bride & groom.
Couple photos at Slevoir House, Tipperary
Salthill beach, Galway
If getting married on a Friday, factor in traffic delays, esp for inner city hotel venues. Scenic locations for images should be for the most part on the route from the ceremony to the reception venue, again all this is discussed at the pre-wedding meeting.
The boathouse at Dromoland Castle
I shoot fast, focus on the larger group images first, then the bridesmaids & groomsmen can return to the car/hotel while I wrap up focusing on bride & groom only images. The outcome here is quality over quantity, we don’t need a million images, just a variety of images from the classical portraits to the fun/candid moments. The goal here is to get this part of the day wrapped up in a timely manner & get everyone back to the reception as early as possible.
A quick visit to someone special
If it’s raining heavily after the ceremony, we may need to take the bridal party photos indoors. If there are showers, you may get away with some outdoor photos and some indoors photos, that call will be made on the day. Investing in some umbrellas could be a good idea if your pretty sure the day is going to be very wet, some options online - https://www.thelovelylittlelabel.com
Umbrellas can also be used as props in photos, even on dry days. No need to go too expensive, you’ll likely only use them for a few images.
Wedding photography at the Quad in NUIG - also a great backup location for photos on a rainy day
One thing I remind couples about at the scenic shoot is to connect your hands. Arm’s dangling down by your side is a pet peeve of mine, it just does not say “I love you” like connected hands do. When couples are next to each other, I like to have them either holding hands, arms around the waist or whatever works, it doesn’t matter as long as they are connected. Believe me when you see a photo with a couples arm’s dangling by their side and a photo of a couple with connected hands, there is a stronger sense of emotion from the connected couple. Something to keep in mind, but I remind my couples of this on the day.
Some tips for your wedding day speeches - in summary short & sweet is everyones favourite
The speeches tend to last longer when they are after the meal, they tend to be shorter when they are before the meal. That’s not always the case but quite often the case. I remember my own wedding day, we opted to have the speeches before the meal so that we could relax while eating. Some opt to have it after the starter which is an option also.
Try to avoid breaking up the speeches into segments, for example two people speak before the main course & two more speak after desert. It makes it more difficult for the chef to prepare the food around the schedule of the speeches which can delay the overall service. Also, for speeches after the meal, the longer the speeches go on for, the more it delays the band starting, be mindful of that.
Planning a stress free wedding day - a different take on the typical wedding cake photo at the G hotel in Galway
When it gets dark | wedding photos at sunset or at dusk
Sunset photos are an option at various times of the year as the lighting conditions may suit your days schedule, for example with summer weddings, after the meal/speeeches is an ideal time to pop out for 5 minutes to grab some photos with the sun setting in the background. The golden light at this time of day is wonderful.
Sunset photo at the Connemara Coast hotel in Galway - 9pm at a July wedding in Ireland
Some venues lend themselves to outdoor shots at dusk when the sky takes on a blue colour after the sun has set. Normally a good time to take these shots is after your meal or before your first dance, again depending on the time of year. I get my camera settings dialed in & the lighting ready to go, then I ask the bride & groom to pop out to get these shots. As everything is ready to go, this normally takes about 3-4 minutes and those images can be a lovely way to end an album.
If opting for a wedding album, a dusk or night-time photo if one of my preferred way to end an album
Your wedding day goes very fast, so many times couples tell me "I can't believe we're sitting down for our meal already". Be sure to enjoy every moment of your day, take a step back and take it all in.
Contact details:- Gerard Conneely Photography | Mobile: 0872295675 | Email: [email protected]