Running a Smooth Wedding Day

So there I was. The ceremony had ended, cocktail hour began, and then… nothing happened! The bridal party was waiting to enter, the bride and groom were… well… somewhere, and everyone just seemed to be waiting. And there I was. Watching it all happen, waiting with everyone else for some kind of signal to move to the next section. But none came. Who was supposed to tell people what to do? I mean… there was no day-of wedding planner [which every bride should DEFINITELY get]. So… no one was in charge…

Looking back on it though, I now realize that actually… I was in charge! If there is no wedding planner, the photographer is the one who really calls all the shots. After all, I’m the on who constructed the timeline with the bride and groom, and I’m the one who changed it when things ran behind. The videographer, though similar, didn’t work with the bride on any of those things. I DID! So, when it comes to making decisions during the day, I am the captain of the wedding for most of the day.

So the question becomes, how can YOU run a wedding well while at the same time getting the shots you need?


1. Believe

First and foremost, we must realize who we are. We are PROFESSIONAL wedding photographers, and people pay us to be there at their day because they love us, they trust the work we produce, and they believe that we are capable of running the show. No one really says it that way, but my friends, that is how it is. At the wedding, YOU will be in charge. Prepare yourself in advance for it. Recognize that you ARE capable and that it really just comes down to knowing where to be and when to be there. YOU CAN DO IT!


2. Be proactive in establishing your authority

As I’ve said 1,000 times before, confidence is the key to just about any situation. And for you to have confidence, you need to know what is going on. Before the wedding, print out the timeline and have it handy throughout the morning. If ANYONE asks ANYTHING about when something is happening, you should have the answer. And when things fall a little behind, you should be the first to offer a timeline adjustment. This way, people will begin to expect that you’re the one to go to when something happens. In so doing, you can make sure that the event stays organized and everyone knows what is happening.


3. Establish a plan for the worsts

At the previously mentioned wedding, there were a few technical complications that put small kinks in my ability to take charge of the situation. Long story short, we had a flash that just decided it didn’t really FEEL like working anymore… and I didn’t know what to do. One of my favorite speakers, Les Brown, often states, “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity, and never have it, than have an opportunity, and not be prepared.” In the middle of planning a wedding, working with the DJ to keep things on track, making sure that everything for cutting the cake is in place, and worrying about the way your bride is feeling, the LAST thing you need is to come upon yet another situation you don’t have a plan for. So, do yourself a MASSIVE favor and prepare in advance for possible “go-wrong scenarios.” Here is a small list that I’ve started thinking through with my current solutions.

A. You need three flashes to create the lighting for your style and one flash goes out. [I will keep one OCF on the stand for backlighting, leave on flash on my camera, and since my second photographer has a flash sync, I will tell him to work at a 90 degree angle from the OCF so that they still get the wanted dimension from the OFC and my flash. I will also tell him to be VERY sparring with his images so that I don’t run out of flash power in a key moment.

B. The second photographer you brought isn’t ready to handle a given situation. [This situation SHOULD never happen because I take great care to make sure my second photographers are quality. However, in the event it does happen, this is not something I can control. He/She is there. If it’s a problem I can change with a quick conversation, I will do that. Otherwise, I will continue on, trusting in my own skill to get what I need.

C. Your camera stops working during the first dance. [I have a backup camera on me at all times, with a battery and memory cards already inside, and with all the settings corrected before each wedding. I will turn my camera off, place it in my bag and continue photographing with the backup camera. AFTER the wedding I can look at the old camera but during the wedding when I don’t have time, I cannot look into the matter further, lest I miss a moment.

D. Your bride wakes up an hour late and starts getting ready an hour late. [I construct wedding schedules in such a way for there to be AT LEAST an hour of leeway time. If things get behind, that’s fine! Now, if the trend persists, I will tell the bride what we’re going to have to do, already having a plan as for when the missed images will be captured, and we move on. Brides are far more trusting if I can tell them how we’re going to fix it at the same time I present the problem.]
You should have an your own answer to each of these questions. Maybe your answer will be different from mine, but you should have one written down for you to review and engrain into your head. Like a well-practiced surgeon, know your craft so well it’s ridiculous.


4. Relax

Last, remember that even as you get stressed trying desperately to plan a wedding day, the bride and groom and guests are really just there to have fun! So take a less from them… RELAX! The wedding is happening and you will not be able to control everything that happens. After all, you are NOT the caterer. If the food table falls over… that’s not your job. All you can do there is get the bridal parties reactions, reorganize the reception order so that the evening keeps moving, and let the catering company take care of fixing their issue. You can plan for only the things you have control over. Everything else is outside of your circle of influence. So, let the wedding happen, doing your part in the whole thing. The rest you can just let go!

Next week I’ll talk about some practical tips about HOW you can do this effectively.


To God be the glory,

daniel jackson