Stephen Williams Photography

A Wedding Photographer's Advice on How To Plan a Wedding

how to plan a wedding

Tips to Make Your Day Flow Smoothly

If somebody asked me what the biggest factor was that made a wedding shoot go off without a hitch, my answer would be “having enough TIME to think”.  Most jobs are less stressful than a wedding photographer’s.  The standard of quality expected of us is high, and we don’t get second chances at opportunities we’ve missed.  So if you’ve never had to plan a wedding before, keep reading.

Time Management

  • While learning to plan a wedding it’s important to learn know that the biggest time saver (from my point of view) is knowing exactly where everything is going to take place.  In meeting with you, I will ensure I have all the addresses and phone numbers to ensure that I drive straight to the different places without getting lost.  Getting un-lost costs me money, petrol, and missed photographic opportunities that you will regret.
  • When you meet your photographer, come armed with all the addresses and phone numbers they’d need:
  1. Bride’s cell phone number
  2. Groom’s cell phone number
  3. The address and phone number where the Bride will be getting ready
  4. The address and phone number where the Groom will be getting ready
  5. The address and phone number of ceremony venue 
  6. Cell phone number of person conducting ceremony (priest, pastor, etc)
  7. The address and phone number of reception venue
  8. The name and phone number of wedding planner present at reception
  • If this information has changed since we last spoke, please inform me.  
  • My favourite weddings are the ones where everything happens at one venue.  Avoid forcing yourself and your photographer from driving from one location to the next.  It wastes a lot of time that otherwise could be used to take beautiful photographs.
  • “Getting Ready” pics: I need to leave in time to get to the ceremony before you do, think about this if you want photographs taken of you all dressed and ready with your bridesmaids and parents.  And take into consideration that I need to arrive in time at the ceremony venue to get the shots I need before you arrive.

General Décor

Part of knowing how to plan a wedding involves deciding on what your wedding will look like, from a photographer’s point of view there are a few things you could do here to make it a little better.

  • One of the biggest problems I have when it comes to photographing people who are making speeches, is a distracting background.  When deciding where it is that the podium will be or the spot where people will stand when speaking, do yourself a favour and look at the background.  Do you see an ‘Exit’ sign, or an air-conditioner, or a fire hydrant, or anything that you would not want in your background?  Also, if you dont have a podium but instead have a wandering mic, appoint a specefic spot, preferably on the dance floor or near it, for speakers to stand when making their speech.  Too many times I have photographed somebody making a speech who is standing next to the dj’s equipment and all you see are wires and sound equipment in the background, and not a wedding couple or wedding guest in sight.
  • Ask the D.J if he could use a lapel microphone instead of the usual ice-cream cone shaped mic.  Failing that, position the mic below the speaker’s chin.  You don’t want all your speech photos with a distracting microphone in the way.
  • Tables: Don’t use table decoration that is too high, especially at the main table.  Too often I have someone’s face obscured because of a table decoration  higher than eye level, also if your guests are seated at a round table with a high piece of decoration in the middle, they wont be able to see the person sitting directly opposite them.

Couple Shoot

  • In my opinion the best time to take the romantic pictures of just you and your new husband, is right after your friends and family have congratulated you after the ceremony.  This is the time when you are the most bubbly and happy.  It also gives you and your new husband a moment to relax away from the attention of all your friends and family.  The best shots of the day are taken at this point.
  • It is best if you leave the pictures of you and the groomsmen and bridesmaids till after the couple shoot.
  • Bring props for this shoot.  Umbrellas, a picnic basket and blanket and whatever else you can think of.
  • It’s important to give your photographer enough time.  I would normally have visited the venue before the wedding day so I’ll have a good idea of where the best spots are for the shoot, if we have enough time we could do the couple shoot in a relaxed and happy atmosphere, instead of a rushed and tense one.
  • 30 minutes for your couple shoot is too short a space of time, 60 minutes is too long. Somewhere in between is best. 
  • Take into consideration time spent on driving or walking to shoot location.  The less driving the better.

Formal Group Portraits (family Photos)

  • In my opinion the best time to take the group shots of you and your family, in-laws and friends, groomsmen and bridesmaids, is right after the Couple Shoot. 
  • In most cases the photographer will not be able to identify who your friends, family members or in-laws are.  It would be best if you could get your master of ceremonies, or a bossy friend or family member to rally the relevant persons together for the group portrait.  This saves a lot of time.
  • Make a list of all the most important persons you’d like a picture with, and don’t go crazy with the list.  A formal group portrait session lasting as much as 30 minutes is way too long, and can sometimes lead to an atmosphere of tension.  Get it over with quickly
  • The last picture taken at this point is the wide shot of all your guests, for this the photographer would need a higher vantage point.


  • Guarter, Bouquet, First Dance, Cake Cutting:  Let me know in advance before these things happen.  I sometimes, depending on the venue, like to set up lights and think of the best way to shoot it.  Giving me 30 seconds to prepare isn’t much help.
  • Don’t put your photographer, videographer, and DJ at a table in another room, rather put them sort of close to where the main table is where they have a clear line of sight with you.  How will they capture a beautiful moment if they’re not there to pre-empt it?

So often I have seen brides on their wedding day looking totally smashed even before the wedding has started.  Its a very emotional day, but just relax and take things as they come.  I can guarantee that not everything will run exactly on schedule, no matter how well you plan your wedding.  

I’ve seen a wedding venue nearly burn down, flower girls refuse to co-operate, wedding dresses not want to fit and rain wash away any opportunity to shoot outside.  Dont think that these things are bad, these are things that make your wedding day unique.  Have fun, you only get married once…. 😉