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The Most Forgotten Piece of Advice that I Have to Offer Wedding Couples

John Paul

6 min read

Mar 25, 2022

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Originally Published on March 25 


Every couple I shoot a wedding for, I offer my help in planning their big day from a photographer’s perspective, even if booked via an agency service, simply because a good plan is beneficial to everyone involved, including me..!  


In the past, I would hand a couple a sheet that tells me the bare-bone basics of their day..  Who, what, where, when..  etc..  and after several less than amazing days, I began sticking my nose into the plans of their day, even if a professional wedding planner was hired to direct the day.. (……which is a lengthy topic for another day, or two)…  because I kept seeing the same problems come up time after time, and although I get to see the same problems repeatedly, it is always new to a wedding couple who don’t get to have a wedding week after week, like I get to see….and experience. Often, my input completely changes the official plans or timeline for the day. I offer suggestions for weather-related issues, time of day related issues, location issues, and or suggestions for alternative ideas, based on my experiences, as well as major stress relievers, which for some unknown reason, are often totally forgotten.   IMO,  from what I have seen, one of the most stressful times of a wedding, especially if not planned well, are the Formal Photos taken immediately after the ceremony, or after a receiving line. I tell all of my couples in a phone conversation, usually soon after booking, and the week of the wedding, tips that can not only save time, and stress, but allow them more time for the photos they look forward to taking outside of the ceremony location.   #1 Make a Photo Group List. You know your family, or in many cases, family fractions better than I do. There are often family members who have some sort of issue with another member, and perhaps it is best if they aren’t together for whatever reason. I’ve shot weddings where one member had an active injunction against another member, and so… I really don’t know any of these issues, nor want to take on the role of a “referee” with everything else I am doing, and nor should my couples be expected to play that role either, on their wedding day.


When writing the list, consider the time you have, or are allowed to take, before you need to leave the ceremony location. Also, consider the number of combinations you really want to have done right there. I’ve seen weddings “hijacked” by family members who just want to have every last person related to them photographed in many groups. Also, I often suggest that you both should be together since you two are now married, why have separate photos with just your families, but it’s your wedding.  You do as you want, and please consider your time, and the time you will have left between the ceremony and reception if your plan is to visit a park in between venues to have wedding party photos and or romantic couple photos taken. Do you want to cut into that time, just to make everyone happy, or consider that various combinations of family groups can be taken a little less formally… like at the reception, perhaps in a table shot, or something to that effect?    


A few years ago, I shot a wonderful couple’s wedding in Milwaukee, who forgot about the group shot list. #2 They also didn’t have a “Wrangler” either, and left it up to me to wing it, which I did the best that I could. Although they had scheduled 2 hours to take the formals, and then travel to the downtown location to shoot with their wedding party, before making their way back to the hotel in time for the Grand Entrance. Unfortunately, because they allowed their parents to take charge, and decide for them what photos they wanted to have taken, they only had about 10 minutes to shoot on location with their wedding party, and about 2 minutes to shoot just the two of them together because their family members took it upon themselves to make sure that (since they were paying for the photography)…  they had to have everyone they wanted to be photographed, including redundant combinations…  and……………believe it or not, renewal of a couple’s wedding vows! Of course, they expected me to photograph that too, which then devolved into a domino effect. I was then asked to shoot another family couple’s wedding vow renewals… another.. etc…  all the while, I was trying to suggest to the couple that the time that they wanted to take for their photos at Discovery World, was getting slimmer and slimmer, especially if we have issues with parking, etc.  Finally, they spoke up and asked their parents if they could “just be done with all the damn photos” because they were really upset and stressed out.  I’m sure it was totally awesome for the parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc…  etc..  but…..  This was not necessarily “Family Reunion Day”… It was the Wedding Day of a single couple, who just didn’t have any backbone, (nor considered my suggestion to have a list and a wrangler) Furthermore, it’s not in my best interest to say “No.” to anyone at a wedding..  I’ll do everything to direct things, but ultimately, it is the couple who I take my direct orders from. If they give the nod to everyone's requests, no matter how ridiculous…and or time-consuming…. well…  ???


You’ll need someone to help round up the cats..  ;-) I’ll be the conductor of your orchestra, provided we have a good plan and stick to it. However, it is very helpful to have eager helpers helping out. I’ve never attended a wedding where someone wasn’t available to help the couple. In fact, just about every couple who I talk to, immediately knows a good person to help them with the task of calling out the names of the people in the group list. Let them do their magic, and I’ll do the rest. I’ll pose everybody, get them to look at me, and hopefully, everyone likes to smile..  :-) When you make your list of groups, make it a nicely typed out list that anyone can read rather than a handwritten scribble, and have it printed on paper, so nobody is trying to read the names off their smartphone.    


Although if my couples forget/ don’t have a list, or a “Wrangler”.  I make every effort to wing it the best that I can and get every possible combination that you would want, but the chances of me missing a combination is much higher if you put all that all on me. Often, a missed combination won’t be noticed until the couple looks through their photos.  Sorry..!     


#3. Inform everyone in the group list prior to the wedding by e-mail, text, or at the rehearsal..  etc..  that they are to stick around for their photos until they are dismissed. One of the craziest moments I’ve experienced is when the Mother of the Bride thought she was more needed at the reception to wrap chairs with skirts, that appear in the formal photos with the rest of the family. She of course had her phone turned off, and had to have someone chase her down, have her drop what she was doing, and drive back to the ceremony location to stand with everyone who was quite impatiently waiting for her to appear in the formal photos. I tell this story to all my couples because the unthinkable happened. These things that nobody would ever imagine, happen. They really do. Another time, I had the Best Man disappear to a bar and sat there drinking while everyone was waiting for him to show up at a designated location to appear in the couple’s wedding party photos. This guy was even married, and IMO…  should have known the responsibility for undertaking the role of the Best Man.  That again wasted a lot of time and frustrated everyone involved. Hence why I really try to help every couple avoid these situations prior to their wedding, but….  at least for the group list, about 50% of my couples, don’t prepare with the group list, even after I mention it to them at least twice. It is such an easy thing to do.. which saves everyone from a lot of stress and allows for more time taking the photos they want, with more fun and memories of the things they want from their wedding.  

John Paul

6 min read

Mar 25, 2022

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