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Wedding photos before or after the ceremony?

Should you take your wedding photos before or after the ceremony?

A question that many couples have when planning their wedding is whether they should take their formal wedding photos before or after the ceremony. For many couples this is a difficult decision because they are being told different things by everyone they talk to. The mother of the bride (or MOB in wedding-speak) tells her daughter that OF COURSE she wants to have traditional photos AFTER the ceremony, just like she did. But her maid-of-honor, who has been to several weddings over the last year, tells her that from what she has seen at the weddings she has attended that taking the photos BEFORE the ceremony works out much better for all involved. So how do they decide?

Ultimately this is a decision that has to be left up to every couple. But after having been the photographer at well over 1000 weddings over 20+ years, I have some fairly strong opinions on this matter that I will now share with you. If you are strongly in the “photos after the ceremony” camp you don’t have to do things as I suggest, but I hope that you will at least think about what I tell you before you make your final decision.


My opinion is that I have to strongly recommend that you take as many photos as possible before the ceremony.


There are many reasons to do this…You’ll get more photographs of the two of you together, and be able to spend extra time during the reception with your guests! You will have much more time to take the photos, and you’ll have fun taking the photos in a relaxed manner with your closest friends and family without that big crowd of people waiting for you to finish your photos and join the party. Many brides have commented that any nervousness they had completely disappeared as soon as they were with their grooms. And if you’re having an evening reception, you will probably be able to have some photos taken of the two of you together outdoors during the daylight, possibly even at another location (nearby park, for example).

If you decide to take all of the photographs of the the two of you together after the ceremony that’s alright too, though this means you probably won’t get as many photos as when pictures are taken before the ceremony. Unless you have a minimum of 60 minutes between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception I strongly recommend against this. To photograph you both with your family groups and wedding party (bridesmaids and groomsmen) takes about thirty minutes, and another ten to fifteen minutes for the two of you alone. That’s time enough to get those key photos as long as everyone is ready. If you choose this option, please discuss it with me well ahead of time, so I can give you some tips to help things go smoothly.

While roughly 90% of couples choose to take their photos before the ceremony, there are still some who want to be “traditional” and not let the groom see the bride until she is walking down the aisle. To these couples I want to give some straight talk, even though this may mean you won’t like what I have to say. Taking your pictures after the ceremony will increase your stress level significantly, and that is not something you need on such an important day. It usually means that your guests will be waiting for you at the reception while you rush to take your photos. I have seen situations where the photos took longer than planned, and by the time the bride and groom made it to the reception a good number of guests had already left. Not a good thing! Though many brides will tell me “That’s OK, my wedding will be different”, please believe me when I tell you that after photographing over 1000 weddings I know that your wedding will almost certainly NOT be different!

If you have allowed a fairly large amount of time between the end of your ceremony and the beginning of your reception then the situation is different. If you have a time gap of greater than 90 minutes after the ceremony and before the reception, and if you don’t have a lot of travel time between the two locations, then taking the posed photos after the ceremony is very feasible. Unfortunately this is rarely the case; usually the reception is planned to follow immediately after the end of the ceremony, leaving no time for photos. Remember, while you are taking your posed photos with the wedding party and your family, your guests are all waiting for you to show up and join the reception.


Here is an alternative – the “First Look” session.


The groom is brought to either the altar or perhaps a private outdoors location, where he waits for his bride with his back to her entrance. When the bride gets close to the groom, he is allowed to turn and get a true first look at the woman he will shortly be marrying. I like to keep these sessions for just the bride and groom; no bridesmaids or mothers hovering and crying! I take a few photos of the initial response when the couple first see each other, and then I leave to give them some time together to talk; something that isn’t possible when the groom first sees the bride when she comes down the aisle! Couples who have chosen this approach to the “first look” have been almost universal in their satisfaction and approval, and I frequently hear that this was one of their favorite parts of the day.

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