Preceremony Photography

I posted this a little while ago over on my blog but I think it’s just as relevant for planners as it is for brides. I’d love to hear your point of view.

Just before Christmas I spent some time reviewing 2008 and going over each of my weddings with a fine tooth comb, analysing what had worked and what could have been improved. This got me thinking about the traditional timings of group and portrait photography at weddings. As you’ll all be more than aware, most couples tend to plan time for these photos during their drinks reception but there are a number of reasons why this doesn’t work perfectly for me which has made me wonder whether scheduling photography for prior to the ceremony (frequently done in the US) is actually a better alternative.

Very often I find photography sessions are what overruns at weddings and this is not always due to an over zealous photographer! Following the ceremony, couples are excited to see their guests and reluctant to leave the party just as it’s getting started whilst guests begin to disperse themselves across the venue. Trying to get all the necessary relatives in the right place at the right place can be a nightmare even with the most keen ushers and have an bellow out the names of those needed for each shot is functional but can give a wedding a school-trip meets boot camp feel. Personally, I find this time of the day has the potential to stress even the most care free of brides as typically it’s only the couple who knows the name of every guest so there is limited help ushers or a planner can offer.

Scheduling photographs for before the ceremony not only means bypassing all of these problems but couples also gain some significant benefits:

  • Couples are photographed looking their absolute best, sans smudged eyeliner and crumpled buttonholes.
  • The entire of the drinks reception is spent chatting with guests and soaking up the atmosphere rather than watching from afar as all the champagne gets guzzled.
  • The drinks reception is more relaxed and enjoyable as the couple are free from the worry about getting all the photographs taken before dinner is served.
  • The resulting photographs are better. Not only can the couple and photographer dedicate longer to getting some really creative images, without the pressure of time the couple  are more relaxed and so look better and happier in the shots.
  • The drinks reception needn’t be hours long in order to accommodate a long photo session; reducing the risk of bored guests and a flat atmosphere.
  • The celebrations can start early, couples get to spend some quality time with you’re their closest friends and family before the ceremony.
  • The major drawback to scheduling photography prior to the ceremony is that the first time the couple see each other isn’t as the bride walks down the aisle. However, this needn’t mean loosing the magic of seeing each other for the first time and does in fact have its own advantages. Seeing each other prior to the ceremony means couples get the chance to talk to each other, calming nerves and giving them the chance to really soak up the ‘we’re getting married feeling’ without being distracted by last minutes wedding planning or ceremony proceedings.

Having the couple meet each other before the ceremony needn’t be a negative thing either and is easy to make into a really special moment, perhaps meet somewhere really special/beautiful or spending 5 minutes alone together.

So there you have it, my thoughts on the matter. I’d love to hear yours so please comment regardless of if you disagree or agree!

Zoë Lingard owns Weddings by Zoë Lingard, operating throughout South East England.


  1. Dirk van der Werff on 23rd February 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Zoë ….

    Nice article, but I disagree totally.

    As a professional photographer, when I meet with prospective brides across the country, the vast majority nowadays worry most about being away from their guests for too long at any part of their big day.

    Years ago (and occassionally nowadays I hear) the photographer kept the guests and bride and groom hanging about for hours on end while he / she ‘performed’. Everyone was desperate for a drink, starving hungry, dying for the loo, freezing cold / boiling hot….

    Thank goodness, the majority of professional creative wedding photographers dispensed with that years ago ……

    My own ‘groups’ photography takes a maximum of 10 minutes, and often just 5 minutes. My time with the bride and groom, on our own is for a maximum of 15 minutes, and (almost) always between the ‘down-time’ between the celebrations of the day and the evening.

    By then, they have relaxed, they have the speeches and the ‘structure’ of the day out of the way, and they are chilled, receptive and happy to set aside some time for themselves, and the opportunity for the bride to top up her make-up and for the groom to straighten his tie is always welcome.

    There are, of course, some couples, and some photographers who deserve each other, who want to spend a couple of hours preening and massaging each other’s ego’s, but for the majority of my brides and grooms, they wish for professional, creative photography, captured naturally, with no real pauses or breaks in their day where their main aim nowadays is chilling out, having a fantastic, relaxed wedding celebration surrounded by family and friends.

    That’s how I can create outstanding images, blending in with everybody and capturing the atmosphere and fun of the ocassion.

    I believe that arranging any formal photography at the beginning of the day is un-necesary and an additional burdon on the bride and groom and their families, who just want to get on with their great day.

    Dirk van der Werff

    • admin on 23rd February 2009 at 2:18 pm

      Hi Dirk,

      Great to hear you point of view!



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