When the bride is dressed, I sequester her in a private place so that I can arrange a special moment where the groom sees her for the first time. I photograph this moment, and it is usually grand. Also, I use this to diffuse any argument that the bride might have about being seen in her dress before the ceremony. In the Seattle area, brides are used to this. In your part of the world it may not be possible. Shooting the portraits before the wedding will always yield the best results. If you wait until after the wedding to photograph, the bride will be tired. You’ll also be under more pressure to work quickly because the bride will be anxious to spend time with her friends and family.
After we shoot the “moment alone,” we move right to the portrait sessions. This includes the bride and groom separately and together, the bride and groom with their respective attendants, parents, siblings and other significant friends and family. You can make these images in the church but go outdoors if you can, because you will usually have better light and more creative opportunities. In the end, it is the bride’s decision. But explain your creative ideas and she might be more open to getting out of the church, and into the light.
Allow at least an hour for the pre-ceremony shots, and two hours is better, especially if the bride has lots of friends and family.
I try to reserve as much time for photographing the bride, and then the bride and groom together as I can. Those pictures sell the best. One of my favorite shots involves getting the bride and groom to go for a walk together. I follow them with a 300 or 400mm lens and since I am so far away, they tend to relax and act natural with each other. If the location favors it, find some interesting feature like a line of trees, body of water, stairway or columns. Watch for good light and shoot away.
Ceremony shots are toughest because many churches won’t allow flash. I focus on the big moments, including the bride walking the aisle, the bride and groom in front of the minister, the exchange of rings and the pronouncement of man and wife. Use a fast film or high ISO on your digital camera and photograph wide open.
After the ceremony, I try to get a shot of the bride and groom entering and exiting the limo. I also work closely with the wedding coordinator or DJ to set the photographic agenda for events like the first dance, toast, cake cutting and garter toss.