Your wedding day is going to be crazy busy. It's important to have some sort of photography schedule during the day, so that people know where they need to be and when they need to be there. It also gives a limit as to how long the formals can drag on - even the photographer knows that formal group shots are everyone's least favorite part of the day, and keeping them as short as possible makes everyone happy. Along with the schedule, write out a list of requested formal group shots so that two weeks later you don't start to think, "Hey, did I include great-grandma Doris in those...? I meant too....shoot!"
Speaking of formal pictures, one of the most common questions is, "How much time should I allow for formal pictures?" As I said above, everyone hates formal pictures (here's proof). The family hates waiting around for their turn, the wedding party just wants to get to the party, you and your husband (or wife) just want to celebrate being married, and no one wants to stand around taking pictures for an hour. So keep your list short and sweet and really take time to think about whether you'll cherish that picture of you with each usher individually in ten years, or if you would have been just as happy with a picture of you, your honey, and ALL the ushers at once. Once your list is done, you can estimate it will take three to four minutes for each group. You'll want to be entirely done 1/2 an hour to 45 minutes before the ceremony, as that's when the first guests will start arriving. You'll also want to add a 15 minute or so cushion to the allotted time - more if your family is chronically late (like mine). For example, if you end up with 15 poses, multiply 15 by 3 (45) and by 4 (60) and it will take between 45 and 60 minutes to get them all done - and then add another 15 minute cushion to accommodate late people. So you'll want to schedule at least an hour to an hour and 15 minutes for photography. If your ceremony is schedule for 2pm, we'll want to be completely done by 1:30 (remember, a half hour before it starts), which means you'll need to schedule the formal pictures to start between 12:15 and 12:30. Is there a chance we'll finish early? Sure! But in this case it's definitely better to have too MUCH time than not enough time.
When deciding on the flow of pictures for the wedding day, consider breaking tradition and doing the formal shots BEFORE the ceremony and doing a "First Look." While you and the groom (or bride) WILL see each other before you walk down the aisle if you do this, for many couples the benefits outweigh that negative. For one, everyone’s makeup and hair is freshly done and is looking its best. If anyone is missing or late, or some pictures are missed, you can take a few minutes after the ceremony to grab them quickly instead of tacking more time onto the already long photo session between the ceremony and the reception. It allows the couple to get to the reception faster, which the guests will love you for. A bonus for more reserved couples is that it allows them to get some of the emotion of the day out of the way in private, so they are more composed when hundreds of eyes are on them during the ceremony. It lets you and your soon-to-be-spouse actually take a moment to interact and appreciate each other - hug, talk, show of your wedding gown or tux - which you can't do during the ceremony, and which you often don't have time to do later (trust me...it gets busy!). I'll be able to arrange a private, quiet moment before the formal shots begin for the first look to occur, so the feeling of seeing him or her for the first time isn’t entirely lost (or lost at all - I did one with my husband, and the feeling of walking down the aisle was still intense!). For more on first looks and the benefits, check out this post by the amazing Jasmine Star (which includes some thoughts from the groom's perspective), and this post (which includes pictures of MY first look!) by the wonderful Stacy Reeves.
Also, if time allows, I highly recommend scheduling some time for non-formal, fun shots of just the couple or the couple with their wedding party - or both! I especially love having time to get shots of just the girls, just the guys, and the whole wedding party together...of course, with some time for just the couple together as well. These are usually done at a third location near the ceremony or reception and can be some of the most fun shots of the day. For proof, just look here! Or here! Or here, here, here, or here. If you really are pressed for time that day, you can always schedule a day-after session for the next day and grab amazing pictures like this or this.
For more on timelines, check out DarbiG's great post about it here.
Other wedding tips
If you are taking a limo or trolley to the reception site, consider inviting the photographer (um, that'd be me!) along with you. There can be some fun and emotional shots during the ride, and if you have time the group can stop at a fun location to grab some crazy shots.
With all the excitement and emotion, weddings can be stressful for everyone involved. Don't be afraid to ask for a moment - either alone or with your new spouse - to decompress and be away from everyone (including me) if you need to do so. Take the time to center yourself and relax before heading back out to join the party.
And finally, while it sounds obvious, don’t forget to eat throughout the day! A little food puts color in your cheeks, and the last thing you would want is to faint from low blood sugar on your big day (seriously, it happens!!). And as someone who loves a good glass of wine, I hate to say it, but be wary of drinking too much - this is likely going to be the most expensive night of your entire life and you definitely want to get your money’s worth by remembering as much of it as you can! At least wait until I leave to get rip-roarin' toasted to avoid embarrassing pictures. :)