Wedding day tips, planning & scheduling advice for a stress free day.

I decided to write this guide to help new brides & grooms with their wedding day schedule & list general ideas that can help your day run smoothly. For the most part, the schedule remains very similar from wedding to wedding, but I’ve gathered some tips from previous weddings which may assist upcoming brides/grooms.

A guide for wedding couples getting married who wish to plan a stress free wedding day with a relaxed wedding photographer

Real honest advice to help your wedding day run as smoothly as possible...

Choosing your wedding ceremony time

Yes, this is an important one to get right, choosing the right ceremony time is setting your wedding day schedule up for success. You don’t want to choose a ceremony time of 2pm in December as available daylight for location photos would become an issue at 4:30pm. I highly recommend a 12:30pm ceremony time during the winter and 12:30pm to 1pm all other times of the year. Having your ceremony & location photos done earlier, ensures you can arrive at your reception in good time to enjoy the celebrations with your friends & family before the dinner bell rings.

Note: most of the images I show on my website/facebook/instagram pages are scenic outdoor or indoor images of the bride & groom. I respect your privacy and typically do not post a lot of images per wedding on my website or facebook page. One could assume then that I do not shoot a lot of natural or candid moments but in reality, 90% of what I shoot on your wedding day will be documentary in style, that is, capturing the natural moments of the day as they unfold.

Wedding day hair & make up schedule

Three main items to consider here, 1) timing, 2) where in your house/hotel room is the best location for hair & makeup & 3) what you wear is important, let me explain why...

Hair and makeup tips for wedding day

1) The bigger the bridal party, the longer it takes for hair & makeup. If you have 4 bridesmaids, your Mum, the grooms Mum and maybe a sister for hair & makeup, your position in the queue is important. What I mean by that is, do not be last in line for hair & makeup, ideally you should be first or second in line if you have 1-2 bridesmaids or second in line if you have 3-4 bridesmaids. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Why do we need you first or second in line? So that once your hair and makeup is done, you are looking your best for the morning’s candid photos. It allows you to be getting into your dress while your bridesmaids are having their final preparations done. If your husband to be has flowers delivered, you are fully made up for photos as you answer the door, if you pop some champagne with the girls, you are fully made up for the photos. Don’t let yourself be in a situation where all your bridesmaids are looking great for the morning’s photos, but you have yet to do your makeup. If you only take one piece of advice away from this article, let it be this one.

Tips for make up on your wedding day

Bridal prep wedding day tips

2) When choosing a location in your home or hotel bedroom for hair & makeup, certainly window light is important, your make up artist (MUA) will guide you on where is a good place to sit. Do however keep in mind that a larger room would be best as opposed to a smaller room if the light was suitable in both. A sitting room is always a good idea, large enough to allow the photographer room to move around to capture those moments of laughter as you chat with the girls. Try not to position your chair closely facing a wall or corner, it limits the angles available for photo/video.

bride getting makeup done

3) What the bride & the bridesmaids wear on the morning during hair & makeup is important. Firstly a robe of some sort is highly recommended, it looks flattering in photos. Wearing tight T-shirts is not advised as when you sit in a high chair and lean forward, even with a supermodel figure, it is not the most flattering for our mid sections. Second, try to colour match what the bridesmaids are wearing, having an assortment of multicoloured PJ's, shorts, robes & T shirts in differing colours does not look great in a wedding album. This does not need to be expensive, for example if the bridesmaids are wearing the same colour robes and leggings or shorts, that's perfect.

Placing all your details in a single location the night before your wedding

Wedding details, brides shoes, wedfing flowers and jewellery

Bride's wedding details - you don't need to style them as above, just keep them all together in one location ready for the photographer to photograph them in the morning.

This is very helpful; it saves your photographer time in the morning when starting to photograph details. If everything is left in the same place with all wrapping & tags removed, less time can be spend photographing the details leaving more time to capture moments. This includes the wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, the flower girl’s dress, wedding shoes, the page boy’s suit, perfume, jewellery, spare invitations, rings, wedding bands, wedding flowers, garter, gifts or a head piece etc, essentially anything that is important to the bride or that she will wear on the day.

Tip: If you can get your hands on a spare wedding invitation as well as a copy of the mass booklet, they make a great backdrop for the detail photos.

Photos of brides jewelry perfume bouquet handbag veil and wedding dress

Gifts & cards

Not too much to say here, sometimes gifts are given to the bridesmaids or the groomsmen by the bride or groom, it can be a good opportunity to capture some additional images so it can be a good idea to wait for your photographer before exchanging those but it’s down to personal preference. If your wife/husband to be sends you a card on the morning of the wedding, reading it in a quite place can produce some nice moments for photos. Likewise popping a glass of champagne with the bridesmaids before getting into your dress makes for some fun photo opportunities<

bride and bridesmaids sharing gifts on the morning of the wedding
photo of bridesmaids giving gifts to the bride on the morning of the wedding

bridal suite at the g hotel in Galway

Bridal prep celebrations at the G hotel in Galway

Timing | when to get into your wedding dress

I always say the most critical milestone in terms of the wedding day schedule is the “getting into your dress” time. If this goes according to schedule, the rest of the day seems to fall into place. Before your wedding day you should have a clear idea of when you need to be getting into your dress, I discuss this in advance at the pre wedding meeting and advise brides to notify hair & makeup of that time, so they can ensure you are ready or as close to ready as possible at that time.

bridal suite at the Hardiman hotel gerard conneely photography

The bridal suite at the Hardiman hotel in Galway

For example if your ceremony time is 1pm and you live 10 minutes from the church, I would advise getting into your dress at 11:45am. It can take anywhere up to 15 minutes to get into the dress so we also factor in that time. That gives you time to have your bridal portraits taken, some images with the bridesmaids & your family and most importantly, a breather to gather your thoughts before leaving for the ceremony.

wedding cloonacauneen castle flower girls looking at wedding dress

Mommy is getting married today

Tip: Having matching hangers for the wedding dress & bridesmaids dresses is always a good idea. Where should you put on your dress on the morning of the wedding? Whether you are getting ready in a hotel bedroom, a large house or a tiny apartment, where you put on your wedding dress for photos is not too important. All we need is a clean backdrop, a tidy space and a window. The two images below were taken with a door in the background and a single window to the right, once we have good light, photos can look good anywhere.
bride perfume
bride getting ready tips

father seeing bride in ger dress dromoland castle

Keep Dad hidden in the basement until your ready! Always great to see their expression when they see their daughter in her dress for the first time!

The first time Dad gets to see his daughter in her dress can be an emotional event, some laugh with joy & some cry. Where possible I try to ensure Dad does not get to see the bride in her dress until the bride is fully ready & I ensure I am there to capture the moment when he does.

flower girls looking at bride in her dress

Involving your son(s) or daugher(s) on your day

In my opinion it’s so important to include your children in your wedding day images, that being said, it’s important to have someone on hand to take care of them, feed them & dress them on the morning of the wedding. Again this goes back to “the art of delegation” which I touch upon below. I have two boys myself and I know how much they can crave for your attention, especially when there are groups of people around. Having the piece of mind that a family member will take care of them in the morning is important, it’s keep your to do list small and allows you to focus on enjoying your prep. Ask that they are fully dressed 1 hour before you leave to the ceremony location/church so they can be included in any family photos before leaving.

wedding photos with your children

If you have children, they are a special part of your day, ensure to talk to your photographer about including them in your wedding day photos

The best approach to photograph children is just leave them to their own devices and take candid photos of them doing their own thing.

The art of delegation on the morning of your wedding

Your to do list on the morning of your wedding to have next to zero entries. You’ve done all the planning & hard work in the lead up to your wedding, it’s your day, you should be pampered on the morning of your wedding, not checking items off a list. In the run up to your big day, have a chat with family members or your bridesmaids/groomsmen and delegate any wedding day tasks you can. For example, who is locking the door before leaving for the ceremony, who is bringing bags to the hotel & who is bringing the alter flowers to the reception etc etc. These are little things, but they add up and can be avoided once delegated in advance. I’ve seen this cause stress to many brides, especially in those last 20 minutes before leaving for the ceremony.

wedding day tips hair and makeup
Bride portrait on the morning of her wedding

Empty to do list = stress free brides!

Groom prep

groom prep photography
groom prep photography

Groom prep at Screebe House in Connemara, Galway

Some tips for the lads: be yourselves and forget about the cameras, get ready as you would normally if there was no cameras there. Ensure your groomsmen are on time to your getting ready location and just have a laugh, enjoy the getting ready process.Tip: Upon arriving at your ceremony location, ask your Dad or the person giving you away to help you out of the wedding car as opposed to the driver, it's more intimate and makes for better photos.


gerard conneely taking wedding photo of bride
wedding day tips arriving at church

Wedding day tips for arriving at the church a bride with her Dad outside the Claddagh church in Galway

Consider an unplugged wedding ceremony - no phones or iPads allowed!

I'm totally in favour of this one, and I'm finding it's getting more & more popular to have an unplugged wedding ceremony. It can be quite disappointing when a guest reaches out into the aisle with an iPad as the bride is walking up the aisle. So how do we get the message out to people? My advice is to place a fairly large sign in the ceremony entrance area with wording like "Welcome to our unplugged wedding, we invite you to be fully present with us during our ceremony, please put down all electronic devices and be part of our celebration with us." Ask your priest or celebrant to announce at the start of the ceremony that the bride and groom kindly request the guests to refrain from use electronic devices to take photos during the ceremony. This is also a good way to ensure guests are not posting photos of your wedding on social media during the ceremony, if that is something you would prefer not to happen. But we do need to give the guests an opportunity to take some photos so either the priest may invite people to take photos during the lighting of candles, the signing of the registry or at the end of the ceremony when I typically take a photo of the bridal party together before the newlyweds walk down the aisle.

Walking up the aisle

First up: the little ones. Page boys and flower girls come in all ages, and as such you need to be prepared for the odd temper tantrum with the smaller kids. I do find most do a great job and it can be a good idea to have the older kids accompany the smaller ones up the aisle. Also an option for smaller kids coming up on their own is to have a parent waiting for them at the top of the aisle as it puts them at ease.

Flower girls at Cloonacauneen Castle
Flower girls - tips for walking up the aisle

Advice I give the groom before the bride walks up the aisle; very bride looks forward to the moment when her husband to be turns around to see her walking up the aisle. It’s a magical moment when their eyes meet, any butterflies or tension they feel disappears. I’ve seen laugher, tears, giggles and moment of pure joy, it truly is a moment I look forward to at each and every wedding.

Earlier in my photography career I observed some grooms would turn too early or would not turn at all until the bride is upon him. Now, at every wedding I have a quick chat with the groom before the bride walks up the aisle. I advise him to keep looking forward towards the alter until I give him the nod, then he turns around to look at his bride. This allows me to capture his tense or excited expression as you approach the half way point, then I photograph the bride’s expression as they see each other for the first time.

walking up the aisle grooms expression getting married wedding photography

Take your time.... Be sure the aisle is clear before you start to walk, that way your photographer can ensure to get unobstructed images of you. The same holds true for the bridesmaids, sometimes bridesmaids speed up the aisle and bunch up near the top making it more difficult to get clear images of each. Your photographer will remind you of this again at the bottom of the aisle. Any nerves that you may have soon disappear once you see your husband/wife to be...

Galway Cathedral wedding photo of a groom seeing his bride for the first time before getting married

father of the bride crying after walking her up the aisle

Dad shedding a tier after walking his daughter up the aisle

Tip: If there is a wide gap between the chairs when you sit at the alter, pull the chairs closer, take your partners hand every now & then, don't be afraid to chat & have a giggle throughout the ceremony. All the guests are family & friends who are there for you & your photographer / videographer will thank you for it as your personalities shines through in the photos/video.

married couple holding hands

Holding hands is a promise to one another that, for just a moment, the two of you don't have to face the world alone.

Tip: Ignore your mass booklets, please do not hold them in your hand and stare at them during the ceremony. There are so many reasons for this but most importantly, your photos will look better when you are holding each other's hand instead of the mass booklets, admiring your rings, looking at the readers and being focused on each other etc. When you stand up to make your vows, have one of the groomsmen move the chairs to the side, that way your photographer can get full length images of the dress & exchanging the rings without the chairs obstructing the view. There are a lot of tips on this page but don't worry, you won't need to be thinking of all these on your wedding day, a good photographer will be on top of all these items & ensuring everything is as it should be for you...

pen for signing the marriage register

If you would like to sign the register with something a little more fancy, ensure to bring along your own pen or have a family member mind it until you need it. Just in case the one left on the table is a Bic pen..

married in claddagh church signing the registry

Signing the register at the Claddagh church, Galway

married walking down the aisle


Married at Galway Cathedral, a wedding photography planning and tips guide

Galway Cathedral wedding photography

Married at the Claddagh church in Galway, planning your stress free day and taking photos at the Claddagh in Galway

At the Claddagh church in Galway

Tip: If getting married in a church, going back into the church after all the guests have left for 5 minutes is a great opportunity to get some photos of just the two of you..

Location, location, location

just married the golf buggy at dromoland castle

Finally, some alone time

wedding photography at Dromoland castle

For the outdoor location images, we only need the bridal party, no parents or flower girls etc need to attend. In general I spend 1 hour max taking these photos, more often 45 minutes, the smaller the bridal party is, the faster we can move around & thus the time is reduced. It can be done in less than 30 minutes if this part of the day is not so important to the bride & groom.

Wedding photography at Slevoir House in Tipperary
Stress free wedding photography in Ireland

Couple photos at Slevoir House, Tipperary

Tip: The use of mobile phones by the bridal party... Picture this; the groom & groomsmen are walking to the bar for a quick drink before the ceremony. They are all suited & booted, they look great, they are having the crack as they walk & it is prime time for some casual candid photos/video of the lads. But one of the groomsmen is on his phone chatting, and another is texting... That whole sequence of what would be a great photo/video opportunity is ruined. Take another scenario, the bride's mother & sister are helping the bride to put on her veil, but there is a bridesmaid in the background recording it on her phone, another bridesmaid has her phone in her hand, at the ready to take some photos. I'm sure you are starting to get the picture, mobile phones in the hands of the bridal party never looks good. I'm all for family & friends documenting your day, as well as the bridal party but with the bridal party; we just need to encourage the phones to be put down for certain parts of the day, mainly the key getting ready stages of the morning & the scenic on location shoot. It's often not a big issue, but in some cases it can cause quite a bit of a distraction. In those cases, I do politely ask that the phones be put away, just during those critical parts of the day.

wedding photography on the beach salthill prom

Salthill beach, Galway

If getting married on a Friday, factor in traffic delays, esp for inner city hotel venues. Scenic locations for images should be for the most part on the route from the ceremony to the reception venue, again all this is discussed at the pre-wedding meeting.

the boathouse dromoland castle wedding photos

The boathouse at Dromoland Castle

Tip: you may be hungry when you get into the wedding car after the ceremony. The ceremony, signing of the registry, greeting line & family formals takes about 2 hours on average depending on the number of guests. You may not have eaten since breakfast so having something to snack on in the wedding car while you travel to the scenic locations is a good idea.

wedding photography in the woods

I shoot fast, focus on the larger group images first, then the bridesmaids & groomsmen can return to the car/hotel while I wrap up focusing on bride & groom only images. The outcome here is quality over quantity, we don’t need a million images, just a variety of images from the classical portraits to the fun/candid moments. The goal here is to get this part of the day wrapped up in a timely manner & get everyone back to the reception as early as possible.

wedding photography at pie maker galway


Tip: If there is someone special who can't make the ceremony, if your schedule permits it, arrange a quick visit to say hello, it will make their day...

saying hello to someone special

A quick visit to someone special

If it’s raining heavily after the ceremony, we may need to take the bridal party photos indoors. If there are showers, you may get away with some outdoor photos and some indoors photos, that call will be made on the day. Investing in some umbrellas could be a good idea if your pretty sure the day is going to be very wet, some options online -

Umbrellas can also be used as props in photos, even on dry days. No need to go too expensive, you’ll likely only use them for a few images.

wedding umbrellas

Tip: when taking scenic images, ask you maid of honor to keep an eye on your dress. I find bridesmaids are excellent at fixing the dress in the church, but soon forget about it after that. As a photographer, quite a bit of time can be spent running back & forth to fix the dress for photos, so having a hands on maid of honor adds a second pair of eyes to assist.

bride portrait galway bay hotel - wedding dress tips

Tip: consider the time of year your wedding is. You would be surprised how much wedding dresses vary in weight. Consider a lighter dress for the summer months and you may very well be happier to have a heavier wedding dress in the colder winter months.

A wedding photo at the Quad in NUIG of a couple connecting their hands, connected hands is so important in wedding photography

Wedding photography at the Quad in NUIG - also a great backup location for photos on a rainy day

One thing I remind couples about at the scenic shoot is to connect your hands. Arm’s dangling down by your side is a pet peeve of mine, it just does not say “I love you” like connected hands do. When couples are next to each other, I like to have them either holding hands, arms around the waist or whatever works, it doesn’t matter as long as they are connected. Believe me when you see a photo with a couples arm’s dangling by their side and a photo of a couple with connected hands, there is a stronger sense of emotion from the connected couple. Something to keep in mind, but I remind my couples of this on the day.

Some tips for your wedding day speeches - in summary short & sweet is everyones favourite

The speeches tend to last longer when they are after the meal, they tend to be shorter when they are before the meal. That’s not always the case but quite often the case. I remember my own wedding day, we opted to have the speeches before the meal so that we could relax while eating. Some opt to have it after the starter which is an option also.

wedding speech tips

Try to avoid breaking up the speeches into segments, for example two people speak before the main course & two more speak after desert. It makes it more difficult for the chef to prepare the food around the schedule of the speeches which can delay the overall service. Also, for speeches after the meal, the longer the speeches go on for, the more it delays the band starting, be mindful of that.

Wedding day tips to ensure a stress free wedding day

Planning a stress free wedding day - a different take on the typical wedding cake photo at the G hotel in Galway


When it gets dark | wedding photos at sunset or at dusk

Sunset photos are an option at various times of the year as the lighting conditions may suit your days schedule, for example with summer weddings, after the meal/speeeches is an ideal time to pop out for 5 minutes to grab some photos with the sun setting in the background. The golden light at this time of day is wonderful.

wedding photography at sunset golden hour couple

Sunset photo at the Connemara Coast hotel in Galway - 9pm at a July wedding in Ireland

Some venues lend themselves to outdoor shots at dusk when the sky takes on a blue colour after the sun has set. Normally a good time to take these shots is after your meal or before your first dance, again depending on the time of year. I get my camera settings dialed in & the lighting ready to go, then I ask the bride & groom to pop out to get these shots. As everything is ready to go, this normally takes about 3-4 minutes and those images can be a lovely way to end an album.

maried at the g hotel in galway wedding couple

wedding glenlo abbey sparkler gerard conneely photography

nighttime photography meyrick

wedding album dusk image

If opting for a wedding album, a dusk or night-time photo if one of my preferred way to end an album

 Your wedding day goes very fast, so many times couples tell me "I can't believe we're sitting down for our meal already". Be sure to enjoy every moment of your day, take a step back and take it all in.

Contact details:- Gerard Conneely Photography | Mobile: 0872295675 | Email: [email protected]

Hi, I'm Gerard, an experienced wedding photographer & photography teacher. I photograph weddings throughout Ireland & I'm based in Co. Galway in the west of Ireland.

I'd consider myself to be a people person, I know how to bring out the best in my couples & I take what I do very seriously, but you would never think so when working with me.

I've been photographing weddings for 11 years; my style is very much documentary in nature & I’ve found over the years the best way to capture beautiful moments is to let them occur naturally. Many love stories have unfolded in front of my cameras and it truly is an honour when a couple places their trust in me to document their day.

While some of my couples live only a few miles away, others plan their wedding from abroad & I place great emphasis on taking care of my couples both pre & post wedding. If you like the idea of a photographer who will guide you through each step from the pre-wedding meeting, the day itself & right through to delivering your printed story in an Italian handmade album, I'd love to hear from you...

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