Allie Siarto | Lansing, Michigan Wedding Photographer


How to Create a Wedding Day Schedule Apr 16

I’ve worked with dozens of couples over the years to help them plan out their wedding day schedules, and I thought it might finally be time to write out some tips to share with couples who are in the midst of trying to put schedules together. The schedule was my biggest stressor when I was planning my own wedding—I was knee deep in Excel spreadsheets, and I had a hard time getting started.

wedding room

Start by asking yourself a few key questions:

  • Where will we get ready, and how many people will need hair and makeup done?
  • What time will our ceremony start, and how long will it last? If we’re having a church wedding, does the church have a time when we have to be out?
  • Will we see each other before the ceremony for a first look, or will we wait to see each other during the ceremony? (If you’re having a later ceremony, seeing each other before the ceremony will give you more flexibility to get more of your photos done before the ceremony begins so that you can go right to the reception. It’s also a good way to take some of the pressure off and to get those emotions and jitters out if you’re stressed about standing up in front of 100+ people during the ceremony. Jeff, my husband, and I took this time to read private vows to each other.).
  • Who will be included in family photographs? How many groupings will we have for family photos?
  • How much time will we have between the ceremony and the reception?
  • What are our top two locations where we absolutely must get photos? Beyond that, what are the locations that we would like to make it to if time allows?

I always start with the ceremony time and work backward from there. When it comes to photography, assume that you won’t want to be taking any photos in the half hour before the ceremony begins—this should be your time to breathe and relax. This is when I typically take candid photos and get my gear set up for the ceremony.

Before the wedding ceremony

Working backward from the ceremony, figure out if you want to set aside time for portraits before the ceremony begins. If you’re not going to see each other for a first look, this might simply be photos of the bride with her bridesmaids as a group, a photo with each bridesmaid and a few solo photos of the bride (I often have my second photographer do the same combinations with the men before the ceremony). I can usually get through all of these basic pairings in 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the wedding party. If you plan to travel to take the photos somewhere beyond your getting ready or ceremony site, be sure to factor travel time in as well.



Working backward from here, I typically arrive about 20-30 minutes before the bride is ready to put her dress on. I have the maid of honor or a trusted friend or relative in charge of the “details box” to hand to me when I arrive. This is usually the shoe box that your bridal shoes come in. Fill it with all of the important details that you want photographed—rings, invitations, shoes, any special jewelry or perfume, your something borrowed, something old, something blue, etc. I always start with this box when I arrive, and it takes me about 15-20 minutes to photograph all of these details, along with your dress on the hanger. After the details are photographed, I typically get a few final getting ready photos (and any special photos, like matching bridesmaid robes, etc.) before the bride puts on her dress. After the dress is on, we go on to take the pre-ceremony photographs that I mentioned before.

Wedding dress hanging before the ceremony

Wedding day details

Wedding Rings

Bridal Party Robes

Bridal Party Robes

Getting Dressed

Getting Ready

Working backward from details and dressing, make sure that you’re accounting for the number of people who will have hair and makeup done, along with any travel time in between locations. If you’re going to a salon, work with them to figure out how much time will be needed. I recommend adding in at least half an hour of buffer time, since it’s common for hair and make up to run late. Decide whether you will have someone come to the hotel or house where you’re getting ready to do hair and makeup, or whether you’ll all go to a salon. Will you meet ahead of time for breakfast? For my wedding, we had a few stylists come to our hotel room, and we ordered in food. Many brides who get ready at home will have a family member pick up bagels or sandwiches and bring in food for everyone to get ready.

Now that we’ve worked out the basic morning schedule, let’s jump back to the end of the ceremony. Most couples take family photos immediately after the ceremony. If you’re getting married at a church with a strict time to be out for the next ceremony, make sure you know exactly what time this will be.

As soon as the ceremony ends, it will take some time to clear everyone out (especially with a receiving line, which can take half an hour, depending on how many guests you have). For church weddings, many couples do exit photos where guests will see them off from the church. Here’s the trick: you’ll do your exit, but you’ll actually loop back to enter the church again through another door for family photos.

church exit

Family photos are an important category of their own. Here’s what you need to know:

  • You should carefully plan out exactly which groupings you want before your wedding date. Assume that it will take about five minutes per major grouping to get everyone in and out.
  • Once the list is created, share it with a key person who knows most of the family members and can help call out names from the list to get everyone in place. I usually have someone read this list while I get everyone placed. It helps if they can be loud.
  • Make sure that everyone who will be in these photos is aware of it ahead of time. Let them know that they should be a part of the exit immediately after the ceremony, and then they’ll head back inside (Note: it’s less common to do a formal exit during outdoor ceremonies; in this case, just let family know that they should stay close to start photos as soon as guests have cleared out). For church photos, also let family members know to avoid sitting in the first few rows during photos, since this can interfere.
  • If you have more groupings than you can get to before your end time at the church, prioritize which photos you want in the church and which photos can be in another location. Here are two other options to get the rest of the groups: 1) Have the groups gather just outside of the reception site before the reception begins 2) Work with the DJ/band to have these groups get together just after dinner during the reception.

Family Portraits

After family photos, many couples will move into portraits (Note: if you do a first look, you might move this section to the time before the ceremony). This is where you’ll want to discuss your top two must-have locations, along with nice to have locations if you can get to them. I can usually get a good number of photographs with the couple and bridal party within 10-15 minutes at each location (larger groups will naturally take longer). Also factor in travel time, and consider back-up locations in case of rain. This part of the day is the most flexible, depending on the number of locations you want to go to, how far apart each location is from the others and the size of the bridal party.

Bridal Party Portraits

Bridal Party photos

I often say that I am in charge of keeping things running on time with photography from the time that I arrive until the reception starts. Once the reception begins, you’ll work with your DJ or band to work out the rest of the schedule. I always meet up with this point person to make sure that we’re working closely together throughout the reception just in case anything needs to change (it’s fairly common for things to move around a bit during the reception, but it’s not a big deal if your DJ/band and photographer are working together).

As you work with your DJ/band, there are a few final photography elements to keep in mind:

  • I always take the bride and groom out for photos about an hour and a half to an hour before the sun sets. If you take no other photos all day, try to make a point to do this. This is when you’ll have the most amazing light for photographs, and it also gives you a chance to have a small quiet moment together during your wedding day. It often works out that these photos are taken near the end of dinner while guests are eating and socializing—they won’t even notice that you are gone. Depending on the time of year, this might also happen before the reception begins (spring or fall weddings). Check out the sunset calculator to figure out when the sun will set on your wedding day.
  • If you do still have family members to get photographs with, make sure that the DJ/band leader is aware of this. Again, plan for about five minutes per grouping. I typically give the list to the DJ/band at this point to read over the microphone near the end of dinner (often just before cake cutting).
  • From there, you’ll go into cake cutting, first dance, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance, general dancing and a possible bouquet/garter toss. At this point, I take candid photos of the evening, but I also make a point to have the bride, groom and parents tell me if there are any casual group photographs of friends who they would like to get together. There’s no need to have your photographer stay for the entirety of dancing. Just make sure that you’ve scheduled enough time to capture the major events, along with at least 15 minutes to an hour of general dancing.

Dusk Photos

cake cutting



There you have it! I hope that you find this helpful. I love working with couples to make sure that everything is ready to go before the wedding day begins so that it’s a fun, relaxing experience for everyone. This is a celebration, after all.

Kembra + Guy: Michigan Orchard Wedding Jan 26

I’ll warn you now—this is one of my longer wedding blog posts. Kembra’s family hosted this amazing wedding at their orchard in Michigan, and they did an incredible job with every single detail for the day. On top of the gorgeous details, this whole group was just plain fun and super laid back. Kembra and Guy were both so sweet, and their wedding party, family and friends just radiated joy.

This was my very last wedding last year before I took a break to have Zelda (I was seven months pregnant at the time), and I was thrilled to go out with a bang with such a fun day. Huge thanks to Liz for helping out as the second photographer, and for running around to make sure every moment was captured whenever my big round tummy slowed me down.

bridesmaids getting ready

wedding dress

wedding shoes and rings

bridesmaids laughing

Michigan Orchard wedding details

Michigan farm wedding with tent

diy michigan farm wedding

groom before wedding ceremony

bridesmaids walking down the aisle

bridesmaids walking down the aisle

bride and father before wedding ceremony

bride walking to the aisle

bride walking down the aisle

outdoor farm wedding ceremony

michigan farm wedding ceremony

michigan orchard wedding

Orchard wedding photos

orchard wedding portraits

orchard wedding photos

orchard wedding photos

michigan orchard wedding portraits

bridesmaids in the orchard

bridesmaids in the orchard

outdoor wedding photo booth

vintage wedding details

michigan outdoor farm wedding

farm wedding reception

tent reception details

wedding reception diy details

caramel apple bar

caramel apple bar

shabby chic diy wedding details

grand entrance


groomsmen laughing

dessert table

shabby chic wedding cake and pies

homemade wedding desserts

cutting the cake

first dance

father daughter dance

mother son dance

reception dancing

reception dancing

wedding tent at night



Revisiting Favorite Memories: A Tradition in Print Jan 14

One of my favorite things to do is to sit on the floor at my parents’ house and flip through old boxes of loose family photos that we’ve collected over the years. My mom sorted them by year, and I love starting with the earliest photos of our family and moving through the years.

memory boxes

I worry sometimes that these printed photos are becoming a lost art. I had hundreds of photos on my computer from my college years that I never printed, and I lost most of them when my computer crashed my senior year. How many of us are taking hundreds or thousands of photos on our phones each year only to lose them when we forget to back them up? How often do you take the time to go through all of your phone photos to pick out your favorites and print them out?

stacked memory boxes

A few years ago, I decided that I would give Jeff the same gift for Christmas every year—a memory box with my favorite photos from the year. It’s such a fun gift to put together. I get to spend hours reflecting on memories from the year and picking out my favorite photos. Some are professional photos that we’ve had taken. Some are photos that we took using my professional gear. Others are shots that we snapped on our cell phones while we were out and about. I pick out about 200 of my favorites for the box and get them printed as loose 5×7 prints. We have a shelf in our living room where we’re collecting the boxes in chronological order (we’re up to three boxes at this point—one for each year of our marriage).

pull tab and loose photos in the memory box

If you haven’t made a point to go through your photos in a while, I absolutely encourage you to make a tradition of printing them out in some form to enjoy, even if you only choose a few to swap out in frames around your home. If you’re interested in creating your own memory box tradition, get in touch to learn more about printing your photos from the year to keep in a custom box with your favorite photo on the front. Boxes can be as small as 50 prints or as large as 500. I love all things sentimental, and I see it as an important investment in my family’s most cherished memories.

loose printed photos

bookshelf with memory boxes

Grateful Jan 6

If you managed to get through the holiday without losing power, you’ve been more fortunate than thousands of others across Michigan, including the Siarto family. Our power went out at 2:00 AM on the Sunday before Christmas. I was so worried about Zelda as the temperature in the house slowly started to drop overnight—she was only three weeks old at the time.

Our power stayed out for a full week, right on through Christmas, but it ended up being an amazing experience. It actually seemed like a reminder about what Christmas should be about. We had generous offers from family and friends who were willing to take us in for the week, and I’m truly grateful to be reminded of how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

ice storm

We spent the first full night without power at my parents’ house. They lost power too, but they have a generator, so we had heat, hot water and a few lights. My sister’s family lost power and was there too, so we all played games by lantern light.

It got cold in the house that night, and once again, this paranoid new mother was worried about Zelda being too cold without full power, so we drove down to stay with Jeff’s Nana in West Bloomfield for the next few nights, right on through Christmas morning. This was also our chance to do some laundry (oh glorious laundry—there’s nothing like not having the ability to do laundry to make you realize just how much laundry a newborn generates, especially with cloth diapers).

Zelda sleeping in Nana's arms

I was really looking forward to our first Christmas morning in our house, but in a lot of ways, this ended up being better. We got to spend some extra time with both of our families. Power came back on at my parents’ house on Christmas Eve, so we ended up with 13 people staying overnight there on Christmas (my brother was in town from Florida with my niece, my sister was still out of power with her husband and two boys, Jeff, Zelda, me, my younger brother, my Grandma, who was in town from Northport, Michigan and my parents). It was probably the first time in a decade that all of my siblings slept under the same roof, and although it was a bit chaotic at times, I totally loved it (and my mom did too—she’s already plotting to make it happen again “on purpose” for next time).

Osmar Family Christmas Photos

Osmar Family Christmas Photos

Osmar Family Christmas Photos

Osmar Family Christmas Photos

Zelda and Grandma

It was also nice to have a little extra help with Zelda throughout the week. There was no lack of helpers willing to watch her or hold her for a few minutes while I showered or got a few things done. And although I was ready to get home after a week away, I’ll always have particularly fond memories from the Christmas of 2013. Baby’s first Christmas was a bit of a wild one, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.


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