cortnie dee photography | blog

Cortnie Dee Photography provides wedding and portrait photography, and is based in McKinney, Texas.

a wedding day, in the eyes of a photographer.

I love weddings. I love working weddings. I love seeing wedding videos. I love editing wedding photos. I love brides and I love grooms and I love dancing and I love sweets. I love weddings. (I await the day I attend a wedding as a guest, because I will then love picking out my outfit and sitting for a ceremony and crying my little eyes out...and waterproof mascara.)


As much as I love it, it is still my job. And I love my job more than I love anything in the entire world (not an exaggeration). There are parts of every wedding that stress me out and parts of every wedding that make my heart sing.

If you're reading this, maybe you're currently planning your wedding...or maybe you'll get married one day. Eventually. Or hey, maybe you already got married, and this is just a #throwbackthursday for you. 

But I thought I would give you a fake-but-accurate timeline for how a wedding day looks for a photographer...or, at least, this photographer. 

8:00 - wake up, get decent. I have people to impress (about 250 of them, in some instances), so I need to look very professional, very presentable, and very...done. 

9:00 - leave home, grab coffee and gas, get to venue at least 15-20 minutes early (in case parking is an issue, or there is unexpected traffic).

10:00 - arrive to venue. Begin setting up equipment, as well as setting up the best spot in the room for the detail shots, for the dress-on-the-hanger shots, and the bridal portraits. Some times, I have absolutely no say in either the dress or the bridal shots, as the room might not have all the room in the world for a dress to hang, or a bride to get a full shot with her dress. Scope and change plans according to the room.

10:30 - other artists arrive (like hair and makeup) and begin setting up. I start shooting details: rings, garter, jewelry, shoes, and bouquets if they are on hand. 

11:00 - document bride getting her makeup on, and any bridesmaids getting ready too (if they start as early as the bride).

12:00 - document bride getting her hair done, and still more bridesmaids pictures, too. 

1:00 - bride is geeking out, maybe some "this is happening" tears. Document that. Photograph her putting on her garter, wait for her to run to the bathroom and pee, then photograph her putting on the dress. (MOH/MOB, please please please be ready by this time because you should be there to help her get into the dress!) If something isn't photo-pretty, re-do it. Like the bow...I almost always retie the bow because I am a pro at it by now.

2:00 - leave to get to the venue, see the ceremony space and the reception space (for this fake wedding they are in the same place). Coordinate with the other creatives (like videographers) as to where the best places to stand are so that they are not losing good footage because my bun crept into their view. Introduce myself to venue staff, introduce myself to coordinator/planner (if there is one), review timeline and ensure no last minute changes.

3:00 - photograph table settings and little details here and there. Guests start arriving, so I snap some pictures of them mingling and, if anyone has a dSLR, strike up a casual conversation and introduce myself as the hired photographer and kindly ask them to not disrupt the ceremony or reception with a flash. Introduce myself to the officiant, ask if they have any photo rules, and abide by them. Get into position for ceremony (but say hi to the groom before I do, and meet his rowdy groomsmen).

4:00 - ceremony starts! I pretty much don't breathe for fifteen to twenty five minutes as the lovebirds say precious things that make me cry. I stay mostly in the aisle, crouched down so I don't block the view of any guests - or the videographers' cameras - but do some light maneuvering around the sides of the seats as well. I'm on my toes big time. Kiss happens, I'm crying and snapping away, and we immediately get whisked away for...

4:30 - group portraits! Whole group with wedding party, then just family, then just grandparents, then just parents, then parents and siblings, then just siblings, then the whole wedding party, then just the girls, then just the guys...then we laugh and I steal the newlyweds.


5:00 - newlywed portraits. I already scouted out the best parts of the grounds for these images, so we zip around and get some natural, lovey shots and laugh a lot. Lots of happy. Lots of fun. Lots of silly. We're on a time crunch though, so not too silly. Get them back to their wedding party and prep them for their entrance...and get into position myself.

5:30 - reception begins! Entrance is a success and people are immediately served dinner. I, too, am served dinner (or am allowed to run in a buffet line). I grab my food and head to the back of the room if possible, so I can shove food hastily down my throat with class and poise and not risk missing any surprise kisses or off-the-wall happenings. I eat an entire plate's worth of dinner (that is ALWAYS lovingly provided to me by my clients, I am thankful and appreciative ♥) in about ten minutes and drink water if the waitstaff put some on the table for me. If not, no biggie. 

6:30 - toasts happen, first dances happen. I dance around the other creatives and keep in touch with the newlyweds to make sure they are happy and having a good time. I have been known to fetch drinks or papers or literally anything they need...sometimes I double as a wedding assistant. I love it, though, really. (Not sarcastic.)

7:00 to 9:30 - we've danced, tossed the bouquet and garter, cut the cake, and danced some more. The night comes to an end, we all send off the newlyweds, and I thank the staff, the wedding party, and the parents, and I leave.

10:00 - get home, eat more (probably), upload all >3,500 images to my computer, and sleep.

It is a twelve hour workday for me, and I love it. Aside from the time I am driving, I sit for maybe twenty minutes the entire day (most weddings), and I eat one meal, and I don't really take a bathroom break. It's a time for me to work and I don't want to take advantage of my clients and, well, not work. You probably work when you're at work, so I should too. Granted, you probably would get well over an hour break if you worked twelve hours, but that is the difference between your job and mine, and sorry, but I choose mine every single day. 

I don't post this to complain, but I want you to see that it is very go-go-go for us, too. I know it is a very overwhelming and sometimes stressful day for the brides and grooms, so just know you aren't alone. For everything you're stressing about, I'm stressing about finding a way to help you stress less, and keeping face all the while. I may be a photographer but I am also there to make sure you are happy and enjoying your day. Not because that's my job - it's not. My job is to take photographs. But because I am passionate about serving my clients and ensuring their happiness. (I am told very, very often I should double as a photographer and a coordinator, because I do both jobs most weddings anyway.)

When it comes to the topic of weddings, I think I have some valuable things to say. I'm going to be posting a series soon of how-to-be's: wedding edition, where I give some solid advice to not just those getting married, but those involved in the planning, and those related to those getting married. 

At the core of it all, remember: your wedding day is about being in love and committing your life to the person you love the most, and I'm just here to make sure that stays the focus, and to document that love.