Should you have your wedding ceremony in a church and then go somewhere else for the reception? Should you get ready at home before you head to your wedding, or should you get ready in a hotel that is closer? There is no right answer to these questions, as usual. It always depends on the values and expectations of the couple. But we do have a preference for weddings which take place in as few different locations as possible. No, that’s not us being lazy photographers though, that’s many years of observing what works really well and what tends to cause problems.
So, let me take a few minutes to break down why we think it’s best for you to reduce your wedding day travel to as few locations as possible. It’s not rocket science, but if you haven’t thought about it, this might ring some bells for you.
It takes longer than you think to get everyone into and out of cars
Have you ever heard of something called a “cognitive switching penalty”? The concept is used to describe why ‘multi-tasking’ is a bad idea. Basically, every time you have to shift gears in your head, your brain will take some time to catch up and get back into whatever the ‘groove’ is you need.
Well, a version of that exists on a wedding day too. Every time you have to change locations there’s a whole mental (or possibly real-life) checklist you’re going to have to go through. Do you have the flowers, rings, boutonnieres, the post-ceremony shoes, the vow books… so on and so on and so on. And, some version of that mental list exists for every member of your party that is expected to move around with you. At the end of your time in each location, everything is going to slow to a crawl while everyone tries to go through that list as quickly as they can, and the more DIY’d your wedding day is, the longer and more complicated that list will be for everyone.
By contrast, when a lot of things happen all in the same place, those mental checklists carry a lot less weight. Something left in the car can be retrieved, and whatever it is you’re doing at that moment can flow much more seamlessly into the next moment without a stressful regard to what might be forgotten.
There is also the purely practical aspect of moving around on a wedding day: Cars. When you’re just headed out for margaritas with friends, everyone can pile into a car relatively care free. On a wedding day though, everyone is on high alert and no one wants to wrinkle their nice wedding clothes. Suddenly what usually takes less than 3 seconds can take 10 minutes. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that I think, if possible, you’d rather skip completely.
‘Transitions’ is where things tend to go wrong
This brings me to my second point, if there is one time on a wedding day when things tend to ‘go wrong’, it’s during the transition. We’ve seen wedding parties fail to go through their checklist and forget to bring the flowers. We’ve seen the best man leave the rings back in the hotel room. We’ve seen wedding dresses caught in the door, leaving a corner dirty with road debris by the time they get to the ceremony location. And, most commonly, we’ve seen wedding parties lose 45 minutes or more of time devoted to formal photos because of a car accident, or because someone or something got left behind.
Things that ‘go wrong’ on a wedding day are rarely entirely outside of the couple’s control and they typically amount to timelines getting all screwed up, or important items being forgotten—two things that generally don’t happen when there’s no ‘transition’ to accommodate for, and the simplest most reliable way to circumvent those problems is to simply eliminate those transitions.
Now, I’m not necessarily recommending you go for an ‘all-in-one’ wedding day solution that some venues offer (especially if that venue happens to exist in a strip mall somewhere). But, if you’re not doing a religious ceremony which might require a church, you don’t need a dedicated venue for your ceremony. You can do the ceremony anywhere, and I’ll bet whatever venue you choose for the reception will have a beautiful spot for that very purpose. Alternatively, if your ceremony is taking place in a church or other religious building, perhaps that will also make a nice place for your reception, or perhaps you can plan to get ready somewhere in the church to cut out at least one of the transitions.
“Load-in, Load-out” tasks can double up
If you’re DIY-ing much of your wedding, load-in and load-out is going to be something you, or some of your helpful guests, will be volunteering for. Without a well invested planner, there are probably going to be things that need to make it from your house or hotel to the church, and then from the church to the reception venue and then from the reception venue back to your house or hotel, and some volunteer will be responsible for it.
This effort can stack up quick. When there are multiple locations during a DIY’d wedding, it’s not uncommon for ceremony decorations to be repurposed for the reception. Flowers and ceremony arches are common things on this list, and it makes a lot of sense. But, that can sometimes be a lot to think about, and you’re likely to spend a fair amount of time in transition wondering whether your helpful volunteer is getting it right and remembering all of it. And, if you’re doing these things yourself (and we don’t recommend that you do), you’re going to eat up time unnecessarily just picking everything up and getting it in and out of vehicles—time you’re paying someone for (hint, your photographers).
Load in and load out take up time and create lots of opportunities for someone to miss something that might be important to you, not to mention the potential for damages in this process. So, basically, every time you change locations these considerations will have to be made again and again. If you narrow your wedding day down to as few locations as possible, you can eliminate that stress completely.
Travel time is ‘dead time’
This last point pertains mostly to your photographer, and anyone else who’s time you’ve borrowed on your own dime. The clock is still ticking while you’re moving from one place to another, while your loading things in and out of your car, while you’re waiting for family and wedding party members to go through their mental checklists. That is time you could be using to capture more images, or time you could be using to capture the same number of images with less pressure.
When you’re in transition, that’s ‘dead time’ that your photographer and other professionals cannot use productively. They’re just waiting for the next thing to start, when they could be exercising creativity and working to amplify the memories of your wedding day.
At Petruzzo Photography, we do offer a service to circumvent ‘dead time’. It comes in the way of what we call ‘non-consecutive coverage’. This service will allow you to start and stop the clock on your wedding day so that you’re not losing anything to ‘dead time’. But, it will also cost you more money, which most of us would like to avoid whenever possible. And, the best way to avoid that is to spread your wedding out over as few locations as possible, eliminating dead time and relieving transition related stress.
In the majority of cases, the fewer locations you visit on your wedding day the better. And, taking these considerations into account as you plan your wedding is an exercise in wisdom. You’re not ‘doing it wrong’ if you spread your wedding day out across three or four or five locations, but you are doing it wrong if you don’t plan for the complications and stress that comes along with that. So give it some thought before you finalize any arrangements.
If you’re still looking for a wedding photographer for your big day, we’d love to hear from you. We’re full of good, honest advice which often comes candidly. If you’d like to learn more about our wedding photography services, check them out on our website. Or, just send us an email and we’ll start a conversation which we hope will help lead to a perfect wedding day experience.