A Wedding Photographer’s Timeline

A Wedding Photographer’s Timeline – What We Need in Order to Capture Your Day

Planning a wedding is an extremely large and stressful undertaking, as there are so many details and timelines that need to be coordinated.  A wedding photographer is the one “wedding vendor” that is typical with the bridal couple the entire wedding day and in my opinion a key component to making sure the day stays on schedule – as best as he/she/they can.  

After recently talking with one of my overwhelmed brides on how to plan a timeline for the day, I felt this topic would be a great thing to share - what brides need to consider when scheduling their wedding day – from hair and makeup appointments to being announced into the reception.  

Please understand that with the diversity of the cultural aspects, exact wedding photography timelines will need to be taken into consideration and plotted out with your photographer.  There are, however, ideal time frames that every bridal couple needs to consider when planning out their day.  Some of these times may appear to be long, but please keep in mind that:  

1.  Your wedding day will fly by, and 

2.  Most weddings run slightly behind schedule so that is considered in the planning

When brides start planning how their wedding day will unfold, I suggest that they allow for at least 3 ½ hours for photography (add an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour if you are considering a first look) prior to the ceremony.  Below, is a breakdown of your wedding day through the eyes of a photographer:

RINGS, DRESS, SHOES and OTHER DETAILS

* Ideal Time Allotment – Photographer arrives 30 minutes prior to the arrival of the bride coming back from hair/makeup session.

Advice – *Assign the MOH to have the dress (on a nice hanger), shoes, rings, wedding jewelry and bouquet in a pre-determined area so the photographer can find them easily.  Give your photographer at least 30 minutes for details to ensure plenty of time to get great images of the dress, rings, shoes, bouquets, and the other details of the day.  We all know that there will be times when a hotel room is too crowded or simply unappealing; so a photographer may have to take the dress all the way down to the lobby or even outside.

* Ideal Time of the Day – Morning

* Ideal Location – Bridal Suite, Hotel Suite, bedroom

BRIDE/GROOM PREPARATION

* Ideal Time Allotment – 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of bridal party)

Advice – Giving 45 minutes to an hour to capture bridal preparation is ideal. During this time, a photographer can capture close-ups of the makeup and hair being applied, ties being straightened, and, candid moments, as the bridesmaids and groomsmen get ready for the day. Keep in mind that these can be some of the most emotional and fun times of the day.

* Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Early Afternoon

* Ideal Location – Bridal Suite or Hotel Suite

 

BRIDE/GROOM INDIVIDUAL PORTRAITS

* Ideal Time Allotment – 30 minutes

Advice *Right after prep is the best time for individual portraits of the bride and groom (separately). Besides makeup and hair being completely fresh, the day hasn’t become hectic yet.

**Also, keep in mind that the window lighting in most hotel rooms creates a unique look that can’t be duplicated in any environment throughout the rest of the day.

* Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Early Afternoon

* Ideal Location – Bridal Suite, Hotel Suite, Venue Lobby, or Venue Garden

WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS

*Ideal Time Allotment – 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of bridal party)

Advice – Wedding Party Photos should be around 45 minutes to 1 hour. During this time, a wedding photographer can obtain a variety of shots in a variety of poses. Starting off with the basic, classic photos focused on great expressions and lighting, moving into a set of fun and creative shots and finishing with individual pictures with you and each one of your bridesmaids or groomsmen individually.

* Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Afternoon

* Ideal Location - Venue Lobby, Venue Garden, Beach, Park, Off-site Location

IMMEDIATE FAMILY

*Time Allotment – 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of families)

Advice – It is extremely important to have these additional images with your parents, grandparents, and siblings and family members.  It is also very important for family members to be prompt for this portrait session time as they may be travelling from a different location. 

* Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Afternoon

* Ideal Location -Venue Lobby, Venue Garden, Beach, Park, Off-site Location

IF YOU ARE DOING A FIRST LOOK AND DAYTIME COUPLES SESSION

* Ideal Time Allotment – 30-60 minutes

Advice – The first look should be around 30 to 45 minutes. During this time, the bride and groom enjoy seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day. While the actual first look might only be 5-10 minutes, the rest of the time is spent on a few basic portraits of the bride and groom.

* Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Early Afternoon

* Ideal Location – Venue Garden, Empty Venue Hallway (shaded areas with natural light)

CEREMONY DETAIL AND VENUE

* Ideal Time Allotment – 20-30 minutes

Advice – Photographer needs to allow 20 minutes to take pictures of the ceremony site, completely set up with no guests or vendors in the area.

* Ideal Location – Ceremony Site

* Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Afternoon

POST CEREMONY FORMALS

*Ideal Time Allotment – 45-60 minutes

Advice – Formals should take around 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of Families and any other extended guests invited for these photographs.   One can use the guidelineof 3 minutes per group on average. For example, if you have 10 groups, schedule in a 30-minute time slot.  

It is also highly recommended that this is very organized, with a list of groups and helpers from each side of the family to help round people up, as the photographer would not be familiar with all the who’s who

*Ideal Time of the Day – Morning or Afternoon (Post Ceremony)

*Ideal Location – Ceremony Site

RECEPTION DETAIL AND VENUE

* Ideal Time Allotment – 20-30 minutes

Advice – Please allow 30 minutes for pictures of the reception room, completely set up with no guests or vendors in the area. ** Your photographer may want to arrange to take these images early in the day if the reception venue is set up.

Similar to the ceremony details, this is the only opportunity to capture the beauty of the reception room prior to guest arrival.

* Ideal Time of the Day – Photographer can determine

* Ideal Location – Ceremony Site

COUPLES SESSION - SUNSET (Note: this shot depends on time of year, timeline of events, etc.)

* Ideal Time Allotment – 30-45 minutes

Advice – Couple session should ideally take place 30 to 45 minutes before sunset. This is the best time in terms of lighting.

* Ideal Time of the Day – (Sunset)

* Ideal Location – Venue Garden, Beach, Hotel Lobby, Park

COUPLES SESSION – RECEPTION SNEAK OUT

* Ideal Time Allotment – 20-30 minutes

Advice – During the reception, if you are planning on sneaking out for a couple of night

Shots - only about 20-30 minutes would be needed, so as not to take you away from your guests. The ideal time for this is right after you grab a bite to eat or during the open floor dancing after you’ve danced a few songs and would like a break. Another a suggestion would be to get these shots at the very end of the night once all the guests have departed.

* Ideal Time of the Day – Dusk to Night Time

* Ideal Location – Areas with interesting lights, fountains, cityscapes


Below, I have listed a basic photography wedding timeline, based on a 4:00 p.m. ceremony.  Please remember this is from a photographer’s point of view!  Feel free to start with this timeline and tailor it to your own!  I hope that it will help you create a calm and beautiful day!

I hope this basic wedding schedule will assist in scheduling your hair and makeup appointments as well so that you are able to finish up as close to the time your photographer needs to start capturing the beautiful images as your day unfolds!!

12:00 – 12:30 p.m. Photographer arrives 

12:30 – 1:00 p.m. Bride to step into dress – **if you have corset style dress allow 20 minutesfor lacing up 

1:00 – 1:30 p.m. Bride’s individual photos

1:30 – 1:50 p.m. Portraits of:

  • Bride with Father
  • Bride with Mother
  • Bride with Mother and Father
  • Bride with Siblings
  • Bride with Siblings (and their families)
  • Bride with immediate family
  • Bride with immediate family and grandparents
  • Bride with immediate family, grandparents & extended families
  • Bride with grandparents
  • Bride with bridesmaids and flower girl
  • Bride with flower girl
  • Bride with each bridesmaid

2:00 – 2:15 p.m. Groom Getting Ready and Individual Portraits

2:15 – 2:45 p.m. Portraits of:

  • Groom with Father
  • Groom with Mother
  • Groom with Mother and Father
  • Groom with Siblings
  • Groom with Siblings (and their families)
  • Groom with immediate family
  • Groom with immediate family and grandparents
  • Groom with immediate family, grandparents & extended families
  • Groom with grandparents
  • Groom with groomsmen and ring bearer
  • Groom with ring bearer
  • Groom with each groomsman
  • 2:45    Photographer travel to ceremony venue

3:00 – 3:20 Details of ceremony venue (before guests are seated)

4:00 – 4:30 CEREMONY START TIME

4:30 – 5:30 Cocktail Hour for Guests

4:35 – 5:20 – Formal Family Portraits

  •     Bride and Groom with Officiant
  •     Bride and Groom with Bride’s parents
  •     Bride and Groom – bride’s parents & siblings
  •     Bride and Groom – bride’s parents, siblings, grandparents
  •     Bride and Groom – bride’s parents, siblings, extended family
  •     Bride and Groom with groom’s parents
  •     Bride and Groom – groom’s parents & siblings
  •     Bride and Groom – groom’s parents, siblings, grandparents
  •     Bride and Groom – groom’s parents, siblings, extended family
  •     Bride and Groom with Best Man and Maid of Honor
  •     Bride and Groom with Flower Girl and Ring Bearer
  •     Bride with Groomsmen
  •     Groom with Bridesmaids
  •     Bride and Groom with full bridal party mini session

5:20 – 5:40 – Formal Bride and Groom Portraits

5:30 – Reception Begins

5:45    Grand Entrance

  •     First Dance
  •     Toasts/Prayer

6:00    Dinner

  •     Father/Daughter and Mother/Son Dances
  •     Garter/Bouquet toss
  •     Cake Cutting

SUNSET Portraits with Bride and Groom

RECEPTION SNEAK OUT Twilight Portraits with Bride and Groom