Planning your wedding photography timeline is one of the ways I help you get prepared for your day. What time to start pictures is the number one question I receive from couples when they first contact me. It’s extremely rare that I meet a couple who has their entire wedding schedule planned when they reserve their photography.
I make a personal wedding photography timeline with all of my couples. In the beginning we talk about the ceremony time, your important events, and decide how many hours of coverage you need . In the middle I check in to see how planning is going. About a month before your wedding we go out for dinner, and have a relaxing evening finalizing your wedding photography timeline.
To create a wedding photography timeline I will plan for the major events happening during the day. I use the ceremony start time as a guide for planning, because most couples have that time set in the beginning.
When doing the timeline I factor in travel time, plus wiggle room in case someone is running late to any part of the day. I make sure to add in snacks, meals, and quiet times so you can take care of yourselves during the day.
A visual guide to your wedding photography timeline.
This is the time when I photograph all of your personal details. Rings, shoes, bouquet, dresses, veils, suits, garters, invitations, and anything else you will be carrying with you that needs a styled picture. After that we move on to photographing the natural moments of finishing touches and getting dressed. Total getting ready time takes 1-2 hours
I want you to do a First Look only if it aligns with your beliefs and traditions. I have done weddings with and without the First Look. Either way we get fantastic pictures. If you do one we plan for about 30 minutes with the two of you having a private moment, seeing each other in your wedding clothes, basking in each other’s company.
If we do a first look we will transition into more portraits with the couple for 1-2 hours. At this point the wedding party is watching and waiting because their turn is next. If there’s no first look, this part happens after the ceremony.
After couples portraits we add the wedding party in and spend another hour photographing everyone together. This includes all attendants, flower girls, ring bearers, ushers and other people involved directly in your ceremony.
After the wedding party is finished it’s your families turns. I spend 5 minutes per family grouping. I recommend doing family portraits all at once. Some couples want to split them up. This can be confusing for your family and make portraits take longer. We pick a specific time to start all family pictures either before or after the ceremony, so everyone arrives to the right place on time and ready. I will have you pick someone who knows both your families to help gather people together during portrait time.
We will finish pre-ceremony photography so you can arrive at the ceremony site 45 minutes before the ceremony begins. You will take a break from the camera, often have a light snack if you haven’t eaten since early in the morning, and have quiet time before the biggest moment of the day. The ceremony itself might be 15 minutes or an hour depending on your officiant and traditions.
If you choose to have a receiving line after the ceremony, plan on it taking 30 minutes per 100 guests in line. Also add in your travel time to the reception.
You might need a break by the time cocktail hour rolls around. Some couples choose to have a private cocktail hour with the wedding party. We sneak off, have some fun and have a toast. I’ll come along and photograph on your party bus, limo, tractor ride, sleigh ride, etc. Usually this is about 30 minutes.
Reception Meal & Events
When we arrive at the reception, I will photograph your arrival and then spend time getting reception details. During the reception you will eat, have speeches, cut your cake, do first dances, toss bouquets/garters, and the dance floor will open for guests. If you choose to end your night with an official send off using sparklers I will be there for that too. Total photography time for all of this reception excitement is 2-3 hours.
I take 10-15 minutes to sneak out of the reception with the couple alone during that sweet sunset light. For winter and early spring weddings sunset pictures together take place during cocktail hour. For summer or fall weddings when the sun sets later in the day, they usually happen between the end of the meal and first dance.
Some Final Thoughts On Your Wedding Photography Timeline
The biggest thing to remember about all this wedding photography timeline talk is plans are allowed to change. Your wedding is unique. I will adapt to what happens on the wedding day. Nothing about this timeline is mandatory. It’s a good starting point for getting organized. I’ve done 4 hour weddings and a 12 hour weddings using the moments in this timeline.
The day of the wedding focus on your personal experiences and your relationship together as a couple. Let me and your other vendors handle the unexpected. I will gladly work with your planner and include them in our final meeting. If things change on the wedding day I will have a back up plan to make sure you still have amazing photography.
If you need more timeline ideas, contact me. Also: 6 More timeline ideas from A Practical Wedding.