Wedding Day Timeline Guide

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How Much Coverage Do You Need?

When I give out my consultations, wedding day timelines are usually one big thing I’ll go over; because reasonably so, very few people have had to plan too many weddings before! How on earth are you supposed to know how much time you’d need a photographer taking photos of everything?

I’m hoping this blog post will help clarify and break down each section, so that you can imagine your own wedding day and use that to figure out what you want covered!

 
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GETTING READY / DETAILS

You’ve seen them. The photos of the wedding dress hanging in a cool doorway at the venue. Invitations and stationery played out neatly with bouquets, perfumes, and rings. All these help paint the picture of wedding days and represent a lot of time planning and money invested in making the day perfect!

When I arrive on a wedding day, it’s the first thing I like to photograph after setting my stuff down and checking in with the bride & groom.

After that, I love to grab some photos of the bride & bridesmaid getting the final touches of their hair & make up done as well as hanging out. This usually leads to the photos in matching robes, having toasts, and just having fun!

Next, I’ll hop in with the groom & groomsmen for the final touches of them tying ties, lacing shoes, putting on jackets, and pinning boutonnieres.

Lastly, I always try to be in the room once the bride’s dress is on so I can get the final touch up details of the mother-of-the-bride or maid-of-honor finishing lacing or buttoning up the back of the dress. It’s such an iconic moment on wedding days and helps paint the story!

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So how much time does all this take? I will say I’ve hustled around and done it within an hour, having a second shooter would make an hour much more manageable. But an hour and a half is a little more realistic without it being rushed. Timing the hair / make up finishing up and then getting everyone dressed in that window can be a bit of a challenge! At the same time, anything more than an hour and a half tends to be overkill and lends to lots and lots of photos of make up applied and curlers in hair!

 
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Bride & Groom Portraits

Unless you do a separate bridal portrait session, your wedding day will likely be the only time to get portraits of just you in the dress / suit. I try to do a few shots before or after wedding party photos of just the bride and groom.

Usually this is pretty quick, and I’d recommend factoring in about 15 minutes total for these.

 
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Wedding Party Photos

Wedding Party Pictures have a lot more variables to it depending on the size of your wedding party, if you’re doing a first look or not, etc. But generally, I recommend each side do their wedding party photos before the first look or ceremony, which would include individual pictures with each groomsmen/bridesmaid and the bride/groom. And then after the ceremony or first look, do the big group wedding party photos! That way it’s easy to keep track.

For smaller wedding parties, I’d recommend 30 minutes. For larger sized wedding parties, 45 minutes would be safer.

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First Look

Not everyone chooses a first look, and I 100% understand why, but if you do or are open to it, here’s a few things to consider! First off, you get your couple portraits done before the ceremony, leaving potentially only family photos after the ceremony which lets you get to the reception quicker. Second, you get a moment away from all the craziness of the day. Portraits after family photos tend to be more rushed.

If you do a first look, I recommend 15-30 minutes and let it lead into portraits. With that, I also recommend during the reception stealing away close to sunset for another 5-15 minutes when the sky looks amazing.

If you opt against a first look, my recommendation is leave about 15-30 minutes after family photos and before the reception for these portraits. That should put you closer to the best lighting as well for any outdoor photos.

 
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Ceremony

This part takes the least amount of planning time wise because what I do with photography will have little effect on it. Generally ceremonies last around 15 minutes and 30-45 minutes for more traditional church ceremonies.

These are also parts of the day where having a second shooter helps give you more beautiful images and more angles that are harder to cover just by myself. For example, if you don’t do a first look, but want the groom’s reaction as the bride walks down the aisle, having two cameras helps get both of those moments that are happening simultaneously. I also will always have my second shooter getting reaction shots of the family and guests during the ceremony too which is harder to focus on by myself.

 
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Family Photos

By far the most complicated part to plan, family photos are so important and should never be rushed. Going over your family specifics in consultations will be the best way to make sure there’s plenty of time, and creating shot lists for this part is tremendously helpful (bride + mom, bride & groom + mom and dad, bride + cousins, etc.)

When thinking it through, two things to consider are how big is your family and how easy will it be to coordinate different groups in and out. I’ve had this part go on as long as an hour, but generally I recommend 30-45 minutes. Once again, any kind of list made out beforehand makes it way better!

Generally, I like to get photos of the bride + groom with their parents, grandparents, siblings, and then big family including aunts / uncles / cousins on each side. But each family is different so it should definitely be a conversation you need to have with your photographer.

 
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Reception Photos

This is by far the hardest part to recommend time for. Really, it depends a lot on how big of a party you plan on having. Generally, I’d recommend at least an hour for you to eat, go through speeches, first dances, and cake cutting. If you’re having an exit too, and don’t want to fake one early, then that gives a reason to have your photographer hang around and capture you celebrating with your family and friends. I’ve had receptions go on as long as three hours, but like I said, as far as recommendation I’d at least plan on one hour. This is something too that’s important to talk about with your photographer!

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As always, it’s best to go over each part of what you have envisioned with your wedding photographer and planner and let them give specific input into your wedding day. But, I hope this is of some help on knowing where to start and what to expect as you begin planning your big celebration!

I’d love to talk more about your wedding day and maybe even how I can help capture it for you! Let’s get in touch, click the button below.