Short answer: your timeline.
A wedding day timeline might not be the most exciting piece of your wedding day to think about, but is the one thing that can make or break your photography experience! Leaving enough time for photos during each portion of your wedding day is essential for setting yourself (and your photographer) up for success to get all of the wedding images you’ve been dreaming of!
Today, I’d love to share a sample timeline, built from a photography perspective to give enough time for photos for each section of the wedding day (note that this might vary from photographer to photographer – this is just the amount of time I feel I need to serve my clients best!). The timeline below includes a first look (if you’re not sure what that is, click here!), and does not include travel time. Any travel time should be added in addition to the estimated times below!
Time: 30-40 minutes
Every bride loves having those beautiful shots of her bridal details. It’s an important part of the story and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc. These shots allow me to get warmed up for the rest of the big day. I normally like to allow at least 30-40 minutes for this part of the day.
Time: 45 minutes
After the details have been photographed, we will jump straight into bridal prep! After some photos of the bride hanging out with her bridesmaids and final touches of makeup, it’s time for the bride to get into her dress! I usually ask the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids to be dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress. After the bride is in her gown, she can put on her jewelry, veil, shoes, etc. and I will shoot a few bridal portraits while hair and makeup are fresh!
If the groom is getting ready nearby, my second photographer will begin photographing the boys close to 40 minutes before they need to leave their location since it always takes boys less time to get ready!
Time: 15 minutes
This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day! I will make sure the location is as private and secluded as possible. I love to give my couples a few minutes alone together after the first look to soak in the excitement!
BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS
Time: 40+ minutes
If there is a first look, after, we will jump straight into photos of the Bride & Groom! This is typically the most relaxing part of the day for the couple, where they have a moment just to be present with each other. Remember, the LIGHT determines where we shoot. We will work together to ensure that any locations you are hoping to incorporate into your wedding photos have the right light during the time of day we’ll be taking your portraits! Remember to add extra time in your timeline for locations separate from the ceremony and/or reception space!
BRIDAL PARTY PORTRAITS
Time: 30 minutes
Now it’s time for Bridal Party shots! During Bridal Party portraits, my second photographer and I will make sure to take some great shots of the guys and girls both separately AND together, as well as a photo of the Bride with each bridesmaid and the Groom with each groomsman.
Time: 30-45 minutes
Family formals normally take place immediately following the ceremony. It’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time. We’ll need about 30 to 45 minutes for family formals (sometimes more, depending on the number of combinations!) and I will send a questionnaire before the wedding where you can list out the shots that you want. I recommend shooting portraits in the ceremony space at the altar directly following the ceremony so that all family members are in one place! However, any outdoor area within short walking distance will also look beautiful!
Time: 30 minutes
If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area if possible so that I can grab some great shots of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats!
SUNSET OR NIGHT PORTRAITS:
Time: 10-15 minutes
Between 7:00 and 8:00 is the BEST time of day for portraits in the late spring, summer and early fall! This is when the sun is glowy and golden. I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few extra photos during this time frame! Or, if you’re looking for an epic night portrait, we can wait until the sun is completely gone to create more gorgeous images!
As a side note - if your wedding takes place during daylight savings (when the sun sets between 4 and 5PM!), make sure to factor in less daylight the day of your wedding.
BUT WHAT IF I DON’T WANT A FIRST LOOK?
If you are not planning on having a first look, Bride & Groom portraits, as well as bridal party portraits, can take place following the ceremony (after family formals).
Have questions about creating the ideal wedding day timeline? Use the contact tab in the navigation above to reach out - I’d love to help! And in the mean time, happy wedding planning!