Whether you’re just starting to look for your wedding photographer or you’ve already secured one, it’s essential to put together a wedding photography timeline.
Your wedding photographer should help you through this process. However, if you’re doing this on your own, or you’re still shopping for a photographer, here is some useful information to get you started.
Wedding Photography Timeline Questions To Ask Yourself
What’s your wedding photography budget? How many hours of coverage can you afford?
This will ultimately be the deciding factor on your wedding photography timeline. If your wedding photography is a priority, and you have the budget for it, spending a little extra for additional coverage is well worth it.
When do you want the photographer to arrive and depart?
Answering this question, along with your budget, will be a helpful first step to solidifying your wedding photography timeline. It also helps to work forward and backward from your ceremony start time and/or when dinner is served to decide on the arrival and departure time of your photographer.
What images are most important to you?
If you are on a tighter budget and can’t afford all day coverage it helps to think about what images are most important to you. Do you want more getting ready shots and detail shots of your dress, shoes, rings, etc., before the ceremony? Or do you have a longer reception and you want more of the festivities that happen after the ceremony?
First Look or Traditional Timeline?
Another big question to ask yourself is do you want to see your fiancé before the ceremony or not? Altering your timeline from a more traditional format to one with a first look has gained in popularity and has its advantages. However, it’s completely understandable if you don’t want to see your fiancé until you say “I do.”
I personally like the first look timeline better as I think it creates more fluidity for both you and your guests on your wedding day. I discuss this more below.
Your Day. Your Images.
Your wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime event and there is so much to photograph. Below are the different types of images your photographer can capture on your wedding day and the approximate time you should expect it to take.
The Details – Rings, Dress, Shoes, etc.
30 min / late morning
Your wedding day details are so important and adds so much to the beauty of your big day. Artistically capturing the fine details adds so much to your library of images especially if you’re putting together a wedding album. Allowing at least 30 minutes for this is strongly recommended especially if you want a photo of your dress in a unique location that is often outside your hotel room or suite.
Preparation / Getting Ready
60 min / morning or early afternoon
Getting your hair and make-up on, hanging out with your bridesmaids and groomsmen is one of the most fun and anticipatory parts of your day. Getting ready shots are ideal for capturing fun, candid and photojournalistic images of the people closest to you. If you have two photographers the lead photographer will normally be with the bride.
30 min / morning or early afternoon
Once you’re done getting ready it’s a perfect time to get some individual portraits. Highlighting your dress, flowers, earrings, and tux in a stunning location around your hotel or venue creates beautiful images.
30 min / late morning or early afternoon
The first look is a special moment and your photographer can suggest the ideal location with the best light and privacy for this intimate event. The first look doesn’t take very much time but allotting a half hour for it is good. Furthermore, if you want to do most of your bride and groom photos following the first look you should add additional time.
Wedding Party and Immediate Family
60 min – early afternoon
This is why I like a wedding photography timeline with the first look format. It allows you to get many of your portraits and group photos done before the ceremony so the event flows more smoothly for the rest of the day.
I recommend allocating around 60 minutes for this depending on the size of your wedding party and your immediate family and where you want to take the pictures. Your extended family isn’t normally ready or on site to be included yet.
Ceremony and Venue Details
30 min / early afternoon
After the wedding party photos, and before guests arrive, is the perfect time to capture the details of your ceremony and reception venues(if they’re at the same place.) Capturing these images before your guests arrives highlights the beauty of the venue you spent so much time decorating.
This is where the magic happens and the photographer just follows along your schedule and should have a complete timeline of wedding ceremony events so he/she is in the right spot at the right time to capture each moment.
Extended Family and Bride and Groom
45 min / later afternoon or early evening
Right after the ceremony is the ideal time to capture photos of extended family members and friends that weren’t around before the ceremony. Notifying those people you want photographed before your wedding is strongly recommended so they don’t head for the bar right after the ceremony.
Normally the light is better at this time of day and one reason you may want to take bride and groom portraits now rather than after the first look.
Similar to the ceremony, the photographer is there to follow your timeline of events and to capture all the festivities. Your photographer should ask you for a detailed timeline of all the events like speeches, cake cutting, dances, bouquet toss, etc.
30 min / sunset
The golden hour is the best time of day for beautiful light. If you want to sneak away from your reception this is the perfect time to do it. Usually the best time is about an hour or so before the published sunset time. If you’re planning on doing this you can cut down on the time you spend taking photos after the ceremony. However, if you do that be prepared, many of my brides and grooms find it hard to pull themselves away from the party for a sunset session.
These are the main categories of the photos I’ll take on your wedding day. The last one is your departure from the venue and if you have anything special prepared, like sparklers and getting into a limo…which makes for amazing images!
Anyhow, I hope you found this information helpful. If you would like a printable wedding photography timeline template with actual times in both traditional and first look formats please fill out the form below and you’ll receive a copy via email. Thanks and please view my wedding gallery for a sample of my work.