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Pro Tips, Weddings

Wedding day timeline | Everything you need to know + Pro Tips

Your Wedding day timeline can get really overwhelming. There are so many considerations and as you’ve likely never planned a wedding before, you may not know where to begin. This guide will help you get a rough estimate of how many hours to book your photographer, how much time is needed for certain portraits and many other great tips.

I often work with my clients 1:1 to help guide them along this process, especially if they don’t have a Day of Coordinator. So I’m sharing this 1:1 info here so you can reference it at your own pace and anytime you need. While all weddings are different this info may not work for everyone, the information provided is pretty standard and can be tweaked to suit the needs of your special day.

Iceland wedding

First, here are a couple of rules for building your timeline.

HOURS

A typical wedding day timeline for photography is 8 hours and it is the minimum hour requirement for many photogs including myself. This is because all of the most important stuff can be covered during this time but really that depends on your locations and how you formulate your timeline. Below I will provide you with as much info as possible to help you plan the perfect wedding day timeline and get the most out of your photography budget.

ARRIVAL TIME

Photography will start approximately 10min after arrival time. Your photographer needs time to get in, say hello’s, introductions, get organized, set-up equipment and familiarize themselves with their surroundings. This may work out to less but you do need to consider it when putting together the wedding day timeline. I have built in this 10min buffer time into each of the sections below.

DEPARTURE TIME

When planning out your timeline, indicate what time the photographer should be leaving the location, this will be the start of the “travel time”.

TRAVEL TIME

When creating your timeline, it’s SOOOOOO Important to not forget your travel time budget- depending on where your wedding is, if we have to stop at many locations this will greatly affect the timing and you need to build in that travel time. Also plan for traffic, in rural areas, if it takes you 10min to get from A to B, add another 10min in the budget. This is to account for traffic, accidents, getting lost etc. never plan everything down to the minute or you could run into big problems on your wedding day, always have some leeway. For city and highway driving, don’t trust what google maps say, it changes based on the traffic. Give even more wiggle room here, at least an extra 20-30min, the bigger the city the more wiggle room time you need.

PHOTOGRAPHY TIME BUDGET

For each section below I will give you your “Photography Time Budget,” please note that this does not include travel time. This is strictly the amount of time that I need to capture your amazing portraits! 

Now that we have the rules laid out, here are all of the different scenarios and what you need to consider when planning out your wedding day timeline.

Guys detail shot wedding day timeline

Guy’s Getting Ready

PHOTOGRAPHY TIME BUDGET: 30 min

Have your guys together and getting ready during this time. Have your shoes, watch, cufflinks, and any other details set to the side for when I arrive. Feel free to have your glass of whiskey, too.

Where this goes will be dependant on if you have requested a second photographer or not. If YES, then it’s really easy, the second will do all of the guy’s getting ready shots and would arrive at the guy’s location about  45min-1 hour before they depart for the ceremony. Not using a second photographer and you want me to get some photos of the guys? This can be done 1 of 3 ways:

  1. Are you both staying in the same hotel? Then this makes it super easy as I can bounce between the floors or rooms.
  2. If you are not at the same hotel, then consider locations and travel time. Have me arrive at the guy’s location 1 hour before I arrive at yours (including travel time). WARNING: This means they are getting ready possibly a lot earlier then they would like to.
  3. I just grab a few shots when I arrive at the ceremony location before the ceremony starts. TIP: Have me depart your location 30 min before you (bride) are scheduled to leave to ensure I have time for these photos.

Girls getting ready

Girl’s Getting Ready

PHOTOGRAPHY TIME BUDGET: 1.5 Hours

These photos make for great memories and really help tell the story of the whole day. It’s so nice to have the getting ready photos of the guys and the girls because it enables you to see how it was for each of you during those precious moments before you became Mr & Mrs. So here is how the Girls getting ready time is broken down.

  1. Detail shots and candids of girls getting final touches, toasting and having fun. Make sure the dress, flowers, accessories and everything you want to be photographed is put aside and ready to go. TIP: Your flowers should be on-site before this start time. (30min)
  2. Bride getting into the dress, here is where we’ll capture the magic as you transform into the beautiful bride! Lot’s of candids and some posed here as well. (30min)
  3. Pre-ceremony portraits, everyone should be dressed and ready to go! We’ll use the location you’re at or one on the way to the ceremony to grab stunning portraits of just you and your girls, your parents etc.

PRO TIP: To get the best photos during the getting ready portraits, make sure you’re using a location that is bright and open with lots of room, depending on the size of your bridal party. Not all houses work well for this, especially if you have hair & makeup being done at the house or hotel. You want to make sure there is plenty of room for everyone and lots of natural light. Sometimes paying a little extra for a hotel room can make all the difference if you don’t have a suitable home location, make sure you ask for their largest suite to accommodate everyone. Book it well in advance to make sure it’s available, most hotels only have a couple of the larger suites.

First look wedding day timeline

First Look

PHOTOGRAPHY TIME BUDGET: 10 min

Let’s get this one out of the way because it’s a pretty easy decision, you either are ok with this or your not, and that’s ok. First looks are awesome and there is a reason why they have become so popular over the decades. Here are all the reasons why you may want a first look.

  • It’s a special and intimate moment between you and your love before walking down the aisle. We can make this moment as simple or as creative as you want it, the sky’s the limit here.
  • Couples who are more nervous about all the attention also love this because their honey usually helps calm their nerves.
  • We can do your bridal portraits right after this and before the ceremony so you won’t need the big gap between ceremony and reception for portraits and can mingle with your guests during cocktail hour.

Ceremony wedding day timeline

Ceremony

PHOTOGRAPHY TIME BUDGET: 30 min

For the ceremony, 30min is a pretty standard length for non-religious ceremonies. Depending on your ceremony type, you’ll need to adjust this timeline. Again, add an extra 10 min buffer in the budget should there be any delays. Make sure you ask your officiant/minister/priest/rabbi etc. how long your ceremony will be.

Family portraits wedding day timeline

Family Portraits

PHOTOGRAPHY TIME BUDGET: 20 min

We do family portraits right after the ceremony because everyone you need will be easy to grab. If you can give your family notice that we’ll be taking pictures immediately after the ceremony, that will also ensure that no one wanders off. I’ll help you create a list of family portrait combinations before the big day.

Bridal party wedding day timeline

Bridal Party Portraits

PHOTOGRAPHY TIME BUDGET: 1 Hours

It’s time for your bridal party and Mr & Mrs portraits! Whether you’re doing this after first look or after the ceremony and family portraits the time budget is the same. We’ll head to a perfect and convenient location for your portraits, in the first 20 minutes we’ll grab all the photos needed with your bridal party and then we’ll let them go back to the limo or hang out off to the side while we go and do your Mr & Mrs portraits.

Wedding cake

Cocktail Hour & Reception Detail Shots

TIME BUDGET: 30min-40min

Usually, we’ll try to arrange to be at the reception at least 30min before your grand entrance, during this time I/we will get all of the detail shots of your room as well as candids of your cocktail hour before it ends, if possible.

Reception photos

Reception

TIME BUDGET: Up to you!

This is where you have to decide how much of the reception that you want to be covered. Some couples are happy with having their photographer get their grand entrance where they’ll do the first dance right away as well as the parent dances and cake cutting. Then the photographer leaves.

Sometimes it works out that 8 hours gets you a little-added coverage of the reception dinner based on how things work for your wedding day timeline.

PRO TIP: Depending on where your wedding day timeline lands us in the day, I always like to take my couples outside of the reception location for 20mins to grab those gorgeous sunset Golden Hour shots!

Wedding photo sunset

Ultimately, if you are wanting some of the post-dinner, dance party captured then you’ll need to add those extra hours, it just depends on what’s important to you to have captured. Are you doing a special send-off or have surprises planned for your guests along the evening? Bouquet and Garder toss? Things like this you’ll likely want to have documented as a part of your story. Don’t rely on guest photos to capture these moments.

If you want to chat more about your wedding day timeline, let’s chat. Click here to head to my contact form!

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