After many wedding days being the photographer, I experienced different timelines and learned which ones make a day flow efficiently and stress - free so that couples feel unrushed and I can produce quality and creative portraits they expect from me.
Timelines can only be stress-free if the couple, vendors, and wedding party/families clearly communicate pre-wedding and on the day of.
It's important to note that not every wedding is the same, nor are you compared to the last couple I worked with. You may want a different experience than the last. You could have a small wedding party or may only need one photographer since your wedding is all at one location. There are so many factors involved in planning a wedding day timeline. But allow me to break down the best wedding photography timeline that I find works best for me and my couples.
Please note the breakdown does not include the travel involved in between locations. Due to the nature of travel - we have to prepare by adding a buffer in case of traffic delays, parking, unloading/loading, meeting vendors/management at the new location, etc.
2 HOURS OF PHOTOGRAPHY
- 30 min details (dress, shoes, invites, rings, vows, florals, etc.)
- 20 min bridal party fun (pop the bubble, wearing robes, dancing around)
- 10 min private gift opening/letter reading
- 30 min put on dress with mother figure, followed by bridal portraits
- 30 min first look with bridal party and father figure
Read now: Tips how to prepare for picture-perfect bridal portraits
1 HOUR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
- 15 min Details (cuff links, groomsmen gifts, vows, boutonnieres, rings, etc.)
- 15 min Groom putting on cuff links, shoes and groomsmen helping with tie
- 5 min Father figure assisting with coat
- 10 min First look with mother figure and helping with boutonniere
- 15 min Groomsmen toast and private moment reading letter/opening gift from bride
45 MINUTES OF PHOTOGRAPHY
- 10 min to setup the photo
- 10 min first look candids
- 25 min fine art photos (part one)
1 HOUR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
- Wedding party together
- Bridesmaids together
- Each bridesmaid with bride
- Groomsmen together
- Each groomsman with groom
- Up to 15 groupings with VIPs (family)
30 min prior to your ceremony, all photos stop so team can prepare lighting and you can break before the processional
If possible, your wedding should end 30 minutes before sunset so you can quickly take (private) 15 min golden hour photos before cocktail hour
At cocktail hour, my team takes a quick 10 min break. Then we head to reception space to setup lighting and meet the dream team (other vendors). The floral & event designer should be finishing up while catering staff are filling up champagne flutes and water glasses. My team captures room details as it's empty. Within 15 minutes before the reception room opens, I encourage you to stop by and see it before guests enter. We can take a quick 5 minute photo of you dancing alone or try something creative within the space. Cocktail hour candids is possible if time permits, but not always guaranteed.
This timeline is managed by your hired day of coordinator or planner and catering team at your venue. When booking a photographer, you want to be mindful when planning your reception events so that it's documented before the photographer leaves for the night. Here's a typical reception timeline to follow and personalize:
15 min guests get seated
- intros: parents, wedding party, you
- First dance sets (you, then parents)
- Salad/ first course served, (delay 10 min) speeches/toasts
- Dance set
- 15 min nighttime magic photo
- Main course served, followed by table photos (3 min per table)
- Dance set, entertainment (bouquet toss/ garter game/ shoe game/ etc)
- Cake cut
I am mindful that nighttime fine art portraits do interrupt the fun on the dance floor or mingling with your guests, so I would need to setup the lighting in advance and test it out before bringing you to the location for 5 min to take the photo. My goal is to give you a magical night photo, fast, but while being creative :)
In the event you want sparkler photos with others, I would recommend to only ask 6-10 people to join, and it can be anyone you want - doesn't have to be wedding party. Sparkler photos are expected to take longer than 5 minutes and you will need venue permission and the sparkler products. Other creative nighttime props you can try: lanterns, bubbles, string lights, candles, fibro optic balloons or wands
A wedding day timeline is not one size fits all. All weddings are unique and couples have different traditions , guest experiences and sweet moments they want documented.
Building a wedding day timeline is part of what I do for all my couples. Without a timeline, your wedding party and family members will be lost on where to go and meet you for important heirloom opportunities. What you may think
takes 5 minutes, can easily turn into 20 minutes. I make sure to add a little wiggle room in case of day-of hiccups which are expected to happen.
At the end of the day, whatever is important to you, is important for me to document. Sit back and relax as you celebrate with your favorite people in the world!
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