Wedding Photography Timeline Tips
Updated: Jul 9
One of the more common struggles that most brides face when planning their wedding is figuring out how much time to allow for specific moments and portraits. Your day will fly by, and having a concrete timeline will help keep things on track and enable you to build in a few moments to breathe and enjoy the day that you have dreamt of for years! Hopefully, these photography specific tips will give you more insight into how much time it takes to get the shots you desire to have and maybe a few pointers on making everything go a little smoother.
Unless you want an abundance of photos of you and your bridesmaids without their hair and makeup done, most of your getting ready photos will be more like finishing touches. The lead photographer will photograph the bride and her bridesmaids. Simultaneously, the second shooter will cover the groom and groomsmen and start on capturing details of the reception if it is already completely set up.
If you are planning on having a first look, this can potentially save you from having to rush through wedding party portraits at the same time as family formals. Although this isn’t for everyone, if you value getting great images with your entire wedding party, this will allow you to get the bulk of them done before the ceremony and free up more time for you to mingle and enjoy cocktail hour.
So how much time should you plan on for your first look? Planning on 30-60 minutes for your first look allows for enough time to capture memorable candids. It also leaves enough breathing room, so if the lighting is right, you can go ahead and have a few intimate portraits captured. This can be very important in the case of potential rain or if, for any reason, there isn’t enough time for a “couple’s session” later in the evening.
An excellent time for solo portraits of the bride and groom is right after the “getting ready” photos. Hair and makeup are perfect, and the day hasn’t quite begun to become too much of a rush. In many venues getting ready locations have plenty of window light that can make the perfect spot for some quick and easy portraits.
During the bulk of this time, we capture those classic wedding party portraits in great lighting and focus on getting the best expressions possible. Having more time allows for more fun and creative images. It also leaves room to make sure you get great pictures with each of your bridesmaids and groomsmen individually.
Make sure to give your photographer a list of names, including everyone in the wedding party and also your VIPs. Providing this information will help speed up the process and prevent your loved ones from being referred to as “hey you” all day long.
The best time to plan on taking family formals is right after your ceremony. Taking formals at this time is the easiest way to keep from needing to hunt down family members who tend to slip away quickly.
Each group should take no more than 3-4 minutes when adequately planned. Having a list of every grouping you’d like can save lots of valuable time and delegates the communication pressure onto your photographer or coordinator. Also, plan on having one or two family members from both sides help round everybody up.
Hands down, the best time for some of the first portraits of you two as a newly married couple is the golden hour. Plan to shoot somewhere between 30-45 minutes before sunset, and the lighting (weather permitting) should be perfect!
Bonus Tip - Bridal Portraits
Bridal portraits are typically a southern thing, but they are an excellent way to have a trial run of your wedding day getting ready process. If you’d like to have a more accurate picture of how long hair, make-up, and getting in your dress will take, schedule a bridal portrait session and use it as a test run!
There is no right way or wrong way to plan your wedding day. Some of these tips may be a bit more specific to how I work, or you may find that many photographers recommend the same amount of time for certain things. In the end, you need to assess what you value and determine how much time you want to spend in front of a camera on your wedding day. Your photographer should always help bring your dreams to life and not impose their agenda on the biggest day of your life. It is your wedding day, after all.