Wedding Day Timeline – How it affects photos.

Hey there you beautiful bride! So you have a wedding to plan and you have all these vendors who need times determined. It can be a little overwhelming, and without having the whole picture – so to speak – you can easily end up making decisions that leave you sacrificing time for the things you really wanted.

Disclaimer – of course I think you should schedule in plenty of time for bride and groom portraits. That’s kind of my thing. I am shamelessly attempting to sway you towards planning around photo time. But I also really want you to have time with your guests and to enjoy the day you’re working so hard to plan.

So first off, let me offer a little perspective as to why it’s important to plan around photo time. For one thing – you are going to be stunning and your groom is going to be looking pretty darn good as well. Shouldn’t you make sure you have a ton of gorgeous photos to remember that situation?

But more long term – you are going to be spending a lot of your time and energy planning this day. Whether it’s a few months and you’re doing something small and intimate, or you’re planning this thing 2 years out and you’re inviting 400 of your closest friends, it will consume your thoughts. Every conversation will somehow relate in your mind to wedding plans. And when you do take a mental break, someone else will bring it up.

Then the day gets here. Yay! Then the day is done. Ahh shoot. Hopefully it’s worth it, but what do you have when it’s over? Answer – the photos. People who couldn’t make it – maybe grandparents, family that’s ill, or friends who just were too far away – only see the photos. Years from now when there are new people in your life, maybe little ones of your own, the only visual of your wedding day they have is the photos. Hopefully you have an album you can look at together and you can relive the joy of your day. Beautiful.

But without a great timeline for it all, you won’t have the photos that really pull the day together and tell the story from start to finish.

So – without going into all the why’s and why not’s in too much detail, here’s a quick intro into some things to consider when choosing the schedule for your day.

Travel time. If you’re having your ceremony and reception all in one place you might think there’s no concern for travel. But – are you having your portraits done right there, or do you have to walk or golf cart it to a great spot? That’s going to take some time.

Cocktail hour. How important to you and your groom is it that you are there spending time with your guests? If you don’t want to miss this time, really consider doing a first look.

Speaking of which, are you doing a first look? I’ll expand on that in another post soon but this can be a huge timeline saver! Still, if you are doing a first look your timeline for your photographer and your bridal party being ready (think hair and make-up) starts earlier.

Details. These are all the little things that I spend time photographing when I first get there. Your jewelry, shoes, flowers, invitation, your DRESS before you’re in it, all the little things you’ve spent money on and you want to remember well.

Kids. Kids are great! Those little miniature couples are adorable. But if you want them to be part of your bridal party photos, you have to be communicating with the parent (or if they’re yours, whoever is helping with them that day) to make sure they know what time everything is happening.

The Dances. In some places it’s the norm that the bride and groom have their first dance and then the mother/son daddy/daughter dances all before dinner. Around me it’s more common that none of the dances start until after dinner. Either way your DJ or band has to know and that obviously affects their start time. Also – do that Grand March earlier than later. More on that another time.

Your contracted photography time. Most likely you have a certain amount of hours for photography coverage. It’s a good idea to keep that in mind when you’re putting the plan in place.

Here are 2 timeline examples. Let’s say this pretend wedding is all at one gorgeous place so there is no travel for anything. We’ll use 2:00 for a ceremony (one hour long) and 5:00 for dinner. We’ll also think of it as a summer wedding with a sunset around 8:00.

With a first look and 10 hours of available coverage. If you have the typical 8 hours, you’d have to do some condensing and this gives you wiggle room for that in the beginning of the day.

  • 10:30 – Details and getting ready photography starts
  • 11:30 – Dress on
  • 12:00 – First look and bridal portraits
  • 12:45 – Bridal party portraits (after these your bridal party can be done!)
  • 1:30 – Bride in hiding – photographing of ceremony details
  • 2:00 – Ceremony
  • 3:00 – Family Formals
  • 4:00 – Cocktail hour (which you get to enjoy with your guests and I get time to photograph reception details and candids of your guests)
  • 5:00 – Dinner
  • 6:30 – First dances
  • 7:30 – Sunset portraits if it’s good light and you’re up for 15 minutes
  • 8:00 – Grand March
  • 8:30 – Coverage ends

Without a first look, still planned with 10 hours.

  • 12:00 – Details and getting ready photography starts
  • 1:00 – Dress on
  • 1:30 – Bride in hiding
  • 2:00 – Ceremony
  • 3:00 – Family Formals
  • 3:30 – Bridal party portraits
  • 4:15 – Bridal portraits. Your guests may be at cocktail hour, but this is the only definite time you can have scheduled in for bride and groom portraits. It’s also the closest thing you have to a few moments together all day.
  • 5:00 – Dinner
  • 6:30 – First dances
  • 7:30 – Sunset portraits if it’s pretty light and you’re up for 15 minutes
  • 8:00 – Grand March
  • 10:00 – Coverage ends. This gets you a lot more dancing photos but you lose out on photos of/with your guests who may not stick around this long if they’re older or have little ones.

I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions or leave a comment if you want more wedding photo advice!

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