As wedding photographers, we can read the flow of a wedding like the back of our hand. We can account for the amount of time portraits may take and change our strategies for the rest of the wedding day to accommodate the wishes of the wedding couple.
But planning our own wedding timeline has been a process all on it’s own. Luckily we have an idea on how to tackle our timeline as we have been a part of 45+ weddings, so here are some of the tips that we are using to plan the best possible timeline for our own photographers and vendors. It’s a bit longer than our usual journal entries, but I hope it will help you in creating your own timeline
1. Plan for the photographer to start AT LEAST two and a half hours before the ceremony.
If you are looking for wedding day images that look curated and polished, you need to give your photographers time to do so. Setting up invitation detail shots, finding places to hang a dress, and photographing all the small floral or reception details you have spent months planning out, takes at least a 30 minutes for a photographer to do. Add to that the time needed to capture your “getting ready” routine of hair, makeup, putting on the dress, veil, etc, and your photographer needs about 40-45 min. to capture all of those details. Putting on a wedding dress and veil takes longer than you think it will be. Even if the dress is a quick zip up. Brides and bridesmaids- leave about 25-30 min for getting into your wedding attire. This is crucial for everything else to stay on time- nothing else can happen unless everyone is completely ready.
Grooms, you can get ready a little bit quicker and that 25-30 min. can be used to take groomsmen portraits. After this, you may have about 20 minutes for few quick bridal or groom portraits in a safe location where guests (and your fiance if you choose not have a first look) will not see you. Know that your guests will arrive at least 30 minutes before your ceremony and you need to be tucked away not taking pictures before then. It’s better to have more time planned before the ceremony than to rush everything before you walk down the aisle, you do not need the added stress:)
Pro-Tip: If you are planning a “First Look” or handhold picture with your beloved, plan for an extra 30 minutes in your timeline. This gives time to walk to the location, for the photographers and wedding planners to coordinate times, and the actual “first look” itself to take place. If you are doing a “first look”, you more than likely will have a few portraits taken of you two before the ceremony too, so that is factored into the time.
2. After the ceremony
Mazel Tov! You’re married!! The time right after the ceremony is really exciting and- to be honest- a bit stressful. After the ceremony is where most family pictures will take place, and if not planned for, may be stressful if there are large groups of people expecting to take pictures. We suggest talking with your fiance beforehand about who you all would like pictures with and create a list of grouping your would like (ex. Bride and Groom with bride’s cousins, bride with aunts, etc). We work family portraits by working from the largest groups to the smallest pairings, so that is a good place to start for thinking of your list. Family portraits usually take between 30 minutes for smaller families and up to 45 minutes for larger families, and do not usually start until about 10-15 minutes after the ceremony when the area is cleared of other guests. If you only have one hour between ceremony and reception, think about doing a “first look” and have immediate family portraits before the ceremony to save time. Any groupings we do not get to, we also can ask help from the DJ during the reception to call family groups to the dancefloor or other designated location.
Pro Tip: Make sure all people that are included in pictures KNOW they are included, or else we will spend precious time trying to find them. Designate a family member from both sides to keep track and call out family members’ names from the portrait list the day of the wedding, it will help us out immensely!
After family portraits, it is time for bridal party and couple portraits. If your portraits are offsite of the reception or ceremony venue, add about 30 minutes to your timeline for travel. Limit your offsite stops and make sure everyone in the wedding party knows where you are going. Look up the area and make sure there are no events happening that day, or else factor in more time for parking and walking. Make sure your photographers know what you are going as well:) Bridal party portraits take between 20-30 minutes, with larger wedding parties naturally taking more time to organize.
Couple portraits, leave about 20-25 minutes if you have had portraits before the ceremony, but we want to make sure you have pictures of you two as a newly married couple and not have a crunch for time trying to do them. We always suggest setting aside some time before sunset for a few portraits too, because that light is the best there is all day. If you do not take any other portraits that day, make it a point to plan for some about 30 minutes before sunset that day. Use this sunset calculator to figure out the sunset time on your wedding day.
This is where you can relax a bit and but loose with friends and family! We work with DJ’s to make sure our reception timelines are the same and that we know what is happening next. Typically, the reception starts one hour to an hour and a half after the ceremony. At that time, the wedding couple is announced in and there is a blessing of the food. After food is served, we will photograph any details that we didn’t have time for before and that will lead into the first dances, toasts, cake cutting, and any other events you want to include that day.
Pro Tip: If you do not think you want the photographers to stay until the end and you really want an “exit” picture, consider holding a “fake exit” earlier and then continuing to party. If you do have them stay at the end, plan to start the wedding exit about 15 minutes before the end of the reception.
We know that there is a lot to think about on your wedding day and making sure you have enough time for portraits should not be a worry. Weddings count on a lot of people to come together at once to create a huge event, but not everyone can be completely reliable and timelines need to reflect a bit of flexible timing in order to account for events out of our control.
We would love to help you plan your wedding day timeline! Email us for the sample timeline we use and for more tips and ideas for being efficient with the time on your wedding day.
Congratulations and Cheers on your upcoming wedding day!
-Dawn and Matthew