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How to Plan the Perfect Wedding Photography Timeline

When it comes to your wedding day, one of the most important aspects is capturing beautiful and timeless photos that will last a lifetime. However, without proper planning, your wedding photography timeline can quickly become chaotic and stressful, leaving you with less time to enjoy your special day. Request a custom wedding photography timeline!

I'll help guide you on how to plan the perfect wedding day photography timeline, including allowing time for bridal party, family, and couple photos so you don't miss a single moment.

The bride and groom celebrate with the wedding party. Learn more about wedding photography timelines.

3 Things to know before planning your wedding photography timeline

Timelines Are Fluid

For my own wedding, I tried to plan my timeline down to the minute, and... well...let's just say I'm glad I added some buffer time. No matter how prepared you are, it's important to remember that timelines are fluid, and that's okay!

Add Buffer Time

Allow yourself space to breathe throughout the day—especially between getting ready and the bridal party photos—as well as between the bridal party photos and the ceremony. Planning 15-30 minutes of buffer time between major events will help you feel relaxed, present, and give you time to catch up, if needed.

Consider the Commute

Getting ready in a different location from the ceremony? Are your ceremony and reception in different places? Factor in travel time (don't forget traffic!) to travel between places so you don't cut into your precious photo time. Don't forget that packing everything & everyone up (i.e., your bridal party) takes time too.

How much time should I allow for wedding photos?

Your wedding photography timeline will vary depending on what you want to capture. Below are seven photo shoots and the time necessary to complete them.

1. Getting Ready & Details Photos (30 - 90 minutes)

Getting ready photo shoots include candid shots documenting the process of doing your hair, makeup, conversation & smiles between bridesmaids, group photos in your matching robes, mimosa toasts, and any other images that capture the hype leading up to the ceremony.

Before your big day, I'll send you an email with what to include in your details box. Items include all 3 rings, invitations, jewelry, and more. You can even put a bridesmaid or wedding coordinator in charge of giving me this box so that I can get to work right away.

Wedding details photo including shoes, rings, and earrings.

2. Bridal Portraits (20 minutes)

You'll want to make sure you have enough time to remember in detail how you looked on your wedding day. Your bridal portraits will feature the one and only you!

Hoping to minimize stress on your wedding day? Consider taking your bridal portraits ahead of time! A bridal session is the perfect opportunity to try out your hair & makeup and make sure everything fits right before the big day. Your bridal session focuses fully on you—making you look & feel like the queen you are—and creating images that you'll absolutely love.

3. Groom Portraits (15 - 20 minutes)

This the first chance on the big day that the groom will have to get comfortable in front of the camera, and also capture him in his best light before he sees his bride.

Bride & groom portraits are often done simultaneously when two photographers are present to maximize time and keep the timeline on track.

4. First Look (15 minutes)

A first look is a private moment between the couple before the ceremony. This is a great opportunity to capture the raw emotions and excitement of the couple seeing each other for the first time in their wedding attire. A first look allows time for couple photos and full bridal party photos to be taken before the ceremony, which can save time after the ceremony for family photos.

Pro tip: I highly recommend a first look to help make your wedding photography timeline more efficient and relaxed. You'll have more time to party it up with your guests! You'll also get more photos of the day.

A bride and groom candid photo. Learn how to plan your wedding photography timeline.

5. Full Bridal Party Photos (30-45 minutes)

Scheduling bridal party photos before the ceremony is a great way to get everyone looking their best while also providing an opportunity for some fun and candid shots. Depending on the size of your bridal party, 30-45 minutes should be enough time to capture all the necessary photos without feeling rushed. Consider choosing a location that is close to the ceremony site to save time and ensure everyone is ready for the wedding.

During this time, we will also take individual shots with the bride & her bridesmaids and groom with his groomsmen.

The bride and groom pose with their wedding party.

6. Family Photos (30 minutes After the Ceremony)

After the ceremony, it's time for family photos. Plan for at least 30 minutes to capture photos with immediate family members, grandparents, and close friends. I highly recommend instructing the officiant to ask immediate and extended family to stay in the ceremony location for family photos. Assign a family member or wedding planner to help gather everyone for photos to save time and ensure everyone is included.

7. Sunset Couple Photos (20-30 minutes)

Couple photos are some of the most important photos taken on your wedding day. These photos capture the love and connection between you and your partner, and it's important to allow enough time for these shots. Typically, 15-25 minutes before sunset is the best time to take these photos, as the lighting is soft and romantic. Choose a location that's meaningful to you as a couple and to communicate your vision with your photographer ahead of time to get amazingly timeless photos.

This can be a great opportunity to steal a few minutes away from the hustle & bustle and be present with your sweetheart (while getting the best images ever).

Wedding Photography Timeline Examples

While your specific timeline will be unique to your day (I'll help with that!), here are my top three recommended wedding timelines:

10 Hour Wedding Timeline

  • Photographer Arrives

  • Details Shots (30 - 90 mins)

  • Getting Ready Photos (30 - 60 mins)

  • Simultaneous Bride Portraits and Groom Portraits (20 mins)

  • First Look (15 mins)

  • Full Bridal Party Photos (30-45 mins)

  • Couple Photos (15 mins)

  • Ceremony (30 - 45 mins)

  • Family Photos (30 mins)

  • Reception Grand Entrance

  • Reception Activities

  • Sunset Couple Photos (20 - 30 mins)

  • Reception Activities

  • Reception Grand Exit

8 Hour Wedding Timeline

  • Photographer Arrives

  • Details Shots (30 mins)

  • Getting Ready Photos (30mins)

  • Simultaneous Bride Portraits and Groom Portraits (20 mins)

  • First Look (15 mins)

  • Full Bridal Party Photos (30 mins)

  • Ceremony (30 mins)

  • Family Photos (30 mins)

  • Reception Grand Entrance

  • Reception Activities

  • Sunset Couple Photos (20 - 30 mins)

  • Reception Activities

  • Reception Grand Exit

5 Hour Wedding Timeline

  • Photographer Arrives

  • Final Details Shots (30 mins)

  • Bride Portraits (10 mins)

  • Groom Portraits (10 mins)

  • Ceremony (30 mins)

  • Family Photos (30 mins)

  • Full Bridal Party (30 mins)

  • Couple Photos (20 - 30 mins)

  • Reception Grand Entrance

  • Reception Activities

  • Reception Grand Exit or Mock Exit

Feeling overwhelmed? I'll make a custom timeline for you!

Fill out this questionnaire, and I'll respond with your custom timeline within 24 hours. No strings attached!

If you do decide to book your wedding with me, I'll compile your timeline questionnaire answers into a shared Google Doc to help plan your day, give recommendations, and make sure that we're on the same page with every detail.

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