An Ideal Wedding Timeline

With tradition pretty much gone the way of the dodo.  It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint an exact wedding photography timeline. I have photographed weddings over a period of three days and some weddings that are less than an hour.  However, here are some time frames you should think about when planning your special day.  Some of these times may seem long, but keep in mind that 1) the day will fly by, 2) almost all weddings run behind schedule, and 3) I will make these photo sessions fun.


Ideal Time Allotment – 60-90 minutes

Having a minimum of at least an hour for getting ready photos and detail shots ensures that I have plenty of time to get that perfect photo of the dress, rings, shoes, bouquets, and the other special details of the day.  Sometimes the hotel room or the bridal dressing room is simply too crowded or simply unappealing; I have to take the dress or bouquet down to the lobby or outside. This can take some time, but the results are well worth the effort.


During this time, I am also getting images of your make-up being applied, candid photos of your bride’s maids chatting and getting ready, your hair being finished, again, all the small details.  I usually start with the ladies, capturing candids and detail shots, laughing and having fun, doing all the little stuff you do.  Next, I move to the men and get their photos (guys don’t normally take long to get ready), there are several photos I do with the gentlemen, tying up their laces, straightening their bow ties, and most importantly, helping them put on their boutonnières (guys have no clue how to pin flowers on).   Once that’s done, it’s back to the ladies for a few finishing shots of the dressed bride with close family and friends.

I will also get a few portrait shots of the bride and groom individually, as well as taking photos together if they want to do that before the wedding.  This is also my chance to photograph the dad seeing his little girl for the first time in her dress.  Keep in mind that these are some of the most emotional and fun times of the day, so you don’t want to cut it short.


Ideal Time Allotment – 30-45 minutes

The first look actually only takes maybe 5-10 minutes to find a good location and get the groom in place, followed by bringing the bride to the location and setting her in the right spot for the first look.  After that, the rest of the time is spent on portraits of the bride and groom together.  This photo session is optional as some couples want to stick with tradition of not see each other before the ceremony, while others want to do this in private, away from the gathering crowd.  It is important to do this early enough that the bride can get back to the dressing room before the guest begin to arrive.


Ideal Time Allotment – 15 minutes + Ceremony Time

Generally, I can do detail shots of the ceremony location in about 15 minutes.  This includes photos of the guests in their seats, unity candles, bouquets, etc.

After that, its show time!  You should have a pretty good idea how long the ceremony will last.  Your officiant can give you a solid estimate.  If you are doing anything special, just let me know; water ceremony, oil, planting a tree, jumping the broom, sand, communion.


Ideal Time Allotment – 30 minutes

Family photos generally take about 30 minutes.  This may vary if you have an extra-large family, family members don’t speak English, or if you have elderly or handicapped family members that simply take a little more time to get in position.

I work biggest to smallest; meaning that the first shot is EVERYONE that is related to the Bride and Groom in any fashion.  I center the bride and groom, parents are next, then grandparents, and siblings, followed by the rest of the family.  After that shot, I start peeling people off, working all the way down to just the bridal couple.  We all know how much weddings mean to the immediate family, and we want to make sure we’re capturing enough pictures with them.

Some couples have decided that they want a picture with all guests while others have decided that they only want pictures with select VIPs to save time. I do recommend being very organized, with a list of groups and helpers from each side of the family to help round people up.


Ideal Time Allotment – 45-60 minutes
If at all possible, I like to take my wedding party to another location that where the family photos are done.  At this point – the family is cleaning up the wedding site, packing up flowers and getting ready to head over to the reception site.  Wedding Party Photos should be around 45 minutes to an hour. During this time, I get a variety of shots in a variety of poses. I start off with the basic, classic photos focused on great expressions and lighting.  Again, I work large to small, posing and photographing the entire bridal party, working all the way down to individual shots of the bride and groom.  This is also where I work in fun and creative shots. Finally, I understand how much your wedding party means to you, so I am happy to get pictures with you and each one of your bridesmaids or groomsmen individually.


The ceremony is done, the dress is bustled, and it’s time to get your dance on.  This is the chance where you get to talk to your friends.  This is the chance to show off your ring.  This is your first dance.  This is where your family toasts you and your spouse.  You will want photos of all of this.  These are emotional and heart felt candid images, the laughing and the tears.  The more time you allot for the reception photos, the more images you will have to remember it by.

There are several photos opportunities at a reception.  I capture the first dance, the family dance, toast and cake cut, as well as the bouquet and garter toss.  Additionally, I get images of the cake, the food, gifts, and all the little details that make this reception, your reception.  This is also a great chance to get photos of you with your guest.  After dinner, you can visit each table thanking your guest for being there and I can catch quick shots of you with your friends.  One of my favorite photos is the couple leaving the venue with your guest lined up with bubbles, flower petals, sparklers, whatever you have for them.  It’s the closing to a perfect day.


Ideal Time Allotment – 30 minutes

This optional couple session should take maybe 30 minutes and take place ideally 20 minutes before sunset. This is the best time in terms of natural lighting (golden hour).  It also allows me to capture the awesome scenic shots with colorful skies. If you booked your venue because of the spectacular view of the ocean, or the gorgeous vines in the winery, or a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, you definitely want memories of that in your album.