Wedding Photography Timeline Tips

TIMELINE TIMELINE TIMELINE! I know, I know, it’s so annoying that every wedding decision ties back to logistics and schedules but I can promise you, the more organized you are before your wedding day, the happier you will be on the day-of …and in the case of wedding photography, the happier you will be for, like, EVER because you are going to get all the shots you want! Plus you are paying a zillion dollars for photography right? So make sure that shit is on lock!

You will want to have a basic framework of how the day will go before you start on your photography timeline. For example: Where you are getting ready, what time can you access your venue for photos, what time it says on your invitations, what time you need to be done at the end of the night. You will also want to consider your basic wants: Lots of photos of just you and your partner? Do you have a large family and need lots of formal portraits? Prefer a candid, documentary style?

Building out your photography timeline early in the wedding planning process will help you figure out details and logistics for a lot of your other vendors too. For example…we want a first look, which means we need to be taking photos by 2pm, which means my hair and makeup needs to be done by 1pm which means my hair and makeup team needs to start at 9am to get everyone done. See what I mean? Fun right?! Ok, I realize I am a wedding coordinator so I definitely find timelines more fun than the average person….

So let’s get down to it! DISCLAIMER: I am going to throw out some averages here- obviously every wedding is different based on location, size of wedding party and family, transportation and more. Also, I am not getting into religious or cultural traditions so remember that can VASTLY change your day as well!

Getting ready

A lot to consider on this one…Do you want photos of the whole hair and makeup process? Of getting dressed with your guys? I have seen groups of guys go get a professional shave pre-wedding and get some really cool shots at a barber shop. Maybe you just want photos of you getting in your gown with your mom. Do you want “detail” shots, like your dress hanging in a window, or a cute photo of your shoes and rings? With your photography package, do you have one shooter or two? Can they split up so that one photographer is with each partner getting ready? Maybe you don’t want these photos at all!

Just remember when thinking about timing for this portion – add an extra 20 minutes to everything. Putting on a dress in real life may take about 30 seconds…putting on a wedding dress? 20 minutes. Calling an uber in real life might take 1 minute….on your wedding day? 20 minutes. Always add extra time for hair and makeup. Trust  me, you would much rather be ready early and enjoy an extra mimosa than to be running late getting to your wedding!


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First Look or nah

I would say 75% of the weddings we are doing this year are including a first look. But there are still plenty of couples that are choosing not to see each other pre-ceremony. The big advantage of doing a first look is getting most or all of your photos done so that you can enjoy your cocktail hour. If you choose not to do it, you can expect not to attend your cocktail hour (and your family and wedding party won’t be able to enjoy as much of it either). If you are doing a first look, 60-90 minutes of photos pre-ceremony should be plenty to get couples photos, wedding party photos and immediate family photos. If you aren’t doing a first look, you probably only need about 30 minutes of photos to get those separate wedding party shots.

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If you are doing everything at one location- GOOD FOR YOU- you saved yourself a big chunk of logistics to figure out, but more often than not, there is at least two locations to consider. Maybe you are getting ready at a hotel then heading to your venue. Maybe you are doing the ceremony at a church, or maybe you have a completely different location in mind for photos. Consider how you are getting from one spot to another, and add an extra 20 minutes to every stop. You probably only have your photographer for  a set amount of hours, and you are paying them the same if they are driving around too, so is it really worth the hotel photos if it means them driving an extra hour?


Ceremony time

We always expect your earliest guest arrival to be 30 minutes before your printed invitation time. That means you will need to be at your venue, and (traditionally) the bride(s) hidden away. So if you are doing a first look, you’ll want to count back 90 minutes from earliest guest arrival.



Family Photos

This is where you want to be super organized because I have seen family photos be the most stressful part of many couple’s wedding days! First off, I recommend taking extended family photos post-ceremony, because even if you are doing a first look, you probably don’t want AALLL your aunts, uncles and little kids running around that early. Make a shot list outlining each combination of family members you want photos of, and assign a family wrangler (your coordinator and photographer don’t know who Aunt Linda is) to help organize this piece. Consider that large family photos take an average of 2 minutes per combination- this can really add up!



If you are putting some effort into decor, DIY or details at your wedding, you will want to let your photographer know, and build in some time in the day for them to capture these items. Maybe you spent a lot of time or money on signage, maybe your ceremony florals are super important to you, or maybe your mom made 200 tiny jars of homemade jam. Give your photographer a heads up on these items because they might miss something! Also, if you want a big, sweeping shot of your reception area before guests enter- you will definitely need to build in time at the end of your cocktail hour for them to get those shots!

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Don’t forget about sunset

I always like to build in about 10 minutes right at sunset for your photographer to steal you and your partner away from the party to capture those romantic, glowy shots. It’s called “magic hour” in the wedding industry for a reason! Depending on your location and photographer, you may also want to schedule in a short late-night photo session! This might be a peaceful, fun moment just for the two of you during a crazy day…or you may want to skip these all together so you can have an extra margarita and eat your food and hang with your friends. UP TO YOU!


Party time

More than likely you don’t need your photographer there til the very end of the party. People get drunk, sweaty, and all of the dancing photos start to look the same. Most wedding photography packages are a set number of hours- 6, 8, 10 – so you will want to figure out when they are arriving and do the math from there on when they will leave. Typically, I think an hour after dancing begins is a good time for them to leave, but you will also want to consider if you are doing a late night snack or a grand exit that you want them to capture. Consider their end time when you are scheduling your dessert, bouquet toss, money dance or any other important reception activities you want pro photos of!


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OK! That was a shit ton of information but it’s so important to consider if you are still shopping for a photographer (how many hours to do I need these people for anyway?!) or close to your day and finalizing your timeline. Bottom line, talk to your photographer! They should be willing to go through all of this with you and give you advice.

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