Wedding Photography Timeline | How Much Time Do You Need

While each and every wedding is unique, thus requiring a unique wedding photography timeline, it’s important to plan for and devote sufficient time to each part of the wedding day. In this guide, we will explore the parts of the day that are particularly relevant to wedding photography, providing guidance on how much time should be allotted to each.

Details: Dress, Shoes, Rings, and More – 30 minutes

Detail shots are the perfect way to start the story of your wedding day.  Not only have most couples spent countless hours picking out their accessories, matching colors, and ensuring textures complement one another, detail shots also give photographers an opportunity to create truly unique, artistic images for your album and/or gallery. 

To ensure that we have adequate time to capture beautiful photos of your wedding dress, rings, bouquets, and other details, build in at least 30 minutes of time.  This provides the photographer the space to create gorgeous lay-flats, find the best light, and potentially seek out more aesthetically pleasing compositions (let’s face it, sometimes hotel rooms are too cluttered or just not the look we’re going for).  

Getting Ready – 60 minutes

For most couples, an hour of time devoted to getting ready photos is ideal.  We typically start capturing preparation pictures as the hair and makeup artists are putting on the finishing touches (so everyone looks their best!), and we focus on getting candid, authentic images of the bridesmaids and groomsmen getting ready, hanging out, and having a great time. 

During this portion of the day, it’s typical for the lead shooter to stay with the bride and for the second shooter to be with the groom.  If you choose a collection that doesn’t include a second photographer or would like for the lead to photograph both sides of the wedding party, plan on extending this an additional 30-60 minutes.  By allotting enough time to getting ready, we leave plenty of your timeline open for wedding photos.

Individual Portraits of the Bride & Groom – 30-45 minutes

Once both the bride and groom have finished getting ready, it’s the perfect time to take individual portraits.  For brides, your hair & makeup has just been completed, so you’re looking your very best.  Additionally, at this point in the day, you’re pretty relaxed, so we can take our time and enjoy the experience of creating beautiful portraits. 

These portraits are typically taken in the hotel room where you’re getting ready, taking advantage of natural window light when possible.  Similar to the getting ready photos, the lead photographer will focus on capturing pictures of the bride while the second photographer stays with the groom. 

First Look and Couples Portrait Session – 45-60 minutes

While not everyone wants one, there are several advantages of choosing a first look over a more traditional timeline.  Chief among these is the fact that this frees up time before the ceremony for us to get couples portraits and wedding party photos, making the later parts of the day much more relaxed and enjoyable for the wedding party. 

While we only need around 10 minutes for the first look itself, I like to immediately follow this with a short couples session.  During this time, we focus on capturing must-have couples shots, freeing us to focus on artistic photos during golden hour / sunset when the light is at its most flattering.

Wedding Party Photos – 45 minutes

An hour of time is ideal for wedding party photos, but 45 minutes is sufficient in most cases.  I like to start by capturing classic, full wedding party photos before getting shots of the bridesmaids and groomsmen separately.  We then move on to more fun and creative compositions, poses, and expressions depending on the style of the couple.  This can range from fun and whimsical to editorial and edgy.  Finally, you’ve chosen each of your bridesmaids and groomsmen because they’re important people in your life, so I always like to get portraits of you with each of your bridesmaids or groomsmen individually. 

Immediate Family – 30 minutes

This part of wedding photography is too often overlooked.  For virtually all couples, family is incredibly dear; however, apart from the formal family portraits (see in the section below), many couples and photographers don’t set aside time for portraits with individual family members.  These are often the pictures your parents and grandparents print and display in their homes because these moments are so meaningful to them, and as such, I want to make sure I’m capturing enough pictures of them with you. 

How is this different from the Formals portraits following the ceremony, you ask?  Well, during the Formals, we focus on more traditional portraits at the ceremony site.  Here, we have more flexibility with lighting and composition, allowing us to get a wider variety of shots. 

As a rough guide, it takes about 3 minutes to pose and capture each grouping of people.  If you have around 10 groupings, then, you’d want to plan at least 30 minutes of time for these portraits.

Ceremony Details – 30 minutes

This is another area that often goes overlooked.  You chose your venue and all of the wedding details (florals, colors, etc.) for a reason.  I want to memorialize these details for you in the best way possible, so it’s important to set aside 30 minutes of time for us to photograph your ceremony site before any guests are seated and after vendors have everything set up.   This way, we can capture the scene in the way you envisioned it. 

Formals – 30-40 minutes

Once the ceremony has ended (and you’re officially married…yay!!!), we will wait for roughly 10 minutes to allow guests to make their way out of the ceremony site and to the cocktail hour.  Then, we will dive into formal family and VIP portraits.  As I mentioned in the “Immediate Family” section, it’s a good idea to plan for roughly 3 minutes per group, so if you had 10 groupings, you’d want to plan for 30 minutes of photography time. 

During this part of the day, it’s incredibly helpful to have a list of groupings written on a sheet of paper and to designate someone from each side of the family to round people up.  This will make the process much more efficient and less stressful for all involved. 

Couples Session – 45 minutes

While the rest of your guests and wedding party head to the cocktail hour, this is our chance to duck out and capture beautiful pictures of the two newlyweds!  In an ideal world, we would start this session 30 to 45 minutes prior to sunset and finish shortly after dusk.  The light is at its most flattering during this time of day, and as sunset approaches, we’re able to capture the incredible colors of the sky. 

Note that the timing of this depends on the specific location of your venue.  If your venue sits in a valley or on a hillside, the sun might disappear earlier in the evening, so we’ll want to plan accordingly.

Reception Details – 30 minutes

Similar to the “Ceremony Details” described above, I want to capture all the beautiful details that you and your wedding planner picked out for your reception space.  To do this, we need to carve out 30 minutes of time before guests arrive and after your vendors have finalized all of the details. 

Reception First Look – 15 minutes

As I mentioned, couples often spend countless hours pouring over details to bring their ideal vision to life. Couples who wait until the grand entrance to see their reception space for the first time often don’t get to pause and appreciate the beauty of their hard work. By allotting time for a reception first look, you give yourselves a lovely private moment to soak it all in and to do one last practice for your first dance!

Couples Session (Reception Sneak Out) – 20 minutes

If you appreciate dramatic nighttime shots, you should absolutely plan to sneak out for a couple night portraits. I know it’s important to be a good host to your guests, and you want to be able to enjoy partying with those closest to you; as such, we will only take 20-30 minutes for this portion of the evening. Often times, the perfect time for these night portraits is after you’ve danced a few songs and would like to take a break. The dance floor is open, guests are having a great time, and few will notice your momentary absence. If you don’t want to step away from the dance floor, you could also choose to get these shots once all the guests have left at the end of the night.

Want to learn more? I’d love to chat with you! Feel free to reach out via the link here.

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I value taking the time to get to know each couple so that I can best tell the story of their love for each other in a manner that feels true to them. Get ready to fill your walls with memories that you will cherish for a lifetime!

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While each and every wedding is unique, it's important to plan for and devote sufficient time to each part of the wedding day. In this guide, we will explore the parts of the day that are particularly relevant to wedding photography, providing guidance on how much time should be allotted to each. 

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