In all of my years of photographing weddings, I’ve quickly found out that no two weddings are the same. And I get a lot of questions from my brides who need help with the timeline because it’s super important. So I’ve come up with a quick guide that will surely help you get a head start with your own wedding timeline, whether you’re doing a traditional church wedding or a first look. And of course, we will finalize everything as your big day comes closer.
Bride’s Details + Hair and Makeup (45 Minutes)
We start the day by dividing and conquering. Yasmin takes bridal details while her second shooter takes bridal hair and makeup candids. It takes her about 45 minutes to an hour to photograph all of the details thoroughly with plenty of variety. Once Yasmin is done, she focuses on getting final touches of the bride’s hair and makeup.
Bride & Groom Getting Dressed (45 Minutes)
Sometimes, the couple exchanges gifts so we build in extra time for that prior to the couples getting dressed. This also includes first looks with Dad/Mom, if there’s a snag on the dress, fun bridal party pictures or needing to retouch makeup. If the couple decides to get ready on separate properties, we just do some quick mock getting ready photos of the groom when he arrives at the venue. This is why we always advice our couples to always get ready at the same location so that we can get more pictures of the groom getting ready too.
Walk to First Look (15 Minutes)
We’ve found out that it takes about 15 minutes to stage the first look. Even if the spot is close, we never want to underestimate how long it takes for a bride to walk in her heavy gown, long veil and high heels. Allotting fifteen minutes gives us 5 minutes for the couple to each get to the location, 5 minutes for the bride to get hidden and the groom to get in position and explain to the both of them what’s going to happen.
First Look (15 Minutes)
Even though the actual first look moment only takes a few minutes, we like to give our couples 15 minutes for this so the bride and groom have a chance to see each other, embrace, talk for a bit, soak it all in, retouch makeup (if needed) and finish early — which gives us more portrait time!
Bride & Groom Portraits + Individuals (30 Minutes)
Our goal here is three-fold: 10 minutes of bride and groom portraits in one location, 10 minutes of individual portraits (bride alone and groom alone) in another location (5 minutes each) and 10 minutes of bride and groom portraits again. That way, if for some reason something goes awry later in the day (like inclement weather) and you’re not able to do husband and wife sunset portraits, you’ve still gotten bride and groom portraits in two distinct locations and their individuals as well. So, even in the worst case scenario, you’ve got what you need for an album and blog post to feel complete, and they have great photos, even if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Bride with Bridesmaids (15 Minutes)
We always start with the girls because a) they’re the most excited, b) we want them with fresh hair and makeup and c) if we go a little longer with them, it’s easy to make up time with the guys later. We begin with individual photos of the bride and each of her bridesmaids. That takes about five minutes, depending on the size of the bridal party and if the bride has any special requests, like a photo of her and her sisters, as an example. From there, we still have ten minutes to get several distinct poses with the whole group, as well as supplementary detail shots of their bouquets.
Full Bridal Party Pictures (15 Minutes)
We do this in the middle so that the girls don’t have to wait around for the guys. Also, so the guys can bring chairs from the ceremony site if it’s a large bridal party. By the time we get the chairs setup and everyone organized, it’s been five minutes (at least). From there, we have five to ten minutes to get three different looks. We typically don’t move them from their positions in the group once we have it set when it’s a large group (we mix the guys and girl up at the beginning boy-girl-boy-girl) but we’ll ask them to do different things where they’re standing to give us more variety for the client’s final gallery. If they’re a smaller group, we’re able to mix it up more in a shorter amount of time.
Groom with Groomsmen (15 Minutes)
This runs just like the girls’ section. We do individuals first and then the whole group. Typically guys love the wacky pictures so we have them do a fun pose after all of the formal pictures are done.
Immediate Family Photos (30 Minutes)
We allocate 30 minutes for immediate family photos as close to the ceremony start time as possible, but with enough time so that the guests haven’t arrived yet. We have a printed list from the bride and groom that we get from them in their questionnaire which helps us run through family combinations quickly.
Bride & Groom Hide, Rest & Retouch + Ceremony Decor (30 Minutes)
This window is crucial. It gives our couple time to hide away from their guests, relax and retouch before the ceremony, and it also gives us a shooting cushion if for some reason the timeline gets behind.
Wedding Ceremony (30 – 60 Minutes)
On average, we find that most ceremonies start five to ten minutes late and last about twenty minutes. If it starts on time and gets done early, that’s just a bonus for us because of all the photos we have to get during cocktail hour.
Reception Details & Cocktail Hour ( 30 Minutes)
We find that we usually have to wait until the very last few minutes before the doors open for entrances to take the full-room reception shots because the waitstaff are setting up until the very last minute. In that case, start with tight shots of the small details, like centerpieces, place settings, cake, etc. and then get the big, pulled-back, full-room shots at the last minute.
Reception (120 Minutes or more)
We tell our clients that if they can do grand entrances and first dances when they walk in, toasts in-between salad and dinner service, and cake-cutting right after dinner, they can have all the major milestone moments completed in 90 minutes. That leaves 30 minutes for open dancing photographs.
And there you have it! I hope that this guide has helped give you an idea of how your wedding day will flow. If you have any questions about specific things you want included in your wedding, please don’t hesitate to message or email me! See you soon lovelies!