READ TIME: 9 Minutes
Why is a detailed wedding day timeline so important?
Well, they help you feel relaxed throughout the day, knowing when everything will occur. And because they ensure you get all of the photos you want.
“But,” you might be thinking, “It’s a timeline. It’s pretty straightforward. Right?!”
You’re not wrong. BUT, you may be surprised by just how much thought goes into creating one. Especially from a photography perspective.
And because many couples and sometimes even planners underestimate the amount of time required to take quality photos, we like to be involved in the timeline creation process.
Keep reading to find out what we mean.
How We Create Your Timeline
Photographers and planners all create timelines a little differently. Some start with the beginning of the day and work their way to the end. Others start at the end and work their way backward. Us? We use your ceremony start time as an anchor. Why? Because it’s the most significant part of the day.
We start on your timeline approximately 1-2 months before. This way, the ceremony time is (typically) set in stone. And the timing of other events has been ironed out.
Using your ceremony as an anchor, we work backward and forward depending on your planned events and priorities. For instance, if getting ready images with your friends is more important than family portraits, we’ll plan for more time in the beginning.
If your ceremony time is fluid, we like to adjust the timeline to incorporate golden hour (the time of day just before sunset) for portraits. These are usually the coveted outdoor portraits just before sunset that every couple wants.
How to Build Your Timeline
Wedding days for Christian or Western weddings are typically broken down into three categories: Getting ready, the ceremony, and the reception.
On average, getting ready consists of about 2.75-3.50 hours worth of photos, based on the following breakdown:
- Details shots (Dress, shoes, rings, and other details): 30-45 minutes
- Getting ready: 1-1.5 hours
- Bride makeup & hair: 20 minutes
- Bride + bridesmaids robe or pajamas photos: 15-20 minutes
- Bride getting dressed: 20 minutes
- Bride solo portraits: 15 minutes
- Gift exchange: 10 minutes
As you are getting ready, one of us will be photographing your partner and the other wedding party members. So, rather than adding more time to the schedule, we save time by photographing both parties simultaneously.
Based on the amount of coverage you need, we’ll help you determine when our start time should be and, based on your priorities, how much time we need to allot for each event. Opposite of what most hair and makeup artists recommend, we suggest the bride get her hair and makeup done first to avoid the risk of running late. And, if needed, you can get touchups done before getting dressed.
As far as choosing where to get ready, we recommend a room with lots of natural light. Your hair and makeup team will appreciate this too! It’s also good to keep this room as clean as possible, so plan for a quick tidy-up before we arrive. Or, better yet, if you’re getting ready at a hotel, schedule housekeeping to do it.
And for images like flat lays and personal details, collect these items together the night before or morning of and leave them all in one place so we can easily find them – as it’s often the first thing we’ll capture when we arrive. These items usually include rings, shoes, perfume/cologne, jewelry, accessories, and the complete invitation suite. This way,
1) we won’t have to bug you for them as you’re getting ready.
2) It’s assured that we capture them. And
3) we can quickly move on to the next set of images on our schedule.
The ceremony portion of the day consists of the ceremony + portraits either before and/or after. And usually lasts about 2.75-3.50 hours:
- Couple first look: 15 minutes
- Couple portraits: 1-1.5 hours
- Family portraits: 30 minutes
- Wedding party: 30-45 minutes
- Ceremony details: 15-20 minutes
- Ceremony: 30-60 minutes
Depending on whether you do a first look, we will take couples and family portraits after or before the ceremony. One of the many perks of a first look is that it saves you time for more couples’ portraits after or to join guests at cocktail hour. But, if you’re the traditional type, that’s fine too! And we’ll ensure your timeline reflects your priorities and the images you want to the best ability.
(Note: If you’re having a winter wedding, we recommend doing a first look as there is a limited amount of time to work with natural light before sunset.)
The time for family portraits is always different for each wedding. This is because the number of family members and groupings of family members we need to photograph varies. We plan for 2-3 minutes to gather and pose everyone, take the picture, and transition to the next group for every grouping.
If you elect NOT to do a first look, we recommend all family portraits be taken AFTER the ceremony. This way, you don’t have to ask your family to be early AND stay late before and after. We’ll just get it done in one fell swoop. And IF you plan on doing a first look, we can save time by doing some before.
And if the time allows (roughly 1 hour), we like to get creative and orchestrate unique portraits of your wedding party.
Whether you do a first look or not can also factor into your ceremony start and end time. For example, if you do a first look, your ceremony only needs to conclude 15-30 minutes before sunset so we can immediately go into golden hour couple portraits. But if you decide to do a first look, it’s best if your ceremony ends approximately 1-1.5 hours before sunset, so we have time for family portraits. And then couples portraits during golden hour.
All that aside, we recommend scheduling the 20-30 minutes before your ceremony as downtime. This way, you can take a minute to drink some water, powder your nose, or grab a quick bite to eat. You can soak in the moment and take in what’s about to happen (aka, you getting married!)
However, if you’re the nervous type and need something to keep your mind busy, we’ll just continue taking portraits.
While your entire day will feel like it’s flashing by in the blink of an eye, your reception will fly by the fastest. And we like to be there to capture every minute of it, which usually looks like the following:
- Sunset or night-time portraits: 15-20 minutes
- Cocktail Hour: 1 hour
- Formalities (Toasts, speeches, dances): 1 hour
- Open dance floor: 1 – 2 hours
- Private last dance: 5 minutes
- Send-off: 10 minutes
After the ceremony concludes and all of the family portraits have been taken, one of us will focus on couple’s portraits while the other focuses on setting up our equipment in the reception space and taking reception detail images. All in all, this takes approximately 45-minutes. If there’s enough time left over and/or if it’s important to you, we’ll finish out the remainder of this time capturing cocktail hour.
When it comes to dancing, we commonly get asked how much time we need to be there for. And the answer is always, “It depends.” If the thing you’re looking forward to most is having fun with your friends on the dance floor, then yes, us staying throughout the entire night makes sense. And especially if you have a fun formal send-off with sparklers or confetti or a cool getaway car.
If you or your family are not the dancing type, though, or you don’t have plans for a formal send off, we recommend you have us stay for about 1-1.5 hours into dancing.
Remember – every wedding is different. And so will every timeline.
And if you’re ready for us to start working on yours, give us a shout!