Guide: Wedding Photography Timeline

Creating your wedding photography timeline

Clients often ask if I have any suggestions for the wedding timeline that could be helpful from the photography side of things. The main thing that can affect the order of your timeline is whether you want to do your photos before or after the ceremony. From experience, it seems my clients are much happier when they do their photos before the ceremony so they get to mingle with guests for the rest of the day. In the end, it’s totally up to you and your personal preference though!

Here is an example timeline for having all your photos done before the ceremony.

Please keep in mind that this is meant to be a guideline for your planning process. I encourage you to do whatever you’d like to make your wedding special, and I’ll be thrilled to document it.

Example of wedding day timeline
  • 12 pm – getting ready photos client #1 and client #2 (separately)
  • 1 pm – get dressed and portraits (separately)
  • 2:00 – 2:15 pm – travel to first look
  • 2:15 – 2:30 pm – first look
  • 2:30 – 3:00 pm – couple portraits
  • 3:00 – 3:30 pm – wedding party portraits
  • 3:30 – 4:00 pm – family formals
  • 4:00 – 4:30 pm – couple refresh/photo break (we usually take shots of the ceremony and guests arriving)
  • 4:30 – 5:00 pm – ceremony
  • 5:00 – 6:00 pm – cocktail hour (candid photos of guests, any family formals that were missed, second photographer shoots reception setup)
  • 6:00 pm – dinner (photos of speeches, guest candids)
  • 7:00 pm – sneak out of reception to do a few sunset photos with couple
  • 7:30 pm onward – photograph any group shots that are requested of guests and couple, shoot candids, cake cutting, first dance and dance party
  • ~10:00 pm – we leave when I feel like we’ve got a good amount of fun dance photos

More often than not, I work with an assistant for full day weddings. Most couples have us start at 12-1pm and stay until 10-11pm.

Most of the day is approached with a documentary style of photography. I like to blend in with the guests and capture what’s going on in the moment. I offer more instruction when we do group photos and couple portraits and ensure we capture photos with those who are close to you.

The day usually starts with getting ready. From time to time I may ask you to stand in a spot that has better lighting for a photo, but otherwise I try to capture things as they happen in the room.

wedding photography timeline

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A few more things to consider…

Think about where you want to have your photos done and factor in the travel time needed if the locations are not on the same property as the ceremony or reception.

How long photos could take

If you’re really not set on seeing your partner before the ceremony, you’ll have to do the majority of your photos afterwards. Allow about 75-90 minutes if that’s the case

Sharing the timeline

Make sure that everyone who needs to know the schedule has a copy of it so they know when and where they need to be! Also, it’s a good idea to put somebody other than yourself in charge of tracking down late family members.

Keep in mind that weddings usually run off schedule at some point or another so when you feel that starting to happen don’t stress! Just relax and remember you got this because you planned for it!

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