Wedding Day Timeline
Hands down, the thing that I get the most questions about from my couples is how to plan and out and schedule their wedding day in order to get the best photographs. It always makes my heart happy when they do consult me, because even though, as a photographer, I will always make the best of every situation and go with the flow while being as unobtrusive as possible, it definitely helps me out when we come up with a game plan beforehand and try to hammer out an optimal schedule.
The first thing you should be aware of about the schedule-making process is that things almost never go according to the schedule. I mean, it’s a wedding day. It’s pretty much guaranteed that at some point, things will fall behind, an unexpected hiccup will rear its ugly head, or at least one groomsman will think that the time he was told to show up was more a friendly suggestion than anything. But that doesn’t mean you should throw the idea of a schedule to the wind. In my opinion, the best way to approach it is as a set of guidelines, not concrete rules, because honestly… do you really need to give yourself any more reasons to potentially have a meltdown on your wedding day? Running a little behind schedule should not be one of them. If you’re laid back and just focused on enjoying your day, then everyone around you will be too.
When you sit down to create your outline for the day, one of the first things we encourage our couples to consider or determine is whether or not they plan on having a "first look" or not. The first look is a beautiful little piece of the day that happens if the bride and groom decide to see each other before the ceremony. As a photographer, it's one of those golden moments we want to capture as part of your wedding story. The timeline for your day will differ greatly if you prefer to have a first look or if you don't. If you DO plan on having a first look, it relaxes the timeline so that we can shoot wedding party formals - and even family formals - before the ceremony, without worrying that the couple will accidentally see each other. If not, that's great too! We just encourage our couples to remember the time it takes for those photographs after the ceremony and to build it into their day.
(For all the reasons why I think First Looks are pretty awesome, CHECK OUT THE POST I WROTE ABOUT THEM HERE.)
Here are the minimum times to consider when making your photography timeline:
*all times are the suggested minimum amount of time needed. All weddings are different based on how many hours you have hired me for. Some weddings will only have me for 6 hours while others will have us for 8, 10 or 12 giving us much more allotted time in each category.
Preparation - 60 minutes
We need at least 60 minutes for prep photos. During this time I get shots of all the details, the bride getting her hair and makeup done, relaxing with all of her closest girls and of course putting that gorgeous dress on. Just a little tip for keeping things running smoothly: we find it helps a lot to have the items that our couples want detailed shots of (rings, invitations, shoes, hair pieces, bracelets, necklaces, grandmothers handkerchief, notes, written vows, etc.) all gathered together in a bag at the same location where the ladies are getting ready. This allows us to work with these items while we are with the women, and to make sure all those little details are captured early on in the day before things get spread out. I also recommend your flowers arriving ahead of time so we can include them in all these pre-ceremony shots
Family Formals - 30 minutes
I really like to get through the family formals as fast as possible. If you are limited on time, I highly suggest that you have your families with you at your designated getting ready locations.
To ensure that you get the maximum time to enjoy your wedding day, we suggest talking to your relatives before hand to be prepared to start formals within five minutes after the ceremony or when they arrive for formals. We encourage our couples to keep the formals to immediate family members. If you would like to have formals done with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, other extended family and friends we can gladly accommodate those during the reception.
If there is anything that you'd like like outside of the below list, please make a list of the groups you would like to have in each shot. Formal photographs of family and the wedding party with the couple are just a small part of the images that will be taken, but are generally the ones in which assistance and planning is required. I strongly suggest you ask a family member/friend to act as the photo coordinator – someone (not in the wedding) who knows who everyone (or almost everyone) is and can help me move everyone to place.
For a traditional formal list with immediate family only, it would look like this:
Bride with Grandparents
Bride, Groom and Bride's Grandparents
Bride with Mother
Bride with Father
Bride with Mother & Father
Bride, Groom and Bride's Parents
Bride with Siblings (you may want to do individually or as a group)
Bride, Groom and Bride's Siblings
(Optional - you decide)
Bride with Mother, Father and Siblings
Bride, Groom and Brides entire family
Groom with Grandparents
Bride, Groom and Groom's Grandparents
Groom with Mother
Groom with Father
Groom with Mother & Father
Bride, Groom and Groom's Parents
Groom with Siblings (you may want to do individually or as a group)
Bride, Groom and Groom's Siblings
(Optional - you decide)
Groom with Mother, Father and Siblings
Bride, Groom and Grooms entire family
Bride, Groom and Both Sets of Parents
Bride, Groom and all Siblings
Bride, Groom and both families combined
I understand that not all families are traditional and need different set ups to accommodate family relationships. Please add in all set ups that are required (and add an extra 2-3 minutes per grouping)
Wedding Party Photos - 45 minutes
Allotting at least 10-15 minutes for bride and bridesmaids, 10-15 minutes for the groom and groomsmen, and 10-15 minutes for full wedding party for pictures is ideal.
If you have less than an hour between the ceremony and reception for photos..
After the girls are done getting dressed I would get the photos of the bride and the bridesmaids. Then it would ideal if the boys were getting ready down the street from the girls, in the same hotel, or already at the venue of the ceremony location, so that I can run over there early and get the groom/groomsmen photos done before the ceremony. This way, because the separate groups are already done we are able to finish faster. Your wedding party will be very thankful to you =). They aren’t called the party for nothing!
Here are the groupings:
Bride with Maid of Honor
Bride with each bridesmaid/flower girl individually
Bride with all of the girls together
Groom with best man
Groom with each groomsmen/ring bearer individually
Groom with all of the guys
Entire Wedding Party
Bride, Groom, best man and maid of honor
Bride with groomsmen
Groom with bridesmaids
Bride & Groom with flower girl and ringbearer
Bride + Groom Only – 30 minutes.
It is important to have some time without anyone else there while we take portraits of the two of you. You will be more relaxed and able to just concentrate on each other for some romantic pictures. Most of our couples tell us how much of a relief it is to get away from everything for that time and just spend it with each other (and me) while having a few calm moments from a day that is filled with anxiousness and emotion. It really gives you a break from everything.
You will definitely want time for portraits of the two of you alone. I can't tell you how many times brides worry so much about family/wedding party formals or caterers or coordinators breathing down their neck that they forget pictures of the two of them alone or simply don't make time for this and we end up rushing before entering the reception. If you're stressed over time, you will see it in your pictures. This is your day, you've worked very hard to get here, so relax, enjoy it, and have fun. This is VERY important, so please be sure there is 30 minutes set aside for this.
If your wedding events are happening in different locations, it is important to schedule travel time in your timeline. Please remember that traffic happens, especially in urban areas! So add in wiggle room. =)