Your wedding images are your first family heirlooms and become a symbol of your vows alongside your wedding rings. It’s well-worth the financial investment to bring a photographer into capturing the joyful emotions and intimate moments of you and your spouse becoming husband and wife.
However, one of the common mistakes we see is when a bride and groom fail to invest enough time on their wedding day for photography.
This happens most often when the couple is feeling pressure on their budget to limit the hours of photography coverage or is unsure on how much time it takes to photograph each individual portion of the wedding day.
The best part? You don’t have to do it alone. Your team of wedding vendors from the venue coordinator, priest/officiant, catering staff, florist, DJ, photographer, wedding planner (if you have one), etc. are all experts on balancing the art and science of the wedding day timeline. They know the in’s and out’s of how quickly dinner can be served, how long the ceremony will be, and how much time to allocate for family pictures.
We make it a priority to help our couples plan their wedding day timelines from our first consultation meeting and finalize it around their unique circumstances and priorities once we reach the final month before the big day. This ensures there is enough time to capture all of the details of the day at a steady pace to prevent your day from feeling rushed or losing momentum from too much downtime.
These three simple sections below will guide you through how you can get a head start on creating the perfect wedding day timeline for you.
What is most important to you?
The first step to creating your perfect wedding day timeline is to determine what your highest priority is when it comes to capturing your first family heirlooms.
When we were planning our own wedding, I had a list of priorities that were sentimental and important to my overall vision for the wedding day. For example, I always envisioned taking getting ready pictures alongside my bridesmaids who would be toasting champagne while flaunting matching robes and praying over me before I walked down the aisle, I pictured my mom tenderly buttoning me into my wedding dress, I dreamed of my dad’s teary-eyed grin when he saw his little girl standing before him all grown up as a beautiful bride, I imagined seeing formal family portraits from the altar hanging beside the generations of marriages before us on the walls of our future home. Not to mention that I also wanted to remember the little details like the invitation suite and my accessories so that I could one day show my future children, nieces, and nephews what styles were trending at the time for better or for worse.
So, what’s your vision?
Key Questions to Ask:
- Are you planning on doing a first look?
- Where you do you envision taking your family pictures and wedding party pictures?
- Do you want photos of just your immediate family (parents, siblings, grandparents) or to also include large extended family shots (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)?
- How many locations do you want to have photos at? This includes: the getting ready suite, the ceremony location, reception venue, additional location, etc.
Are there any constraints?
The second step to creating your perfect wedding day timeline is to consider the constraints you have from your venues and season.
We’ve encountered dozens of weddings where we were only able to be in the building for 15 minutes after the ceremony due to other religious services happening there in the evening. This can have a significant impact on when and where family pictures are taken, especially if having them at the church or ceremony location is important to you.
Key Questions to Ask:
- What time of day is available for your ceremony?
- What time of day do you plan on serving dinner at the reception?
- Are there time restrictions on when you can be in either the ceremony or reception location?
- How much time does it take to travel between each location? (This is often a hidden one!)
- What time does sunset occur for the day you are getting married? The amount of daylight for outdoor photos changes drastically from one season to another in the Midwest. You can use this Sunset Calculator to look-up the city of your wedding and scroll down to change the month and date for your wedding.
How long does wedding photography take?
Below is our recommendation on the minimum amount of time you should allocate for each event of the day.
We want you to have a wedding day that moves at a steady pace throughout the day for two key reasons. First, so that you do not feel rushed. Second, to also avoid excessive downtime that can make the day lose its momentum.
We like looking at the timeline in this way so that you can re-order each part to align with your priorities and constraints that you determined above.
Note: if you are working with a different wedding photographer, you will want to consult them directly on this portion.
- 60-90 Minutes – Getting Ready – This includes everything from: the fun getting ready with your bridesmaids and groomsmen + details of the dress, rings, jewelry, flowers, invitations, etc. + actually putting on your attire and capturing the reactions of your mom and wedding party.
- 15 minutes – First Look
- 30 minutes – Bride & Groom out of sight from guests before ceremony (makeup retouch, prayer)
- 30-75 minutes – Wedding Ceremony (varies depending on affiliation)
- 30 minutes – Immediate Family portraits (parents, siblings, grandparents)
- 15+ minutes – Extended Family Combinations/Important Relationships (we recommend one large group photo per side to include aunts, uncles, and cousins)
- 45 minutes – Wedding Party (group shots and capturing each individual relationship)
- 30 minutes – Bride and Groom Newlywed Portraits (If you didn’t do a first look, plan on 45-60 minutes to have more time together on your wedding day)
- 20-30 minutes – Reception Details (during cocktail hour)
- 20 minutes – Sunset Portraits (ending 30 minutes prior to the schedule sunset)
- 125+ minutes – Reception Time
- Guests seated and Grand Entrance
- Blessing of the meal
- Dinner (plan at least 45 minutes before starting speeches)
- Cake Cutting
- Toasts & Speeches
- First Dances
- Candid dancing & Specialty songs
Be sure to add in travel time when planning your wedding day timeline. The number of locations a couple has on a wedding day widely varies from one to five separate locations. These locations often include a getting ready suite for each the bride and groom, the ceremony location, the reception venue, a first look location, and wedding party photos.
Did you find this helpful? Share it with your fiancé to start planning your wedding day timeline and to put any worries to rest!