Want to know, what I think at least, is the #1 most important thing you can do while you are planning your wedding day? Making a detailed, thought out, customized wedding day timeline. Not only is this crucial for your wedding photographer, for every single vendor that is involved on the big day, but also for all of your guests! Think of this- - you aren’t really sure how long it takes for your hair style to be complete, where you want your bride and groom pictures to be at, whether or not you want to do a first look with your dad yet, where your family formals will take place and not sure what time, and you just are going to “wing it” the day of, and now all of a sudden your ceremony is starting and you are just now having a first look with your groom on the other side of the property and NO portraits have been taken yet. YIKES! That just made ME stressed and anxious just thinking about it! Those are two feelings that I wish on no bride on her wedding day. My biggest piece of advice I could ever give to a bride to be, plan out your timeline carefully and thoughtfully with your photographer.
One of the jobs I have on a wedding day is making sure everything is running smooth according to the timeline. You are going to be WAY too busy soaking in every single moment of that day with your bridesmaids, your family, your HUSBAND, you shouldn’t have to be the one to worry about what time it is and is everything running on schedule. I will MAKE SURE of it that everything is going according to that plan that we created together so all the pressure is on me, not you! Planning ahead for anything and everything in relation to your wedding day is always a good idea! Here is a detailed list of all the events that take place during a wedding day and how much time I usually suggest for your timeline. Some things don’t take as much time as listed but it is always better to plan for more time, then to be rushing during something and wishing there was more time.
I also want to mention, that every single wedding day is different in its own ways. Some have travel time in between the getting ready and the ceremony locations. Some don’t have wedding parties, some have earlier ceremony times depending on the time of year it is, and so on! No two weddings are the same, so there is no set “official” timeline to give you. The best thing to do is know how much time you need for each part of the day, and create your custom timeline with your photographer so you have all of your bases covered. So let’s get started with the groom and groomsmen getting ready!
• GROOM DETAILS // 30 Minutes
Grooms have special details too so I definitely want to make sure I capture these that morning. You might say “well, he’s just renting his shoes” or “his cologne is what he has been wearing for years so it’s not that special”. Wrong! Years from now, the style of grooms shoes are going to change. They might not even make that certain kind of cologne anymore by the time you are showing your grandkids your wedding photos and how cool would it be to still have a captured image of those things even though you don’t have the tangible item anymore. Don’t overlook the groom details. I promise it’ll be worth it!
• GROOM GETTING READY // 30 Minutes
The guys getting ready definitely looks A LOT different from the suite that the girls are getting ready in, which make sense even more to photograph it! For one, my brides will never see their grooms getting ready for his wedding day, so that is a reason in itself to have it photographed so she can see what happened later on. Whether the guys are sitting back drinking beers while a football game is one, playing pool in their casual clothes, or sharing cigars on the front porch before the big day starts to unfold, this is a special part of the day so I want to make sure we have enough time to capture these things happening!
Once it is time to get the groom in his tux, make sure you have figured out beforehand who you want in those photos to help him. Is his Dad going to be involved? Make sure he is already dressed and ready to go so he can be adjusting his son’s tie while looking his best!
• BRIDAL DETAILS // 1 Hour
This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day because I feel like this is where my creative juice start flowin’ ! My brides set out all of their bridal details which could be their shoes, both of her rings and her grooms ring, the invitation suite, earrings, perfume, etc.! To see a full list of bridal (and groom!) details you could have on your wedding day, view my bridal details checklist blog post HERE !
During this time I will bounce back and forth from shooting your details, to capturing you and your girls getting your hair and makeup done. I will also be capturing all of the dresses hanging somewhere beautiful and well lit so I always encourage having all the tags and plastic bags removed and hung on your custom hangers by the time I arrive so I can jump right into photos! If you gifted your bridesmaids special robes, this is when we will take those photos! If you want to share a glass of champagne with the most important ladies in your life, we could capture that either in your robes, or after everyone is dressed! Up to you! If you are wanting to do confetti poppers, this is the time to do that as well!
• BRIDE GETTING IN DRESS, PREP PHOTOS // 1 Hour
It’s time to get in your wedding dress! I suggest giving 1 hour for this part of the morning because this is usually when it starts to sink in, for everyone, that it is in fact your wedding day! Why rush this part?! I want you to be as relaxed and excited as possible to enjoy this moment. Depending on the type of dress you have, it might even take a few minutes and a small army to help you get into it! Make sure you know ahead of time who you want to be in these photos with you so they are in the room at the right time and are dressed for the day! You wouldn’t want your mom helping zip up your dress in her PJ’s and hair in curlers still! Haha!
Once you are in your dress, we begin your prep photos! All of the bridal details that I took time to style and photograph, you will begin to put on and make your bridal image come to life! Again, I want you to take your time with this and have FUN! Putting on your earrings, having your best friend clasp your necklace, spraying on that fancy perfume you splurged on (mmmm, take in that smell because every time you wear it after this day, it will take you right back!) , putting your garter on, other jewelry and hair pieces, and then the final touch-- your veil! After you are fully ready for your wedding day (eeekkk!!) we can pop some champagne if you didn’t do that already while getting ready!
• FIRST LOOK WITH DAD // 15 Minutes
Something that I did at my own wedding that I will cherish these moments forever is having a first look with my Dad. There was not a dry eye in the room when this happened! If this is something you are wanting to do on your wedding day, make sure we allow at least 15 minutes for this. We would need to contact him to come to your room which could take a few minutes, clear the room so there is enough space, and set him up so he knows what to expect is about to happen! Once it is all said and done, you are definitely going to want to get some touch ups on your makeup after you both have shared a few tears! If you have a special gift for your Dad, now could be the time that he opens it.
• TRAVEL TIME
Because every wedding is different, this means that travel time is always different! Maybe all of your events are happening at the same location or there are multiple places you are going that day! Please make sure that you remember to add in the appropriate travel time for all areas of the day for your photographer (and everyone else involved)! This could be from the grooms getting ready location to the brides getting ready location, from the brides location to the first look or ceremony location, from the ceremony to a portrait location, or the ceremony to the reception location! Allow more time than expected to account for traffic, etc.
• FIRST LOOK WITH GROOM // 15 Minutes
The big reveal! I usually plan for at least 15 minutes to let the first look happen because this is probably one of the biggest and most anticipated parts of the wedding day. When we figure out where this will take place, I will set up your groom (facing away!) and let him know what to expect and which direction to turn around. I will also guide you beforehand so you know what to do so then once you both are done having your moment together, you can let me know and we can start portraits! After I give you the green light, I don’t say a word until you say you are ready for photos. I let this beautiful moment unfold and I capture the heck out of it! Sometimes couples will share their own personal vows to each other at this time, give gifts, and just talk about how their morning went. I can’t tell you how much I encourage doing a first look because I did one myself on my own wedding day. It by no means “took away” from the aisle moment during the ceremony. It basically enhanced that moment because I wasn’t nervous anymore, and I was more EXCITED to marry that man at the altar! This also gives you two more time to BE TOGETHER on your wedding day because we usually will schedule this hours before your ceremony takes place. I could talk about SO many benefits of doing a first look, but I’ll save that for another blog post! Just trust me, do it and you will most definitely never, ever regret it!
• BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS // 30 Minutes
After your first look happens, we will start your first round of portraits together! This is another HUGE plus side to doing a first look because you will get TWO sets of portraits! One will be your bride and groom photos, and after your ceremony when you are officially and finally married, we will do your husband and wife photos! One way you can get even more variety out of your two portrait times is to do one set without your veil, and one set WITH your veil. I usually recommend doing the photos after your first look without your veil so there is still something that is a surprise for your groom when he sees you walk down the aisle!
• BRIDAL PORTRAITS & GROOM PORTRAITS // 15 Minutes
After we finish your bride and groom photos, we will jump right into bridal portraits and groom portraits individually! Photos of you both together is obviously important, but you will also want to get photos of you by yourself! During this time I will grab detail shots of your dress, you holding your bouquet, your hairstyle, close up of your makeup, your engagement ring on your hand to show off your nail style you chose, etc! Then I will do the same with your groom by himself!
• WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS // 45 Minutes - 1 Hour
1. BRIDE WITH BRIDESMAIDS
Wedding party time!! Another perk to having a first look is you get to complete all of your wedding party photos BEFORE the ceremony so when cocktail hour comes along, all of your friends get to go have a drink and mingle and know that they are no longer needed for photos! (unless you have family members in your wedding party of course!) I usually will start with the bride and her bridesmaids. I will capture the group together, get floral detail shots, and then jump right into doing individuals. This is when the bride and each girl separately will get photos together!
2. BIG GROUP PHOTOS
We will jump right into the big wedding party group photos with both the guys and the girls! This is such a fun part of the day because you are celebrating and having a blast with those special people you asked to be by your side on your wedding day and this will most likely be the only time (besides the ceremony) that you will be with all of these people together at the same time! So I love to make this part of the day relaxed and fun! After the big group photos are done, the bride and the bridesmaids are free to go touch up on their hair and makeup if needed before the ceremony begins.
3. GROOM WITH GROOMSMEN
Same thing I do with the girls, I do with the guys! I’ll have some fun poses to make this enjoyable for everyone and then we will start the individual photos with each groomsmen and the groom!
• FAMILY FORMALS // 30 Minutes
This is a part of the wedding day that, if it’s not organized and prepared ahead of time, can really take up a lot of time. HERE is a blog post that helps you make sure you know how to prepare yourself to make this as smooth as possible. I absolutely recommend only having your immediate family members be involved in this portion of photo time. Anything with aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, etc. can absolutely be taken during cocktail hour or the reception! Reserving family formals for only your immediate family members will not only help save with time, but it will also be less people you need to keep track of.
• CEREMONY DETAILS // 30 Minutes
While everyone is in hiding and freshen up, I will go over to the ceremony site and capture all of the details you planned and put so much thought into. I also love grabbing shots of the entire site before any of your guests arrive.
Ceremonies can typically run from 10 minutes long, 20 or 30 minutes long, to an hour. This all depends on you and your groom and what type of events you want to occur during your ceremony! Something HUGE to keep in mind when choosing your ceremony start and end time is knowing what time of year your wedding is because sunset will happen waaay earlier in the day in the winter than during the summer. So this will push back all of your portrait times to make sure we have enough light during the day. Natural lighting for portraits is highly recommended for so many reasons.
• HUSBAND & WIFE PORTRAITS // 30 Minutes
YAY! YOU’RE MARRIED!! Now we will move right into your husband and wife photos! I LOVE this part of the wedding day because the couple is just so happy, so excited and are literally on a cloud of joy! We spend a good amount of time capturing you two together and some of the main things I like to emphasis on is now your groom is wearing a wedding ring (yay!) and you will now have portraits with your veil on! I love getting creative to get as many dreamy photos while playing with your veil! After we are finished with these, because you did a first look, all of your portraits of the day are complete! You can now enjoy half of your cocktail hour with your friends and family! You can even run away to have a little bit of alone time with your HUSBAND if you wanted before we begin your reception!
• RECEPTION DETAILS & END OF COCKTAIL HOUR // 30 Minutes
While you are enjoying your cocktail hour, I am bouncing back and forth from capturing cocktail hour and photographing your reception details! This part of the day is usually the most you’ve planned out, decor wise! You have thought about how you want your escort card table to look, your centerpieces, your favors for all of your guests, which table linens you chose, the card box and gift table decor, table numbers, head table decor, etc! There is SO much that you can customize to make your wedding reception unique to you both as a couple and to match your overall wedding theme and vibe! You spent so much time (and money!) on these things so I want to make sure I capture every tiny detail untouched before your guests! This is also when I will photograph your wedding cake before it is cut and all of your desserts you planned out!
PARTY TIME! From the introductions, the cake cutting, speeches, first dances, bouquet toss, garter toss, open dancing and any other events happening during your reception, I will be there to capture it all! I give receptions more of a candid approach when it comes to photos and I let things happen as they unfold! If there are groups that you want photos of such as cousins, work friends, college friends, etc. , we can absolutely capture those here! I can 100% guarantee you, that I will be out on that dance floor WITH YOU dancing the night away and celebrating such an amazing day you had now that you and your husband are finally MARRIED! (and I always love to grab a quick photo with you two!!) Receptions can be anywhere from 4 hours to 6 hours usually and I will be there with you till the very end. When the DJ plays that last song of the night, I will photograph that amazing moment as all of your friends and family gather to the dance floor and share one more dance as a last hoo-rah!
Now that you know typically how much time should be given for each portion of the wedding day, here is a SAMPLE timeline so you can see everything put together. This is a very specific timeline that 1. Does not have travel times because both the bride and groom getting ready locations, the ceremony AND the reception are happening at the same place, 2. Has a first look, 3. Has a 30 minute ceremony and 4. Is a summer wedding so sunset is somewhere around 7:30.
11:00 - Groom Details & Getting Ready
12:00 - Bridal Detail Photos
1:00 - Bride Gets In Her Dress, Prep Photos
2:00 - First Look with Groom
2:15 - Bride and Groom Portraits
2:45 - Bride and Groom Individual Portraits
3:00 - Wedding Party Portraits
4:00 - Family Formals
4:30 - Ceremony Details
5:00 - Ceremony START
5:30 - Ceremony END
5:30 - Husband and Wife Portraits
6:00 - Cocktail Hour and Reception Details
6:30 - Introductions
6:40 - Cake Cutting
6:45 - Dinner Begins & Speeches
7:30 - First Dances During Sunset , Dance Floor Opens
8:30 - Bouquet & Garter Toss
11:00 - Reception Ends
YIKES! I know that was A TON of information, but I hope it was helpful to you and gave you an idea of an overall outline of a wedding day! Remember, every wedding day is different and needs different customizations to make sure everything that they couple wants, gets done with the perfect amount of time. The best thing to do is be as open in your communication with your photographer as you can about your vision for your wedding day and what you want to happen! Us wedding photographers, we aren’t super hero’s, but we make things happen and make sure your wedding day is everything you dreamed it would be and so much more!
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