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Everything you need to know about planning your photography timeline

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

"How much time do we need for that?"

"What time should our photographer arrive?"

"How long will family photos take?"

I've got you girl. For most of us planning our wedding, we've never done this before!

I remember from my own wedding how daunting it felt to be responsible for lining up all the little pieces.

After photographing weddings for a couple of years, there are definitely things I would have done differently on my own wedding timeline - but hey, you live and you learn!

Keep in mind that this is what typically works well - these are not rules set in stone - they're just ideas to get you started. Your wedding is YOUR day - so do whatever the heck feels right.

When should photography start?

I recommend starting your coverage at least 3 hours before your ceremony and 1 hour before you put your dress on. I will arrive at least 15 minutes before your start time to get set up and settled in - so I'll be ready to go!

Gather your details the day before.

Wedding mornings are the best kind of beautiful chaos. I recommend collecting all your details - rings, jewelry, perfume, invitations/stationary, veil, and shoes - in one place so they're ready to go when your photographer arrives! Your shoe box is actually a great place to keep all your precious bits and pieces safe. If you can, have your florist deliver bouquets to your getting ready location so they can be included in your detail shots. Remember: If your groom is getting ready at a separate location, make extra sure the rings are with the bride for getting ready!

Don't forget travel time.

When planning your timeline, make sure you account for the time it will take to get from one place to another - even if there's no driving involved! Getting your wedding party from the getting ready suite to the other side of a venue property might take more than 10 minutes, depending on the distance (and personalities - we've all got that one friend) - so create buffer time. Tip: As a rule of thumb I add in 1.5x the travel time into the schedule - so if its a 10 minute drive, allow for 15 minutes.

Savor the down time.

Plan at least 30 minutes of down time - no photos, no travelling - before your ceremony begins. Drink some water, sit down, have a snack if you can, and take a few moments to center yourself before walking down the aisle. Wedding days are wonderful and filled with joy - but they're also LONG. So make sure you're hydrated and take breaks when you can.

Family Photos

I'm not the kind of photographer who will pressure you to skip the family formals - they can be really special keepsakes, especially if the whole family doesn't get together often. I recommend scheduling family formals directly after the ceremony. This works well since everyone is already in one place and we can be quite efficient. Tip: Write as detailed a list as possible - with relationship to you as well as names - for quick organization on the day.

Budget 3 minutes per family grouping and 8 minutes for groups with more than 10 people.

After your ceremony and portraits are done - It's party time!

A couple of things to think about -

  • Do you want to attend cocktail hour? Appetizers are good. And you probably spent time picking out the perfect ones, so decide if you're okay missing out. I find that after the excitement and anticipation of the ceremony is over, you'll be HUNGRY. So even if you're taking photos during cocktail hour, make sure you plan for someone to sneak you some food!

  • Look up what time the sun sets on your wedding day. For golden hour portraits, plan to step out of your reception for 15 minutes about a half hour before the sun sets. So if the sunset is at 8:12 PM, we can get portraits in the glowy light at 7:45 PM.

  • Are you planning a big exit? I love sparklers! If you're planning a big send-off you have two options - extend coverage till the end of the night OR stage an early exit run with just your wedding party.

And finally - when should photography coverage end?

My rule of thumb is to have your photography coverage go until an hour after the first dance - this will give plenty of time for dancing candids and any extra group shots with friends.

Ultimately, this is YOUR day - so do your research, think through your priorities, and plan your timeline however the heck makes sense for you! If you don't have a wedding party (or have 24 bridesmaids) - change things up! There are endless ways to have a perfect wedding day - so don't get too caught up in the details. You got this.

My job as your photographer is to capture it all, however it unfolds. And I cannot freaking wait.

Happy planning beautiful people!

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