6 Tips for Creating the Perfect Wedding Photography Timeline

By | April 10, 2015 | Wedding Advice

You’re planning your wedding! It’s an exciting time – and also a little overwhelming. Unless you’re a professional event planner I doubt you’ve planned a celebration this size before. So where the heck do you start? One place to begin is to plan out a great photography timeline.

My job as your photographer is to make sure you have the resources to achieve a  well thought out timeline. You will spend more time focusing on your partner and less time worrying about getting family photos done before guests start arriving.

Here are my top 6 tips for creating the perfect photography timeline:

Bride and groom kissing at Hidden Meadows wedding during photography timeline

Start with the basics and adjust

Here’s the most common timeline for a wedding with 8 hours of photography coverage, the ceremony at 4 pm, sunset at 8:30 pm, and reception ending at 10 pm:

1:00 – photographer arrives/getting ready photos
1:30 – first look/couple photos
2:30 – bridal party photos
3:00 – family photos
3:30 – family photos done/guests start arriving
4:00 – ceremony
4:40 – ceremony ends
4:50 – cocktail hour
6:00 – dinner starts
6:30 – toasts
7:00 – first dances
7:15 – general dancing
8:00 – golden hour/sunset photos
8:30 – dessert
9:00 – photography ends
10:00 – couple departs/reception end

Every wedding is unique and you are by no means required to follow this exact timeline. But it’s a great starting point. You might not want any photos of you getting ready and would rather have more coverage of all your crazy college friends dancing. Or you might decide to skip the bridal party photos and spend more time taking couple portraits. As your photographer we will work together to determine how long you need for events and what timeline arrangement is the best for you.

Bride getting ready for her Woodland Park Zoo wedding during photography timeline
 Bride getting ready for her Hubbard Park Lodge Milwaukee wedding during photography timeline

Pad extra time between events

Adapting your timeline to how the day runs is inevitable. Rarely do weddings end up starting every event on the exact time. But as long as you are getting within 10 minutes to when you need to it will still run smoothly. It’s also helpful to add extra time if you plan on changing locations between the ceremony, reception venue and where you want portraits taken. Traffic, people getting lost and life happens – and if you end up with some extra time that just means more photos!

Within Sodo wedding party in Seattle during photography timeline
Waimea Plantation Cottages wedding Kauai family portrait during photography timeline
Swan Trail Farms wedding first look with bride and groom during photography timeline

Family photos before the ceremony

Doing your formal portraits before the ceremony has it’s advantages. You spend less time wrangling family members during cocktail hour when they keep getting distracted by the bar or by socializing. People also tend to be more put together earlier in the day. Jackets aren’t scattered everywhere and heels are still on the feet rather than kicked off after the ceremony. It’s also best to photograph everyone before they start crying during the vows. Best of all, you get to mingle with your guests after the ceremony. Where you can drink that signature cocktail and eat those amazing appetizers.

Center for Urban Horticulture wedding in Seattle reception bride groom sunset portrait during photography timeline

Two sets of couple portraits

Allowing two separate times for couple portraits leads to some great moments. Images taken before the ceremony tend to relieve some of the nervousness. It also is typically when you’re looking the freshest. Photos right before sunset are – in my opinion – some of the best. The light is beautiful and you and your partner are married, relaxed and maybe even a little tipsy. It’s also a nice excuse to take a breather from the crazy dancing and socializing.

Bride and groom during toasts at their Melrose Market Studios wedding reception in Seattle during photography timeline

Toasts during dinner

The absolute best time to do toasts is during dinner. You’ll have everyone already gathered and captivated. People can still eat and the caterers can still clear tables and fill up drinks. Just make sure you have toast givers get their food in the first wave. Otherwise they might be too busy eating and miss the cue to start talking!

Have a person in charge

Having a person you trust supervising  your timeline is key to a smooth wedding day.  It can be a wedding day coordinator, a close friend, or an awesome coworker. You just need someone who can take charge and make sure events are following your schedule.

Reception tent at Waimea Plantation Cottages wedding in Kauai during photography timeline

More Photography Timeline Tips

If you’re looking for more suggestions on how to craft a wedding timeline I highly recommend the A Practical Wedding timeline series. Elizabeth from Lowe House Creative breaks down an event and covers all the different variations of the wedding day timeline.

Still have questions? Send me an email or give me a call and let’s grab a drink to talk about your wedding day plans!

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