When planning a wedding day, it can be difficult to decide what to put where. As photographers, one of the first things we help a bride flush out is the timeline on her day because everything revolves around photos more than anything else. Most brides are unsure of how long each thing will take, which is totally fine! Wedding planning can be completely new territory! If a bride is working with a planner, the stress is off her, and we coordinate with the planner directly.
While we customize a wedding timeline for each of our bride’s situations, here are some general guidelines.
In our experience, most ceremonies start 5-10 minutes late and run for about 20 minutes. Planning a ceremony for an hour before sunset ensures you have beautiful ceremony lighting and can get those just married, glowing photos right at sunset. This works perfectly if a bride and groom plan for a first look, then all photos of the family and bridal party can be taken before the ceremony.
In the event the bride and groom want to stick with tradition and see each other for the first time at the ceremony, it should be planned a few hours before sunset. The exact time may vary depending on the desired number of family portraits. These will take place during a lunch or cocktail hour. In this case, we plan extra time at sunset, typically during a reception to steal the bride and groom for their dreamy sunset portraits. If your wedding timeline doesn’t allow for optimal lighting, a bride may also choose to book an additional formal session before or after the wedding date for those dreamy wedding photos.
Family and Bridal Party Portraits
Family portrait time can be chaotic if not planned carefully in advance. We gather a complete family shot list in a wedding questionnaire before the big day, organize it to let people go as quickly as we can. The fewer people that have to wait the better. We recommend keeping this list to 10 portraits to keep the bride and groom and guests fresh. For 10 family portraits, we plan on 30 minutes of shoot time, and the numbers go up from there. So when planning your timeline, it is important to keep that in mind. If you want 30 groupings of photos on your big day, that is totally fine, and we are experts at getting everyone moved along at a good pace, but it will take roughly 90 minutes from your timeline.
We reserve portraits of the bridal party for after the family portraits are completed. In our experience, the bridal party is typically the most patient as we get parents and grandparents on their way and tending to other details. The bridal party portraits typically take 20-30 minutes, as they include more groupings. We also grab individual portraits with each bridal party member because the relationship a bride has with each one is special.
Getting Ready Shots
Our brides love getting ready shots. This is a time to photograph the bride and her bridesmaids in robes finishing up makeup and the zipping of the dress. This is such an emotional and beautiful time for the special women in a bride’s life when everything comes together and that, “Wow! I’m really getting married” moment hits. We recommend these shots take place at least 1 hour before a ceremony or first look if the bride is getting ready on location and 1 1/2 hours before if a bride is getting ready elsewhere.
In our experience, if a bride gets to a first look or ceremony on time, everything else in the wedding day will fall into place. Having a buffer before this is always a good idea. While I am photographing and helping the bride, Justin grabs groom and groomsmen shots and starts photographing ceremony décor.
Don’t Worry! We’ve Got You!
These 3 items are a good place to start when figuring out where to put everything and in which order. Of course, there are always differing situations and variations to these. After a bride books with us, we send examples of a timeline based on what type of ceremony is being held and how she sees her big day playing out. Rest assured we are there to help you every step of the way.