Wedding Day Timeline Tips!
As wedding photographers we are a bit obsessed with wedding timelines because we know it can make or break a wedding. We want your day to be AMAZING and as stress free as possible! So we're here to give you some insider tips on wedding day timing to allow for breathing room so you don't feel rushed and can truly enjoy it! Not to mention these tips will help us create the best photos for you to enjoy.
Wedding Day Timeline Allowances
1.5 - 4 hours Bride & Bridesmaids Getting Ready (depends on number of bridesmaids, including some group photos of bride with bridesmaids)
1.5 - 2 hours Groom and Groomsmen Getting Ready (including some group photos of groom with groomsmen)
20 - 30 mins First Look (optional) - add 40 minutes if you want all the bride & groom photos during this time instead of cocktail hour, then you can enjoy mingling with guests after ceremony
15 mins - 1 hr CEREMONY, ideally no longer than 30 minutes
1.5 - 2 hrs Family Photos, Cocktail Hour and/or Bridal Party Photos and couple portraits
3 - 6 hours Reception (with 15 minute sneak out for sunset photos)
The key to a wedding running smoothly is to always built in buffer time! Think you'll be dressed and ready in 2 hours on the dot? Allow for 2.5 hours in case something holds you up. Ceremony only 15 minutes long? Put it on the schedule as 30 minutes!
Getting Ready Tips
❋ The photographer arrives about 2 hours before the ceremony to capture details and getting ready photos
❋ It's really important to communicate to your florist that the flowers arrive around the same time as the photographer
❋ Please have the wedding bands and engagement ring ready for detail shots in the bride's suite (assistant or photographer will bring the bands to the groom after those photos are done)
❋ Designate someone to put together any details you want captured in one place while the bride is getting ready so the photographer does not waste time locating these items (invitations, bridal jewelry, something borrowed, something blue, hair piece, garter, perfume, present from groom, etc)
❋ For the guys getting ready, also set aside the groom's watch, cufflinks, bow tie, cool socks, etc. for photos before he gets dressed. When the photographer arrives ideally the groom is showered and wearing pants and undershirt before being fully dressed
❋ Just before the bride leaves for the ceremony is also a great time for a special moment or "first look" with the bride's father
First Look Tips
❋ We love when our couples know what they want. If you are absolutely positive you want to wait until the walk down the aisle to see each other, we will support you!
❋ So you don't want a first look, but what if I told you we can get some photos of the two of you beforehand while NOT seeing each other? This can easily be done while you two are standing at a corner of a building, or with a wall between you. You may not be able to see each other, but you may hold hands, say sweet nothings, and ease some pre-ceremony jitters. Just ask us and incorporate this into your timeline if you wish!
❋ If on the other hand you're a bit non-traditional and interested in a "first look" - we'll also support you because as photographers we love the advantages. Your hair and makeup are fresh. In the hustle and bustle of a wedding day, you get very little time alone, this is a great opportunity to savor the moments. If we use this time to also get some bride and groom portraits, it frees up the two of you to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests after the ceremony and family photos. Another big advantage - if your wedding is late in the day say in the fall, this is usually the last opportunity for some daylight photos, otherwise the rest of the wedding after the ceremony may be dark and the use of flash will be necessary. Ideally, schedule the first look an hour and a half before your ceremony.
❋ It's possible to do family portraits immediately following the first look if you know your family will be there on time and you can allow for more time before the start of the ceremony.
Ceremony Tips and FAQ
❋ If your wedding isn't all in one location, don't forget to build travel time into the timeline!
❋ It is a great idea to ask your officiant at the rehearsal to please step a few feet to the side of the couple before announcing "you may kiss the bride", makes for much better first kiss photos without someone standing directly behind you! Some do this without being asked, but it's good to mention - not everyone thinks of it.
❋ Summer wedding? Those outdoor ceremonies can get steamy. To spare your guests consider providing parasols and/or ceremony programs that double as paper fans. If the spot where you'll be standing is in direct sunlight, we highly recommend asking your florist about creative shading options such as a trellis or arch with fabric.
❋ Q: What is the advantage of having two photographers? While one photographer is sufficient for most weddings, we highly recommend two if you want more photos and vantage points or if you have more than 150-180 guests. If the bride and groom are getting ready at different locations, then it is also important to have two photographers. If the ceremony is rather short, one photographer will have the time to get the most important shots, two photographers will create an opportunity for more photos of the bride walking down the aisle from behind and the overall scene from further away to capture the setting of the ceremony.
Family Photo Tips and FAQs
❋ Q: Can we give you a family shot list? We will send you a questionnaire before the wedding where you'll be able to pick your top-must have family photo groupings and add nice-to-haves. We will do everything in our power to get the family photos you want granted that everyone cooperates and is timely.
❋ Each family/group photo usually takes 3 to 7 minutes depending on the size of the party, keep that in mind so that the number of photos you want actually fits within the timeline.
❋ Ideally anyone who isn't in the family photos is at the cocktail hour at this time, this ensures that everyone is looking at one camera.
Bride & Groom and Bridal Party Portrait Tips and FAQs
❋ Consider doing the portraits before the ceremony after the first look (if that appeals to you). Your makeup and hair will be at its freshest and you will be free to spend time with your guest after the ceremony. Disclaimer: the downside is that you will not be wearing your wedding bands in the portraits.
❋ If you do the portraits while your guests are enjoying cocktail hour after the ceremony, make sure you take a few minutes to touch up makeup and have access to a mirror (maybe a bridesmaid can hide a clutch somewhere at the ceremony).
❋ We do bridal party photos first and then let your bridesmaids and groomsmen leave to enjoy the remainder of cocktail hour while we get some portraits of just the two of you. This is so important because sometimes it's the only time all day that you get to enjoy some quiet time as husband and wife.
❋ Do you want to incorporate a "Thank you" sign for a few photos so that you can use that for making "Thank you" notes after the wedding? Have one of your bridesmaid be in charge of bringing this along for some photos. Beach wedding? We can easily write it in the sand (or snow for a winter wedding!)
❋ Q: Can we give you a list of shots and/or poses we want? Your wedding will be nothing like what you see on Pinterest. Sure it's a great place for ideas, but the lighting varies, your day is unique, you two as a couple are unique and we cannot do our job to the best of our abilities if instead of paying attention to your day, your wedding moments, and your relationship, we'll be looking at a list. We are open to your suggestions as we photograph your portraits, but for the most part we really want you to trust us and our artistic vision for your wedding that is unlike any other we've photographed! We want you to love your wedding photos not because they are a copy of someone else's, but because they are uniquely yours and we make the effort to capture the love you share.
Reception Tips and FAQs
❋ It's very helpful for everyone involved to have a detailed reception timeline listing the grand entrance, first dance, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance, toasts, cake cutting, sunset photos, garter toss, and any other surprises you've planned.
❋ We recommend doing the first dance right after your grand entrance (when your feet feel lighter and you weigh some 2 pounds less before the feast!), or you can save it for immediately after dinner.
❋ Sunset Photos: Ideally your photographer will know when the sun sets on your wedding day (we always do!), you can also look it up here yourself. If your wedding is on the water or has any sort of open space (hill, field, golf course), this is the perfect time to sneak out of the reception for some killer sunset photos! Allow about 15 - 30 minutes before sunset to get the best light, and if you can, a few minutes after the sun sets and the sky is all aglow. Even if it is an overcast day, or the sun is setting behind trees, it can make for a beautiful background and dramatic night time photos. Missed the sunset? No worries, we can still take some dramatic nighttime photos with off camera flash.
❋ Q: When should we feed you? By the time reception starts, as your photographers we've likely trekked several miles while wearing heavy equipment for a good part of the day. Naturally we're exhausted and risk passing out from blood sugar being too low. A nice meal provided by your caterer will get us back in action to rock the rest of your wedding!
It's also important not just whether we eat but when we eat. The ideal time is while the bride and groom are eating. Not because we want to be first, but because it's the only time you're chewing food and let's face it, those are not flattering photos! As soon as you're done eating we want to be ready to photograph you mingling with guests or proceeding with toasts and dances. If possible, please let your caterer and/or coordinator know that we need to eat at the same time as you so that we do not miss any important coverage.
❋ If you are planning a special exit (sparklers? fireworks?), make sure the time is noted on your timeline and that it's early enough that there will still be some guests. It's a great idea to inform your guests of this with a sign as they enter the reception area. ("Sparkler exit at 10:30 pm, don't miss it!") For sparklers, it is imperative to purchase at a minimum the 20 Inch Wedding Sparklers or even better if you can get the 36 Inch Wedding Sparklers for 3-4 minutes of sparkle time! Oh, and make sure your venue allows for sparklers (some places do not allow them because of insurance). Here are some sparkler exit tips.
Last but not least!
Timelines aside, your wedding day is for you to enjoy! While you can do whatever is in your power to add buffer time and make things run smooth on paper - things sometimes do not go as we plan and that is life. It's most important to focus on each other, your relationship, don't let anything that goes wrong make you bitter. Sometimes the guests do not even notice something is off and you or your wedding planner is the only one that knows! Relax, have fun, enjoy each other's company and the love of those closest to you!
Are you still looking for THE wedding photographer to capture your wedding day? Someone that will be excited for you? I dream of adventurous romantics whose stories I will get the privilege of telling through my lens! I'd love nothing more than to hear from you and to meet you. My couples are absolutely the best, it must be serendipity that we find each other in an ocean of people. Would love to chat!