Planning your wedding: A photographer's guide to timing your day

About 3 months before the wedding day, we send out a very detailed questionnaire to our couples that has them answer everything from where they'll be getting ready, to a list of all the vendors that'll be working that day and so much more. The questionnaire is meant to help guide us when we sit down and talk about their timeline for the day. That's when we'll go over what time we'll be photographing your getting ready, bridal party, them two and so on. 

Even though the questionnaire specifically talks about leaving enough buffer time in between locations and allowing us enough time to photograph the bride & groom, it never fails that every year we have a handful of couples who seem to have a ton of questions when planning their big day out. It's understandable. It's your first time and you've already planned so much - now you have to think about timing?! Ugh. I'd be overwhelmed myself. Don't worry! We've been to more than a few weddings and have your back! The biggest thing I can say is TRUST US. Since we've been through this before we know what usually happens. We know at what time and how long you should give for specific parts of the day. figured it was time to put together a blog post about our recommendations since we keep getting asked about it. I hope everyone (other photographers and couples) can use this as a reference when it comes to timing out your photo plan. Obviously not every wedding is the same and there are certain scenarios where our "ideal" timeline would be a bit different, and that's ok! A wedding isn't "one-timeline fits all" but it's good to know the appropriate duration of each section specifically to get the most wedding photos possible :) After all, when everything is said and done the photos are all you have left!

Getting Ready: 1-1.5 hours of time

A lot of brides love to have their getting ready photographed. It's a time where the excitement is building, the planning is all about to come into play and you're surrounded by all the thoughts of your relationship these past "x" amount of years. Where just in a few moments you'll say "I do". Its scary, never-racking, exciting and fun all at the same time. This is the time we'll photograph the details of your day. Your shoes, any jewelry you're wearing, your rings, your invitations, flowers, and of course, you're dress in all it's glory. We'll also be photographing your bridesmaids and you in a candid setting, you getting your hair & makeup done, your mom, sister, best friend or family member helping you with your dress and of course, your dad seeing you for the first time. It sounds like a lot but it goes by very quickly. That's why you want to make sure you have enough time to do all these things, but not rush through them...because let's be honest - nobody wants to be rushed, especially on their wedding day. 

Choosing a getting ready location:

On a quick side note to that: If you plan on getting ready anywhere further than 20 min to your ceremony site, give yourself extra time! Allowing us enough time to deal with traffic and parking as well. We always like to show up before the bride does. Giving us the ability to possibly capture some ceremony details, as well as any interactions with guests! I'd say ver more on the side of 1.5hours of getting ready time than an hour if your spot if more than 20 min out.

Ceremony: 15 min - 1 hour 

Depending on your religious views, your ceremony could last up to one hour or longer. It's important to know that if people are flying in from out of town and shuttling to your ceremony spot give them some extra wiggle room incase theres traffic, especially in the summer. We once had a wedding have over 50 guests 20min late to the ceremony. It was rough since those 20 min ate into our photo time afterwards. 

Cocktail & photo hour: 1 hour

Cocktail hour is as the name suggests, one hour. Some couples have a break between their ceremony and cocktail hour to allow for enough photo time, which is smart and 100% recommended however not always possible (i.e. if your wedding all happens at one location). During this time is where we'll most likely photograph your formal family portraits, your bridal party photos and the most important photos of you two. 

Family photos: Only your immediate family!

Family formals is normally the roughest part of the day. The first step is to get all your family members that you want in a photo together. If some of them aren't in the bridal party, it's nearly impossible since they'll be shuffling out of the ceremony site and more likely saying hello to everyone! This is why we recommend keeping your family portraits down to just your immediate family. They'll already be in the wedding party and walk down the aisle after you. We'll most likely photograph a place outside where we can all meet up and knock out those photos in 10-15 min. Of course, if it's just your immediate family.

Keep in mind that if you extend the list of family members in a photo to include aunts, uncles, grandparents and more it's going to eat into the timing of YOUR photos as husband and wife. Those are the most important and any other family combinations can be taken throughout the night.

Bridal Party photos: Quick but fun

Depending on how much time you allowed in the beginning half of your day, we may have already taken some of your bridesmaids and groomsmen photos and just need to take a couple of the bridal party as a whole. Keep in mind this is also happening during cocktail hour. We have to be quick, but efficient so we can spend the majority of the time with you two. 

Photos of you two: At LEAST 40 min

Arguably the most important photographs of the day. It's important to allow us enough time to truly capture you both. While we'd actually recommend you have a first look, allowing us to photograph you for more than 40 min and giving you plenty of photos to awe over. If you're not planning one then we recommend at least 40 min to do this. Obviously thats cutting into your cocktail hour. If you'd like to enjoy cocktail hour then we'd recommend you do a first look. 

Reception coverage: 2-4 hours 

After cocktail hour ends, it's time to party! Although you're probably hungry and so are your guests. Before any great party starts there's food and drinks! During the beginning half of your reception that's most likely whats going to be happening. After that is when we'll get on the dance floor and photograph all the craziness happening! We recommend that most couples allow at least 1 hour into dancing after all the formalities are done. If you want us there longer, even better! 

What if I want a first look? 

First looks make your wedding timeline so much easier. A first look is when you and your significant other plan to see each other before the ceremony. Most couples do this so that way they can have a private moment before hand and not in front of everyone. The biggest advantage is what it does for the timing of the day. Everything happens during the beginning half of your day rather than after the ceremony (where more than likely all you'll want to do is party). The timeline looks a bit like this:

Getting ready: 1-1.5 hours
First look and photos: 1.5 hours
Bridal party photos: 10-15 min
Ceremony: 15-1 hour
Cocktail hour: 1 hour
Reception: 2-4 hours

We'd still take your family portraits during cocktail hour but at least you'd have the chance to go enjoy everything instead of being away from everyone taking photos. It also allows us more time to photograph you two, giving you more photos in the end result. 

Example timeline: 

Here's an example timeline from a real wedding we did that allowed us plenty of time with a first look. The couple's end result was absolutely amazing. Their gallery is actually featured on our site here! 

2:00-3:15 - Getting ready photos of the bride
3:30-3:40pm - First look with bride & groom
3:40-4:40pm - Bride & groom photos
4:40-5:15pm - Wedding party photos
5:30-6:00pm - Ceremony
600-7:00pm - Cocktail hour & family photos
7:00-10pm - Reception coverage


To wrap it all up, you're going to want to give yourself enough time for photographs. You paid for them so don't rush them, don't squeeze them into a tiny 15 min time slot, and don't overlook them. Remember to allow yourself enough time for photos of you two! Those are the ones you fell in love with on our site and you're going to love afterwards. Don't do too many family formals...Remember that candid moments are better than formal ones. And lastly, try to do a first look. It'll save you so much time and be less stressful in the long run.

Like I mentioned before - Not every wedding is one-timeline fits all. If you reference this blog post, it's a good start. If you have any questions about the timing of your day feel free to shoot us an email to chat about it! We'd love to help you plan it all out!

With love,


Ryan DeVollComment