Wedding Timeline Planning

walker's overlook wedding ceremony

Wedding timeline planning is an incredibly helpful and easy way to get yourself organized before your big day.

Your wedding planner will be able to help you sort out wedding day activities and details from start to finish – thinking through things like: When will lunch arrive for the groomsmen? How are you getting from the hotel to the venue? What time does the officiant need to get to the ceremony space? (and so, so, so many more). Oftentimes, these are the details couples overlook. (Check out other reasons as to why you should hire a wedding planner, here.)

Anyways, your wedding timeline will be a great reminder of all the activities in your day! Also, it really helps your photographer stay on track to ensure that not only do you get beautiful photos, but you get to celebrate with your friends, family, and guests.

Before my clients, planner, and I sit down to review their timeline, I send out a questionnaire trying to figure out details like when certain events are starting, where they’re happening, and who is involved! Once I get those answers, I’m able to guide you through planning out your day.

Here are just a few tidbits for planning out your day from a photography standpoint.

Details and Getting Ready

DC Wedding Photographer

Your photographer normally arrives 1-2 hours before the couple is ready to go. Or to think about it another way, they’ll arrive 3-4 hours before the ceremony starts! This can vary on a few factors, like if the couple is doing a first look or not. By this point, most, if not all of the bridesmaids will have their hair and make-up done, and the bride should be getting finishing touches. The groom and groomsmen will still be hanging out and drinking (usually).

During the first hour, your photographer and your second shooter will shoot getting ready images and detail shots. It’s always helpful to have your details in one spot because then you won’t have to hunt for something you wanted captured! Details to consider are shoes, veil, dress, invitation suite, rings, flowers, jewelry, and anything personal!

For me, I usually start with a few shots of the ladies hanging out, and then proceed to detail shots while my second shooter assists me in laying out/carrying around details or captures more candids of the ladies getting ready. Once I’m about halfway through with that, my second shooter goes to the grooms getting ready spot to capture some candids and any groom details.

After the details are done, it’s typically GO TIME! Robe/PJ shots! Bridesmaids get dressed! Bride gets in her dress! Indoor bridal portraits! Groom and groomsmen dressed! Groom solo portraits. Potentially a first look. Bridesmaids portraits! Groomsmen portraits! Everything in between!

Bride & Groom Portraits

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Plan 30 minutes for this! The other option is to plan two time sessions. One is a 20 minute main portrait session and the is a 10 minute sunset session (this applies if we’re doing photos way before sunset).

Bridesmaid Portraits

Walker's Overlook Wedding, DC Wedding Photographer

Plan ~20 minutes for this (this could change depending on your bridal party size). If you have a small bridal party, you could knock out photos in 15 minutes. For larger groups you’re better off scheduling for 20 minutes. This will give you time for a variety of group shots, a variety of detail shots and different angles, dynamic poses, and shots of each bridesmaid with the bride. You’ll spend more time photographing the ladies than the gents (normally) because there are more details like the flowers. Plus, let’s be honest ladies, we do a lot more giggling than guys.

Groomsmen Portraits

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When wedding timeline planning, schedule ~20 minutes for this (this could change depending on your groomsmen party size). If you have a small group of guys, you could knock out photos in 15 minutes. For larger groups you’re better off scheduling for 20 minutes. This will give you time to get a variety of group shots, a variety of detail shots and different angles, dynamic poses, and shots of each groomsmen with the groom.

*A Note about Groomsmen Portraits: Throughout the years as a wedding photographer, I’ve had some great experiences with really awesome groups of groomsmen (see above, there were like 15 of them and they were so fun). I’ve also had some less than great experiences with rude, pouty, frustrated groomsmen (not pictured).

I’m used to fellows who don’t like having their photos taken. I know you’d rather be doing something else than listening to a stranger, asking you to put your hands in your pockets, while smiling to the camera. I knowwwww. I know. But please, be kind to the photographer. Don’t make lewd comments. Don’t gripe about having to put your drink down. This process can go really quickly and I want nothing more than to get you back to your comfort zone of hanging and partying.

Full Bridal Party Portraits

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I really try to limit full bridal party portraits to 10-15 minutes. This is simply a shooting preference due to the fact that there is a large group of people. Attention spans are short. Sometimes it’s hot. Or cold. If you can bust out a variety of shots (with everyones eyes open) in 10 minutes, your group of people tend to be happier! In 10 to 15 minutes, I can get plenty of great shots of the whole group.

Family shots

This is one of the toughest parts of the day! If you are looking to have large family group shots (think aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and your immediate family) please, please schedule at minimum 45 minutes. A lot of the time gets eaten up actually getting everyone to the location the photographs are going to be taken!

If you are looking to just have immediate family group shots (parents, siblings), please plan 15-20 minutes! The best way to get through family portrait time is to inform those you want in the images that they are having their time in the spotlight immediately after the ceremony. I send out a family shot list about a month before the wedding, and there we’ll be able to talk through executing this time and using everyones time effectively!


Looking for more wedding planning resources?

What Time Should Our Ceremony Start?


2 responses to “Wedding Timeline Planning”

  1. I love that you did this from the photographers perspective – so many times clients only see what has to be done, but ultimately the photos are what they have left! Great post!

  2. You make my planner heart so happy with this! Awesome job! 🙂

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