Your big day will be here before you know it so it’s time to start working through some of your wedding day details including your wedding day photography timeline!
Wedding timelines are important for the overall schedule and flow of the day, how much time is accounted for hair and makeup, family photos, cake cutting, toasts etc… and ultimately a stress-free day!
As an experienced Leavenworth and Lake Chelan wedding photographer, my couples often ask for my input on their wedding day photography timeline.
Here is a sample timeline I usually use to help them get started! This doesn’t have everything for your wedding in it, nor is it a set of hard and fast rules. This timeline should be a good starting point for you when planning your day, but can be adjusted to your specific needs.
Note: this timeline is based on having two photographers with you for 8 hours on your wedding day with a first look. Personally, a majority of my couples book me for 8 hours and I find that it is the perfect amount of coverage for them. When I’m there for 10 hours, it’s to give couples more time to fit in a grand sparkler exit, or travel to an off-venue site for portraits.
Also note: This sample timeline also assumes the ceremony and reception are being held at the same venue. If you’re having your wedding reception at a different location, make sure to add in enough travel time!
Sample Wedding Day Photography Timeline 8 hours
1:00 PM: Photographers arrive for getting ready photos.
Capturing the details of the entire day helps to tell the complete story of your wedding. I tell my couples to be in the finishing stages of hair and makeup (if you are having hair and makeup done on site) when I arrive, but not in their attire yet. While you and your wedding party finish up, I’ll photograph the details of the wedding that you are going to want to remember. These details include your dress/suit hanging, shoes, jewelry, and bouquet, among others.
PHOTO TIP #1: Identify one partner to have the majority of wedding details with them: wedding bands, engagement ring, bouquets, and any other jewelry and an extra copy of your wedding invitations on hand for me to photograph!
2:00 PM: Partner One Gets Dressed
Depending on your schedule, you should be finishing getting ready around this time. If your wedding party has robes, pajamas, or unique getting ready outfits, it’s fun to do a special toast with them at this time. Some of my favorite images are of each partner getting helped into their attire, so I make sure they have whoever is helping them (friend, family member, etc.) fully photo ready by this time.
1:00-2:00 PM: Partner Two gets dressed
Your partner should be finishing up getting dressed during this time as well. This is when we will take some fun shots of everyone getting ready and hanging out together in their space. This moment is dependent on if everyone is getting ready in the same vicinity and/or if you decide to add a second photographer when booking.
2:15 PM: First Look
This can be an emotional part of the day and it’s always one of my favorites!
Note: If you’re sticking to tradition and not doing a first look, then I’ll use this time to photograph additional details or photograph a first look with parents, or wedding party.
2:30-2:45 PM: Couple Portraits
During your first look, you will want to take some couple portraits as well. These won’t be the only time we set aside for these- we’ll also sneak away closer to sunset for another round! FYI, if you aren’t doing a first look, I’ll be photographing you and your significant other separately during this time.
2:45-3:30 PM: Family Photos and Wedding Party Photos
Once you have your first look and a few couple portraits done, the wedding party and your family will come in to take formal wedding photos with you. Make sure that everyone in the wedding party and immediate family is there on time so that no time is wasted scrambling to get everyone together.
PHOTO TIP #2: Send in a family photo list to your photographer of must have family groupings!
Most photographers (including myself) do not need a “shotlist” before the wedding. If you’ve seen a lot of their portfolio, you should have a wonderful day! BUT, when it comes to any family photos or important people in your life, you can totally have a list. Just remember, more people=more time needed for photos. I estimate about 3 minutes per photo combination. This helps have buffer time throughout the wedding day.
Also, whenever I shoot family formals, I try my best to go from the biggest group to the smallest.
3:30-4:00 PM: Preparing for the Ceremony
Take a few minutes to relax and recompose. I’ll photograph the ceremony details before guests are seated. I also will grab candids of guests as they arrive.
4:00 PM: Ceremony
This is perhaps the most special moment of the big day and I cover it from multiple perspectives.
PHOTO TIP #3: Look up when walking down the aisle! I know you are just thinking about not tripping and falling, but try not to look down at your shoes.
4:30 PM: [Extended] Family Photos, signing your marriage license and Cocktail Hour
Now that everyone is together, you can choose to take some extended family photos with other members of your family. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Sorority Sisters, etc. I typically have my couples provide me with a shot list for these groupings as well to help make things go smoothly.
If there are no other additional groupings, then you can sign your marriage license and join cocktail hour!
If you didn’t do a first look, then we will have to squeeze in all family photos and wedding party photos during this time. It can get tight with time during this portion. Which is why I highly recommend a first look with your partner before the ceremony.
5:30 PM: Reception Begins
Around this time guests should be arriving at their reception spots and should begin filing into the area.
When the reception officially begins, some music will start being played and your MC will then do the Grand Entrance with your wedding party. Now it’s time to have some fun!
6:00 PM: Dinner is served
6:30 PM: Toasts
(Talk with your coordinator, but doing toasts during dinner is a great time saver!)
7:30 PM: First Dance
All eyes are on you so take it all in and just have fun! The first dance will begin.
7:45 PM: Special Dances
During this time, whatever special dances you have planned for the night can ensue. This may include Father/Daughter, Mother/Son, etc.
8:00 PM: Open Dancing
8:30 PM: Cake Cutting
8:45 PM: Bouquet Toss and Garter Toss
9:00 PM: Photographer leaves. It’s rare for me to stay to the end of a reception unless there is a grand exit planned (hello, sparklers!) in which case more hours can always be added to the day!
So there you have it! A great starting point to creating your perfect wedding day photography timeline!
I hope this helps you when planning your big day! Wedding days shouldn’t be stressful or rushed. My couples with all-day coverage receive 40-60% more photos from their wedding. Wedding photos aren’t just for one day, they’re for life!
Have more questions or need a photographer for your wedding? Send me a message!