Perfect Timeline for Wedding Photos

perfect wedding photography timeline

A lot of brides value wedding photography, and with good reason.  All the details of your day are important, but the flowers will fade and your dress will be cleaned and put away.  Often times your photos are the only tangible thing that you can look at daily after your special day.  So it makes sense that you’d want to have the best photos possible.  To help you do this, I’ve outlined below the perfect timeline for wedding photos.

This timeline allows your photographer to get the photos that you want, while not rushing you to get it all in one day.  Since this is likely your first wedding, you may not know how much time to allow for different elements.  Having a timeline for your wedding photos is extremely useful.  And knowing how much time your photographer needs will help you know how much time to book them.

A few things to ask yourself before diving into your perfect timeline for wedding photos:bride in dress with mother

  • Do you want the photographer to photograph both of you getting ready that day?  Just the bride?  Many people like having these photos as they really help to tell the story of the day.  They also allow for candid shots between the bride and her mom and bridesmaids as well as the groom, his dad and groomsmen.
  • Will you want to do a “first look”?  Check out this post to see if it’s right for you.
  • Will you be having a longer wedding ceremony such as a catholic wedding?
  • Will your ceremony and reception be at the same location?

Now that we have some of those details settled, let’s get into the perfect timeline for wedding photos!  For these times we’re going to assume you’ve hired your photographer for 8 hours of wedding photography coverage.  Since 8 hours is kind of a “middle ground”, this will be a good way to see how much coverage you might need for your wedding day photography.  Of course, always consult with your photographer and see what they like to do before deciding for sure how many hours of coverage you want.

Before the Wedding CeremonyGetting ready photo of bride, mom and grandma

  • 60 minutes: Getting ready shots and photographing details {it’s super helpful to have your dress (on a special hanger if you’re using one), shoes, bouquet and rings laid out and ready for the detail photos}.
  • 30 minutes: Putting on the dress.  Obviously some dresses don’t take 30 minutes to put on, but often they have a lot of buttons.  Allowing this much time gives the bride plenty of time to relax and enjoy the process.
  • 15 minutes: First Look photos.  If you’ve decided to do a “first look”, then you know this is a special time where it’s just you & your fiancé getting to see each other for the first time that day.  This gives you a chance to share an intimate moment away from the busyness of the day.  My husband and I did this at our wedding and it was such a special time to connect before the day got under way.
  • 30 minutes: Bride and Groom portraits.  Just you and your lover making googly eyes at each other and enjoying your beautiful day.  🙂
  • 60 minutes: Wedding Party portraits.  This time frame can vary depending on the size of your wedding party.  So obviously a party of 4 will take a lot less time than a party of 12.  🙂
  • 15-30 minutes: Family Formals.  Again, this time frame can vary depending on the size of your families and if there are any divorces and remarriages to take into account.  When you meet with your photographer to go over the final timeline of the day, these are details they’ll need to know to allow the proper amount of time for these photos.  Getting these photos done before the ceremony is great because once you’re officially married everyone just wants to party!  It can be stressful to try to gather everyone once the bar is open and the music is going.  😉
  • 30 minutes: Final details, guest book attendants, guests arriving, and ceremony venue details can all be photographed in this 30 minute window when the guests begin to arrive.  You’ll be in your getting ready rooms drinking some water and (hopefully) having a light snack so you feel great for the big part of your wedding day – the actual ceremony!

Wedding Ceremony

  • 30 minutes: Ceremony.  If you’re planning for a longer ceremony (like a catholic wedding), you’ll want to plan in more time for this part but generally speaking, 30 minutes is enough time for the wedding ceremony.
  • Nickerson wedding bubble exit30 minutes: Exit/Receiving Line.  I think most people now days opt out of the receiving line where you hug each guest while they file through the line, since you can usually see everyone at the reception.  However, between the process of handing out the exit bubbles, sparklers, etc and the process of going through your exit on your way to the reception, you should allow for some time, plus again, you don’t want to be rushed.
  • 15 minutes: Driving time to reception location.  This number is definitely one that can change depending on where your reception is in relation to your ceremony.  Just make sure you build in time for this, as well as any time to stop and grab photos along the way, if you want to do so.

ReceptionReception dances - Perfect Timeline for Wedding Photos

  • 90-120 minutes: Reception.  This is your party…the stress of the day is over and now is the time to dance, laugh and enjoy your family & friends.  This timeline is assuming you are having a dance and dinner.  If you won’t be having all that you can obviously adjust the times as needed.  🙂 The reception can be broken down into these categories & below I’ve listed approximate times for each:
    • Entrances (for wedding party and bride & groom) {5 minutes}
    • First Dances (couples first dance, Mother/groom and Father/bride dances) {10 minutes}
    • Cake cutting {10 minutes}
    • Toasts {10-20 minutes}
    • Dinner {30-45 minutes}
    • Garter Toss & Bouquet Toss {15 minutes}
    • Dollar Dance {10 minutes}

Your photographer will most likely have photographed *all the things* by this point and will be ready to head home.  Be sure to communicate to them any special dances that will occur.  And if there’s anything extra you’re wanting to do at the very end of the night, you may consider moving it to earlier in the evening.  There’s only so many photos you want of people dancing.  🙂

How this perfect timeline for wedding photos looks with actual times

Let’s put all this timeline info into an actual day and see how it plays out.  In this scenario we’ll assume your wedding party has 4 bridesmaids and 4 groomsmen.  For your family photos you have 2 siblings each, one set of parents is divorced and remarried.  And your reception is at a different location than your ceremony, but you’re getting ready at the same location as the ceremony.

  • 11:45-1:15 – Hair & makeup/Getting Ready/Putting on the Dress
  • 1:15-1:30 – First Look
  • 1:30-2:00 – Bride & Groom portraits
  • 2:00-3:00 – Wedding Party Portraits
  • 3:00-3:30 – Family Formals
  • 3:30-4:00 – Final Details
  • 4:00-4:30 – Ceremony
  • 4:30-5:00 – Exit/Receiving Line
  • 5:00-5:15 – Drive time to reception
  • 5:15-7:15 – Wedding Reception

To wrap things up…

lake Talbot wedding at Kansas State FairgroundsI hope this perfect timeline for wedding photos helps you plan out your day a little better!  As always, go over your specific timeline with your photographer to ensure there’s enough time for every element that you want photographed from your wedding.  This post on Wedding Wire has a lot of helpful tips in it as well.

To see more information about what I offer for wedding photography, you can check out this page.  If you’d like to chat with me about your wedding and see if we’d be a good fit for your big day, just fill out the form below and I’ll be in contact real soon!  {I do have a family, so if you don’t receive a message 5 minutes after you submit the form at 11pm on a Saturday night, that’d be why.  😉  I generally try to keep normal business hours, just so you know what to expect when contacting me.}

I can’t wait to talk to you!  🙂


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{post last updated 1/20/21 to refresh photos}

Perfect Timeline for Wedding Photos

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