Depending on the packages your photographer offers and your own budget, you may have a professional photographer for anywhere from 6 to 12 hours on your wedding day.
Coming up with a detailed timeline for the day may sound extreme, but it’s the best way to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your photographer and making sure that everything is captured. There’s a good chance the timeline will get delayed the day of (weddings tend to run behind) but with a little extra planning and some cushion time thrown into the mix, you can rest easy that everything will go smoothly.
Here’s a sample 8-10 hour timeline to give you some ideas for planning your wedding day:
- The photographer arrives, says hello to the bride, and starts taking shots of the dress and details (remember to have the details set aside in a bag or box to make this go smoothly)
- The bride, maid of honor, bridesmaids, and the mother of the bride (or any other important persons you’d like photographed) should be almost done with hair and makeup
- Everyone has had a light lunch or snack. You don’t want to skip this!
- Any special shots, like the bride toasting with her girls or posing in matching robes, should happen now
- Bridesmaids finish getting dressed, and the bride gets ready to step into her dress. Whoever is going to zip or button the wedding gown should be dressed and ready for photos (mother, maid of honor, etc.)
- Photographer captures the bride putting on her shoes, earrings, and any special moments with the bridesmaids
- Photographer captures the ‘reveal’ shot of the bride and her bridesmaids
- Bridal portraits start – this includes full-length images of the dress, the bride holding her bouquet, wearing her veil, etc. (These can be taken outside, at the ceremony location, or in the bridal suite)
2:00 pm – 2:30 pm
- These include portraits, individual photos of each girl with the bride, and fun, candid photos with all the girls. This is the perfect time to pop the champagne or crack open a beer together and celebrate, and makes for some really fun photos!
First look and couple portraits.
- If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should do a first look, I highly recommend doing one! Check out this post for why.
Wedding Party Photos
By the point, your wedding party has had some time to get to know each other, has settled into their outfits, makeup, and hair, and are ready to have some fun with the photos! You can use several locations or stick to the areas around your venue. I recommend having your wedding planner or personal assistant bring the wedding party to you at the first look location so you can have some privacy and they have a chance to grab water, run to the bathroom, etc.
- Do yourself a favor and block off some time between portraits and the ceremony. You’ll appreciate the time freshen up, grab water or a snack, and get off your feet. Plan at least half an hour for this!
- Most ceremonies start late. That’s ok and gives your late guests a chance to sneak in and not miss anything! Don’t feel bad about this and expect it to happen!
- Right after the ceremony is the best time for family photos – everyone’s in the same area, no one’s had too much to drink yet, and your older family members are nearby and won’t have to walk far. Plan to take photos near the ceremony location for this reason – it’s easiest and will make things go smoothly!
- Have a list handy for your photographer, complete with names of family members. Your photographer won’t know who is who, and won’t be able to anticipate if you want specific family photos (just you with your maternal grandparents, for example).
- Let your family know ahead of time that you will be doing family portraits right after the ceremony, and instruct them to stay in the area. Your personal attendant can help rally everyone together for each photo as well.
- One of the reasons I encourage couples to do a first look is that it allows them more time to enjoy the guests and food at their wedding. There’s a good chance that many people have traveled a long way to be at your wedding and you’ll want to spend time with them. Plus, you’ll probably spend a good chunk of your budget on food and hors d’ oeuvres, so it’s worth getting to try them!
***Sometime between 7:00-9:00 pm, depending on the time of year and location.***
- This is a special time you get to share with your new spouse! It’s your first quiet moments as a married couple, and you’ll treasure these images forever. Your photographer will give you some space to interact with each other naturally and just enjoy that just-married, oh-my-gosh-we-did-it feeling. It’s also a great time to relax and catch your breath before you continue with your wedding.
- My only tip here – make sure you eat!
Toasts, any welcome speeches, and announcements as necessary
Mother and Son Dance/Father and Daughter Dance
- Have the DJ switch to some upbeat music to get everyone on the dance floor!
Garter toss, bouquet toss, and/or cake cutting can happen around this time.
Between 8:45 – 11 pm
Depending on the package you selected, your photographer might be wrapping up their 8 or 10-hour day. If that’s the case, I recommend doing a fake ‘send-off’ photo here – grab the wedding party and have them line up with sparklers, bubbles, rice, glitter, confetti paper, etc. for some truly epic photos!
- Pro tip: If you’re using sparklers, have 1-2 helpers for lighting. It always takes longer than you think to light sparklers and by the time everyone’s is lit, someone else’s is fizzled out! I also recommend getting the longer sparklers for this reason.