How to Schedule Wedding Photography

Picture me, sitting down across the table with you, over a latte.  Wait, maybe we got lucky and we have that corner cozy spot with cushy chairs and a coffee table.  Either way, we’re chatting about the wedding day schedule.

You share about how you are trying to squeeze everything into the day while keeping everyone happy.  Your parents, the guests, the caterer, the venue, the set-up team, the DJ, and your photographer.  Ahhh, maybe you should have ordered the double-shot. 

Picture of a bridal party on a wedding day, posing on a dock at a marina.  There are sailboats in the background.  There are two groomsmen, two bridesmaids, and a bride and a groom.

Let’s be honest, there’s no way everyone is going to be perfectly happy.  That’s okay, because it’s your day.  That’s right, it’s about the two of you and your marriage.    

Then, it’s about your family and your guests, those you’ve invited into your celebration.

Finally, it’s the rest of us, trying our best to make your day as beautiful as possible. 

As you juggle demands, requests, and pleas, I’m going to do my best to be helpful.  These are my humble suggestions, based on manyyyy weddings.  These are the schedules allowing me to do my very best work on your behalf. 

As you crunch timeline numbers, know that while taking pictures you are also spending time with these people.  You are taking a moment, looking into their eyes, remembering every part of the journey they have experienced with you. 

Image of a bridal party on a wedding day walking on the docks at a marina.

During portraits, there will be moments of laughter erupting, emotional tears, and joyful hugs.  Pictures aren’t just about documenting.  These poses put you into direct moments with those closest to your heart.  In those few minutes, you are focusing on them while creating a lasting memory. 

When crafting your schedule, remember that the day is very full and preparation takes more time than you likely anticipate.  Allow for cushion time in your schedule for those things running overtime.

You know those dreamy pictures you’ve been pinning?  They happened because the couple allowed time for it.  Rushed pictures will reduce the quality of your image collection.

There are a number of ways you can organize your wedding day schedule.  The information below can be placed in any order depending on your unique wedding day. 

Start with the minimal amount and then add time for each custom addition.  

Minimal Time for All Portraits: 1 hour and 10 minutes

  • Bridal Party – 30 minutes
  • Family Portraits – 20 minutes
  • Bride & Groom – 20 minutes

Wedding Photography Timeline Details 

 

Wedding Day Preparation

60 minutes - This is a combination of candid imagery and styled details.

When it comes to budgeting time for photography, earlier is better than later.  You may not miss those extra dance images, but you may miss seeing your mother lace up your wedding gown.

Picture of a bride getting ready on her wedding day.  She has long cascading curls and is putting on an earring.
  • Bridal Suite - most of the time, my arrival is towards the end of hair and make-up. 
    • Candid moments of hair, make-up, and interaction with your girls.
    • Styled shots of your wedding details. 
  • Groom Prep
    • Groom prep images captured when there is a second shooter or there is an additional 30 minutes of time for me to go capture those, as long as they are at the same location. 
    • Candid moments of the guys hanging out.
    • Styled shots of any details like boutonnieres, bowties, etc. 

 

First Look

10 minutes - A first look is a private moment for both of you to see each other before the rush of the day. 

  • Together, we choose a beautiful location, with fabulous lighting. 
  • Groom will face away while you walk towards him.
  • Bride taps him on the shoulder, or calls to him and he turns around.
  • A sweet moment of hugs and quiet whispers of love ensue.  Fair warning, sometimes tears. 
  • After capturing that moment, I swoop in and take a few sweet posed shots. 
  • Bonus: Later you can hang out with your guests during cocktail hour or have a private moment to rest prior to the reception.

 

 

Bridal Party Portraits

30 minutes - Your bridal party portraits are a time to capture your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and child attendants.  

Keep portrait locations on-site or nearby to maximize your time with guests.  Be sure to account for all travel time and how that will affect the allotted time for portraits.   By having a copy of your wedding day schedule I stay prompt and efficient.  

Picture of a bridal party sitting on a dock at a marina on a wedding day.
  • Groom and groomsmen
  • Groom with each groomsman
  • Groom with ring bearer
  • Ring bearer
  • Bride and bridesmaids
  • Bride with each bridesmaid
  • Flowergirl
  • Bride with flowergirl
  • Child attendants together
  • Bride & Groom with child attendants
  • Bride & Groom with entire bridal party
  • Bride & Groom with just bridesmaids and groomsmen

If you have any other special combination requests, be sure to add some additional portrait time to the schedule.

(If you have wedding cinema for your day, please add an additional 5 minutes for any scenes that may require.)

 

 

Bride and Groom 

20-60 minutes - This is a time for just the two of you to sneak away for portraits.

The wedding party is dismissed, as this portion should be as private as possible.  This allows you to interact and pose without audience viewing.   

Image of a bride and groom on their wedding day.  They are on a dock at a marina, gazing at each other.  The bride has an Amsale gown.

Is it awful to say this time is my favorite?  Maybe I should say the ceremony vows or father/daughter dance?  But, it really is.  I love these sweet moments of seeing your excitement and joy, all alone, in your haven. 

For an extensive collection of poses and looks, please budget extra time.  I don’t think you will ever regret adding 15 extra minutes to spend time alone on your wedding day.  I can give you about one look/pose per 3 minutes, plus “walk time” to get to different parts of your location.  I recommend 20 minutes, minimum. 

During this time, my job is to guide you into natural posing positions. Your job is to be in love.  Deal? 

  • Bride alone – multiple looks/posing
  • Bride with any details (bouquet, veil, shoes)
  • Groom alone – multiple looks/posing
  • Bride & Groom together – multiple looks/posing

(If you have wedding cinema on your day, please add an additional 10 minutes for any scenes that may require.)

 

 

Family Portraits

20 minutes - This is a time for important family members to gather around you for portraits.

Most couples are very stressed during this part of their day.  There is always some element of crazy going on, not to mention any drama if there are special family circumstances. 

Here are ways to navigate your family portrait time successfully. 

 

Timing

Family portraits should take place immediately following your ceremony.  Have the officiant or DJ announce the location and timing prior to releasing your guests to cocktail hour.  This is important, before guests disperse.   Trust me, you don’t want to gather people while they are at cocktail hour. 

 

List of Combinations

On your prep form you will create a list specifying the groups of people you would like for formal photos.  Further below is a list of typical combinations on a wedding day. 

 

Delegation

The key to a stress-free family portrait session is delegation.   You know that bossy person in your family?  Put that talent to good use.  Ask that person (one for each side of the family) to gather all people involved in these portraits.  A bridal attendant works as well.

 

Organization

Your designated family member should have everyone in queue according to your list.  If we are at the ceremony site, they may simply sit in the seating area until they are called upon. 

Picture of a family portrait on a wedding day.  There are large trees in the background and a lake behind them.
  • Bride Alone
    • With parents
    • With mother
    • With father
  • Groom Alone
    • With parents
    • With mother
    • With father
  • Bride & Groom
    • Bride’s parents
    • Bride’s immediate family
    • Groom’s parents
    • Groom’s family
    • Bride’s grandparents
    • Groom’s grandparents
    • Aunts, uncles, cousins may be added by calculating 5 minutes per combination. 

Tip: use your reception coverage time for fun family portraits with cousins, aunts, and uncle combinations that may be more documentary-style. 

 

 

Special Friend Portraits

Typically, these are captured during your reception time.  Should you wish this to happen at another time during the day, simply add it into the schedule.

 

 

Travel Time

Ensure that you calculate any travel time necessary to your portrait locations.  It is usually ideal minimize your travel and keep portraits in keeping with the look of your ceremony and reception atmosphere.  

 

 

Cocktail Hour

60 minutes - This is a time when your guests mingle and get refreshments while waiting the reception. 

Allow for time before the reception when I can capture your pretty tablescape details before sweaters and purses mar the masterpiece.

Image of a wedding day cocktail hour.  Guests are talking over cocktails and refreshments.
  • First Look
    • If you have a first look, you are both able to join your guests at this time, or take a break privately.  
    • I will be capturing some candid imagery, cocktail hour details, and sneak off to capture all of that beautiful reception décor. 
  • No First Look
    • If you did not have a first look, portraits usually take place during cocktail hour. 
    • If there is a second shooter, she will go capture those cocktail hour images and reception décor while we do portraits.

 

 

 

 

Reception Details

15 minutes - This is a time for me to capture all of your beautiful reception décor. 

Picture of a reception at a yacht club.  There are large plush chairs and decorated tables.

The more details there are, the more time I will need to capture everything.  For a simple set-up, it usually takes about 10 minutes.  For more elaborate décor, anywhere between 15-20 minutes to ensure that everything is properly captured. 

If you do not have a second shooter and you are doing portraits during cocktail hour, this will limit either your reception décor images or your portrait time.  For elaborate set-ups, I recommend adding a second shooter to your collection, should you choose to forgo the first look. 

 

 

Reception Coverage

Time to celebrate that love!  Wedding photography during a reception is primarily documentary.

The exception is with any fun portraits you may request.  This is a fab time for your sorority girl shot, cousins, or other meaningful groupings.  

Your timeline for the reception is really about how much time you have with your photographer.  If you are short on time with your photographer, I recommend doing some of these ideas to allow for maximum coverage.  

  • Create a ceremony exit instead of a reception exit.  
  • Have important dances immediately after being announced in.  
  • Have your bridal party do a fun dance with you for some fun dancing shots.
  • Go to your cake and either pretend to cut it or actually cut your cake before sitting down.

Also, free tip of the day for you.  Up to one hour of dancing coverage is all you really need.  After that, drinks have been flowing, guests are sweating, pictures are pretty much going downhill.  

 

Remember

Send a copy of your wedding day schedule to your photographer.  We really do want to honor your timeline.


Whew!  Wedding planning is no joke.  As you have questions along the way,  we can absolutely chat about those details.  If you're local, we can even go grab that latte, in the corner with the cozy chairs.  

 

XOXO Lovelies