Your Wedding Photography Timeline

Guides

Let me preface this by saying, every single couple is different and unique in how they envision their wedding day. Some are very traditional and by the book, while some just want to take a helicopter to the top of a mountain for an intimate adventure elopement. Discovering what is important to you, your values, and your wants are the ultimate challenge for a wedding photographer as each tells stories differently.

man and woman after their wedding day first look sharing a moment by flamingo pen at Sunken Gardens in Tampa Florida by Ladman Studios
Photo by: Ladman Studios

Realistic time expectations

If I were to tell you that every single timeline was the same for every couple and that it goes perfectly according to plan…that would be a lie. Let’s face it, there is always going to be some form of humanity in play during your wedding. Murphy’s law at its finest. This means when you are planning out your wedding day, you need to have some wiggle room. This can vary from couple to couple depending on what they are planning for their wedding of course. To see my tips for planning your wedding click here.

Timelines

There are so many ways to go about planning your wedding day. Wedding timelines don’t have to be in some perfect order, there is no right or wrong, it is only what you want it to be. There are a few factors to a wedding day timeline that really help you figure out how your day is going to flow.

Having A First Look

On a first look day, you have a more relaxed day with time to take couples photos, wedding party photos, and any additional family photos you want. This gives you time to enjoy your cocktail hour with your family and guests. As well as a dedicated part of your wedding day to do these photos. I should also note that there are several types of these first looks you can do.

  • Spouse First Look – when both partners do their first look
  • First touch – when both partners share vows while not seeing each other and holding a hand while being hidden from each other
  • Father and daughter first look – when the father sees his daughter for the first time in her wedding dress
  • Mother and son first look – same as the father/daughter above
  • Parent and children first look – maybe this is your second marriage or you are a single parent now about to be married. Some parents will do a first look with their children.
  • Grandparent’s first look – Maybe you have that grandparent you are very very close with and want to do a first look with them.

Keeping It Traditional

On a traditional day, the couple won’t see each other until the ceremony for the first time. This transforms your cocktail hour and uses that time for taking couples portraits, the wedding party, and family photos. So if you want to party with your guests and enjoy your cocktail hour, you might want to do a first-look day. Again, to see more about the opportunities having a first look can give your wedding, check out my guide on that here.

Detail Photos

wedding dress hanging in the a window backlit by the sun in a entry way at Stonehurst at Hampton Valley Connecticut wedding venue by Ladman Studios
Photo by: Ladman Studios

Depending on the number of detailed shots you are looking for during your wedding timeline, you can expect between 30 – 45 minutes for these. This usually includes photographing items like your wedding dress, shoes, rings, invitations, sentimental items, gifts, perfume, and bouquets. Keep in mind, if both partners are looking to have that done, that is 1hr, not including travel time to get to both locations if they are at different ones. This also depends on the photographer and their approach. If they are like me, they want to be what’s called “details with a heartbeat”. They have a human element to them. Such as the bride holding her dress or taking it off the hanger.

Getting Ready Photos

mother and daughter getting ready for her wedding in front of a back lit window at Stonhurst at hampton valley connecticut wedding venue by ladman studios
Photo by: Ladman Studios

Getting ready photos can be a huge storytelling part of your wedding day. It offers the opportunity for a lot of great candid moments between all members of the wedding party. Some couples like to have the entire process of getting ready documented, and others could care less and just have the finishing touches photographed. Just know this is extra time the photographer will be there too. This can take an 8-hour day to a 12-hour day really quickly lol. If you are looking to just have the final touches of getting ready photographed with detail photos, then you can expect anywhere between 30 minutes to 60 minutes. This goes for both partners and also needs to factor in travel time if it’s a single photographer. If there is a team, then usually the lead photographer will be with one and the second with the other.

Bonus Tip

If you are planning on a traditional day, then the bride & bridesmaids and groom and groomsmen group photos will be taken during the getting ready photos part of the day. This frees up more time for you to chill later and not have to do so much after your ceremony and burn up all your cocktail hour taking photos. Just know you will need to add about 30 minutes to the getting ready photos for each partner, or more depending on what you’re looking to have done. On the other side of the coin, if you are having a first look, you can do these during the wedding party photos that typically happen right after the fact.

The Wedding Party

bride and groom with wedding party playing in leaves under a tree at stonehurst at hampton valley connecticut wedding venue
Photo by: Ladman Studios

When it comes to the wedding party, there are a few things to keep in mind. If this is on a first look day, then we do these photos right after the first look. If it’s a more traditional day, then during cocktail hour and after the ceremony is when this typically happens. Again, you can also do this whenever you want, the earlier the better though so that you are not trying to run around and fit it in later.

The size of the wedding party and the vibe are also something to keep in mind. Larger wedding parties take more time. And if the wedding party wants a lot of group photos, or gets even crazier with photos, that’s more time. A good base here is 60 minutes. That’s a good starting point for all the “Formal” photos and then plenty of time to mess around afterward.

First Look & Couples Portraits

Couple sharing a first look at their wedding
Photo by: Ladman Studios

One of my favorite parts of the day! This is a truly amazing moment for the couple. If you want a more intimate moment, make sure to pick a location that is a bit private and away from unwanted spectators.

First Look Myth

It breaks tradition: WRONG! Do you know the real reason brides and grooms were kept from seeing each other until after the ceremony? Back in the day, the bride’s family did not want to risk a groom breaking off the wedding if he didn’t like the way she looked. YIKERS ISLAND! Toss that shit out and do a first look. Your wedding experience will thank you later.

Couples Portraits

Photo by: Ladman Studios

This is Right after the first look is done you would usually roll right into your couple’s portraits. Again, depending on how and what you plan on doing for these photos will determine the time you will want to plan for these photos. 20 – 30 minutes is usually plenty of time.

Bonus Tip

The first look on your wedding day can also be used for family members. I’ve seen first looks be used for daughters and fathers, fathers and mothers, and even single parents with their children. They are a great addition to any wedding photo timeline.

Ceremony & Reception Details

Photo by: Ladman Studios

Having some time prior to the ceremony and reception before your guests start to fill seats is ideal when these photos would be taken. You spent a lot of time and money picking out decor that fits your vibe and they can add to the storytelling of your day. Depending on your decor make sure there is enough time for your photographer to capture these details for you. If the reception is at a separate location, be aware of that as this will add needed time or even the possibility of your photographer needing to add a second photographer. The time to capture some of these details can be between 10 and 20 minutes. Again, depends on how elaborate or subtle you go with it.

The Ceremony

Wedding-couple-at-ceremony-at-green-haven
Photo by: Ladman Studios

Ceremonies are all over the place these days at weddings. I’ve seen some last 10 minutes and others last 60 minutes. It really all depends on what you are planning to have done at your wedding. If you are having a religious ceremony, typically it can take 45 to 60 minutes. For ceremonies that have no religious or traditional parts to them, it can be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.

Cocktail Hour

Photo by: Ladman Studios

I mean…it’s in the title lol. Time to kick back, drink some booze and eat bacon with your family and friends!

Bonus Tip

If you are not having a first look, however, the family formals, wedding party, and couples portraits will be taken during this time. If there was a first look, and for some reason, the wedding party photos have not been taken yet, this is also a good time to take those.

The Reception

Photo by: Ladman Studios

The reception has a lot going on, food, dancing, speeches, cake, and other traditions you might have. Depending on your needs, this can take anywhere from an hour up to four hours or more. It really depends on how long you have booked the venue for and what you have planned during it. This is no doubt the most relaxing part of your day. Kick back, have some wine, and party on Garth!

Bonus Tip

If you have a long wedding day planned, and there is a full meal, this is usually the only time the photographer & videographer if you have one gets to relax for a bit and back up your photos and video taken so far. Try not to have speeches or any important moments you want to be photographed during the meal part of the reception. They also need to be the first ones to get a meal so that they can eat when you do. This makes it so they can be ready when you are finished eating to resume capturing all your moments!

Golden hour portraits

Sunset couples portraits
Photo by: Ladman Studios

If you have a wedding that is in the afternoon or an all-day thing, golden hour portraits are AMAZING! You get to spend some more time with each other and take some killer photos during the best lighting of the day! Golden hour is different every day. It’s the hour before the sun is fully set. You need to take daylight savings time into account as well. Each season throughout the year will be at vastly different times. So just plan for that accordingly. You don’t want to be sitting down to eat at 6 pm in October when the golden hour is passing you by. Depending on the location as well, tree lines and other Woodley obstructions could reduce the time the sun is out affecting when you can do these portraits. Usually, 15 to 30 minutes is plenty of time.

The Grand exit

Your wedding day has come to an end. You did it! Your freaking married!! It’s now time to leave in style! A popular choice is a sparkler exit. This is where the couple’s guests light up sparklers and surround them as they kiss and leave. This is an amazing moment and makes for an even more banger of a photo! You can do anything really. Lightsabers, Wands, leave in a classic car, and let your imagination GO WILD!

Wedding Photo Timeline Examples

Here are a few examples of what a 10-hour wedding timeline could look like. Keep in mind everything that was covered in this post, as they are all factors that will affect your timeline. Again, a timeline is really more of a guideline for how your day might go. You always need to leave room for humanity to happen.

First Look Example Timeline

10:00   Photographer arrives for detail photos

10:30   Bride getting ready photos

11:30    Bridesmaid’s photos

12:00    Groom getting ready photos

12:30    Groomsmen photos

1:00      First Look, Couples, & Bridal party photos

1:45       Ceremony detail photos

2:00      Ceremony

3:00      Cocktail hour & any additional family photos

3:40      Reception detail photos

4:00      Reception

7:00      Golden hour portraits

8:00     Grand exit

8:30      Photographer leave

Traditional Example Timeline

10:00   Photographer arrives for detail photos

10:30   Bride getting ready photos

11:30    Bridesmaid’s photos

12:00    Groom getting ready photos

12:30    Groomsmen photos

1:00      Ceremony detail photos

1:30      Ceremony

2:30     Cocktail hour ( Family formals, Bridal party, & Bride / Groom portraits )

3:30      Reception detail photos

4:00      Reception

7:00      Golden hour portraits

8:00     Grand exit

8:30      Photographer leave

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Connecticut-based wedding photographer TJ Ladzinski is your adventure catalyst. With infectious enthusiasm and an easygoing spirit, he transforms every moment into cherished memories.

A storyteller at heart, TJ's work has been awarded and featured in several wedding publications. His dedication to capturing authentic moments and creating a joyful atmosphere for his couples is evident in the photographs and experience he produces.

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