Timeline Tips

Create the perfect wedding day photography timeline.

We’ve photographed hundreds of weddings, and we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to timelines! It’s no secret, things often run behind schedule (i.e. getting ready takes longer than expected causing the ceremony to start a few minutes late) so it’s always a good idea to add buffer to each section of the day to make sure everything runs smoothly.

We encourage you to consider what’s most important to you on your wedding day. For example, if attending cocktail hour is important to you, maybe consider doing a first look and portraits prior to the ceremony. Or, if you love kicking it on the dance floor, keep group shots at the reception to a minimum. Knowing these things ahead of time will help us craft a timeline that best fits your vision for your wedding day.

Below are some rough time frames for the different parts of the day to give you an idea of how many photography coverage hours you may need to include in your package.

Getting Ready

60 – 90 Minutes

We recommend having your photographer arrive for an hour of getting ready so that they can capture those beautiful details you spent so much time planning, hair/makeup and final touches while getting dressed. If you booked a second photographer, it’s a great opportunity for the photographers to split up and cover both of you getting ready for the big day!

First Look

15 – 30 Minutes

If we could suggest one thing to make your wedding day more relaxed, it would be to consider a first look. Not only is it an intimate moment between you and your partner, but it can also lessen your anxiety throughout the rest of the wedding day. It allows the portraits to come before the ceremony, giving you more time to enjoy the cocktail hour or opt for more portraits! Also consider a first look with mom, dad or your wedding party. Those photos are always full of love and emotion!

Couple’s Portraits

30 – 45 Minutes

These are the photos that you will frame in your house, put on your desk at work, have passed down for generations to see. These photos are important and that’s why we like to dedicate 45 minutes to them if time allows. There will be a mix of formal, candid and creative photos of the two of you, so that you have a variety to look back on and choose from for print.

Wedding Party Portraits

30 – 45 Minutes

Your wedding party consists of some of the most important people in your life and that is why they are standing next to you on your wedding day. We typically dedicate 30 minutes to taking different combinations of your wedding party but if you have a larger group it could take 45 minutes. On your timeline questionnaire you’ll be able to list out all of the combos, and we will make sure to capture those on your wedding day!

Family Portraits

20 – 40 Minutes

When creating your family formals list, keep in mind that each grouping takes an average of 2 minutes. So, if you only have an hour scheduled for photos of your family, bridal party and two of you, you might want to keep the family formals list shorter, in order to leave time for the portraits of the two of you. If you choose to do family formals before the ceremony, we recommend keeping your list to immediate family only and saving the extended family portraits for after the ceremony.


30 – 60 Minutes

Guests usually begin to arrive 30 minutes prior to the ceremony so if you’re taking any formal photos pre-ceremony you will want to have them wrapped up by then. During the ceremony we take a non-intrusive approach and capture most of it from a distance. If you have any personal touches that might be happening during the ceremony let us know, so that we can be sure to capture every moment! Typically on-location ceremonies are 30-45 minutes while church ceremonies are 45-60 minutes.

Cocktail Hour

60 – 90 Minutes

Cocktail hour is the perfect time for us to capture reception details, as well as photos of your family and friends. During cocktail hour we capture candid photo of guests enjoying themselves. These typically aren’t “frame worthy” photos, but they are fun to look back on for years to come. If you aren’t doing a first look, consider adding a second photographer if you’d like cocktail hour captured along with reception details. You could also opt to extend the cocktail hour to 90 minutes so you have a better chance of joining in after portraits.


4 Hours

Now the party starts! All formalities (i.e. entrance, first dance, parent dances, toasts, cake) typically happen during the first 2 hours of the reception. After that it’s dancing time! Once we talk through your timeline we can see if more hours need to be added to your package to cover everything you’d like captured at the reception.

Group photos at the reception typically take 3-5 minutes per grouping because people are often more scattered about and need to be gathered together. If this is important to you, then it might be a good idea to connect with your DJ or band so they can help get the right people in the right place at the right time.

Night Shots

10 Minutes

We love a good night shot! If you do too, then we typically like to step outside during the open dancing. Most couples say they enjoy the quiet moment away from the reception to breathe and take it all in.

Must Haves

And Other Things To Keep In Mind

Are there little touches, DIY details or special moments planned throughout the day? If so, let us know ahead of time so that we can factor that into the timeline. We want to make sure we don’t rush the important things that you’ve planned!

If your day is split up between different locations keep that in mind when creating the timeline. Not only is drive time important, but also consider the time it takes for everyone to gather everything prior to getting onto the transportation. When we create the timeline together we will make sure that time is accounted for!

Don’t forget to keep Daylight Savings in mind when planning your portraits. It can get dark as early as 4:30pm in the colder months so you may want to consider a first look so portraits can be done during the daylight hours.