Every couple is different, and so is every wedding day. That’s why wedding timelines aren’t a one size fits all sort of document. However, there are certain universal parameters to stay aware of when doling out time allotments for your wedding day photographs.
If it’s important for you to capture some of the most-wanted wedding day photos, stay cognizant of the general timing guidelines for each of these categories when creating your timeline
Time requirement: 2-3 hours total (half for guys, half for girls)
If you are desperate to jump on the behind-the-scenes trend in wedding photography, be sure to allot plenty of time for the photographer to get all of that giddy pre-ceremony energy on camera the morning of the wedding as you begin to prepare for the big day.
It can take up to an hour and a half with both the bride and groom to adequately capture the morning-of excitement as both members of the couple get dressed and prepare with their closest friends. This is also a great period to carve out time for detail shots of the dress, tux, shoes, and rings since it’s the only period where those items will be free.
Preparation photos can be fun and candid or stylized and posed, but they are always a great way to convey the couple’s personality and that of their bridesmaids and groomsmen. No matter what your personal style, these preparation shots will be a treasure to you in years to come as you look back on your final hours before joining the love of your life in marriage.
Time requirement: 30 minutes
A growing trend in wedding photography, the first look allows couples a private moment before the ceremony. It also ensures that the groom’s reaction is properly documented without an obscured view, so the couple can share that memory for years to come. If you’re like most modern couples, you would probably rather enjoy a private meeting before walking down the aisle than preserve the old tradition of staying separated until the ceremony.
The first look itself will only take a fraction of the allotted time, but those few minutes will be quite emotionally charged, and you will probably appreciate a little extra time to vent down following the first look. This is also a great opportunity to take some couples portraits while energies are still running high. This frees up the time post-ceremony that would ordinarily be dedicated to additional photos of the bride and groom.
Time requirement: 1.5 hours
The visually stunning photos that so many brides have been dreaming of for years should not be rushed. A woman should feel more beautiful on her wedding day that any other, and these creative shots work to capture that radiance. What’s more, many couples choose a photographer based on their creative shots, so it’s important to allow plenty of time for them on the wedding day.
Try to leave enough time in the schedule to allow for these creatives before the ceremony; this will likely include travel to another location, but it maximizes the time you can spend with your guests at the ceremony. Photos here may include more stylized couples shots with dramatic lighting or interesting backgrounds, as well as any others that the couple and photographer have discussed.
Creative shots often convey the tone of the day to those who weren’t there; they exhibit the bride and groom’s personal style in a way that candids simply cannot.
Time requirement: 30 minutes each
You have probably spent painstaking hours poring over every detail of both the ceremony and reception venues—the way they’re decorated, the colors of the flower arrangements, the candles in the centerpieces, all of it takes particular consideration. Not to mention the fact that selecting the venue is often a major undertaking in and of itself.
Unfortunately, many of these small details are lost in the commotion of the day, especially for the bride and groom whose minds are occupied elsewhere. Carving out time for your photographer to take detail shots at each of these locations means you will get to relish all of those tiny touches that you gave so much thought.
Though the detail shots are a relatively quick process, be sure to structure your schedule so that your photographer is able to take them before guests arrive and the respective events begin as some of the decorative elements are likely to be disrupted. It will take a little mental work to figure out when your photographer can arrive so that vendors will be finished decorating but guests won’t have started arriving, but the resulting photos will be more than worth it.
Time requirement: 30 minutes
If you come from a traditional family, it’s possible that more than one of your immediate family members can’t wait to have a photo from your wedding day to place on their mantle. Even if yours is less traditional, taking photos with your family is an important and sentimental part of most wedding days.
Be sure to set aside half an hour following the ceremony to take photos with parents, in-laws, grandparents, and any other immediate relations that may be present. There is more than likely a perfect spot to take these photos somewhere at your ceremony venue.
If you have an especially large family and 30 minutes sounds like it’s not enough time to capture photos with each of them, chances are it actually is. Family photos aren’t highly stylized and don’t require much posing, but you can also add a little more time to this allotment if you’re concerned.
Time requirement: 3 hours
Though the time it takes to thoroughly photograph a reception is somewhat variable, 3 hours is a good general guide. Candid photos of the reception will help catalog the excitement and merriment of the wedding day for every guest.
It’s in these photos that you’ll get to see the reactions from guests during the bridal party’s speeches, and the joy on your face when you enter the reception as a married couple for the first time. These are the genuine moments that you’ll want to relive for the rest of your life, so it’s important you allot enough time in the day for your photographer to capture them.
These photos will include events like first dances, speeches, cake cutting, and bouquet/garter toss. They breathe life into a set of wedding photos, adding personality and individuality to a wedding day.