Part of being a wedding photographer includes helping our couples plan out their wedding timeline. I love being organised (I'm a total sucker for pretty to do lists!) and I believe a smooth-flowing relaxed wedding day is all in the planning. As our couples start planning the details of how their wedding day will unfold I am often asked about the timeline and how long we need for photos.
When couples book us as their wedding photographers I send out a copy of my Wedding Magazine which has quite a few pages dedicated to information about wedding timelines, but I thought I'd share a wedding timeline template with you here too.
In this blog post I break down each portion of the day and provide some insight into how Matt & I photograph a wedding day. While this outline is based on a traditional timeline, if you're doing a first look instead the time allowed for everything is the same - just in a different order.
Bridal Prep: The girls
I arrive to the bride & bridesmaids around about the time the bride is starting to have her hair & makeup done. My first 30-45 minutes is spent focusing on doing detail shots. I ask my brides to have the following details assembled for me to photograph;
• dress on hanger • veil & hair pieces • rings (all three together) • shoes • jewellery • perfume • the wedding invitation or full stationery suite • borrowed & blue • garter and any other special details including gifts or letters (make sure these aren't opened or read before we get there to capture the moment!).
In between doing details I take candids of everyone hanging out & about the time I finish details the bride's hair & makeup is in the final stages which is the perfect time to photograph those finishing touches.
Your hair & makeup team will let you know how long they require and from there you can base your time of when to start in the morning. I suggest having all hair & makeup finished at least 30 minutes before you want to start getting dressed. This helps provide a bit of breathing time to relax, have a bite to eat and gives you some padding in your timeline if anything over-runs.
The last hour before the ceremony is all about the bride getting dressed. For the purpose of photos I get parents & bridesmaids to dress first. While some dresses simply zip up a lace-up dress can easily take 20 minutes just to get the lace sitting right, plus there's all the details like putting earrings in, jewellery on, garter, shoes and having your veil put in too so ensure you allow yourself plenty of time to be nice & relaxed throughout this portion of the day. If there's time after getting dressed we can take some portraits before leaving for the ceremony too!
Bridal Prep: The guys
Matt spends the morning with the groom and his groomsmen. He arrives usually 45 minutes after I start coverage with the bride because he often helps me with the dress shots & some details before going to the guys.
When Matt arrives to the guys his first task is photographing the details. So I ask the groom to have the following items ready for Matt to photograph in the morning:
• suit (tags off, ready to wear) • tie • shoes • cufflinks • cologne • watch • and again if you are exchanging letters to each other make sure these aren't read until Matt is there to capture the moment.
After shooting details Matt takes candids of the guys hanging out & getting into their suits. Usually this includes Matt helping tie a few ties or showing how to put on button hole flowers (I've written a blog post on this if you want to school up before the day!) and once the groom & groomsmen are dressed Matt usually likes about 15 minutes to take groom portraits and group portraits.
Matt's advice for the grooms is to allow more time getting dressed than you think you need & have things organised. Often small things can end up causing a chaotic end to preparations; maybe the bestman has gone to do a job when everyone needs to start getting dressed, or the suits still have all the tags attached which take time to remove. To avoid feeling rushed have all your details & suits ready to go and allow yourselves a little extra time - the bonus is, if you have an extra ten minutes up your sleeve at the end you can use it to have a celebratory drink! 😉
Ceremony ~ 30-45 minutes
Most ceremonies are about 30 minutes or less - your celebrant can advise you of timing. Allow an extra 10-15 minutes after your ceremony too for your guests to congratulate you. We love documenting these candid moments!
Matt and I photograph your ceremony from two perspectives - generally I shoot wide, story-telling shots while Matt focuses on closer, candids. Having two photographers also means while one of us is photographing the bride walking down the aisle with her dad, the other one of us is getting the shot of the groom's reaction. While we capture all the beautiful moments of your ceremony we don't like to be intrusive and it's our aim that you hardly notice we're there.
Group photo & family photos ~ 30 minutes
I discuss the details of family photos with my couples at our pre-wedding meeting and we confirm a written list of group photos so that on the day we don't miss any & we can keep things flowing smoothly.
After your ceremony & once guests have had a chance to congratulate you we start organising the big group shot while everyone is still in the immediate surroundings. While I still have everyone's attention after the big group shot I advise family photos are up next. This is a time when having a family member or the MC help us with each photo grouping is a huge advantage in getting the group photos done effectively.
Bridal Portraits ~ 1.5 to 2 hours
This is the creative portrait time for the two of you & your bridal party. You can choose to do these photos as a first-look before the ceremony (more info on First Looks here), or more traditionally; after the ceremony.
We head to a couple of pre-chosen locations which we will have discussed at one of our catch up meetings and I location-scout these spots to check on the lighting etc before the wedding day. We put an emphasis on this time of your day being for kicking back & having fun with your bridal party. Bring a picnic and some bubbly for the adventure!
I suggest allowing 90 minutes to 2 hours maximum for this part of your day. If there's a little travel involved between locations it's best to allow about 2 hours, but there is no need for any longer than that - we want you to be able to get back to your guests & the party!
Reception ~ coverage per collection
Photography coverage of your reception will depend on the wedding collection you choose but the majority of our couples have us stay up to the dance - so we capture speeches, cutting of the cake, candids of your guests, your first dance, everyone on the dancefloor getting their groove on and sometimes we finish the evening off with some after dark photos (find out more here) if our couples want them.
So if we put this all together here's an example runsheet based on a 3pm ceremony:
If you would like some help with planning your wedding timeline, or if you have questions about how to allow time for other things such as a father/daughter first-look you can always get in touch with me here.