We’ve posted about The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline, but we understand that sometimes that order of events doesn’t work for everyone, so here’s a breakdown of some important wedding day events to keep in mind as you’re creating your timeline. Be sure to stay aware of these important sections when making your wedding day itinerary.
Below you’ll see we’ve provided time guides as to about how long each event should take, but talk with all of your vendors involved, be mindful of your hard set deadlines (like ceremony start, music off, etc.), and take the time that you need to feel comfortable on your big wedding day.
We find that knowing all the details can be really overwhelming, but it’s also really helpful when you take control of these times and feel in charge of the flow of your own day. We want to help you make a wedding day itinerary that’ll give you plenty of time for photos/videos while also ensuring that your guests have a great time too!
TBD by your hairstylist & make-up artist
Every stylist has a different process and needs a different timeframe. With this in mind, you’ll need to speak to your hired beauticians about how much time they need. As photographers and videographers, we don’t need to be there while they’re doing their work. The timeline templates on the next few pages include when hair and makeup need to be finished. Just let beauticians know of this end time, and they’ll be more than happy to plan accordingly and can give you a start time!
1 hour & 30 minutes
Most brides and grooms don’t realize this, but detail photos (meaning photos of your dress, jewelry, invitation suite, venue decor, etc.) take about an hour to an hour and a half to photograph. It can be easy to think that these little things don’t matter, but you’ve spent a lot of time choosing these details, and your hard work deserves to be captured. We once told a confused dad, “We photograph anything you spend money on, haha!”
To make the most of this time, your photographer can photograph these details while you and your bridesmaids are getting ready, and if he/she has a second shooter, the second photographer can take candid photos of you and your girls having your hair and makeup done. Booking a second shooter can actually give you more freedom in your timeline because it means that two people can be doing different things at the same time. So, consider this too when planning your wedding day timeline.
1 hour for Bride & 30 minutes for Groom
Your getting ready photos will likely be some of your most treasured photos from your wedding day. After all, you finally get to wear the dress you’ve been dreaming about for most of your life!
For the bride, getting ready photos include photos of you and your bridesmaids in your robes (or flannels and boots, or whatever you choose), photos of you getting in your dress (typically, with Mom’s help), photos of your bridesmaids helping you with your finishing details (like jewelry, straightening out your hair, etc.), photos with your parents’ reactions, and a few bridal portraits.
For the groom, getting ready photos tend to go much quicker! These photos usually include the groom putting on his jacket and bowtie with the help of his best man, his mom pinning his boutonniere, a hug with his dad, photos with his parents, and then a few photos of your handsome groom all by himself.
This is for those friends who have always been there for you and are going to stand by your side on your big day! Bridal party photos include photos of you and your bridesmaids (15 minutes), your groom and his groomsmen (15 minutes), and then your full bridal party (15 minutes).
For your family photos, you can estimate that every group will take approximately three minutes to photograph (when you consider the time it takes to gather each group, arrange them, and fluff your dress). With this in mind, we recommend that you consider limiting these family photos to only ones that you know you are going to frame. It can be hard when you feel the pressure of every family member ever wanting pictures with you in that moment, but consider selecting only immediate family members to be involved.
If you have a larger family then this section could potentially take longer. Whenever we work with brides and grooms who have large families we like to recommend we have a second shooter or assistant present to help keep things moving, place family members, and get groups ready ahead of time.
45 minutes – 1 hour
This may sound like a lot of time, but bride and groom photos are definitely the most important photos on your wedding day! That said, these photos by no means need to be taken back to back, meaning you can split this time up throughout the day so you don’t feel like your wedding day is one long photo session (your groom will thank you for this, haha). For example, if you opt-in for a first look, you could do 20 minutes of photos before your ceremony, 20 minutes of photos after your ceremony, and 20 minutes of photos during sunset, giving you an entire hour of photos of just the two of you. These are going to be the photos you love to share and print out, so we want to have plenty of time for it.
30 minutes – 1 hour & 30 minutes
Depending on your religious affiliation, most wedding ceremonies last around 30 minutes. That said, if you’re having a full Catholic Mass then your ceremony may last closer to an hour and a half. So, as you start to work on your timeline check with your officiant for an estimated timeframe for your ceremony. You’ll want to work closely with them for your specific ceremony timeline.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that some churches and venues require ceremonies to start at specific times. If your venue has a specific start time, you’ll likely need to adjust the times in the templates slightly to fit the needs of your venue.
Oh, and if you’re into traditions, keep in mind that it’s traditional to start your ceremony at half past (ex. 4:30 pm).
Having a cocktail hour (whether you serve cocktails or just hors d’oeuvres) is a great way to keep your guests entertained between your ceremony and reception while you finish up the last of your photos and catch a moment to breath before your reception starts. During cocktail hour, your photographers and videographers will likely either finish up photos with you if your location is the same or shoot your reception decor if your reception is in another location from your ceremony.
It’s a good rule of thumb to start your reception between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Keep in mind—your guests will be ready for dinner! While your reception will likely last much longer than two hours, you really only need about two hours of photo and video coverage to get all of the good stuff. We recommend that you work closely with your DJ to schedule all of your wedding traditions (first dances, cake cutting, toasts, etc.) near the beginning of your reception.
When these traditions are over, the floor will open for free dancing. At this point in the evening, usually the same people continue to dance, and the same people continue to chat and sneak more cake. As a result, your photos will start to look very similar. So, unless you’re planning a grand exit that you’d like to have captured, it’s normal to have your wedding photographer leave about two hours into your reception. Your photographers and videographers may leave, but you’ll keep partying the night away!
15 – 20 minutes
The key to great photos is great light, and golden hour (the hour before the sun sets) is by far the best time for photos because the light is even, glowy, and creamy. So, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of this special time! Know that sunset times are different depending on the time of year, so when making your wedding day timeline, we recommend scheduling your sunset photos about 30 minutes before the sun sets. You’ll likely need to sneak away from your reception for just a few minutes, which will be a nice break.
Keep in mind that while we’ll always try to get great sunset pictures, sometimes the weather and sun don’t cooperate.
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Northern Indiana Wedding and Family Photography & Videography | Joyful, Authentic, Timeless | Trevor & Danyell, a Husband and Wife Team Based Full Time in Winamac, Indiana & Partially in Kansas | Helping you commemorate your life's important milestones with beautiful photo and video | Memories captured
Danyell helps busy moms and families learn how to document their every day lives using easy and consistent methods.
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