Wedding Timeline Tips and FAQs

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Wedding timelines are super important to keep things flowing smoothly. I will say that my assistant, Joceline, and I are pretty good at going with the flow and rolling with whatever comes our way on those big Wedding Days.


However, I thought it may be great to write about some wedding timeline tips and FAQs.


Q. How much time do we need for photos on the wedding day? 


A. Well, it’s going to depend on which package you choose for one thing. Did you go with one photographer or two? Because if it’s one shooter, then I have to cover getting the bride and the groom separately at two different times. Whereas with my second photographer, we can be in two different places at the same time.


So all that to say, I’m going to give you my best rough and dirty guide here to help. Location also plays a factor to some of these. Getting ready in the hotel room but then going to a nicer location at a resort may take some time if it’s a big resort.


  • Getting ready: 30-45 minutes for both guys and girls (shoes, accessories, rings, jewelry, invitation, cuff links, bouquets, dress, finishing touches of bride/groom getting ready etc.)
  • Bride alone + Bridesmaids: 45 minutes (before ceremony)
  • Groom alone + Groomsmen: 45 minutes (before ceremony)
  • Wedding couple together: 30-45 minutes (if doing a first look, add 15 minutes before ceremony)
  • Whole Wedding Party: 20-30 minutes (usually what takes the longest is gathering and cooperation from the wedding party as everyone is ready to party)
  • Immediate Family: This is based on how many groups or breakdowns that you want to do. It’s usually about 2 minutes per small group (2-8 people) and about 5 minutes per large group (8+ people).
  • Extended Family: My suggestion is to keep family formals to immediate family and then do less “formal” photos with extended family members as the bride and groom mingle during the reception. However, if you would like to include extended family after the ceremony with traditional photos, then use the same timing calculations as for immediate family.
  • Ceremony Prep Time: 15-30 minutes. I need 15-30 minutes right before your ceremony so I can get detailed photos before the wedding takes place and make sure I’m in the best positions and angles before the bride walks down the aisle.


If you are able to give us those times (or even a little extra) – we will be sure to get you those gorgeous photos with no rushing and be able to pay attention to details.


Q. When do you start shooting?


A. There are two ways to figure this out, again, based on the wedding package you choose.


  • The first way is to take the time you have me for and count backwards. For example, if you have me and my assistant for 8 hours, start with the last event at reception plus 30 minutes of open dancing and then count back 8 hours. If our start time gives us 30+ minutes of getting ready, then you are probably great! If not, we will have to either adjust the start/end time or consider adding additional time to your package. Keep in mind, if you are having a grand exit (sparklers, confetti, etc.) you may want to double check that we will be there until then!
  • We can start getting ready photos right after the bride finishes hair and just before she starts makeup (that way she is somewhat done before we start photographing. I suggest having your hair done before makeup). So basically, I want to arrive around 30 minutes before the Bride is ready. If this isn’t the case, I’m doing a lot of standing around and there are only so many portraits I can capture of the bride getting hair and make up done. We want more portraits of the finished look in that dress.


Q. Should I have anything ready for you when you come?


When I get there and the bride or groom are finishing getting ready, I get detail shots. So you will want to have the dress, shoes, rings, bouquets, jewelry, special sentimental items, invitation, garters, etc. in a spot for me to grab and photograph.


Q. Shouldn’t the bride get family photos before the ceremony and the groom do the same?


A. No, don’t do it! It will just waste more time that we could be getting other essential photos pre-ceremony. Just do all of the family formals after the ceremony and make sure that everyone knows exactly where to go after the ceremony. I cannot stress how it is your job to know what family you want in your photos, therefore, you need to make sure they are aware of this. As a photographer, I have most likely not met your family so I do not know who needs to stick around. They don’t need to go exactly where we will be shooting family formals, they just all need to know to stick around after the ceremony for formal photos.


Here’s why: The thing that takes the most time with family formals is gathering everyone together and getting people organized.  The difference between the group “Bride + Groom + Bride’s Parents” and the group “Bride + Bride’s Parents” is just saying “Groom, can you step out for a second?” which takes about 3 seconds to quickly re-arrange and will ultimately save you time in the end.


Also, a lot is going on before the wedding. Sometimes you are relying your family members to complete certain tasks before the wedding, so adding that stress of photos before the ceremony is too much. Mom may be busy helping with the florists, dad may have forgotten his boutonniere, or someone will forget that they were supposed to show up early for family photos before the ceremony (or they get caught in traffic or the list could go on and on… etc.) which typically results in everyone spending time getting everyone together only to discover that someone is missing and then spending more time trying to figure out where that person is and then finally deciding to just do that side of the family’s photos after the ceremony. So, all that to say, just hold off until after the ceremony. It will help things go smoother and not add stress.


If you let your immediate families know to just be in a certain spot after the ceremony, then you can save yourselves a LOT of headache and get your family formals done super quickly and efficiently. And side note: Bride and Groom, as you preach this to your own family, you also need to get away from the ceremony and get to that spot. It’s even harder pulling the bride and groom away if they don’t get out of sight immediately. Everyone wants to see you and hug you and come up to you to congratulate you on your big day. You are the stars of the show on your big day! However, your guests can do that at the reception. So get out of sight quickly so we can start gathering everyone for photos because that’s what takes a lot of time.


Q. My makeup artist and hair stylist gave me an estimated time, can’t I just go off of it? 


A. We love our hair and makeup artists. And we are so grateful for what they make us look like on our big days, but nope. Unfortunately, sometimes they can get off schedule. And believe it or not, they start the day. So if they get off, the rest of the whole wedding, which is a lot to go, gets off on that timeline as well. And they are usually working extra hard on that day, even if they had a trial run, because it’s the actual day and they want to make it perfection. So while they are wonderful, and regardless of if they are at fault for not staying on your timeline, you need to have a buffer there. So give about 5-10 more per person they are working on, just to be safe.


Q. Is there anything else that I am not thinking of? 


A. TRAVEL! Don’t forget that in your timeline, you have to include travel to and from the location (ceremony, reception, etc.) That can be a pitfall. It’s super important! And take into consideration a little traffic just to play it safe, too.


With all my wedding timeline tips, I want to throw in one last thing. Plan your timeline absolutely, but don’t OVER plan it. If you are planning in intervals of less than 10-15 minutes-or-so, you are probably over-planning your day. You want to be organized, but you don’t want to be checking that timeline every two minutes. If you try to plan out every second of your big day, you will be constantly be looking at it, then stressing if you are a couple minutes behind. You want and NEED to enjoy your wedding day.


We look forward to capturing your wedding day and documenting this special time if you life. I hope these tips help you to help everything flow smoothly for your day.

Want to see more wedding photos?

Pre-Ceremony details + Ceremony + Reception

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