The wedding day timeline is one of the trickiest and most important elements to put together for your wedding but don’t stress, we’ve got your back with our Essential Timeline Guide! This guide covers the whole wedding day and the amount of time we recommend allotting for photos. This way you will have enough time to get a wide variety of images that tell an authentic story of your wedding day!
Because weddings are so hectic, you should find the time of sunset for your wedding day and build the day around that. Sunset should happen right before your reception during cocktail hour. That way we can do romantic portraits of the two of you in gorgeous golden light. (More on that later!)
While these are estimates, we always recommend allowing for more time than you think you will need. 99.99% of weddings run at least a few minutes late and adding in some buffer time to the schedule will allow you to remain on schedule and have a stress-free day! If you cut or shrink the times listed, you run the risk of not getting certain images as part of your package or missing out on special moments.
One thing to keep in mind as you are reading through this guide: we have found this timeline, which includes a first look, to run more smoothly. While we strongly encourage first looks, we know that this goes against tradition. This is an ideal timeline but it is by no means a one size fits all. If you need help crafting the perfect timeline for your day, we offer complimentary timeline consultations with our packages so we can help you have the best day ever!!!
PART ONE: PRE-CEREMONY
Bridal Details & Hair/ Make- Up Shots (45-60 Minutes)
When we arrive, Nicole begins at the bridal getting ready suite with the bride and bridesmaids (or for same sex/non binary couples at the main getting ready suite.) We like to take a few moments to introduce ourselves to the bridesmaids and check in with the bride before jumping in to photograph the details. Check out our Bridal Suite Guide for a checklist on what to bring! Nicole will photograph details such as the bridal jewelry, shoes, the wedding dress, the bridesmaid dresses, wedding rings and any additional details. The details usually take about 25-45 minutes depending on the amount of items. After the details, she will spend the remaining time capturing getting ready candids in the bridal suite.
During this time, Paul or one of our second shooters will be with the Groom’s side photographing any groom/groomsmen details and candid getting ready shots. Depending on the amount of details or location limitations, sometimes Paul or our second shooters will join Nicole at the bridal suite and we will stage the gentlemen getting ready later.
Getting Dressed (30-45 Minutes)
Now that the hair and makeup is all done, it’s time for the bride to get into her wedding dress and the bridesmaids to get into their dresses! If everyone has a special outfit or special robes, we will photograph everyone in their cute outfits before they change into their dresses. Once everyone is dressed, we will photograph special moments such as the Mother of the Bride/Bridesmaids helping the bride into her dress or buttoning the back of her dress and putting on her veil, shoes and jewelry. We will also take a few glamour shots of the bride and her bridesmaids in their getting ready suite.
Some couples choose to do a first look for their parents during this time or read letters from the bride/groom/partner at this time. One thing to keep in mind during this time is that depending on how large your bridal party, the longer it may take them to get ready. Add ten- fifteen minutes if you have more than five bridesmaids in the bridal party.
PART TWO: PORTRAITS
Walk to the first look/ First Look Set Up (10-15 minutes depending on property size)
Once the bride and groom/ couple is ready, we whisk them away for their first look. Before the wedding, we make sure to scout the property so we know exactly where the light will look the best and the perfect location for the first look. We set the groom up in the spot and then lead the bride there. We recommend in keeping this a special moment between the two of you and having the bridal party and family join us later for their portraits.
This is a good buffer time if not every bridesmaid is ready or if they need to touch up their hair or make up before the bridal party portraits.
First Look (10-15 Minutes)
We like to step back for a few minutes and let the two of you take it all on and savor this special moment. We position ourselves to photograph your first look but we will be far enough away that you two can share a private moment.
Romantic Portraits (30-45 Minutes)
Right after your first look, we transition into your romantic portraits. By photographing your romantic portraits during this time, we ensure that we will have captured a variety of romantic portraits and if there is a crunch for time later, you won’t have to sacrifice your portrait time. By splitting your romantic portraits before and after the ceremony, we can capture around 40% more romantic portraits on your wedding day.
During this time, we also like to take individual portraits of the bride and the groom/ each partner. As well as taking shots from a variety of angles.
Bridal Party (10 minutes for Bridesmaids, 10 minutes for groomsmen, and 15 minutes for entire bridal party)
We like to start with the bridesmaids since they will have their hair and make up set. We take portraits of the bridesmaids as a group and individuals with the bride. If you have more than 4 bridesmaids, we recommend adding an additional five to fifteen minutes. Once the bridesmaids are finished, we switch to the groomsmen. If we have not taken groom/groomsmen getting ready shots will stage them at this time as well as the same portraits as the bridesmaids.
Once each side has been photographed, we take several different group shots. We like to keep this short and sweet so bridesmaids and groomsmen can touch up or finish setting anything up for the wedding. It’s a good idea to have immediate family arrive during the bridal party portrait time (if they are not already at the venue) so they are ready to go for their portraits.
Immediate Family Portraits (30 Minutes)
During the planning process leading up to your wedding, we send over a questionnaire so we can help you put together groupings for your family so that we can get all the different family portraits on the day of your wedding. If you would like to include extended family, add on an additional 15-30 minutes.
Bride and Groom Retouch/ Relax & Ceremony Decor (30 Minutes)
This is a great time to take a little breather before the ceremony, touch up your make up, have a glass of water or champagne and relax before heading down the aisle. During this time we photograph your ceremony decor before the guests sit down. We can also take a few candid photographs of your guests arriving.
Before your ‘I do’s’ don’t forget to grab your vows and some tissues!
PART THREE: CEREMONY & COCKTAIL HOUR
Ceremony (20-30 Minutes)
We have found that on the whole most weddings last between 20-30 minutes. Be sure to prep your bridesmaids and groomsmen during the rehearsal so that everyone knows to look up and smile as they walk down the aisle and to hold their bouquets up at hip level.
Husband & Wife Sunset Photos (30 Minutes)
It’s your first portraits as husband and wife! While Paul or our second shooters are photographing the end of the recessional, Nicole will take you and your new husband or wife for your sunset photos. The sunset light is the best in the entire day and is extremely flattering and creates a golden glow in the images. This is a great moment to take a breath and really take in the day.
Reception Details and Cocktail Hour
After your sunset portraits, you can either join cocktail hour and mingle with your guests or you and your new spouse can take a half an hour to enjoy the first moments of your married life.
During this time, we photograph your reception details (all the tablescapes, florals and any other details that you spent months planning!) before your guests sit down at their tables as well as candid shots of your guests at cocktail hour. These are both great types of shots to include in your wedding album!
PART FOUR: RECEPTION
Reception (120 Minutes- Option One)
There are two different options here depending on the size of your package. This first option is a condensed version of a reception. It is a way to capture most of the big milestones of the reception with the first 90 minutes. To achieve this, you would do your grand entrance and 1st dance right when you walk in. After that you would schedule your toasts during dinner and the cake cutting right after dinner is over. This way your guests can hit the dance floor and we can get a few rocking party images! After about 30-40 minutes, dancing shots all start to look similar so unless you have any special performances or a grand exit planned that you would like photographed, this is a good way to end the night.
Reception (Full Reception- Option Two)
This is a great option if you would like images of the entire night all the way to your grand exit! You can also spread out all the reception milestone moments throughout the night instead of condensing things to the beginning of the reception.
We are here to help you build the perfect timeline! If you have other special elements, we would love to help you build it into a timeline that guarantees a smooth day and plenty of images that you can look over for years to come!
Set up your complimentary consultation by reaching out to us by phone/text at (510) 210-3821 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy wedding planning!!