Wedding Photography Timelines
By Kara Schultz
Wedding Photographer, Kara Schultz – Storyteller
I often get a lot of requests about timelines and how to form them! I usually end up working with my brides one on one with the troublesome ones or figuring out if we can make it to certain locations but if you have a wedding planner be sure to let me know so we can get in touch about the photo end of the day! Here’s the number 1 rule when it comes to making timelines, always plan more than you’ll need! I always start out with the ceremony time and work backwards.
So let’s say your ceremony is at 3pm. For this timeline we’re going to go with 1 hour long. End time, 4pm.
Are you doing a receiving line? Add 30-45 minutes for 200 guests, if your parents are in the line, lean more towards the 45 minute mark.
Also remember that most churches kick you out at some point which is usually 30 minutes after the time your ceremony is supposed to end (not the time it actually ends). So think about moving your greeting line to cocktail hour or going to visit with your guests at their tables.
So far we have:
3pm – ceremony
4pm – end of ceremony
4:30pm – end of church pictures
now let’s say your cocktail hour starts at 6pm (if you want another location, this is an ideal time frame).
BIG tip: Always add an extra 15 minutes to your travel time and even more if you’re in the city and going to popular destinations, traffic can kill timelines that don’t allow it.
So we have basically 30-1 hour for pictures depending on the location. I’ve used local parks, places like Cantigny, or the actual venues themselves especially if the reception is at a country club.
I need around 20 minutes for bridal party and 30-45 minutes for the couple. My style is to focus on the bride and groom for the “formals” part of the day and get the bridal party done quickly! So an hour is good for me for one location! *disclaimer – this hour is based on what I do as a photographer, if you’re reading this and you’re not my client, talk to your photographer about what they need *
If you want multiple locations add around 30 minutes for each location as I’ll be splitting that hour up and not doing all the pictures in one location!
Your venue should help you with planning out the timeline for the reception so I won’t go into that. However, I do love love love when couples walk in and go directly to cut their cake! Many venues now require this but it’s nice for your guests because the attention is directly on you and you don’t have everyone bum rushing the cake table to get the picture, usually when this happens it’s just me close! Also, I also love when the speeches follow that too, then dinner can begin with no interruptions (because the waitstaff generally won’t serve if people are speaking). That’s really all I have to say on reception timing!
Ok, back to the beginning of the timeline. If your ceremony starts at 3, you need to be hiding and at your venue at 2:30 if you’re traveling to it. It takes about 10 minutes for the bride to get dressed and I’ll tell you when to get dressed! But do not, do not, do not, get dressed without me there if you want the dress hanging and getting ready photos. I don’t have to be around for all of the getting ready photos, I don’t take pictures of makeup being done until you have foundation on and usually there’s not much happening but if something special is happening then by all means have me there!
So a timeline may look like this:
1:45 – get bride dressed (approximate timing depending on whether you have to gather items and load them or if they’re all ready and need to just be loaded)
2:15 – leave for church
2:30 – arrive at church
3 – ceremony
4 – ceremony ends
4:30 – church pictures done
5 – arrive at park near venue
6 – leave for cocktail hour (short drive)
7 – intros start
Whew! Now this is just an idea on how to form a timeline. It really depends but it should help you. If you’re doing a first look, just increase the time beforehand and decrease the time in between the ceremony and reception! I generally talk with each client about any timeline issues I foresee or if they have questions! I’m more than happy to sit down and help you out! So if you’re struggling, shoot me an email!
Here’s another one for a first look:
1:30 – get bride dressed (approximate timing depending on whether you have to gather items and load them or if they’re all ready and need to just be loaded, could also change depending on when )
2:00 – meeting and pictures occur
3:15 – leave for church
3:30 – arrive at church
4 – ceremony
5 – ceremony ends
5:30 – church pictures done
6 – leave for cocktail hour (short drive)
7 – intros start
And if you have one of those large gaps in between:
11:30 – get dressed, 12 – leave for church, 12:30 – arrive at church, 1pm – ceremony, 2pm – ceremony over, 2:30 church pictures done, 3 – arrive at location 1, 4 – arrive at location 2, 5 – leave for cocktail hour, 5:30 – get to venue, take a few pictures and get items to room, 6 – cocktail hour begins, 7 – reception begins
If you have a small amount of time in between the ceremony and reception and are worried about getting pictures in and you don’t want to do a first look, then you may want to think about doing pictures of the boys and girls separately beforehand but I caution you that sometimes this doesn’t work at all. Someone will always be late, so tell them all to gather 30 minutes before we actually need to start! That way if anything goes wrong or they’re stuck in traffic, we’ll be fine. If you have a 2nd photographer in your package, they’ll be sticking with the boys and making sure they’re on time!
It’s always important to communicate any concerns you have with any of your vendors! We’re all specialists so your hair stylist, your makeup artist, venue and so on will be able to tell you the time length of things. I would always put some cushion room in the getting ready area because it’s ok to be ahead of schedule, but being late can possibly panic you. So it’s always better to have your hair and makeup done earlier rather than just on time.