I sometimes have a problem remembering that not everyone was a Girl Scout, and learned how to put together an event like I did. I have a bad habit of assuming that people can automatically lay out a timeline for an event- without writing it down!- and make it happen on schedule. I planned several dozen events for Girl Scouts over the years, so it almost became second nature to me. Today, I’m gonna share some of that insight with y’all!
What I’m gonna do first is present you with a timeline that includes most every event at a wedding and is favorable for photography, and then I’ll explain why I made the choices that I did. Here we go:
Details Photos: 1:30
Getting Ready Photos: 2:00
Groomsmen Portraits: 2:30 p.m.
Bridal Party Portraits: 3:00 p.m.
First Look: 3:30 p.m.
Wedding Party Portraits: 4:00 p.m.
Rest and Re-group: 4:30 p.m. (Photographer possibly photographs reception site if nearby)
Ceremony: 5:00 p.m.
Family Formal Portraits: 5:30 p.m. (Guests go to cocktail hour)
Bride and Groom Portraits: 6:00 p.m.
Grand Entrance to Reception: 6:30 p.m.
Dinner Served: 6:40 p.m.
Toasts: 7:15 p.m.
First Dance: 7:30 p.m.
Cake Cutting: 7:45 p.m.
Garter/Bouquet Toss: 8:00 p.m.
Reception Dancing Opens Up: 8:10 p.m.
Photographer Leaves: 8:30 p.m.
Please keep in mind that not every wedding runs according to this plan, and it can be rearranged a bit.
In putting together this timeline, the first thing that I decided was what time the ceremony would be. All other decisions were based around that, and a certain amount of experience in knowing how long things take. So, once I decided that the ceremony would begin at 5:00 p.m.. I knew that people generally need a small break before to relax and gather their thoughts before the ceremony began. This also gives me the chance to go photograph the reception room before anyone has entered (which can make for some stunning photos!).
By placing most of the formal portraits before the wedding, this gives your wedding party time to relax and really enjoy the reception after the ceremony, because once the ceremony and these photos are done, their jobs become playing host to your guests and having fun! Of course, this means that you have to be ready to go sooner, but it’s doable. Experience has taught me that if everyone is ready to go, we can shoot all of these groupings several different ways within 30 minutes.
Shooting photos of all of your details- the invitations, your jewelry, the dress, shoes, flowers, and so on when I first get there allows me time to work and visit at the same time. It allows you to know that I’m there and ready to support you without rushing into portraits.
Most ceremonies only take about 30 minutes. A few are longer depending on the religious and secular traditions incorporated, but on average, they’re 30 minutes. Based off that, I can then outline when family portraits are, and the rest of the reception events.
Family portraits are similar to the wedding party portraits: if everyone is ready to go, 30 minutes is more than enough time to do them.
The Bride and Groom Couple’s Portraits are perhaps my most favorite part of the whole day! There is some much one can do during this time to capture outstanding photos! But I also know that my couples want to go spend time with their friends and family, so 30 minutes is enough time to get some great photos, but if you’re willing to go longer, I’d love it!
After the Grand Entrance at the reception, things can get a little murky as to the order of events. Ultimately it’s up to you. Other than dinner service- which usually takes half an hour- most of these events are only 10 or 15 minutes, and can happen in just about any order you can imagine.
So, there you have it: a wedding day timeline that favors photography and the decisions I made to put it together. Things can be rearranged to reflect what you want your day to look like, but the amount of time spent on each portion doesn’t change. As a photographer, I’m always willing to help my couples put their timelines together, or to work as part of their team with their wedding coordinator and D.J. to help them put it together.
If you have suggestions for couples who are just starting to think about this, drop ‘em below!