Creating a Wedding Photography Timeline

Creating a Wedding Photography Timeline

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Throughout my career photographing weddings here in South Florida, I have learned that having a really great wedding photography timeline is critical to getting those fantastic photos without any unwanted stress.

Creating a wedding photography timeline that is flexible and detailed is one of the best ways to ensure brides and grooms get the best wedding pictures while still enjoying their special day.

In this article I will walk you through the best way to create a wedding photography schedule or timeline that will meet most couples needs.

A good wedding timeline should have enough time built-in for the bride and groom photos, wedding party photos, family photos, and the getting ready photos.  In addition, the bride and groom should not feel like their wedding is one giant all day photo-shoot.  Having a really good timeline is one of the major keys to wedding photography success.

At the bottom of this article are several a sample wedding photography timelines.  Over time I will continue to add some timelines which I have received from wedding planners I have worked with.  I’ve kept the planners info on these timelines.  This way if you are looking for a planner you will have several to contact.  I’m sure they won’t mind the additional business. Feel free to use these sample timelines for your own wedding. I highlighted the turned red the text that pertains to the wedding photography. Also, keep in mind that wedding photography timelines can always be changed and tweaked to suit couples needs. For example, a wedding with a large amount of family members may require more time for posed family photos.  Also, some couples may want to spend more time taking bride and groom photos whiles others may not care so much about bride and groom photos.

When I work with a couple or a couples event planner I always start with a loose flexible timeline then work to refine if so that the end result is a timeline that makes everyone happy.

I always start creating my wedding timeline with the ceremony.  By doing this I can work backwards and build my timeline to allow enough time for each photo session. (By photo session I mean sessions such as: getting ready, family photos, bride and groom photos.  Let’s say the ceremony starts at 6:00PM. Working backwards I’m starting by allowing 30 minutes for the bride to relax and prepare for the ceremony and be hidden while her guests arrive.

5:30PM – Photography ends, bride make-up touch up before ceremony

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

By finishing all the posed pictures before the start of the ceremony, the bride and groom didn’t have to take pictures during the cocktail hour.

Normally the last set of posed photos are the family photos,  working backward, if I’m going to allow an hour for family photos, the family photo start time would be 4:30PM

 

This last group photo was taken before the ceremony. Taken at Woodfield Country Club.

4:30PM – Family photos start

5:30PM – Posed photography ends, bride make-up touch up before ceremony

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

Posed family pictures can take a 1/2 hour or 2 hours. It’s important to be realistic about how many family group photos will be taken and how much time is needed. This wedding had a ton of family members and relatives that needed to be photographed. Extra time, a second photographer and an assistant were needed to cover all the family members. Many wedding couples don’t have all these family members and less time is needed for family portraits. It’s up to your photographer to review the family photos and build in enough time to get these photos.

Before I start with the posed family photos,  I’ll spend time photographing the wedding party.  When photographing the wedding party I’ll shoot formal posed pictures and fun laughing walking playing photos.  Often I’ll allow about 30 minutes for this.

Before I start the family photos, I spend about 30 minutes photographing the bridal party.  The bridal party photos include the groom with all his guys, the bride with her girls, photos of the entire bridal party together, and fun photos of the wedding party laughing, a photo of the guys walking is also a good fun action shot.  From time to time I also photography the bride with each girl and the groom with each guy.  This takes about 30 minutes.

When you add in the bridal party photos you end up with the timeline below.  Remember, I’m putting this together backward so that I end up with a realistic photography start time.

4:00PM – Bridal Party photos

4:30PM – Family photos start

5:30PM – Posed photography ends, bride make-up touch up before ceremony

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

Bride and Groom Together. This photo was taken at the Bath Club in Miami Beach Florida. In the case with this photo, the bride and groom get ready at a nearby hotel. They did the first look at the hotel. Then we all met at the Bath Club for the posed photos. We made it a point to build in extra time to cover the trip to the Bath Club. Once we arrived at the Bath Club we still had an hour for shoot the bride and groom photos.

Next I will add in bride and groom photos.  I like to spend at least one hour photographing the bride and groom.  I do this early because I want to ensure I have plenty of time with the couple on their wedding day.

 

3:00PM – Bride and Groom photos

4:00PM – Bridal Party photos

4:30PM – Family photos start

5:30PM – Posed photography ends, bride make-up touch up before ceremony

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

 

Bride and groom walking at Broken Sound Country Club in Boca Raton FL. This photo was taken after the “First Look” between the bride and groom. Since Broken Sound Country Club is such a big property we used golf carts to get to different shooting locations. There are so many wonderful places to take pictures at Broken Sound Country Club that we used the full hour and then some. This meant that we lost some time with the posed family photos. I had to hustle with the family photos to make up the time. In addition some of the less important family photos were taken after the ceremony during the cocktail hour. It’s always a good idea to build in extra time incase something runs late.

 

The “First Look” is one part of the photography that can’t be rushed. This is a very special intimate time between the bride and groom. Once they see each other, the couple will want to talk. They will talk about how they look, how the day went, the hair, the make up, the bride may do a spin and show the groom the back of the bridal gown. All this takes time, and it’s important that the bride and groom get to enjoy the moment. If the timeline runs short and the photographer feels the need to rush the couple than that will reflect on the couples attitude about the photography. Also, this is the time when your photographer should be wearing the photo-journalist hat. The photographer should not interfere and start posing the couple at this time. Your wedding photographer should simply, hang back and shoot the emotions as they happen. Obviously at a certain point everyone will need to move on to the posed bride and groom photos.

Before photographing the bride and groom together they have to see each other, so let’s build in 30 minutes for the first look.   Let’s talk about this for a second; everything at a wedding takes time. Walking from point A to point B takes time.  Setting up the first look takes time.  Setting up the first look requires moving the groom to the location and positioning him so that he does not accidently see his bride.

Then someone has to get the bride and set her up for the first look.  Once the bride and groom see each other they are going to want to spend time enjoying the moment, while the photographer photographs the moment.  By the time this is finished it’s 30 minutes.  It’s important to build in extra time for this or the bride and groom are going to feel rushed.  Lets keep in mind the wedding day is for the bride and groom to enjoy.  Having a great timeline should allow for this.  So when you add the first look to the timeline you have this:

2:30PM – First Look

3:00PM – Bride and Groom photos

4:00PM – Bridal Party photos

4:30PM – Family photos start

5:30PM – Posed photography ends, bride make-up touch up before ceremony

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

Another “First Look” photo from Broken Sound Country Club. Here the groom’s daughter helped out by covering the groom’s eyes then pulling her hands away to reveal the bride.

2:30PM – First Look

3:00PM – Bride and Groom photos

4:00PM – Bridal Party photos

4:30PM – Family photos start

5:30PM – Posed photography ends, bride make-up touch up before ceremony

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

 

Recently it has become popular for there to also be a “First Look” with the bride’s father.  My experience has been that the first look between father and daughter is even more emotional then the first look between the bride and groom.

“First Look with brides father” This moment is as important as the first look with the groom. It’s a special moment for the brides father and his daughter. It’s also an event that often the brides mother wants to witness. It takes the same amount of time as the bride and groom’s first look. Keep in mind that the bride may need a quick makeup touchup of she cries during this time. Often this is not the case and you can move on the the bride and groom first look. However, building in some extra time is always a good idea.

 

“Getting Ready”. In this photo the bride is reading a note she received from the groom. This photo happened during the getting ready part of the wedding day. There is no way to rush through the getting ready photos. This is a time when the bride wants to enjoy being with her girls and her mother. Often the bride will have several “Special Items” that she wants photographed. Items such as her jewelry, the note from the groom, possibly a gift from parents, all take time to photograph. If the bride and groom exchange cards the reading of the cards will take time. In addition it’s a great idea to take photos if the guys getting ready. The getting ready pictures will usually take at least an hour.

 

 

Leading up to the first look the bride is in the bridal suite with her girls.  It’s during this time that the getting ready photos are taken. Every bride is different but often the bride wants to enjoy this time with her girls.  In addition this is when the hair and makeup are being finished. To be honest, I used to think this could be done in ½ hour, however this portion of the wedding photography takes more like an hour.

It’s really important that the hair and makeup people have the bride and possibly the wedding party finished on time.  I can’t stress this enough.  If the bride and groom are not ready on time every event on the timeline will get shortened. This means that your photographer will have to either cut on shooting time or will have to make up photos during the cocktail hour.   Adding in getting ready photos creates a time like this:

“Fun bride and her girls photo”. This photo was taken during the getting ready photos. It was an idea I had. During this time I also photographed the girls all on the bed, the girls hugging, a group shot showing the names in the robes. With nine bridesmaids, and both mothers I’m sure you can see why the getting ready photos take at least an hour.

 

“Groom getting ready” If you are photographing the bride and her girls getting ready, then you should also have the groom getting ready. This sepia toned photo was taken in the locker at Broken Sound Country Club while the bride as with her girls in another room at the venue.

 

“Hair and Makeup”. I always tell my brides that when I arrive the hair and makeup should be either finished or very close to being finished. This way I could photograph the tail end of the makeup at a time when the bride looks her best. I really can’t stress this enough, if the hair and makeup are not finished or almost finished that valuable time will be lost. If the makeup artist needs an extra 15 or 20 minutes to finish that’s ok. However, if the makeup person is an hour behind then the other parts of the photography timeline will need to be shortened or the time will need to be cut back. One solution could be pictures during the cocktail hour. Starting early is key because as a wedding photographer I have found the time at the start of the wedding is more valuable that the time at the end of the reception.

 

Here in South Florida I also photograph many Jewish weddings.  One event that you should expect at a Jewish wedding is the ketubah signing.  I won’t get into the history or the meaning of the ketubah signing that is for another article.  The ketubah signing takes place in a more private setting and is between the bride and groom and the families.  When we slip these 2 events in we have this:

 

 

12:30PM – Photographer starts with getting ready photos.

1:30PM –First Look with bride’s father

2:00PM – First Look

2:30PM – Bride and Groom photos

3:30PM – Bridal Party photos

4:00PM – Family photos start

5:00PM – Posed photography ends, bride’s make-up touch up before ceremony.

5:30PM- Ketubah Signing

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

 

Additional valuable wedding timeline information:

What if there is NO First Look?

If the bride and groom decide not to see each other before the wedding ceremony, then the couple and and families should do pictures during the cocktail hour.    Everything should be the same on the timeline but with no first look. It would look something like the timeline below.  Keep in mind that it’s much easier to get away with no first look if there is a longer gap of time between the end of the ceremony and the start of the cocktail hour or reception.  I have found that at church weddings there sometimes is a longer time gap after the ceremony.  This is usually the case because the ceremony is not in the same location as the reception.  Below is a possible timeline with no first look between the bride and the groom.

1:30PM – Photographer starts with getting ready photos.

2:30PMPM –First Look with bride’s father

3:00PM – Bride’s family and bridesmaids pictures. (Groom is hiding away so he does not see her.)

4:00PM – Groom’s family and groomsmen pictures 

5:00PM – Posed photography ends, bride make-up touch up before ceremony.

6:00PM – Ceremony Starts

7:00PM – Pictures after the ceremony

This includes, Bride and Groom together, Bride and Groom with Brides Family, Bride and Groom with Groom’s Family, Bride and Groom with Wedding Party.

NOTE: Often there is only an hour for cocktail hour after the ceremony. This means that the posed family pictures will have to go fast. By taking as many posed pictures as possible before the ceremony there will be less to do after the ceremony.  It may also be possible to take the bride and groom out during the reception for some additional couple photos.   Also, at a wedding often the couple will have the ballroom decorated with flowers and stuff. If you have two photographers it’s a good idea the send one photographer into the ballroom to take ballroom pictures before the wedding guest enter the ballroom.

When putting together a wedding photography timeline, another thing to consider is the time of the year.  As we move into the winter months the days get shorter and it gets darker sooner.  Because to this the timeline needs to be adjusted.  I recently came across another really great article about this and additional info on Nikki Van Der Molen’s blog.  Here is the link, it’s a great read because it offers insight that my article misses.  Wedding Timeline Advise

This timeline below is for a small wedding which took place at a venue called The Sundy House, in Delray Beach.  It’s a beautiful garden location.  Here is the link: Sundy House Wedding, Delray Beach

Wedding Day Schedule:  Beautiful Bride & Handsome Groom- Nov. 9th, 2019

Bride’s Cell: 561 737-5561

Groom’s Cell: 954 560-1533

Vendors:  – Event Planner: Breeze Taylor 561-251-9422 – Photography: Jeff Kolodny 954-560-1533–  DJ: EMac Entertainment 561-393-1933 – Cocktail Music: Emac Entertainment/ Flamenco Guitar-Ceremony Music: Emac Entertainment/ Harp – Flowers: Joel Patrick Events 561-859-4236 – Makeup: Sarah Demario – Cake:  Johnson Cakes 561-422-0303

 Sundy House. CEREMONY: Formal Lawn 5:00-5:30 COCKTAILS: Upper Deck 5:30-6:30  RECEPTION: Mediterranean Room 6:30-9:30

 Wedding Day Timeline:

12:00All Personal Flowers Will Be Delivered To Bride’s Room-

***Bride Wants Pictures With Girls in Robes

12:00 HAIR & MAKEUP NEEDS TO BE COMPLETE

12:30 Photographer Begin With Bride In Cottage

1:00 Photographer Begin With Groom/ Groomsmen/ In Cottage

1:30 First Glance (LOCATION TBD BY PHOTOGRAPHER)

2:00-3:00 Bride & Groom Photos

 3:00 Bridal Party Meets At Gazebo For Pictures

3:30 Family Meets At Gazebo For Pictures

 4:30 Bridal Party Refreshes

4:50 Entire Bridal Party & Meets To Line Up in Cottage

*** Bride’s Friends Hand Out Programs

5:00 Ceremony Begins (Harp Plays)

Officiant, Groom’s Parents – Joan & Edward

Mother of the Bride – Jan Smith, escorted by Joe Smith (Son/Brother of Bride) (She needs assistance walking, so she will be sitting on the aisle in the last row and only walk from last row to front row)

Groom – Tom, Carlos, Brian, John, Steve, Patrick – Best Man

Bridesmaids – Lauren, Alissa, Karen, Jen, Dana, Wendi, Jill – Maid of Honor

Jack and Jill- ring bearers

Sam and Vivian – ring bearer and flower girl

Bride escorted by brother Joe Smith

5:30Ceremony Ends/Entire Bridal Party & Immediate Family Must Stay For A Few Pictures

 5:30Guests Will Begin Cocktail Hour (Flamenco Guitar Plays)

6:15 Bride & Groom See Reception/ Photo Gets Images

 6:30Move Guests Into Reception

6:40BRIDAL PARTY ANNOUNCED IN – BRIDE & GROOM RIGHT INTO FIRST DANCE 

 6:45Welcome Toast By Bride & Groom

6:50Salad Course

Toast By Best Man:

Toast By MOH:

7:25 Dinner

7:50 Groom Dances With His Mother

8:00 Cake Cutting

Bouquet Toss

Guest Move Into Fresco Room For Dancing

9:30 Last Dance

Here is another photography timeline from another wedding planner.

 This timeline is for a Jewish wedding that took place in Boca Raton Florida.

12:45pm–1:00pm  Photographer Arrival.  Getting Ready Photos begin at 1:00pm

2:00pm–3:30pm 11⁄2 hours 2:00 First look & Couple’s Portrait Session

2:30-3:30 Bride and Groom Portraits

4:00pm–5:00pm. Family Photos

5:00pm–5:15pm  Rabbi Arrival

5:30pm – 6:00pm Ketubah Signing

6:00pm–6:30pm. Wedding Ceremony

 

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