Updated January 20, 2020 at 5:22 pm
The timeline below is my favorite way to shoot a wedding, with 10 hours of photography by yours truly, and a first look - but all weddings are awesome! Whatever your timeline, please keep in mind that whatever time your hair and make-up artist(s) quote as your "finish" time, add an extra hour - otherwise, you'll lose time when they go over (it happens at EVERY wedding - the bride's gotta be stunning)! The best rule of thumb is to ask your hair and make-up to be fully complete for you and all wedding party / family members no later than 4 1/2 hours prior to the ceremony start time, with photography beginning 5 hours before the ceremony start time (or with no first look, HMUA should be scheduled to be complete 3 1/2 hours prior to the ceremony start time, with photography beginning 4 hours before the ceremony starts). This would be for a wedding in just one location all day, so be sure to add plenty of walking / driving time if we're doing multiple locations.
Couple: The Coolest People Ever (Enter your names here)
Wedding Date: August 29, 2021 (Enter your date here)
Ceremony Time: 5:00 pm (About 2.5 to 3 hours before sunset is most typical)
Sunset: 7:39 pm (Enter the actual sunset for your wedding date and city - Google "sunset time on [date] in [city], [state]")
Event Location: The Coolest Venue in Northern California, 1234 Awesome Street, Amazing, CA (Enter location name and address here)
Photography Start / End Time: 12 pm to 10 pm (Photography start and end time at the location above)
(If you have multiple locations put "Event Location #1", "Event Location #2", "Event Location #3", etc. with the Photography Start / End Time for each location below it.)
12:00 to 01:30 Bridal Details & Final 30 Minutes of Hair / Make-Up (Hair / make-up should be scheduled to be complete 30 minutes after I arrive, with a 1-hour added "cushion"; if they do finish on time, then that just means more time for photos!)
01:30 to 01:45 Bridal Party Fun in Robes / Champagne Pop (Gotta have a little fun before it's "go" time! After this, the bridesmaids, mom and flower girl can get dressed with bride's help while I capture some groom)
01:45 to 02:15 Groom Details, Groom Getting Ready & Groom Portraits (Groomsmen are already fully ready and groom has everything on except the last details / accessories / jacket. After this, the groom and groomsmen can take off their jackets, hang out, relax, watch football, play pool, etc.)
02:15 to 03:15 Bride Getting Ready, Bridal Portraits
03:15 to 03:30 First Looks
03:30 to 04:30 Couple's and Wedding Party Portraits (Pinterest!)
04:30 to 05:00 Ceremony Details & Guests Arriving to Ceremony
05:00 to 05:30 Ceremony (with 15-minute added "cushion") (longer for Catholic ceremonies)
05:30 to 05:40 Couple’s Photos (Family stays after Ceremony and is ready for Family Portraits)
05:40 to 06:00 Family Portraits (Bring a list and use a family representative or two to help!)
06:00 to 06:20 Wedding Party Photo(s) (Pinterest!)
06:20 to 06:30 Wedding Party Lines Up and Guests are Seated for Grand Entrance
06:30 to 06:45 Grand Entrance / Announcements / Blessing
06:45 to 07:10 Couple / Photographer Eat Dinner
07:10 to 07:30 Couple's Golden Hour Session
07:30 to 08:00 Couple Visits with Guests (Other guests can do Photo Booth, sign guest book, other entertainment, finish eating)
08:00 to 08:20 Toasts (Unless Dad wants 30 minutes all to himself here)
08:20 to 08:25 Cake-Cutting
08:25 to 08:35 First Dances
08:35 to 09:00 Group Dances, Open Dancing
09:00 to 09:15 Bouquet / Garter Tosses (DJ feels the crowd and determines the best time - if you decided to do this one)
09:15 to 09:50 More Open Dancing (We could also do a quick sneak-away couple's night session if you want a breather!)
09:50 to 09:55 Couple’s "Final" Dance (while guests line up and light sparklers for Grand "Exit")
9:55 to 10:00 Grand "Exit" (Usually staged so photography can end after this but the party keeps going)
10:00 to ? More Dancing / After-Party (not photographed)
BEST DAY EVERRRRR!
Sample Shot List
This sample shot list is a helpful planning tool, whether you actually provide a comprehensive shot list for your day or not. I prefer not (other than family portraits and a few Pinterest ideas), so I can capture the day as it unfolds as naturally as possible (if I'm looking at a shot list, I'm missing what's actually happening around me!). BUT - I also believe in giving couples what they want (it's YOUR day!), so if you want to go the shot list route - bring it on! Of course, you'll also need to make sure you know exactly where each of these "shots" fits into your timeline, so give each "shot" that you want set up a good 3-5 minutes, and add it to your timeline right where it goes.
BRIDAL PREP PART 1 ____Wedding rings, invitations, shoes, jewelry, perfume, veil, & any other important accessories ____Wedding dress hanging up outside / inside / lying over a chair or the bed ____Flower girl dresses ____Bridal party dresses ____Mom's dress ____Bride getting makeup / hair done ____Looking into mirror ____Hairstyle close-up ____Bride opening gifts ____Bridal party wearing robes ____Bridal party opening gifts ____Bridal party opening champagne ____Saying “cheers” with drinks ____Bride writing note for Groom
GROOM PREP ____Shoes, watch, flask, cologne, tie, boutonniere, cuff links, & any other important accessories ____Groom opening gifts ____Groomsmen opening gifts `Saying “cheers” with drinks ____Groom tying shoes, fastening tie / cuff links, putting on suit jacket ____Groom looking into mirror / out window / Groom portrait ____First look w/Groom & Mom ____Mom fastening Groom's boutonniere ____Groom putting on Mom's corsage ____Portrait w/Mom, Dad ____Groomsmen portraits (all together & with each groomsmen individually, and ring bearer)
BRIDAL PREP PART 2 ____Bride putting on garter / sexy photo (for Groom only) ____Holding up the dress ____Dressing for the ceremony w/Mom's / bridemaids' assistance / fastening Bride's dress / necklace / earrings / shoes / veil ____Bride putting on Mom's corsage ____Portrait with Mom ____Solo bridal portraits w/bouquet ____First look with bridal party ____Bridal party portraits (all together & with each bridesmaid individually, and flower girl(s)) ____First look w/Dad ____Portrait with Dad ____Gifts for Mom and Dad ____Portrait with Mom and Dad
COUPLE’S NOTE SESSION and/or FIRST LOOK & PORTRAITS ____Groom in position ____Bride walking up from behind Groom ____Couple holding hands / hands over eyes / backs together ____Pray / talk together ____Exchange notes / read notes ____First looks and moments together ____Couple’s portraits - Client’s Pinterest ideas
WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS (if 1st Look) ____Wedding party walk ____Wedding party cheer ____Wedding party formal portrait ____Fun wedding party photos - Client’s Pinterest ideas
CEREMONY ____Wide angle shot of the ceremony site / church / venue ____Decorations, ceremony program, floral arrangements, altar backdrop ____Guests arriving / signing guest book ____Seated guests ____Shot of the musicians / DJ ____Grandparents / parents being escorted down the aisle to their seats ____Wedding party members walking down the aisle ____Ring bearer / flower girls / sign holders walking down the aisle ____Groom’s face at his bride ____Bride walking down the aisle from front ____Bride walking down aisle from behind ____FOB “giving Bride away” ____Couple joining hands ____Officiant speaking ____Guest speech(es) / song(s) ____Unity ceremony (candle / knot / sand, etc) ____Couple exchanging vows ____Couple putting on each others’ rings ____Couple’s first kiss (standard view) ____Couple’s first kiss (with guests in background) ____Couple announced as husband and wife ____Newlyweds exiting down the aisle ____Throwing of confetti / rose petals / blowing bubbles etc. as newlyweds exit
POST-CEREMONY ____Couple with Officiant ____Marriage certificate signing____Couple’s portraits ____Family formals ____Wedding party portraits ____Wide angle shot of the indoor reception site / venue ____Reception decorations, centerpieces, table setting, couple’s table, favors
RECEPTION ____Guests entering reception / signing guest book / taking their seats
GRAND ENTRANCE ____Wedding Party ____Couple
____WELCOME MESSAGE / PRAYER / BLESSING
DINNER PART 1 (Couple / photographers eat dinner)
COUPLE'S SNEAK-AWAY GOLDEN HOUR SESSION ____Candid walk & loving each other ____Portraits - Client’s Pinterest ideas
DINNER PART 2 ____ Visiting with guests ( ____candid, or ____mix of candid/ posed)
TOASTS ____Maid of Honor ____Best Man ____Father of the Bride ____Other(s): _____________________________ ____Couple’s thank you's and toast
CAKE-CUTTING ____Wedding cake display ____Cake-cutting ____Couple feeding cake to each other
____COUPLE’S FIRST DANCE
FAMILY DANCES ____Bride and Father dance ____Groom and Mother dance
BOUQUET / GARTER TOSSES ____Bouquet toss ____Garter toss
GRAND "EXIT" ____Guests lining up along exitway ____Lighting sparklers ____The newlyweds kiss half-way through sparkler line
- As mentioned above, be aware that any "planned" photographs that you want to implement from a shot list or Pinterest board may take 3-5 minutes to set up and capture - or longer, in the case of the wedding dress hanging up outside, for example, which can take 15 minutes - so be sure to account for each of these planned photos in your timeline when you want them.
- Keep each “getting ready” location / hotel room clean and tidy, if you want your photos to be without a lot of clutter, or if you don't want your photographer spending time cleaning when they could be taking photos (that's expensive maid service right there).
- Have your details / accessories that you want photographed out in the open in each of the rooms if you want them photographed (Again, what are you paying your photographer for? Looking for your things?)
- If the bride, bridal party and mother of the bride are going to be wearing robes, fun socks, or matching outfits, etc. for the "getting ready" portion of the day, be sure that they are actually wearing them (bride, too) before photographer arrival; it's a good idea to have just one person in charge of bringing all of the robes or bridesmaids' accessories to ensure that no one forgets theirs.
- Designate someone to put boutonnieres on the groomsmen who has practiced or has learned how and where to attach them (no time to waste on the special day). For the groom's boutonniere, it can actually be a really nice moment for the mother of the groom to attach his boutonniere after a first look with mom.
- For any "first looks" (parents, bridesmaids, other family members, etc), let the photographer get into position before the moment begins! It also helps not to tell the person it is a "first look," which can make them feel like they are on stage. It should be as natural and organic a moment as possible, ideally.
- For the ceremony, remind or have your day-of coordinator remind your wedding party members to look up and smile as they walk down the aisle (it's a wedding, not a funeral!), as well as to take their time and not rush down the aisle too quickly.
- Do NOT schedule your ceremony time too close to sunset for an outdoor ceremony. I've shot ceremonies in the dark before - but it's quite a challenge!
- If you want the ceremony kiss captured with your guests in the background, have your officiant announce for them to please not hold their phones during that moment, and instead congratulate you with their clapping hands and smiling faces. You might also opt for an "unplugged ceremony," and have signs that encourage your guests to enjoy this moment with you and leave the photography to your professionally-hired photographer. If you do opt for this, be sure to also have your officiant announce it at the start of your ceremony as a reminder.
- THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP ON THE LIST: For your after-ceremony family formals, this is where a shot list is a must to avoid chaos. This photographer will not suggest family member portraits for you - it's gotten me into a lot of trouble! Give a list of your desired family portraits for both sides to two designated "family portraits coordinators," someone on each the bride's and the groom's side of the family, so they can help coordinate and gather family members for the next photo. Have your officiant announce for the family to stay at the ceremony site for photos after the ceremony. Each photo takes about 1 - 3 minutes to set up and capture depending on the number of family members, so be sure keep your list to a size that can be accomplished in the allotted time, or extend your cocktail hour accordingly (you also may want wedding party and couple's portraits afterwards, unless you did a couple's first look and got those out of the way earlier in the day).
- For the reception grand entrance, have the DJ/MC introduce your wedding party in a fun way and have them do a fun pose halfway or on the dance floor for fun photos, if you want! This goes for the couple, of course, too! But - please TELL YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER WHERE every one is going to do their fun pose-y thing, because this is where we tend to start using fill-flash and have to time every photo just right.
- If you want a sunset couple’s sneak-away portrait session (golden hour is the BEST time of day for photos - so if you don't want one, let me know before you book, because we might not be the best fit - this is my FAVORITE part of the day!), allow a slot in your reception timeline about thirty minutes prior to sunset on your day (check Google), and be sure you inform your MC or DJ so he/she can keep your guests entertained during this time (time it to coincide with dinner; guests who finish eating can do Photo Booth, sign guest book, etc).
- If you plan to visit with guests at their tables after the golden hour session or during dinner, PLEASE tell your photographer when you plan to start - we want to capture this! We always want to try to get a photo of EVERY guest somehow at some point, so this provides the perfect opportunity. If you want an actual portrait (looking at the camera and smiling) with each table, also let your photographer know beforehand, so we can (1) put a wide angle lens on and (2) be prepared to work around the guests with cell phones and actually get the shot for you. Lastly, be sure to allow at least 3-5 minutes per table and schedule your dinner time accordingly.
- If you would like to have a large photo with all of your guests, have your DJ announce it before open dancing begins, which will get everyone up on the dance floor! Allow at least 5-10 minutes for the photographer to get every one into position.
- If you do a bouquet / garter toss: For the bouquet toss (bride), do a “fake-out” toss first for your photographer to capture a good photo of you, then the real toss, so we can focus on capturing the catch. For the garter toss (groom), hide a dinner napkin in your pocket and throw that first, so we can capture a good photo of you throwing (the guys both hate and love this, too - fun stuff), then, do the real garter toss, so we can focus on capturing the catch. There are also ways to make your bouquet and garter tosses non-traditional - look online for alternative ideas if you wish! Or - don't do them! Plenty of couples skip this these days, so don't feel pressured if it's not your cup of tea.
- If you stage a sparkler grand exit (most are staged, since couples don't want to pay for HOURS of dancing photos, but they do want a cool exit photo), buy “wedding sparklers” rather than 4th of July or other sparklers - the wrong kind of sparkler will burn out too quickly and create too much fire and smoke. If your venue doesn't allow sparklers (as in El Dorado County where I live), there are also light-up balloons or glow sticks that you can use as alternative grand exit options. Finally, halfway through the exit - kiss! Perfect final photo.
Again - BEST DAY EVERRRRRRRR!