Updated March 30, 2020 at 1:40 am
The timeline below is just one example of a wedding day, with 10 hours of photography by yours truly, and a first look. This is also a wedding in just one location all day, so be sure to add plenty of walking / driving time if you're doing multiple locations! With two photographers, you can add more groom prep coverage, ceremony, cocktail hour and reception coverage. With less than 10 hours, you can decide what's less important for you to have captured. And without a first look, of course, that part of the day gets removed.
Weddings are like snowflakes - yours will be unique! This sample timeline by no means covers all possibilities, but it's not a bad place to start if you just aren't sure what a wedding day might look like!
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)
1 or 2 Photographers: 1 (in this example)
(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 photographer arrival, 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 the photographer captures 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
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)
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 decide to do this one)
09:15 to 09:50 More Open Dancing (You 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 List of "Moments"
Instead of calling this a sample "shot" list, I'm calling it a sample list of "moments." That's because, for a wedding photojournalist, the actual moments and the clients' and guests' experience is what it's all about. Most of the photos are the end result of people enjoying themselves in front of me. When it comes to formal portraits, yes, those are taken with the specific intention of looking at the camera and smiling - but we can make those as fun as possible! And as for details - I do love to help make those look as beautiful as possible, like putting the rings inside the bouquet, etc - and I welcome any and all client ideas.
But overall, from what I've experienced, a wedding day is simply less enjoyable when people are like, "Okay, we gotta do this shot now," all day long (unless it's a shot of tequila, lol). During the planning process, though, coming up with those moments that you want to occur on your wedding day can be very helpful. A list can help you really get down to visualizing exactly how your day might unfold. It's even more specific than an overall timeline - it shows you what's possible during each chunk of time throughout the day. And timing is important, because you likely have each of your vendors for a certain amount of time - so you need to know what those times are going to be.
A good rule of thumb is to give each "moment" below a good 2-3 minutes - but more for details. Hanging the dress outside, for example, takes a lot of time and care (and a chair or ladder so it doesn't touch the ground). Like the timeline above, it's just a starting point - an example - to get your creative wedding juices flowing!
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
Happy Wedding Planning!