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Wedding Timeline: How to Plan the Picture-Perfect Timeline?

How to plan your wedding timeline so you get the best photos of your special day.

Weddings are important moments. Regardless of your cultural background and the wedding traditions you are including in your day, a lot of work has gone into planning a series of events that span a single day. That means that your time is valuable on your wedding day, and in order to make sure you fit everything in, you need a proper timeline. Of course, that timeline shouldn’t just account for the day’s events. You also need to adapt your schedule to allow for the photography that will capture each and every important moment.

Here is 2 example of a Wedding timeline: First Look vs Traditional wedding timeline

Wedding timeline that includes a First Look:

11:30 Getting Ready & GR Details

12:30 Groom Getting Ready

1:00 Dress On; Final Touches

1:30 Bride's Portraits

2:00 First Look / Portraits

2:30 Family Portraits

3:00 Bridal Party

3:30 Break / Details, Details!

4:00 Ceremony Begins

4:30 Ceremony Ends

4:40 The Couple (Gravy Time!)

5:10 Couple Joins the Cocktail Hour

5:30 Grand Entrance to Reception

5:40 First Dance

5:45 Father and Daughter Dance

5:45 Father and Daughter Dance

6:00 Sunset Photos (Outside Reception Area)

7:15 Toasts

Here are some notes on the schedule:

First Look:
Again, we allow 30 minutes of time for this. This means we can let the couple relax and enjoy hanging out with each other for ten to fifteen minutes, and then we can grab all of our “have-to-have” shots (ie couple looking at the camera, individual portraits, bouquet, boutonnière, etc). We capture so many candid, emotional moments during the First Look simply because we allow time for the couple to relax, feel their emotions, talk about the day, and live in the moment. And again, if worse comes to worse and things ran late during the getting ready process, we don’t need to use the full 30 minutes – we can relax through the first look, grab a few portraits, and just move right into the family portraits and make up some time.
Family Portraits:
Doing the family portraits BEFORE the ceremony accomplishes a number of things:
1) There are no distractions so we can move quickly (no pulling people from the black hole that is the cocktail hour),
2) we save that amazing light after the ceremony for just the couple, and
3) family can immediately enjoy the cocktail hour and greet their wedding guests right after the ceremony. Believe me, family portraits used to be the most stressful part of the day for us, and now it’s one of the most relaxing and stress-free portions of our job!
Details, Details:
Once we’re done with family, we move through the bridal party pictures and then it’s time to hide the couple away as wedding guests start to arrive. The half an hour before the ceremony is the best time to capture all of the wedding details, and we work with our couple, the coordinator, and the catering manager to make sure that everything is completely set up at this time. This is the only way we’re able to capture as many details as we do

The Couple:
Once the ceremony is over, it’s time for the fun part! Because we’ve taken all of the necessary “have-to-have” images before the ceremony, everything we take during this time is just gravy – The light will be beautiful, the couple is excited, and I can relax and get into the groove of shooting. Normally I only need to shoot for about half of the cocktail hour, and then the couple can choose to join their guests– and enjoy those specialty cocktails and appetizers that they picked out – or hide away and spend some time with each other before the craziness of the reception. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy your wedding day! priority and we schedule time specifically for this purpose.
This type of schedule has brought us amazing results – not only are we shooting according to the best light of the day, but we’re allowing for vendors or people that may run late. Again, every wedding has different logistics, but these are the basic guidelines that we strive for.


"Day After” sessions are the absolute BEST. It is the perfect opportunity to get creative and spend some good, quality time with the bride and groom. It is always nice to have a bride & groom mini-session on the actual wedding day; however, it’s sometimes hard for the bride and groom to really ENJOY the mini-session- knowing that their guests are probably finishing their cocktails and possibly getting impatient waiting for them -”the guests of honor” to arrive to their reception.
(side note: day after sessions can be the “day after,” or any time… weeks, months, even years after your wedding).

What are the important photo time blocks you don’t want to forget to include in your Traditional Wedding Timeline:

11:30 Getting Ready & GR Details
12:30 Groom Getting Ready
1:00 Dress On; Final Touches
1:30 Bride's Portraits
2:00 Bride + Bridesmaid
3:30 Break / Details, Details!
4:00 Ceremony Begins
4:45 Ceremony Ends
5:00 Family Formals
5:20 Wedding Party
5:30 The Couple (Gravy Time!)
6:15 Grand Entrance to Reception

1) Capturing the details:

Action shots of the main event are important, but you also want some still-frame behind the scenes shots to make your photo recap feel more complete. That means setting aside some time to capture pictures of all the small details that have come together to make your day amazing. You’ll want photos of things like the wedding dress, the Invitation suite, the shoes, the rings, the bouquet, and any of the other details that you’ve labored for months to get just right for your day.

How much time do you need?

Set aside 30 minutes in the morning at the bridal suite or hotel suite. Schedule this before everyone needs to start getting ready.

2) The Bride's preparation:

You’ve chosen the people who matter the most to you to be a part of your day, so you’ll want photos of the time you spend together getting ready: close-ups of hair and makeup applications, candid shots of the bridesmaids they share your excitement for the day, and the other photos that will capture memories from the behind-the-scenes moments that are reserved for you and your favorite people.

How much time should you set aside for this?

Around 60 minutes (but keep in mind that you won’t want to rush these memories) in the morning or early afternoon at the bridal suite or hotel suite. You’ll want photographers capturing the behind-the-scenes moments for both halves of the wedding party.

We always give ourselves plenty of time to shoot getting ready details such as jewelry, the shoes, the dress, cufflinks, makeup being done, etc. We don’t want to feel rushed, so we build that time into the schedule. We also schedule a specific time for the dress to go on, and we allow at least 30 minutes for this. This helps the makeup artists, hair stylists, Mom, and bridesmaids know when they need to be done, dressed, and ready (and allows for a cushion if they run late). It won’t take 30 minutes to put on most dresses, but it allows the bride to relax while she puts on her dress, slips on jewelry, hugs her mom, and laughs with her bridesmaids.

3) Bride's portraits:

You’ll want to set aside 20 minutes to catch individual portraits of the bride, and the best time is usually right after everyone finishes getting ready. Ideally, this will be in the morning or early afternoon, and it can take place in the hotel, venue lobby, the venue garden, or an external location that you’ve chosen for wedding photos.

5) Wedding party photos:

This can either take place before or after the ceremony, depending on the couple’s preferences. If You choose to go with a traditional Timeline ,I strongly suggest to do Bridesmaid and Groomsmen Portraits before hand but you will want to allow 15 minutes for the full wedding party to be photographed in your venue or at an off-site location.

6) Family photos:

Don’t forget to bring your immediate family with you for your wedding party photos. You’ll have the perfect setting to spend about 30-45 minutes capturing some important shots with them, too. Weddings mean a lot to your immediate family (that’s why they want to help you with the details), so make sure you allocate around 3 minutes per family group to capturing some nice photos.

7) Couples portraits:

You’ll want to spend between 30 - 45 minutes getting those all-important newlywed couple portraits. These are the most important ones, so be generous on the timeframe here. Ideally 45 minutes

8) Sneak-away couples Portraits during Reception: Sunset

Even I have capture your portraits earlier on the day, remember to set aside 15 minutes for Sunset Photos during the reception for some sneak-away couples photos, too.

8) Reception Details:

Before the wedding starts, you’ll want to allow around 30 minutes to capture some photos of the venue and some of its key details before guests start to enter. This should take place in the morning or early afternoon.

9) Reception Details:

Before the ceremony starts, you’ll want to allow around 30 minutes to capture some photos of the venue and some of its key details before guests start to enter. This should take place 40 minutes before ceremony

10) Sparklers Exit:

Allow around 20 minutes .

11) Night Couple Portraits:

15 minutes before I end my coverage, I like to do a Couples night

I hope all this info helps, Contact if you have any questions

Wedding Photographer Manhattan New York City (NYC) | Claudia Oliver Photography Studio (917) 813-7173- info@claudiaoliver.com - 57 W 57th ST FL 4 STE 101, New York, NY 10019 - IG: @claudiaoliverphoto - Privacy Policy - Terms of Use- Copyright © 2022
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