The best wedding timeline for photography

        You’re finally engaged and you’re living out one of the happiest moments of your life! However, while you are shouting your happiness from the rooftops, the reality sets in that you have a lot to plan and it can be overwhelming. Getting the dress and venue, though logically the most important, turn out to be the least stressful part of planning the big day.  You are about to be asked by every vendor and vendor’s assistant what timeline you want to set for their services.

        Unless you are a wedding planner on the side, which is most likely not the case, how are you to know how long things will take? 

        Never fear! I am here to help. After photographing over 100 weddings I’ve learned to allow way more time then you think you will ever need for everything. Here is what I suggest reserving time-wise for each activity:

        Hair and Make-up Buffer Time: 15-20 min extra

        This is the the number one reason wedding timelines go over. No matter how much pre-planning is involved, hair and make-up always go over the time allotted. So many factors contribute to this such as: You want to change something with your hair last minute, one of your bridesmaids isn’t happy with their make-up, your aunt wants to have her make-up done professionally after all. The list goes on and on. It is so important to have more time than you think for this. Adding buffer time for this will instantly take a load of stress off your plate.

        I asked a community of wedding photographers what they suggested for timing for hair and makeup. The general census was for makeup  and hair 90 minutes per bridesmaid & at least 2 hours for bride’s hair & makeup. Also try to have the bride go second to last. That way if hair and make-up is  running late, then they can run late on a bridesmaid and not on the bride. 

        Putting on Dress: 20-30min

        This is one of the biggest mistakes brides make.  It’s like hosting a dinner party and leaving finishing your makeup until the last minute. It will always take this long, especially if the photographer wants to get pictures of your loved ones helping you put the finishing touches on the dress.

        First Look: 10-15min

        Look if you’re going to partake in this tradition then make it special. I can’t tell you how many couples rush and go “tap tap” on the shoulder and then look at me like “What now?” Take your time, enjoy this sacred moment and take it all in. I always encourage couples to try and forget anyone else is there and have this be your moment together!

        Wedding Party Photos for 5 or More People: 45 min

        I don’t care if you have a large or a small wedding party, this part takes the most time! Think about it this way: You need to get pictures with you both with your wedding party. Then we need to get individual shots of you with each member of your wedding party. Then you need to get shots of the two of you together. Now add into that equation walking slow due to fancy dresses and shoes and you have a recipe for running extremely late on this! (Note: if you have 5 or less people in your wedding party then 20-30 minutes is more than enough!)

        Wedding Couple Portraits with First Look Included: 

        20-30 Minutes Before the Ceremony

        20 Minutes After the Ceremony

        These are THE MOST important photos. You will most likely frame these photos in your house and pass them on for generations to come. These shouldn’t be rushed yet so many times they are! You’ll want one set with your hair and make-up fresh before the ceremony and the other set 15-20 minutes after your ceremony so you can have fun and be relaxed in your marital bliss (plus catch an awesome sunset!)

        No First Look

        Usually you’ll have an hour after your ceremony where guests are enjoying cocktail hour and this is a great time to get couple photos. In this case the breakdown is as follows:

        20 minutes for couple photos

        20 minutes for the wedding party

        20 minutes for family

        If you have a large family I suggest you only photograph the immediate family and capture the rest during the the reception. You only have so much good lighting and you want to save that for the two of you and your wedding party.

        The easiest way to capture family is to make lists of groupings you’d like to get ahead of time. It will look like this:

        Elizabeth (bride), Tim (groom), Marianne (Elizabeth’s mom), Ken (Elizabeth’s dad)

        Elizabeth and Ken

        Elizabeth and Marianne

        Elizabeth, Tim, Colleen (Tim’s mom), Herb (Tim’s dad)

        Tim and Colleen

        Tim and Herb


        Each combination takes 30 seconds to a minute to get together. Once you get your list together you can calculate how long it will take. If you really want to get to your cocktail hour in time to enjoy it then I highly suggest doing a “First Look” that way after your ceremony you have plenty of time to get family and then join the party!

        April 11, 2020




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