The Perfect Wedding Photography Timeline

For Photographers

Florida Wedding Photographer – Ringling Sarastota Wedding Photos-51

Imagine a wedding day where everything is just perfect.

Everyone is on time to take portraits, you have plenty of time to get creative and you aren’t rushing into the reception as guests are entering the room.

I don’t know about you, but when I have weddings like this, I come home over the moon and so excited to share the gallery with my couple.

Lemme let you in on a secret.

As the wedding photographer, you actually have more control over the schedule / timeline than you might think.

Between you and the wedding planner, you are able to create the perfect schedule for your couple to ensure they have an amazing day AND you get beautiful photos.

How does this happen?

I start talking timelines and schedules with my couples at their consultation. Yeap …. when my couples meet with me, I walk them through a timeline so they can understand how the heck hiring a professional photographer works and what they can expect.

It also helps them understand how many hours of coverage they might need, and how they might want to structure their day so it is set up for them (and my success).

Then four months before the wedding, I check in with my couples and really dig into their timeline.

Why so freakin’ far in advance?

The clients likely haven’t ordered their invitations at this point. They might not even have their hair and makeup people or transportation figured out. By chatting with them so far in advance, it gives us the flexibility to create the perfect timeline for their day. We can shift the time of the ceremony if needed or adjust what time the cocktail hour starts.

After years of shooting and photographing over +200 weddings, I have come up with the perfect schedule that works for just about every wedding. Of course, schedules look different based on each client, but this is a great starting point.


2:00 PM : Bride’s Getting Ready Photos

2:30 PM : Groom’s Getting Ready Photos

2:45 PM : Bride, MOH + MOB hair and makeup complete

3:00 PM : Bride Gets Dressed

3:30 PM – 4:00 PM : First Look

4:00 PM – 4:30 PM : Bride + Groom Portraits

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM : Wedding Party Photos

5:00 PM – 5:30 PM : Family Photos

5:30 PM : Guests Arrive; Photograph Details + Guests

6:00 PM – 6:30 PM : Ceremony

6:30 PM : Extended Family Photos (if needed)

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM : Cocktail Hour

TBD : Golden Hour Portraits (10 minutes)

7:45 PM : Introductions + Reception Begins

10:00 PM : End of the night photo with Bride + Groom


2:00 PM : Bride’s Getting Ready Photos

2:30 PM : Groom’s Getting Ready Photos

2:45 PM : Bride, MOH + MOB hair and makeup complete

3:00 PM : Bride Gets Dressed

3:30 PM : Break; Details + Guests Arriving

4:00 PM – 4:30 PM : Ceremony

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM : Family Photos

5:00 PM – 5:30 PM : Wedding Party Photos

5:30 PM – 6:15 PM : Bride + Groom Portraits

6:30 PM – 7:30 PM : Cocktail Hour

TBD : Golden Hour Portraits (10 minutes)

7:45 PM : Introductions + Reception Begins

10:00 PM : End of the night photo with Bride + Groom


No bride wants to be photographed without her hair + makeup complete, so I aim to arrive just as they are finishing up my bride’s hair and makeup. I snap a few photos of the finishing touches and go right into detail photos.

I ask that my bride, MOB + MOH(s) or whoever the bride wants to help her get dressed be finished with hair and makeup 30 minutes after I arrive. This ensures the VIPS will be ready to get dressed before my bride.Fine Art Chicago Wedding Photographer – Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel Wedding Photos-25


This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day, and I am always so happy when my couples opt for a first look.

While you might be thinking that 30 minutes for this part of the day seems a tad bit long, I promise you that you will be grateful that you have extra time scheduled. First looks take a little time to set up with coordinating the groom into the perfect spot, wrangling the photo + video team and then getting the bride over to the location.

I always recommend 30 minutes, so we aren’t stressed or rushing this moment. Plus, if we are done early, we have more time for photos of the couple. Win, win.


After the first look, I transition into bride and groom photos. I have found that 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time to get a variety of photos in one location.

If my couple wants to stop at another location or want to trek it a spot farther away from our first look location, I suggest adding 15 – 30 minutes to the schedule to give yourselves some breathing room.


During this time, I will photograph the guys and girls both separately and together. It helps to have someone pin the boutonnières on the guys before this portion of the day and remind the bridesmaids to have their bouquets.

If your couple wants to stop at a second location for photos, I recommend adding 30 minutes to your schedule to allow plenty of time. Have wedding party with more than 12 people? Add 15 minutes for a total of 45 minutes to give yourselves plenty of time to get a few group shots AND individuals photos with your bridesmaids / groomsmen.


Thirty minutes of photos are typically plenty of time to get through the standard family formal combinations. If your couples have a large family, divorced families or want a lot of extended family combinations, I suggest adding 15 – 30 minutes.

Some couples choose to take immediate family photos before the ceremony and finish their extended family photos immediately following the ceremony. If this is the case, we recommend allowing at least 20 minutes before the ceremony and 15 minutes after the ceremony.

(Want a head start on creating the perfect family photo list? Check out my go-to combinations.)

Clos La Chance Winery Wedding Photos

I recommend ending all photos 30 minutes prior to the ceremony so everyone can freshen up. This gives you time to quickly photograph the ceremony space and details untouched.

If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, I will use this time to shoot the reception details untouched as well.


Most non-religious ceremonies are 30 minutes long. Ask your clients how long they expect the ceremony to last. If they are getting married in a Catholic church, it is safe to allow 60 – 75 minutes for a full mass. Remember, having extra time scheduled is never a bad thing.


As the guests mingle, I photograph the guests for about 10-30 minutes, and then I switch over to the reception room to photograph the reception details and set up my off-camera lighting.

Emerson Creek Wedding Photos


I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few golden hour photos.

Golden hour is the BEST time of day for portraits in the late spring, summer, and early fall. This is when the sun is glowy and golden and oh-so-dreamy!

These photos always end up being my clients’ favorites, so if you can, work 5  – 10 minutes into your schedule at golden hour. You won’t regret it!

Golden hour varies on the date, so find out when sunset is here, and then schedule your golden hour photos for approximately 20 – 30 minutes before sunset.


It is party time! Let’s celebrate.

From a photography perspective, I am capturing more photojournalistic moments like the entrance, toasts and dancing from here on out, so I am not too worried with the timeline once we get into the evening. I try to request that myself and my second photographer eat when the bride and groom is going to eat (to ensure we have as much time as possible to photograph all the important things and people).

If you want to snag a few more photos of guests, during dinner and once dancing starts is a great time to grab any informal group photos or casual photos.


Many of our couples want us to photograph their exit from the reception, but when their party is scheduled to go until 12, they instead opt for a few “end-of-the-night” photos or plan a faux exit with their wedding party + family. Both options are a great way to get some night time photos to close out the story of the wedding.

Not sure how to begin when building the timeline?

Start with the ceremony time and back it out from there. This will help you determine how much time you have for portraits and when your bride should start getting ready.

If your wedding day looks different than this, here is an overview of how much time is recommended for each portion of the day.

BRIDE PREP + DETAILS : 1.5 hours

GROOM PREP : 1 hour

FIRST LOOK : 30 mins



FAMILY PHOTOS : 30 – 45 mins

“EXTRA PORTRAIT TIME” : as much time as you can get. I try to get about 10 minutes during golden hour and that is usually perfect.

TIP: Adding a 10-minute cushion throughout the day is a great idea so that if a bridesmaid leaves her bouquet on the transportation or the groom’s brother goes missing during family photos, you aren’t stressed about the schedule. Make sure you add-in a cushion for travel times because you never know what traffic might be like.



>>>>>Are you a photographer trying to figure out all the things in your business? Be sure to check out a ton of free photography resources and education on the blog like how to determine your ideal client and seven books that will help you grow your business this year.<<<<<

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Hi, I'm Brittany.
Your extra set of eyes with a camera.

Florida, Chicago + destination wedding and family photographer for those who believe in eternalizing this season of life with storytelling images.

After becoming a mom and losing my own mom, I realized that the most cherished photos are moments (not the perfectly posed portrait). I'm here to let moments unfold and to document the true connection between you, your partner and your family.


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Naples, Florida + Chicago portrait photographer specializing in weddings, engagements, elopements + family photography.