I’ve got my ceremony time. Now what?

March 16, 2018

So you have finally decided your ceremony time. Now what? How long do photos take? When does everyone need to be ready by? All good questions! I am going to briefly walk you through the things to think about and specific times when building your timeline. Keep in mind everything is based off of a 6pm ceremony time with reception at same location and a first look.


2:30-3:15pm Details & Getting Ready. Details are an important part of the story and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc. See this blog post for what to bring for detail photos. While I’m shooting details, I’m also capturing some shots of the bride and her girls getting ready! Majority of the time I arrive when the girls are in the final stages of hair/makeup completion.  If the groom is getting ready nearby or at the venue, my second photographer will begin photographing the boys close to 30 minutes before the first look since it always takes them less time to get dressed!

3:15-3:45pm Bride Dressed. After the details have been photographed, it’s time for the bride to get into her dress! I usually ask the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids to be dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress. This ensures that everyone will look nice in those images. Bridesmaids can also do final touch ups while we are doing the first look.

4:00-4:45pm First Look & Portraits. This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day. My couples and I are in communication before and during their wedding day of the best location options. Most of the time I ask my couples if there is any particular place at their venue that they imagined for the first look. If they don’t have their heart set on one spot then I find a lovely secluded spot with pretty lighting. Pre-ceremony this is one part of the timeline I am most lenient about. First looks and portraits should not be rushed. They should be cherished. You’ll want to enjoy letting the butterflies in your tummy calming down. As we shoot these portraits, the wedding party can start making their way to us for wedding party portraits!

4:50-5:20pm Wedding Party Photos. Now it’s time for wedding party shots. I always advise to buffer in extra time throughout the day just in case we have some unexpected things that hold us up. One way to make sure we stay on schedule for wedding party portraits is to have someone put the boutonnieres on the guys BEFORE they arrive for portraits. I generally say to budget 30 minutes for each side but the benefit of 2 photographers is that we can do them simultaneously, if need be. To do bridesmaids, groomsmen, and entire bridal party CAN be done in 30 minutes but budget for 45-60 to allow for some buffer.

5:30-6:00pm Bride in Hiding. After bridal party portraits are complete, the bride will go into hiding so that early guests don’t sneak a peek and the ushers will begin their duties. This is a great time for the girls to touch up makeup, hair, or outfits.

5:30-5:50pm Reception Details. If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony, I will use this time to shoot the reception decor before any of the guests come in. If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area if possible so that I can grab some great shots of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats.

6:00-6:30pm Ceremony. It’s go time! Most ceremonies are 30 minutes long. Your ceremony will pass by so quickly, so make sure to cherish it (or have a videographer so you can rewatch it!) When factoring in how long your ceremony will take keep in mind that the time includes family and wedding party processing and recessing from the ceremony.

6:40-7:10pm Family Formal Portraits. Family formals normally take place immediately following the ceremony. Unless you are only doing immediate family (grandparents, parents, and siblings) it’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time.If you only desire immediate family AND doing a first look then you can budget that time BEFORE the ceremony since most of those people are present well before the ceremony begins. Wouldn’t that be amazing if you are done with 95% of the photos before the ceremony?! For family shots after the ceremony budget about 2-3 mins per grouping. Check out this blog post for tips on how to cut that time down.

7:15-7:30pm A few “Just Married” Portraits. 7:00pm is the BEST time of day for portraits in the late spring, summer and early fall! This is when the sun is and golden and soft like butter. I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few “Just Married” portraits right after family formals. The lighting is so different and so beautiful. Depending on the size of your wedding party (smaller would be better for this) sometimes I do a couple more golden hour entire group shots.

7:30pm Reception Begins. This is when the wedding party lines up for introductions and the party begins! By this part of the day, my timeline isn’t as structured. This is generally where your planner, venue, & DJ will inform you dinner time, dancing, and any additional activities.

Phew! That was a lot. Here’s a quick recap.

2:30-3:15pm: Details & Getting Ready
3:15-3:45pm: Bride gets Dressed
4:00-4:45pm: First Look & Portraits
4:50-5:20pm: Wedding Party Photos
5:30-6:00pm: Bride in Hiding
5:30-5:50pm: Reception Details
6:00-6:30pm: Ceremony
6:40-7:10pm: Family Formals
7:15-7:30pm: A few “Just Married” golden hour portraits
7:30 and beyond: Reception begins

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