Why a Timeline is Important (And How to Make the Most of It)

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You’ve booked your photographer, so you’re done coordinating photography for your big day, right? Wrong.

After booking a photographer, it is important that you work together to establish a photography timeline for your wedding day. This timeline will help set a plan for when certain events and photos will happen so that you don’t’ have to worry about it on the day-of. It also allows you to maximize the time that you have with your photographer. A timeline is the best way to ensure that your wedding day minimizes your stress and allows you to celebrate!

After a recent wedding of my own and with my experience as a wedding photographer, I have come up with a few things to consider when creating your wedding day timeline.

  1. Plan lots of time for getting ready photos. In my professional opinion, you should devote 2-3 hours for this. Not only does this amount of time provide some leeway for your hair and makeup team, but allows ample time for detail shots and candid photos in your matching robes (or whatever coordinating garment your best girls are wearing). Included in this time frame are photos of the bride getting ready (dress on, shoes on, jewelry on), groom getting ready (suit on, shoes on, accessories on), and group pics of the bridesmaids and groomsmen. To further maximize your time for getting ready photos, have your wedding details together and ready for when the photographer arrives. These details include a spare invitation, all rings, veil, shoes, jewelry, garter, perfume, etc. If the groom has cool details to photographer, set those aside as well for a special “groom detail” shot.
  2. Give someone else the responsibility of keeping everyone on track. Whether this person is a wedding coordinator or a member of the bridal party, delegate the duties of time keeping to someone else. As the bride or groom, it is important that you remain stress-free and enjoy the day; so let someone else worry about keeping the group on schedule.
  3. Use fewer locations for all of your wedding day events. If you do not need to travel between locations on your wedding day, then you will need to devote less time for transportation. Have you ever tried to schedule Uber rides for a bridal party of 10+ people? Spoiler: it doesn’t work well. Less travel means staying on schedule. Need more reasons to stick to one venue? Check out my article Why You Should Have One Venue that Does it All!
  4. Consider a “first look.” I know this isn’t the most traditional thing, but it is a game changer for photography. Having a first look means that you can do all formal bridal party shots and bride and groom portraits before the ceremony! For an evening ceremony, this means you can take the bulk of your pictures in better daytime lighting, too. If you choose to do a first look, the only photos needing to be taken after the ceremony are formal family portraits that include extended family. Less photos after the ceremony means more reception time for you! If a first look is definitely not an option, consider doing formal portraits of the bridesmaids and groomsmen separately before the ceremony. While you will still have full bridal party photos to take after the reception, you will still be able to save some time!
  5. Make a list of must-have photos and family photos. While a timeline helps keep things organized, sometimes wedding days can get off-schedule. If the photographer knows what your must-have shots are, they are better able to prioritize within the time frame that you have for photos. When taking family photos, a list of family members included in each photo is also helpful in allowing the photographer to have people “on deck” for the next photo. This makes thinks run much more smoothly!
  6. Know the locations where you want pictures to be taken. It saves a lot of time when a photographer doesn’t have to scout a location, especially if the photographer has never shot a wedding at your venue. A bonus tip would be to book a photographer that is familiar with your venue. If they have shot a wedding there before, they will know all of the best locations for photos!
  7. Decide how long you want the photographer at your reception. At a reception, photographers are there to capture the important events like first dances, cake cutting, and the bouquet/garter toss. Most reception photos outside of those events are of mingling and dancing guests. You are able to cut costs by only booking your photographer for part of the reception. Make sure all of the important events take place in the first 1-2 hours of the reception to save money and cut down on all of the “filler” photos. Planning a special exit with bubbles or sparklers? Consider staging a “fake exit” during your reception to make sure your photographer is there to capture the photos. From a photographer’s perspective, “fake exits” usually have a bigger crowd because they happen earlier in the reception before people start leaving.

Your wedding day timeline should always be discussed with your photographer beforehand. They will often provide tips for how long to spend on certain photos and even the timing of photos to ensure the best lighting. There is not a timeline that fits every wedding day, so make sure to clue your photographer in on any special events you want to be photographed on your big day (ex. reading letters from each other, family prayer, exchanging gifts, etc).

If you still need a little guidance after reading this post, go download my free Timeline Guide!

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