Wedding Timeline Tips for the Best Photos

With so much going on during your ceremony and reception its important to have a timeline prepared so nothing is left to chance. Work with your photographer ahead of time, either planning the timeline together or sharing the details of the day with them. Here you’ll find some great wedding timeline tips and advice from our wedding photographer members on how to improve the wedding timeline.

1. Know What Type of Photos You Want and Where You Want Them

“Make sure you allow time between the wedding and the reception to visit at least one other location for outdoor photographs. A local park, a near by beach, even a school yard you played in as a child.”
- Will of Forever Images, Michigan City Indiana

“As time nears, please make sure you always schedule enough time in between the ceremony and reception to travel to a few amazing spots for intimate photos of just you and your new husband… That’s the wonderful stuff you’ll always remember…”
- Miss Ann of Photos by Miss Ann, Northville MI

“Make sure you have thought about where to have your photos done especially if it rains; have a backup plan and make sure that space is available.”
Beth of Beth Fridinger Photography

“Think about the pictures you want. Do want pictures of your dress hanging, your shoes and accessories? Do you want pictures of those precious moments you’re with your friends and family before you say “I Do”? If so, plan to have your photographer arrive at least 2 hours prior to the ceremony. This will give them time to photograph all those details you spent so much time preparing, as well as you getting ready with your bridesmaids and family members before the ceremony, and of course the groom getting ready and with his groomsmen and family members. These pictures are priceless and capture so much emotion. For most couples they see for the first time what their spouse was doing just before the ceremony, which can be quite touching.”
- Life to Image, Greater Atlanta Georgia Area

“When thinking about those after-the-wedding family shots, jot down the shots you want. Pass out that detailed list to your family members before the wedding day so everyone will know where to be and when for pictures!”
- Owens-Lugar Photography, Roanoke, Virginia

“If you have a large extended family that you would like photographed during formals make a short list so that no one is left out during the fast paced formals time. Keep in mind, the shorter the list the better because that will give your photographer more time to photograph the most important couple.”
- Todd of Thamer Photography, Brookline NH

2. Lighting and Time of Day Effects Your Photos

“The best light is two hours before sunset. If you want beautiful photos of your outside wedding, check a sunset chart first to make sure you allow ample time for the ceremony and formal pictures afterwards before the sun actually does set.”
- Renee of RIM Photography, South Carolina

“Photographers use light like a painter uses paint. No matter how good your photographer is, without good lighting, your photography will suffer. If you have the luxury of picking what time you get married, it is a great idea to ask your photographer what is the best time to take pictures for your area.

A perfect example is my home area of Lake Tahoe. High noon is the worst time of day to take pictures, especially if you are out on a lake or beach with no shade. Ideally, you want to start taking pictures about two hours before the sun goes over the horizon. There again, it is important to consult your photographer because the sun sets differently everywhere.

Once the party moves indoors, it is obviously less important since chances are, we are going to have to use some sort of artificial light to help us out anyway. However, even there, keep in mind what might look good to the naked eye, might not look good in a photograph. The eyes see light very differently than our cameras do. So, if you plan on lighting your entire reception by candles, Tiki Torches, and twinkle lights, just know that isn’t a whole lot of light for your photographer to work with . It will look amazing in person, but it might not translate into a photograph.
If you are shooting in almost total darkness, it can be hard to even focus on the subject, and the less ambient light we have to work with, the harder it is to make the lighting look natural on the subject.

- Steve Keegan, Wedding Photojournalist, Minden, Nevada

3. Create a Timeline of the Day to Hand Out

“In order to help the day run smoothly and get you guys to your party faster it is important to establish an organized (and realistic) timeline for the day to play out especially with your photographer. I know I act more as a wedding coordinator the day of to ensure not only folks are in the right places at the right time but to make sure all of the sequences of photos are taken with ease.

All that being said, this is a ‘mock up’ of how I like to run things (based on a 2pm ceremony time and a traditional ceremony). This also works seamlessly if you are in the midst of planning a destination wedding as well:

12-12:30pm Getting the dress on, finishing touches, etc.
12:30-1pm Groom’s photos (alone, with groomsmen, and family).
1-1:30pm Bride’s photos (alone, with bridesmaids, and family).
1:30-2pm No formal photos- just candid’s as guests arrive.
2-3pm Ceremony and receiving line.
3-3:45pm Formal and fun photos at ceremony site with family, bridal party, and the two of you.
3:45-4:15pm Travel to outdoor location or around other locales.
4:15-5:30pm Bridal party photos fun, candid, and formal outside and then just intimate photos of the two of you.
6-? Reception time!

..just a few tidbits to think about as you plan your EPIC day!

Smile lots, Miss Ann

- Photos by Miss Ann
Worldwide & Destinations Wedding Photographer

“Plan a time line, hand it out to all those providing service, and then hold them accountable for sticking to it. Just remember, this is your special day…don’t let anyone, not even us, take your time away from where you want it to be!”
- Nick of Nick Corona Photography, Norco CA

4. Plan Extra Time for Hair and Makeup

“The one golden rule from my years of photographing brides is this: give yourself at least 3 hours for hair and make-up; brides who follow this one simple rule is always on time and never rushed for the photo session. Almost 99.9% of the delays are due to not planning enough time for hair and make-up.”
- Willi of Willi Wong Photography, New York, New York

5. Start Chow Time Early

If you are worried about having guests wait too long to eat, break tradition and go ahead and have them start eating before you arrive (not just appetizers, everything)! Trust us, they will love you for it, you will not feel pressured, and the party will get started much earlier in the evening!”
- Adam of Adam Czap Photography, Northville, MI

6. Plan to Take Photos Before the Ceremony

“Many modern brides and grooms are foregoing tradition, and seeing each other before the ceremony in order to schedule time for great portraits. The moment of the ‘First Sight’, or ‘First Look’, is still arranged and the moment is captured. By getting the creative photographs completed before the wedding ceremony, this means that the couple can go straight to the reception with the guests.”
- Steve of Steve Z Photography, Boulder, Colorado

“If you plan to do your photos before the ceremony make sure your florist will deliver the bridal bouquets and those flowers needed for bridal party are on time and if the wedding is at a hotel make sure the hotel will accept the delivery of those flowers early.”
Beth of Beth Fridinger Photography

7. Add Extra Time Into Your Photo Schedule

“Plan ahead to make your day stress-free! Weddings are made for Murphy’s Law – little things with uncooperative buttons & zippers, ill-fitting shirts, and disappearing bridegrooms – will happen. When you build some extra time into your photo schedule to accommodate delays, you’ll look that much more relaxed and happy in your pictures!”
- MetroStyle Studios, Minneapolis, MN

“It never hurts to tell your wedding party or family that pictures start 10 minutes earlier than planned. Its better to get an early to on time start than a late one.”
- Cheryl Neuharth Photography, Minneapolis Minnesota

“Be on time, I know this is hard to believe but things get rushed especially on wedding days. If you show up 40 minutes late for a photo session you’re not going to get as many photographs to choose from, you won’t be as relaxed, and in some cases you will be paying the photographer to stand around. We suggest to plan on being 15 minutes early and if there are people in your group that are chronically late, tell them to be 15 to 30 minutes early (you know the people we’re talking about).

- Jody of Ethington Photography, Mesa AZ

Photo Credits: Daniel Moyer Photography, Photos by Miss Ann, Steve Keegan-Photojournalist, Nick Corona Photography, MetroStyle Studios

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