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A Step-By-Step Wedding Photography Timeline for Photographers and Couples Planning Their Special Day

Updated: Feb 7

Wedding Timeline

The Ideal Wedding Photography Timeline for Your Special Day

A wedding is a magical day for any bride or groom about to marry their soulmate. As a wedding photographer or a spouse-to-be, one of the top ways to prepare for your special day is by having a wedding timeline to ensure that you stay on schedule without missing monumental moments.

Wedding photographers benefit from a wedding timeline because a timeline helps to understand how to photograph a wedding day, what moments to photograph, and how long you should spend photographing each part of a wedding. For brides and grooms, a wedding timeline will help you plan accordingly for each part of your wedding day.

Without a wedding timeline, you might find your day a bit more hectic than expected. This article will help you solve this issue with a detailed wedding timeline to ensure that the day goes as planned, whether you are a wedding photographer or a future spouse.

Also, if you are engaged to be married and planning for a wedding photographer, RayCee the Artist is the perfect choice for you! RayCee the Artist serves clients in Los Angeles, Orange County, and surrounding counties seeking a professional wedding photographer to capture their happiest moments. Contact RayCee the Artist today to learn more about wedding packages and planning your big day.

Wedding Photographer Arrives and First Photos: 45-60 Minutes

Before you can start taking photos, you need a set time for when the wedding photographer arrives. Ideally, the wedding photographer will arrive about an hour before the bride is ready to start the wedding day.

If you are a wedding photographer, arriving an hour early while the bride is getting her hair and makeup done is perfect so you can prepare your setup and photograph more minor details, such as her dress, ring, shoes, or other accessories. Arriving an hour early also allows you to photograph the bride during the final touches to her hair and makeup.

This portion typically happens in the morning, so ensure that you have plenty of time and arrive early enough to get pictures of the little details before you take photos of the bride, groom, and wedding party after they are dressed and ready for the day.

Individual Portraits: 30 Minutes

Wedding Timeline

Once everyone has their hair and makeup finished, you can move on to individual portraits of the bride and groom. This section is crucial because the spouses-to-be look fresh and ready for the day ahead. Up-close portraits are the perfect way to remember the details of this special day.

Consider taking portraits of the bride alone by a window or near a natural light source. Most of the pictures you take on the wedding day will be of the bride and groom together or with other people celebrating their special day, so ensure that you have adequate time to get these rare solo shots.

Individual portraits will usually happen in the morning or early afternoon, depending on the time the ceremony begins. This time of day is perfect for natural lighting by windows in the bridal suite and should begin as soon as everyone is dressed and ready for the rest of the day.

First Look: 45-60 Minutes

Some brides and grooms choose to have a first-look photo session before the ceremony. While you might consider saving the first look for when you walk down the aisle, you should consider a first-look session to get beautiful, authentic images of the bride and groom on their own, seeing each other in their wedding outfits for the first time.

Most of the couple's portraits will be taken later in the day, during and after the ceremony. A first-look photoshoot is excellent for capturing an intimate moment between future spouses where they can relax and be together before joining everyone else. First-look photos are great for an outdoor shoot with beautiful, natural lighting.

This part of your wedding timeline also occurs in the morning or early afternoon before the ceremony begins. First-look photos are perfect for outdoor settings surrounded by picturesque natural sights. Consider shaded areas depending on how bright the outdoor lighting is when taking photos.

Wedding Party Portraits: 30 Minutes

Wedding Timeline

Next up on the wedding timeline are wedding party portraits, which should last around 30 minutes. You can take pictures of the bride with her bridesmaids and the groom with his groomsmen during this time. You can also take individual portraits of people in the wedding party, pictures of the bride with her maid of honor, or pictures of the groom with his best man.

The wedding party is essential to the ceremony and reception, so capturing them all dolled up for the special day is crucial for future spouses to remember everyone that helped them along the way.

Once again, this portion of the day will typically occur in the morning or early afternoon. You may photograph the wedding party in the exact location as the first-look photos; however, you can also consider taking pictures in the ceremony venue or any off-site, picturesque location.

Family Portraits: 30 Minutes

Wedding photographers should also make time for family portraits if requested by the bride and groom. For example, you should allocate about 30 minutes for pictures of the bride and the groom with their parents. Additionally, you should include siblings, children, or extended family members in the family portraits section.

The bride and groom will cherish these photos because they celebrate their love and the love and support of their family members who have watched their relationship blossom. This final photoshoot before the ceremony begins is perfect for natural lighting off-site or gentle lighting in the ceremony hall.

Ceremony Details: 30 Minutes

Before the ceremony starts, allow the bride, groom, and wedding party some time to rest before the guests arrive. Take pictures of unique ceremony details that you won’t be able to capture during the wedding. Capture the venue in all of its beauty before guests are guided to their seats.

Additionally, if you provide video services, you will need this time to set up your camera in the best position to capture every detail of the ceremony. Taking 30 minutes to photograph the ceremony details will help ensure that you know the best angles and visuals to capture when the ceremony begins.

These photos are usually taken in the early afternoon. The time can change depending on the ceremony and whether the spouses-to-be want a dark, romantic setting or light and joyous venue. If the ceremony occurs outdoors, prepare for natural lighting and different angles to capture the details.

Ceremony: 30-45 Minutes

Wedding Timeline

Wedding ceremonies typically last around 30-45 minutes, so wedding photographers should ensure they have a list of moments to photograph. For instance, you should prepare to photograph the bride and groom walking down the aisle along with individual wedding party members entering before the bride.

Once you’ve captured these photos, pay attention to crucial moments and details in the ceremony. Many couples will want photographs of them saying their vows or of any readings during the ceremony. And, of course, don’t forget to capture the first kiss–this moment is one of the most extraordinary and memorable parts of the day.

This part of the day usually occurs in the afternoon but depends on the couple’s preferences—factor in the venue before deciding how you want to photograph the ceremony. Outdoor settings will need different lighting and technique than an indoor ceremony.

Additional Portraits: 30 Minutes

Once the ceremony is over, and guests are filing out of the venue, you should consider taking more portraits of the bride and groom. This portion depends on what the bride and groom want–for instance, some spouses may prefer all portraits taken before the ceremony, while some prefer them to be taken afterward. Additionally, you may receive requests to take portraits before and after the ceremony.

These portraits capture emotional, joyous moments for the newlyweds. Some brides and grooms will want additional photos with their wedding party and family after the ceremony, so leave ample time for this.

Consider natural lighting for this section of the day. Because these photos usually happen immediately after the ceremony, plan for afternoon lighting in an outdoor venue. With the proper lighting and location, you can capture the joy and beauty of the occasion.

Couple’s Session: 60 Minutes

You can never take too many photos of the happy couple. Before the reception begins, take some time to capture the two of them together in a romantic and intimate setting. If beautiful outdoor sights surround the wedding and reception, this couple's session is perfect for scenic shots and beautiful lighting right before sunset.

While everyone in the wedding party should have photos taken, remember that this day is about the newlyweds. Above all else, ensure you have adequate time to capture them throughout the day.

Reception Details: 30 Minutes

Wedding Timeline

Carve out some time during cocktail hour to get pictures of the reception hall before guests get to their seats. The reception will have many gorgeous details to capture, such as unique centerpieces, flowers, or other romantic details that the bride and groom will want to remember.

You will usually take these pictures right before the reception in the early evening. Many receptions are indoors, so factor in the venue’s lighting and color scheme before taking pictures. You want these photos to be romantic and intimate while still looking formal, and lighting is the key to finding this balance.

Reception First Look: 15 Minutes

This step is optional and will depend on the couple’s preferences. While some newlyweds prefer to see the reception hall for the first time with all their guests welcoming them in, some will want to see the hall before anyone else arrives.

If the couple wants a first look at the reception setup before people arrive, plan for about 15 minutes of photographs where you capture their genuine reaction and other intimate details, such as preparation for the first dance or a first kiss.

This portion of the wedding day will likely occur in the early evening. You can keep a similar setup for these images for the reception details section, but ensure that your lighting and angles give the pictures a romantic, genuine, and comfortable feeling.

Guests Enter Reception: 30 Minutes

After the reception first look, you can escort the bride and groom out of the reception hall and start taking pictures as the guests arrive. If there are specific family members or guests the couple wants to be photographed, take them aside and get some great shots. This section typically lasts around 30 minutes as the guests make their way to the reception, but it can be shorter depending on when guests arrive or if the cocktail hour is connected to the reception hall.

As the evening festivities begin, capture positive images and moments of the guests preparing to celebrate the night ahead. Don’t feel the need to be too formal during this section–guests joining the reception is fun and exciting, and the photos should reflect that instead of keeping an overly severe tone.

Couple Enters, First Dance, and Toast: 60 Minutes

Wedding Timeline

The grand entrance is another portion of the special day where the allotted time could change depending on the couple's preferences, so ensure that you are all on the same page before the reception. Capture photos of the couple entering the reception for the first time as newlyweds. Even if you took first-look photos for the reception, you should capture the moment when the couple enters with all of their friends and family, celebrating their love. You will surely get beautiful smiles and authentic, joyful expressions from these photos.