Many wedding photographers will ask you to provide them with a wedding photography timeline for your wedding day. If you have a wedding planner, you almost certainly have a timeline, or run sheet, for your day. But if you don’t have a wedding planner, how do you go about creating the timeline?
The problem with getting married is that most people only do it once, so you simply don’t have the experience to know what to do; how things will unfold; how long things will take. In many ways, you are the least qualified person to write your wedding photography timeline! But then, you are also the only ones who know what is really important to you personally to have documented on your wedding day. With both of these things in mind, I have written this guide with the aim of letting you know about how long things will take, and some things that you might want to consider when thinking about what you want your wedding photography gallery to feature.
What is a Wedding Photography Timeline for Anyway?
A wedding photography timeline will help make sure you can fit it all in.
The purpose of your wedding photography timeline is to ensure that everything that you want to be photographed, is. You don’t want to be looking back in twenty years (or the week after your wedding) thinking, I wish I had photos of that. I wish I had photos of my flowers, or my sisters or my husband and I posed on the top of a hill. Your wedding photographer can only fit so much in, so creating a timeline will ensure that firstly, she knows what is important to you, and secondly, that she has time to photograph it. Not every bride will want the same things for her day, so make sure when you are creating your wedding photography timeline that you think carefully about what is important to you on your wedding day.
Managing your Wedding Photography Timeline
Make sure your photographer has time to capture the candid moments.
If you are not lucky enough to have a wedding planner to assist in this, you may want to nominate a bridesmaid or family member to make sure that things are happening in accordance with your timeline. You shouldn’t need to direct your photography in what she should be doing, but you may need to ensure that, for example, your dad is arriving when he should be, or your bridesmaids are where they need to be. You are going to be busy and excited and you want to enjoy every minute of it, so leave it to somebody else to make sure that things are ticking along on schedule.
Groom Getting Ready
It’s so exciting for the bride to see the images of the groom getting ready once their wedding photography gallery is ready. It’s the one bit that she wasn’t there for.
Not everybody makes time in their wedding photography timeline for images of the groom getting ready. Whether you want this captured will probably depend on how long you have your photographer for, and whether the groom is getting ready in the same location, or a nearby location.
This portion of the photography generally involves photographing the groom putting on the finishing touches – the tie, jacket and cufflinks. Most photographers will also then get some posed images of the groom alone, and with his groomsmen. There may also be some detail shots that you want the photographer to capture – cufflinks, shoes, whatever is special to you or to the groom, or to you, or to the pair of you as a couple. You should allow around thirty to forty minutes for your photographer to photograph the groom getting ready.
Remember forever those details you invested so much time in choosing.
I know that I spent an enormous amount of time choosing my wedding ring, and my flowers and my veil. I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for shoes, and I am yet to even start on my jewellery (and I am fast running out of time!). Our invitations are representative of our (or probably, my) taste, and were the first official announcement of our wedding. All of these little things (many of which, I will be honest, I didn’t even think of in the initial planning/budgeting stages, but all of which have become strangely, crucially, important) are the result of thought and planning, and in the case of my shoes, much agonising. Many brides now also spend hours with their bridesmaids making bouquets and other special items. Because of this, and I am quite sure, in part at least thanks to Pinterest, many of us want these things to be immortalised in pictures. They are a part of our day that we want to remember. If you too are one of these brides, you must make time in your wedding photography timeline for that to happen.
To save your photographer time, it helps to have these things all gathered together. Some things that you may want to have photographed are:
- Rings – engagement as well as both your and the groom’s wedding rings;
Make sure that you tell your wedding photographer if there is an item that has particularly special meaning to you, such as an item that has been passed down from your grandma, or handmade by your mum (my mum is making my garter!) or your bridesmaids.
Just note, your wedding photographer may want to move your dress somewhere more picturesque to photograph it. Most wedding photographers will ask first, but just in case, if you don’t want it moved you should let her know.
In my own work, I generally ask for twenty to thirty minutes for this, depending on how many things you want photographed. Keep in mind that more time means that your wedding photographer has the opportunity to look around and be more creative with her shots (this is true of every part of your wedding day!).
Bride Getting Ready
The finishing touches of the make up is often when the excitement really sets in.
Hair and make up is usually the start of the organised events for the day. If you have had trials, both you and your artist/s will have a good idea of how long this will take, but if not, be sure to ask. Then, add an extra half an hour. Hair and make up often takes longer than expected, and this can throw out the whole rest of your timeline. Because the thing that generally happens between hair and make up and the ceremony is the taking of pictures, this is what you will miss out on. So, best to leave plenty of time. Additionally, you don’t want your hair and make up artist/s to be rushed. You want them to spend all the time they need to do the best possible job. And you don’t want to start the day out stressed about running late.
Bridesmaids and the mother of the bride will frequently also have their hair and make up done by the same person or team. Let them go first – this way, your hair and make up will be fresher, and they will be all ready when your wedding photographer arrives.
You will generally want your wedding photographer to photograph the final twenty minutes or so of your make up artist applying your make up. Most brides want to have their make up mostly in place by the time the wedding photographer starts photographing her, but applying the final touches of lipstick and blush make for lovely images, because it is often the time when the excitement really starts kicking in for the bride. Suddenly, the whole thing feels very real! If these images are important to you, have your wedding photographer arrive at least half an hour before your hair and make up is due to be finished.
Getting ready is a good time for your wedding photographer to capture some beautiful portrait images.
Your wedding photographer will also want to photograph you putting on your dress, your veil, your shoes and jewellery. Once you are ready, this is a great time to get some portraits of you both by yourself and with your bridesmaids. How long you want to spend on this is entirely up to you. Some things to think about are the combinations that you want photographed – for example, you may have seven bridesmaids and you would like to have photographs with each of them individually. You may want to have some photographs taken in a different location, or outside. All of this will take extra time. Also remember that most wedding photographers will ensure that they have the “safe” images first – if you want your wedding photographer to give you something really creative, that will take some extra time.
Also in this time, if your father is giving you away, it is nice to empty the room of bridesmaids and others (except maybe your mum) for your dad to come in and see you for the first time. You are his baby girl, and is first sight of you in your wedding gown can be an emotional moment. Your dad is more likely to be able to express this emotion if the room is not full of people.
Keeping in mind the points mentioned above, you may want to leave around an hour and a half for this section (from make up to the arrival of your dad to walk you down the aisle). This will also give you a little bit of wiggle room if your hair and make up runs late.
A first look can give you the privacy to express your emotions.
A first look is an arranged meeting of bride and groom prior to the wedding ceremony itself. Some people are completely against this idea and prefer the traditional walk down the aisle to be the first meeting of the bride and groom on their wedding day. It is a completely personal decision. For my own wedding, I have definitely played with the idea of a first look, but have (I think! there’s still time to change my mind..) decided against it. I just want to do the traditional thing…
There are, however, a couple of advantages to the first look. Firstly, you get to see each other for that first time in a more private and personal setting. This is generally a moment that is shared only between the bride and groom, and their wedding photographer. Some people do choose to have their families or bridal parties present and again, that is a decision that is entirely up to you.
Another advantage of the first look is that it is generally followed by the bride and groom formal wedding photos. This is really the number one reason why people do a first look: getting the portraits done at this stage of the day frees you up to enjoy the company and congratulations of your friends and families after the ceremony. You needn’t miss out on cocktail hour!
You should allow 15 minutes for the first look. For information on timing of bride and groom and wedding party portraits, have a look at that section below.
The most important bit? The kiss.
I like to arrive at the ceremony at least fifteen minutes prior to the bride’s arrival. This gives me time to photograph the venue, the arrival of the guests, and the groom waiting at the altar. The length of the ceremony is something that you will discuss with your officiant. There is definitely a trend, outside of church weddings, for very short wedding ceremonies. Even if you are not providing your wedding photographer with a wedding photography timeline, make sure you tell her how long you expect your ceremony to be. You don’t want her to be standing in the wrong place when it comes time for the kiss!
One of my favourite parts of the day.
A lot of wedding photographers will whisk their bride and groom off for posed images or family formals immediately after the ceremony. I think that this means missing out on one of the most special and joyous and enjoyable parts of the day. After the wedding ceremony is a wonderful time for your families and friends to express all of the emotion that was welling up during the ceremony. At what other time in your life will you have everybody who is closest and most special to you lining up to hug you and congratulate you and shed a little tear of happiness over your happiness? You don’t want to have your wedding photographer over your shoulder worrying that they are going to miss out on “their” time (the bride and groom portraits).
Make sure that you build at least twenty to thirty minutes (depending on the number of guests) into your wedding photography timeline to bask in this joy.
A wedding is the perfect opportunity to capture families together.
In order to make sure things run smoothly and nobody is missed, it is a good idea to have a list of groups who you would like photographed already in place before the wedding day. It is also usual to allocate somebody to get these groups together ready to be photographed when it is time. Your wedding photographer isn’t very good at this, as she doesn’t know who these people are! It also saves a lot of time if the wedding photographer can photograph one group while somebody gets the next group together. Even though many wedding photographers find this to be the “boring” part of the day, in fact it can be one of the most important. In today’s society, people are so widely spread, and so busy, that it may not be often that a whole family has the chance to be together. These family wedding photographs often become some of the most precious. This is not just the case in the event of a death, but also as you are looking through the images with future generations. My children love to see images of their extended family, many of whom they have never had the chance to meet (though they will soon enough, at our own wedding!).
Depending on the number of groups to be photographed, allow around twenty to thirty minutes in your wedding photography timeline for the family formal photographs.
Bride, Groom and Wedding Party Portraits
A portrait of the two of you on your wedding day to hang on mum’s wall.
This one is a huge variable and there are a number of things that you will want to consider when you are allocating time in your wedding photography timeline to this portion of your day. Do you want your wedding photographs taken in more than one location? How much of your celebration are you willing to sacrifice to have the photos taken? You will need to think about the images that you have seen in your photographer’s portfolio that attracted you to that wedding photographer. Did she have some beautiful, creative posed images with each couple in multiple locations? That takes time. Is it the candid images of the couple with their guests that really attracted you to your wedding photographer? You can probably keep your portrait time a little shorter.
Just remember that most professional wedding photographers will take the “safe” images first – the images of the two of you together, looking straight at the camera that your parents and grandparents expect to see in your album. Creative images will come after that, so make sure that you leave enough time for your wedding photographer to explore the possibilities if that’s what you are after.
Make sure that you discuss the kind of portrait images that you want with your wedding photographer, and be guided by her with regard to how much time you should set aside on your day. Remember to also take into account travel time if you would like wedding portraits in different locations. This will likely range from half an hour to two hours.
The shoe game is a fun and popular feature of many wedding receptions.
If you would like your wedding photographer to photograph your wedding reception venue in all its glory, the best time to do this is prior to the arrival of your guests. It can be difficult to get nice clean shots of table settings, floral arrangements and centrepieces while guests are sitting at the tables. Your wedding photographer should also photograph your wedding cake in this time. You should allow your wedding photographer around twenty to thirty minutes for this prior to the arrival of your guests. The more time you give your photographer, the more creative she can be, and the more individual and beautiful your images will be.
You will decide the running order of your reception in conjunction with your venue, but it commonly will look something like: entrée; mains; cake cutting; speeches; dessert; father daughter dance; first dance; dance the night away! How long you would like your wedding photographer to stay will depend on which of these elements is important to you to capture, and, realistically, your budget. Some wedding photographers will also steal you away for ten minutes to capture a romantic night time shot or two.
One of my favourite images… a bride is shown some love by her daughter and a groomsman.
I would suggest capturing the reception for three hours from the time your guests enter will be sufficient time to capture things up til the first dance. Add another hour or two if you want to capture the party as everyone starts to loosen up and have some fun.
Time spent travelling between locations (such as from the place where the bride is getting ready to the church, the church to the reception, etc) comes out of the time for which you have hired your wedding photographer, so make sure you make some estimates in your wedding photography timeline. You might also want to keep this in mind as you are choosing your locations: keeping your locations close together means your wedding photographer is spending their time working at making great images, not driving around.
Do I Really Need a Wedding Photography Timeline?
Not everybody wants a wedding photography timeline. Some couples are happy to just go with the flow and see how things pan out. And that’s fine! That’s great! Although some will try, don’t let your wedding photographer insist that you provide one – it’s your day and any wedding photographer worth their salt can capture the day just as it unfolds. Just keep in mind that without a timeline, you may miss out on things that, in retrospect, were important to you. You can’t blame your wedding photographer for not capturing hundreds of amazing, creative posed images in eight different locations if she only ended up with fifteen minutes to do it in. And if you weren’t interested in a wedding photography timeline, you probably wouldn’t have read this far anyway.
So, that’s it! I hope that this guide helps you in creating your own wedding photography timeline. If you have questions about any of it, just comment below and I will do my best to answer your questions.
Lara Lane Wedding Photography ~ the wedding photographer of choice for the discerning bride.
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