Wedding Photography Planning Timeline Examples

Wedding day timelines are an area of stress for couples

There is so much to consider, and a timeline makes it easy to visualize. In terms of photography, I’ve seen a few different timelines that have worked well for couples, and I want to share them with you today. I’ll provide examples of timelines with and without a first look and how soon you should book a wedding photographer. 

Leading up to the Wedding

So you’re engaged, now what? I have some recommended timelines of when to book certain photoshoots and a wedding photographer.

1-2 months after getting engaged - the engagement shoot

  • You’ll want to schedule an engagement shoot relatively soon after getting engaged so you can use the photos for save the dates and wedding invitations.

ASAP - book photographer for wedding day

  • I recommend booking a photographer as soon as possible. Our calendars book quickly and pretty far in advance, so book as soon as you can to get the person you want!

1-2 months before wedding - Wedding detail sheet to the photographer

  • Your photographer should be communicating with you on wedding day details. A few months before, you should get the wedding detail sheet to your photographer for a finalized timeline of events.

Wedding Day

Remember that the timeline all depends on the time of your wedding (morning, afternoon, or evening) and whether or not you’re doing a first look. To keep it broad, I’ll recommend the length of time for each set of photos.

With a first look

A first look is a special moment between bride and groom. It happens before the ceremony. What typically takes place is the bride walks up behind the groom and taps him on the shoulder to turn around. I love to take photos of first looks because of the pure joy and happiness I get to capture between the couple. 

A first look definitely speeds up the photo process post-ceremony. A good chunk of photos will already be completed, and you can enjoy the cocktail hour with your guests. Here is a general photography timeline of what to expect if you go with a first look.

5 hours before the ceremony - the photographer arrives

1 hour - getting ready photos

45 minutes - first look & couple portraits

30 minutes - wedding party portraits

45 minutes - family portraits

30 minutes - ceremony

1 hour - cocktail hour

2 hours - wedding reception

Without a first look

If you decide that you want the first look to be walking down the aisle, then we’ll need to adjust the photo schedule to account for extra time post-ceremony. That’s when all of the pictures will be taken with the couple by themselves, and the couple with the wedding party, friends, and family. You’ll likely miss the cocktail hour if you go this route, but I totally understand the fantasy around seeing each other for the first time during the ceremony! Here is a timeline of a wedding day without a first look.

5 hours before the ceremony - the photographer arrives

1 hour - getting ready photos

75 minutes - separate wedding party and family photos

30 minutes - ceremony

65 minutes - couple portraits and group portraits (typically during cocktail hour)

2 hours - wedding reception

I hope these timelines help you! I know the timing of the wedding day can be a stressor for couples. There’s so much to do and fit in! This photography planning timeline should give you a better idea of whether or not you want a first look and what your wedding day will look like with or without one. If you’re ready to book a photographer for your wedding, contact me! I’d love to chat with you about your ideas and see if we can make your dream wedding happen.

About Harry McLaughlin Photography

I take pride in creating a fun environment and connecting with vendors so that everything can run smoothly on your big day. I’ll be with you every step of the way. From engagement shoots to day-of photos, you can rest easy knowing I’ll give you the photos you’ve always dreamed of. When you book with me, you’ll get a custom experience unlike any other. Let’s create special moments together! Fill out this form to get started.

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