Your Wedding Day Photography Timeline: Planning For Success

Photography is a large part of most Weddings, so most Wedding photographers (like myself and my partner Jennifer) are committed not only to taking beautiful photographs, but also to making sure they keep the photography fun and stress free on your Wedding Day. One of the ways photographers help couples enjoy a successful, stress free Wedding Day is by meeting with them ahead of time to develop a Wedding Photography Timeline.

This plan includes the times of all the major Wedding Photography categories, as well as a list of the family members for Formal Family photographs. By developing this timeline months before the Wedding, photographers have plenty of time to iron out any scheduling kinks, allowing all of us to enjoy a relaxed day of Wedding Photography when the special day arrives! So let’s take a closer look at the Wedding Photography Timeline and hopefully it can help you with Wedding Day planning as well!

When it comes to major Wedding Photography categories, we like to break these up into 9 sections: Getting Ready, Reveal & Couple Photographs, Wedding Party, Family Formals, Pre-Ceremony, Ceremony, Certificate Signing, Reception and Send-Off. It’s important to note hear that these events may occur sequentially in a different order depending on Wedding Day variables such as the number of locations, having a couple reveal prior the Wedding (or not), the time when family members are planning to arrive and so forth. But for the most part, we’ve found this sequence is usually followed in some form or another, so let’s take a closer look at each of these Wedding photography categories.

Getting Ready (1.5 hours): Please remember we’re talking about the photography time, not the actual time. It’s pretty hard for a bride and her 5 bridesmaids to get their hair done, their make-up done and get into their dresses in 90 minutes; we’re just talking about the photography. So when we arrive, the Bride and the Bridesmaids are usually finishing up hair and make-up and not yet dressed. The first thing we’ll do is hang and photograph the Bride’s Wedding Dress (for the Dress’s well-being, this is a 2-person job). This is an important photograph as it showcases the beauty of the garment independent from the bride.

Photo: Rose-Lily Photography. Venue: The Belle Chapel

Once this is done, we immediately return the dress and then Jenn begins to photograph details in the Bridal Suite as the Bride and her Bridesmaids finish getting ready (such as the garter, special jewelry, shoes, Bridesmaids gifts and bouquets). Meanwhile, I abscond (temporarily) with the Bride’s Bouquet to use as a background for some great macro photography of the Wedding Rings.

Once I wrap this up, I then hop into the Groomsmen’s Room and start working with the guys (so details of cuff links, shoes being tied, ties and jackets being put on, boutonnieres being pinned on, Groomsmen’s gifts being open, beer toasting, headlocks – you get the idea!).

Reveal & Couple Photographs (1 hour): The ‘reveal’ is one of the biggest moments of the day (about 5-10 minutes). Jenn and I carefully coordinate this moment with our couples as it’s one they will remember for the rest of their lives. Some couples go back to back, others choose to have the groom turn and see the bride, some hold hands around a corner and then step out, etc. The idea here is that they turn see each other for the first time on their Wedding Day, pause for a moment and then embrace. This is a powerful moment that is best photographed by 2 photographers who can capture the reactions of the Bride and Groom simultaneously and from opposing angles.

So now that the Bride and Groom have seen each other, this is the beauty of the reveal in terms of the Wedding Day timeline – now the next 3 major photography categories (Couple Photographs, Wedding Party, Family Formals) can be completed before the ceremony. This way the couple can be done with all the directed photographs, get married and afterwards just sign their marriage certificates and go party the night away at the Wedding Reception without any other major photography commitments. Also, since the guests have not arrived yet, the venue is mostly empty (which often looks better in the Couple and Wedding Party Photographs) and the general photography vibe for these directed photographs is much less stressful, which are two other reasons we like to have the couple reveal happen earlier in the day as opposed to at the ceremony.

Anyway, back to our timeline, so we’re now onto the couple photographs. These very important formal and candid photographs of the couple (and the bride and groom individually) are done throughout the entire venue as we like to showcase the variety of visual elements at these locations. Needless to say, most Wedding venues have a lot of great spots for photography, which is one of the reasons couples choose them in the first place. This could mean some walking (which is a great time for us to grab wonderful candid photographs), but since we’ve already done a site check at the venue a couple weeks prior to the Wedding, we develop a single path of travel to minimize wear & tear on our couples during section of their Wedding Day Photography.

Wedding Party (1 hour): Wherever we end up at the venue with the couple, we try to start there with the Wedding Party. These photographs are the entire Wedding Party in a variety of fun and formal groupings, the Groom and Groomsmen (includes individual photographs), the Bride and Bridesmaids (includes individual photographs), the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer with the couple and any other combinations requested by the Bride and Groom. Similar to the Couple Photographs, we try and follow a single path with the Wedding Party back to where we started, taking great candids along the way.

Family Formals (1 hour): This is where a list of family members we developed with the couple months prior to the Wedding comes in very handy. We select a nice neutral background that’s characteristic of the venue, borrow a few chairs from the ceremony site and go to work. Using this list, we can move through these family groups fairly quickly and be sure we haven’t forgotten any of the couples requested family photographs. We like to end this section with a fun combined photograph of the couple and both sets of parents – they’re all going to be one family now!

Pre-Ceremony (1 hour): So now the directed photography is over and we’re ready to get married! Jenn and I like to end our directed work with the couple about an hour before the Wedding begins to avoid having the Bride be seen by guests prior to Ceremony (and if things are running behind, this hour also gives everyone a little breathing room). We now turn our attention to the Ceremony & Reception sites. They are now all done being set up, look fantastic and are perfect for detail photography. Finally, as guests arrive we’ll take candid photographs of people signing the sign-in book and get into position for the Ceremony.

Ceremony (30 minutes): Show time! First Jenn and I get into positions in the front & rear of the isle and photograph the processional, which often begins with the Groom and Officiant and concludes with the Bride and her Father. The Bride is given away, the couple steps forward towards the officiant, the guests sit down and we fall back and do our work. Again, as with the reveal, having 2 photographers at your ceremony is very beneficial as a variety of angles and moments can be captured that otherwise may be lost with a single photographer. A prior conversation with the Officiant has cued us in to the moment of the first kiss and pronouncement, so I will often move up the isle to be sure to capture that moment (not a photograph a Wedding Photographer wants to miss!). The newly married couple now walks down the isle and may stop and embrace at the end, allowing us to capture an amazing high and wide photograph of their guest and ceremony site they will treasure for a life time!

Photo: Rose-Lily Photography. Venue: Green Gates at Flowing Lake

Certificate Signing (15 minutes): This is a quick, but important set of photographs that involve the couple, the Best Man, the Maid of Honor and the Officiant signing their documents and making it all legal! We have a lot of fun with this section of photographs and we’ll often get some nice detail images here of the couple with their Certificate of Marriage - and then it’s off the Reception!

Reception (4 hours): After we capture the happy couple’s introduction and entrance into their Reception, the DJ will often the steer the ship for the remainder of the evening while we candidly capture all these wonderful, happy moments as they unfold. Typically, this will include details of the food buffet, table visits by the couple with their guests, toasts, cake cutting, married couple’s first dance, parent dances, the bouquet and garter tosses and general dancing. We may sneak in 15-20 minutes worth of sunset photographs at an outdoor venue, but that’s about it. We respect our couples time at their Wedding Reception and do the best we can not to take them away from it.

Photo: Rose-Lily Photography. Venue: Green Gates at Flowing Lake

Send-Off (15 minutes): When it’s time to head out, we will often have a special send-off plan devised with our couples ahead of time. There are typically 2 rows of guests which the happy couple will pass through amidst a flurry of sparklers, glow sticks or bubbles as they make their way to their getaway vehicle of choice (aka – limousine, classic car, horse-drawn carriage, etc.). We’ll often stop them at the end of the walk, ask them to kiss and get another great high & wide shot of all their quests waving good-bye as they embrace. Then they hop in their car / limo, lean out the window for a last good-bye kiss or wave, and they’re off – and that’s it!

It’s our hope that this post helps increase your understanding of the value of a Wedding Photography Timeline. This document and your overall Wedding Day Timeline (which most Wedding Coordinators will merge together for you) can lay out a clear path of time on your Wedding Day, so you can just cherish the moments as they happen, and revel in the splendor of it all – stress free! And don’t worry, later you can always relive your Wedding Day anytime you want to – that’s why you hired great photographers in the first place!


Edmund founded Rose-Lily Photography in 2005. He uses light beautifully to produce artistic, timeless images for Rose-Lily clients. Edmund, his wife Teresa, their daughter and a variety of companion animals live in North Snohomish County.