Ideal Wedding Photography Timeline

Wedding photography timeline ideals will always vary for any numbers of reasons—schedule changes, cultural or religious traditions, etc. Even so, having a good idea of approximately how long portions of the wedding take to photograph can make planning your overall wedding timeline (with your wedding planner) much simpler. 

The recommendations below are just that. While we are trying to provide a range of information, it’s your wedding. You pick and choose what you would and would not like and adapt it to your wedding timeline.

The Details

Close-up of wedding ring before the ceremony
  • What – The rings, dresses, shoes, etc.
  • Ideal Time Needed – 30 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Bridal Suite or Hotel Suite
  • Ideal Time of Day – Late Morning/Early Afternoon

Allowing approximately 30 minutes in your wedding photography timeline for all of your details ensures plenty of time to get the perfect photo of the day’s details. This includes items such as the dress, rings, shoes, bouquets, and other important details. Having someone—like your best man or maid of honor—gathering everything in one place is a great way to ensure all details are captured, and no time is lost in trying to collect all items.

Preparation

Best man assists groom with tie
  • What – The bride and groom getting ready
  • Ideal Time Needed – 30 minutes (30 minutes each for the bride and groom, usually taken simultaneously by the lead and second shooter)
  • Ideal Location – Bridal Suite or Hotel Suite
  • Ideal Time of Day – Late Morning/Early Afternoon

Hair. Make-up. Getting Dressed. Candid moments with bridesmaids and groomsmen. These add layers to the story of your day. Additionally, this pre-wedding time provides some great emotional and spontaneous moments. The second (female) shooter will be with the bride while the lead (male) shooter will be with the groom.

Individual Portraits

  • What – Individual images of the bride and groom usually taken soon after preparation
  • Ideal Time Needed – 30 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Bridal Suite, Hotel Suite, Venue Lobby, or Venue Garden
  • Ideal Time of Day – Late Morning/Early Afternoon

With everything practically perfectly in place right after preparation, this is a great time to get individual portraits of the bride and groom. Things aren’t too ramped up yet, so the more relaxed vibe in the air will help create some beautiful shots.

First Look and Daytime Couples Session

Bride and groom first look at Christ Lutheran Church in Valparaiso, Indiana
  • What – The groom sees his bride for the first time in her dress; basic bride and groom portraits
  • Ideal Time Needed – 45–60 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Venue Garden, Empty Venue Hallway (shaded areas with natural light)
  • Ideal Time of Day – Early Afternoon

Allow for about 5–10 minutes for a first look. The remainder of the time is used to capture portraits of the bride and groom. (Note: Ideally, the bulk of the couples session happens later (see the “couples session” section below). However, if there is no other available time in the day, it is best to allocate another 45 minutes to an hour here to ensure we have enough photos of just the bride and groom.

Wedding Party Photos

Bridal party cheering on the bride and groom at Milton Lee Olive Park in Chicago
  • What – The bride and groom with their bridesmaids and groomsmen
  • Ideal Time Needed – 45–60 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Venue Lobby, Venue Garden, Beach, Park, Off-site Location
  • Ideal Time of Day – Afternoon

We take a variety of shots in different poses, and with different expressions—typically one “serious” and one “silly”. Shots include group shots and shots with each bridal party member individually.

Immediate Family

  • What – Family photos
  • Ideal Time Needed – 30–45 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Venue Lobby, Venue Garden, Beach, Park, Off-site Location
  • Ideal Time of Day – Afternoon

Each group shot takes approximately three (3) minutes each. So, for example, if you have ten group shots, allow for about 30 minutes for the images to be taken. After basic formals, you’ll want images with your parents, grandparents and siblings that really show off the family charisma!

Ceremony Detail and Venue

Wedding Ceremony Site at Hotel Baker in St. Charles, IL
  • What – The ceremony site setup
  • Ideal Time Needed – 30 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Ceremony site
  • Ideal Time of Day – Morning/Afternoon

Please allow 30 minutes for the second shooter to take pictures of the ceremony site, completely set up with no guests or vendors in the area. Before guests are seated, it’s important that we are there to capture the complete set up of your ceremony site so we can capture the scene at its best.

Formals (Extended Family, Immediate Family, and Friends)

    • What – Additional family photos and close friends
    • Ideal Time Needed – 45–60 minutes
    • Ideal Location – Ceremony site
    • Ideal Time of Day – Morning/Afternoon

Some couples decide they want a picture with all guests while others decide they only want pictures with select VIPs to save time. Something in between is a good compromise. We also recommend being very organized, with a list of groups and helpers from each side of the family to help round people up. (This list should be given to your photographer no later than one week before the wedding.)

Couples Session

Bride and groom strolling through the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kobe in Libertyville
  • What – The formal session with the bride and groom
  • Ideal Time Needed – 60 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Venue Garden, Hotel Lobby, Park
  • Ideal Time of Day – Late Afternoon (Closer to Sunset)

The aim is to capture magnificent images with colorful skies. If your wedding is downtown or in an area with tall buildings, the specific time frame is not as important (but it still helps). Please note that if you book your venue because of a spectacular view, it’s fundamental to follow this advice in your timeline.

Reception Detail and Venue

  • What – The reception room ambience, details, etc.
  • Ideal Time Needed – 30 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Reception Site
  • Ideal Time of Day – Early Evening

Allow approximately 30 minutes for the second shooter to take pictures of the reception room, completely set up with no guests or vendors in the area. Similar to the ceremony details, this is the only opportunity we have to capture the beauty of the reception room prior to guest arrival.

Couples Session – Reception Sneak Out

  • What – Late evening shot(s) of the bride and groom
  • Ideal Time Needed – 20 minutes
  • Ideal Location – Areas with interesting lights, fountains, city scapes and mirrors
  • Ideal Time of Day – Dusk to Night Time

Plan on sneaking out for a couple of night shots during the reception. We understand the importance of being a good host, so we will limit the time to take these to 20 minutes. The ideal time for this is right after you grab a bite to eat or during the open floor dancing after you’ve danced a few songs and would like a break.

Table Shots

Table shots are when you go around visiting tables. There are two options for photography during this time. (1) You can take formal pictures with each of these tables or (2) we can simply focus on photojournalism, capturing the smiles and hugs as you mingle with each table. If you’re planning on doing formal table shots, please keep in mind that these will take about 3–5 minutes per table. For example 20 tables would require 60–100 minutes of time.