Wedding Workshop | Creating a Timeline

With wedding season winding down & engagement/planning season ramping up I thought I’d take a few posts & answer some of my most frequently asked questions. The first question I frequently encounter (from both the bride & other photographers) is ‘how do I set up a photographer-friendly wedding timeline?’ For bride’s who value photography they recognize the flow of the day should reflect this priority, for photographers; well we need a clear path to best serve our clients & deliver the images they desire.

Instead of typing this out over & over I thought I’d answer that question here.

First there are a few factors that go into the timeline creation that you (as either the bride OR the photographer) need to know ahead of time. Those are 1) is the couple doing a first look? 2) does the couple prefer the family portraits take place before or after the ceremony & 3) time of the ceremony.

Also, it should be noted that the earlier the better for timeline discussions. I’ve found it much easier to add time or shift things around earlier in the process than it is say, 10 days or 7 days out.

Typically when I sit down with a bride to finalize or tweak their timeline they already know the answers to the above questions & the other major factors; ceremony start time, reception start time, if there is a cocktail hour, approximate number in family portraits & number in bridal party.

My couples are pretty much split 50/50 on the first look so my first order of business when discussing the timeline is finding out their stance on that.

If they are having a first look my thought process looks like this;

When is the ceremony start time? 6pm
Okay, then we need to be all clear & hidden away by 5:30, so all portraits need to be finished by 5:15.
I prefer to end with the family portraits so they don’t have to arrive any earlier than is absolutely necessary.
Additionally, I do my best to insure that the family with the most elderly or mobility-challenged members goes last.
In this case, lets say that’s the Groom’s family. So Groom’s Family will be from 4:45-5:15.
Prior to that will be the Bride’s family from 4:15-4:45. (These 30-min windows are plenty for most families (~20-30ppl), but if there is an exceptionally large group sometimes I’ll pad a little more)
Just prior to that I’ll do the bridal party from 3:45-4:15 (again, this is more than enough time for most parties, unless we’re talking more than 8-10 maids/men on each side)
Prior to that is the Bride & Groom’s portraits 3:15-3:45.
Just before that is their 1st look 3-3:15.

So, by the time I’ve worked myself backwards the day looks like this:

3-3:15 – 1st Look
3:15-3:45 – B&G Portraits
3:45-4:15 – Bridal Party
4:15-4:45 – Bride’s Family
4:45-5:15 – Groom’s Family
5:15 – All Clear from Ceremony Site
6 – Ceremony Starts

This gives the Bride a definite time that she needs to be ready, it also gives her definite times to tell people to arrive. Its also helpful when she schedules hair & make-up.

Also, I do try to get the guys & girls separately while preparation is going on & then throw in a few additional portraits during the Bridal Party.

Now, what if a Bride & Groom are electing to not do a first look? Well then my timeline looks like this:

3:30-4 – B’s Finishing Touches & w/Bridesmaids
4:05-4:25 – G’s Finishing Touches & w/Groomsmen
4:25-4:45 – B & Bride’s Family
4:45-4:55 – Trading spaces
4:55-5:15 – G & Groom’s Family
5:15 – All Clear from Ceremony Site
6 – Ceremony Start
6:30ish-6:40 – Ceremony End & Clear Site
6:4o-7:15 – B & G w/ B’s Family
7:20-7:50- B& G w/ G’s Family
7:50-8:10 – Bridal Party
8:10- Sunset – B & G Sunset Portraits.

As you can see there are pros & cons to both timelines. It should also be noted that with the first timeline I endeavor to steal the B&G during their reception for sunset portraits as time/scheduling allows.

Its also super helpful to have at least a roughly sketched out timeline for the reception. The order/timing of main events can get lost in the shuffle if not planned out. I typically discuss this with my brides & encourage them to discuss having an MC of sorts, even if its just an aunt or bridesmaid that can keep things moving.

So, that’s my take on wedding timelines & how I collaborate with my brides & fellow vendors to make sure a wedding day flows as smoothly & wonderfully as possible.

In closing, how fantastic is this image of Hubs & I? I’m planning a longer post in a couple of weeks but had to give a shout-out to Kristin of KLP Photography for a fantastic mini session. Hubs & I were in desperate need of new images as the last time we were in front of the camera was our wedding *gasp* nearly 7 (holy crow, seven) years ago. Total photographer fail. But, we remedied that & the results made my heart so happy!


Happy Friday Y’all!

1 comment
Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

  • Zelda NeillNovember 9, 2013 - 2:05 pm

    I love, love this picture. Love to you both. ReplyCancel