Wedding Timelines

I’m so excited to help make your wedding day smooth, organized and more streamlined than ever before.

In my experience photographing weddings, I’ve learned a few important lessons: First, no two weddings are the same, but there are a lot of similarities. Second, on a wedding day, shooting the right things at the right time with enough time can make or break your experience and the quality and consistency of the images as a whole. Thirdly, travel time is always overlooked - Google Maps makes it easy to accurately determine how long it will take to travel from one location to another. It’s important to add this to the timeline.

Great photos take time

Can bride & groom portraits be done in 10 minutes? Sure, but it will only be the “must have’s” and “safe” shots because that’s all we’ll be able to get in that amount of time. There’s no way around it - if you wish to have stunning portraits on your wedding day, time needs to be made for them. The rule of thumb is ONE hour for couple portraits, 30 minutes for wedding party formals, and 30 minutes for family formals (maybe more depending on size). That’s TWO total hours for the portrait side of the day, at a minimum. We may not need the full two hours, but it’s nice to have for just in case.

Weddings never run on time

Weddings always run late, some maybe only 15 minutes, some two hours! The ceremony and reception are the only events that start on time. So if a wedding is running an hour late, where is that time made up? Unfortunately it’s the photos that get the axe - now instead of our two hours, we only have one. But what if you didn’t schedule two hours and instead only an hour and a half for all the portraits? Well, now we only have 30 minutes to do couple portraits, wedding party formals, AND family formals! Will we get the “must have’s”? Yes, but that’s all that we’ll get.

This is why it’s imperative to not only have a timeline to begin with, but to allocate proper amounts of time for each event.

No matter what gets thrown my way when meeting with a couple, whether they’re doing a first look or not, traveling to one, two, three or even four locations, having a non-religious wedding, a Catholic Mass, a traditional Indian wedding or an Orthodox Jewish sunset ceremony. As long as there’s enough time allotted for all of the events of the day, then getting all of the pictures you dream of will be a possibility.

Timeline examples

Below are a few popular wedding day timelines. Two of them include 8 hours of coverage in one location - one with a first look and one without. The third example is where the bride and groom are getting ready in one location and the ceremony/reception take place at a second location. The fourth example is for when getting ready, the ceremony and reception are all in different locations.

On average, a wedding will need 10 to 12 hours of coverage to properly capture the full day

When a wedding takes place in one location, 8 hours of coverage is enough time to cover from the end of getting ready to at least halfway through the reception. When the ceremony and reception are in two different locations, then it is highly recommended to get 10 hours of coverage if you want the majority of the day covered. However, like I said earlier, no two wedding are the same - depending on the ceremony time and the distance from the reception, even 10 hours might not be enough. It’s important to talk with me (or your wedding photographer) to discuss the plan of the day, your expectations and the photos that you want in order to figure out a custom timeline for your wedding.

first look or no first look, that is the question

First looks are becoming more and more popular and for good reason! When having a first look, you obviously get some great images of the moment. Since it’s staged, we can choose the location and I’m able to setup proper lighting - this allows the special moment of seeing each other for the first time to take place in a spot perfect for beautiful photographs. Versus the ceremony, which is limited to the altar and lighting is typically poor. Another big benefit of a first look is that ALL of the portraits and wedding party photos can be completed BEFORE the ceremony! This saves a lot of time versus trying to do all of these pictures between the ceremony and reception.

However, if you want to wait until the ceremony, then go for it! It’s YOUR wedding, you do what will make you happiest. Just plan enough time in between the ceremony and reception so all of the couple portraits, wedding party photos and family formals can be completed. Plus a little extra time so you and your friends/family can enjoy cocktail hour - nobody wants to take pictures while cocktail hour is going on!

If any of this sounds overwhelming, do not stress out! That’s what I’m here for! The earlier we can start figuring out your timeline, the easier it will be. Take a look at a few examples to give you a quick overview of how a “typical” wedding unfolds.

One Location | First Look | 8 Hours of coverage

One Location | No First Look | 8 hours of coverage

two locations | First Look | 10 hours of coverage

Three Locations | first look | 12 hours of coverage

Golden Hour


The most magical time to take photos outdoors is during the “golden hour”, which is the one hour leading up to sunset. If you would like to take pictures during this time, please look up the time the sun will set on your wedding day. This can easily be done by going to the following website and choosing the location and date of your wedding - https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/

Then schedule bride and groom portraits during this time!

I hope this has shined a little light on the dreaded wedding day timeline. Planning early is key with your photographer and/or wedding planner. This is your day, so the flow and the pictures that you want is ultimately up to you, but it’s important to plan for everything and set aside time, plus some buffer, in order to cover everything that you want. Weddings rarely run perfectly on schedule, however when a plan is in place, this helps tremendously for the day to run smooth and efficient.

If you have any questions, please let me know, I’m here to help! I wish you the best and remember to add a time slot for **sip some wine** when writing up your timeline!

- John 

Submit the below contact form for more information or directly email John at john@photofoley.com

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