How To Create a Photography Friendly Wedding Timeline


June 3, 2021

Your wedding date is approaching and you’re quickly realizing you need to create a wedding timeline to send out to vendors to ensure everything goes smoothly. But there are a lot of moving pieces to a wedding timeline, one of which is ensure your wedding photographer has enough time to capture each part of the day, and then some! Our guide on how to create a photography friendly wedding timeline, will give you an idea of how long each part of the wedding day can take, and even help you figure out where you can save some time depending on what is more important to you! It’ll help you make sure you do things like adding a little buffer time to account for the inevitable getting ready delays, traffic, and your family member adding “just one more” family photo! Every photographer is a bit different, but this guide can help you create a smooth photography friendly wedding timeline so you can have all of those dreamy images you hired them to capture!

Bride and Groom Details: 45-60 minutes

When I first arrive on your wedding day, and after I give you a big hug, I will get started on photographing your wedding details. On the brides side these details include your invitation suite, the rings (bride and grooms), your shoes, jewelry, perfume your wedding dress on a wooden hanger, and any other items that are special to you. On the grooms side, these details include the grooms shoes, watch, cuff links, cologne, bowtie/tie and boutonniere! We bring along a backdrop, little accessories and silk ribbon to add to this, but it’s always nice when couples can have a few extra florals for us to add in to tie everything together- just ask your florist!

Kaitlin Mendoza Photography explains how to create a photography friendly wedding timeline

Getting Ready Photos: 45-60 minutes

Not only will we be capturing candid moments of your bridal party during those last few minutes of hair and makeup, but we will also want to capture you getting into the dress with your maid of honor and/or mom buttoning or zipping up the back of your dress! The reason we devote so much time to this part of the day, is because sometimes buttoning up the dress can take 15 minutes, or 45! We also will want to capture a few bridal portraits after you’re in your dress, like putting on your shoes, standing by a beautiful window with the natural light beaming in, and standing in front of the mirror fixing your veil- all of these moments are ones you will cherish looking back on your wedding day!

Kaitlin Mendoza Photography explains how to create a photography friendly wedding timeline

First Looks (parents/ bridal party/ bride and groom): 15 minutes each

If you’ve decided to do a first look with your future husband, then we will do the first look right before we go into bride and groom portraits. This is one of the biggest ways to allow you so much more time for bride and groom portraits when creating a photography friendly wedding timeline, which is the main reason you hired us, right?! If you opt out of a first look, don’t worry. We will still make time for those photos but just know this will need to occur during the cocktail hour. More on this in a future post!

The other types of first looks to consider for the bride, are a first look with your dad (or mom)! Most of my brides don’t think about this, but when I bring it up they are always so glad I did and come back and tell me these were some of their favorite photos! Lastly, it makes for some really fun photos if you do a first look with your bridesmaids! The reaction is always so priceless, and there are often some tears. This is especially fun if you have a large bridal party!

“Our guide on how to create a photography friendly wedding timeline, will give you an idea of how long each part of the wedding day can take, and even help you figure out where you can save some time depending on what is more important to you!”

Bride and Groom Portraits: 45-60 minutes

This is the main event, and we want to make sure we have PLENTY of time to capture these heirloom images that you, your children, and your children’s children will cherish for years to come! Bride and groom portraits typically occur right after the first look, but like I said earlier, if you opt out of a first look then bride and groom portraits will occur during the cocktail hour where you won’t be able to mingle with your friends and family and enjoy all of those yummy appetizers that you chose, which is something to consider. Another thing that can take some time, is if we’re going to several locations on the venue property or on a party bus, this will add a lot more time!

Bridal Party Portraits: 30 minutes

If you have a large bridal party or are opting for a party bus, this may take a little longer, but typically 30 minutes is sufficient to capture the wedding party as a whole, as well as the bride with her bridesmaids and the groom with his groomsmen. What is you don’t have a wedding party? Well heck, that’s more time for photos of the two of you!!

Preceremony time: 30 minutes

I always allow a little bit of time to tuck the bridal party away before the ceremony. This ensures that guests won’t see anyone as their arriving to the ceremony location, as well as gives everyone time to rest after a hectic and busy morning! Your wedding day will go by in a flash, but if you don’t set aside time to just sit, relax and enjoy the moment you will look back and wish you had!

Travel time: 30 minutes between each location

Even if the locations aren’t 30 minutes apart, it’s always wise to allow that time in case of traffic or delays. Trust me, it happens more times than not!

Kaitlin Mendoza Photography explains how to create a photography friendly wedding timeline

Ceremony: 30-60 minutes

This all depends on what type of ceremony you’re having. Catholic weddings are usually 60 minutes, and other protestant weddings are typically 45 minutes. If you’re having a non-religious ceremonies these typically last anywhere from 15-30 minutes.

Family Photos: 30 minutes

Even if you don’t have a large family, plan on family photos taking 30 minutes. I will send out a questionnaire 30 days before your wedding day, where you will include what I call a ‘shot list’. On this list you will add the exact groupings that you want to have during family photos. I encourage you to review this list with a family member before you turn it in to me, to ensure there are no surprise additions the day of that will eat into this time and cause delays!

Cocktail Hour: Varies

If we were able to capture bride and groom portraits before the ceremony due to having a first look, during cocktail hour my second shooter will capture candid and group photos of guests, while I capture the reception details inside before guests arrive. If you did not have a first look, then the second shooter and I will be doing bride and groom portraits during a majority of the cocktail hour and there will likely be very few photos of guests at the cocktail hour.

Kaitlin Mendoza Photography explains how to create a photography friendly wedding timeline

Reception Details: 20-30 minutes

As mentioned above, if we do a first look then we won’t have to allow for extra time for the reception details to be captured since this will happen during the cocktail hour. If you don’t do a first look then we will need to capture the reception details after the bride and groom portraits during the last 20-30 minutes of cocktail hour before guests enter the reception space.

Reception: Varies

Guests seated 15 minutes (you’ll line up for your entrance, and DJ will likely chat with you briefly)

Grand entrance,  cake cutting, welcome & blessing 15 minutes

Dinner 45-60 minutes

Toasts 15-20 minutes  (let individuals toasting know time constraints!)

Special dances 15 minutes (first dance, with parent dances following)

Dance floor open!

Sunset Portraits: 15 minutes

We cannot recommend setting aside time for sunset photos enough! Not only is this such a great time to step away from the hustle and bustle to have a few moments just two of you, but these are option some of our couples favorite images! You can’t beat the gorgeous light during golden hour, which is why we recommend doing these about 30 minutes before the listed time HERE.

Kaitlin Mendoza Photography explains how to create a photography friendly wedding timeline

Mock Exit: 15 minutes

When couples want us to capture those fun exit photos with sparklers, bubbles, confetti etc. we always highly suggest doing a mock exit instead of having us stay until the very end of the reception. Not only will this allow you to book us for less hours for your budget, but you won’t have hundreds of dancing photos that most couples don’t care as much about. You’re better off using your time with us towards the beginning of the day versus the end, which is why a mock exit is so great. We typically do this mid reception, where the DJ will announce everyone to go outside or we can have just your bridal party depart and immediate family be apart of the exit photo. Secondly, you can do a mock exit right after family photos with a few people, or lastly you can capture this photo during the recessional as you walk down the aisle as newlyweds! Either way, rest assure we will be able to capture this photo without you hiring us to stay until the very end!

I hope this helps as you think about your photography friendly wedding timeline and help you figure out how many hours of photography coverage you may need! As always, we are here to help and have so much fun creating custom timelines for our couple’s wedding days so every flows as smoothly as possible and you can have those all of the dreamy photos you hired us to capture!

  1. Brooke says:

    This is such a great blog topic and very helpful when making a timeline for the wedding day! 🙂

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