wedding party photo

Photo: Eric & Jamie Photography

While the most amazing wedding photos may look effortless, there is a good deal of time that goes into creating those incredible images. Therefore, creating a wedding photography timeline is an absolute must. But how much time do you really need to reserve to take your photos? And what does a wedding photography timeline actually look like?

We spoke to wedding photographers Christin Berry of Blue Martini Photography in Toledo, Ohio, Jasmine Norris of Jasmine Norris Photography in Lafayette, Indiana, Kelly Vasami of Kelly Vasami Photography in Scarsdale, New York, Nick Gillespie of Blue Bend Photography in Asheville, North Carolina, and David Stephen Kalonick of David Stephen Photography in Cincinnati, Ohio to find out the answers.

Here is the best way to plan your own wedding photography timeline.


Figure out the portraits you want

While the main focus of your wedding portrait session will be you and your spouse, you will probably want photos of your wedding party and families, too. Most photographers provide a “suggested formals list” of portrait groupings that you can refer to and edit based on your needs. While your parents may try to insist take formal portraits with all of your distant relatives, remember that the more portraits you take, the more time you will spend away from your big day. Try to keep your formal portraits to a minimum (Jasmine suggests 15 groupings for family portraits) and include only your wedding party, immediate family members, and perhaps a few special relatives.

Decide on locations

Now that you’ve decided who will be included in your wedding portraits, it’s time to figure out where you’ll be taking the photos. The easiest locations are your ceremony and/or reception venues, of course, but the hotel where you’re getting ready can also be a good spot. If there’s a particular location where you’ve always dreamed of taking your wedding photos (a local beach or park, a neighborhood in your city, etc.), you’ll have to factor the travel time into your wedding photography timeline—and plan for transportation so that all of your VIPs get there safely and on time.

See More: How to Take the Most Like-able Wedding Instagram Photo

Settle the “first look” debate

Choosing whether or not to do a “first look” is a personal decision. Many photographers think it’s a good idea because it allows you to take many of your wedding photos before your ceremony so that you can enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests. If you decide to stick with tradition and wait until the ceremony to see your partner, you can expect to spend your entire cocktail hour (and possibly more) taking portraits. Be sure to decide which path you prefer to take before creating your wedding photography timeline.

Know how long it will take

Talk to your wedding photographer about how long he or she will need to take the different types of wedding portraits. For the best results, photographers agree that wedding party portraits take about 30 minutes, family portraits take about 30 minutes (if you’re sticking with only photographing close family), and couple portraits take between 45 minutes to an hour. If you’re having a “first look,” all of these can be completed before the ceremony. If you’re not having a “first look,” you can still take separate family portraits, and photos of the bridesmaids and groomsmen before the ceremony, but any portraits with the couple together will be taken during cocktail hour.

Write it out and spread the word

Work with your wedding planner to create a fully written-out schedule of your wedding day, including the wedding photography timeline. Add 5 minutes of “buffer” time throughout the day to account for any hiccups, and don’t forget to factor in travel time if you’re moving between locations. Be sure that all of your VIPs are aware of this schedule, and know where to be at what time. Even if you’re the “always early” type, weddings have a funny way of running late—so encourage your loved ones to stick to the schedule.

first look

Photo: Mandy Owens Wedding Photography

Here are two sample wedding photography timelines to help you get started.


(Remember, every wedding is different — these are just guidelines!)


If you’re planning on having a “first look”:


1pm – 2:00pm – Getting Ready Photos

2:15pm-3:00pm – First Look and Couple Portraits
  • Couple together
  • Bride solo
  • Groom solo

  • 3:15pm-3:45pm – Wedding Party Portraits
  • Whole group
  • Bridesmaids with couple
  • Bride with bridesmaids
  • Groom with bridesmaids
  • Groomsmen with couple
  • Bride with groomsmen
  • Groom with groomsmen

  • 4:30pm-5:00pm – Ceremony

    5:10pm-5:40pm – Family Portraits
  • Couple with bride’s parents
  • Couple with bride’s parents and siblings
  • Couple with bride’s parents, siblings and grandparents
  • Bride with parents
  • Bride with each parent individually
  • Couple with both sets of parents
  • Couple with groom’s parents
  • Couple with groom’s parents and siblings
  • Couple with groom’s parents, siblings, and grandparents
  • Groom with parents
  • Groom with each parent individually

  • 6:30pm – Reception

    mother of the bride and bride

    Photo: Michelle Lea Photographie

    If you’re not having a “first look” (note, if you’re having a second shooter present at your wedding, bride’s side and groom’s side portraits may be taken at the same time at separate locations):


    1pm-2:00pm – Getting Ready Photos

    2:15pm-2:45pm – Bridesmaids Photos and Bride Family Photos
    - Bride with bridesmaids
    - Bride with parents
    - Bride with each parent individually
    - Bride solo

    3:00pm-3:30pm – Groomsmen Photos and Groom Family Photos
    - Groom with groomsmen
    - Groom with parents
    - Groom with each parent individually
    - Groom solo

    4:30pm-5:00pm – Ceremony

    5:10pm-6:15pm – Couple Portraits and Group Portraits
    - Couple
    - Couple with wedding party
    - Couple with bridesmaids
    - Couple with groomsmen
    - Couple with bride’s parents
    - Couple with bride’s parents and siblings
    - Couple with bride’s parents, siblings and grandparents
    - Couple with both sets of parents
    - Couple with groom’s parents
    - Couple with groom’s parents and siblings
    - Couple with groom’s parents, siblings, and grandparents

    6:30pm – Reception