Planning your wedding photography timeline is one of the ways I help you get prepared for your day.  What time to start wedding pictures is the number one question I receive from couples.  It’s extremely rare that I meet a couple who has their entire wedding schedule planned when they reserve their photography.

I make a personal wedding photography timeline with all of my couples.  In the beginning we talk about the ceremony time, your important events, and decide how many hours of coverage you need .  In the middle I check in to see how planning is going.  About a month before your wedding we get together and walk through the entire wedding day to finalizing your photography timeline.

To create a wedding photography timeline I will plan for the major events happening during the day.  I use the ceremony start time as a guide for planning, because most couples have that time set in the beginning.

When doing the timeline I factor in travel time, plus a little extra in case someone is running late to any part of the day.  I make sure to add in snacks, meals, and quiet times so you can take care of yourselves too.

Here’s a visual guide to your wedding photography timeline.

(This guide is flexible and good for anything from an intimate wedding to full day celebrations.)

Getting Ready: 30 minutes-1 hour

This is the time when I photograph your personal details and the natural moments of preparing for your wedding day.  This can include getting your hair styled, putting your dress on, and anything else you’re doing to make sure you feel your best the rest of the day.getting hair and make up done on your wedding day


First Look: 20-30 minutes

I want you to see each other before the wedding only if it aligns with your beliefs and traditions.  I have experience photographing weddings either way. If you choose a first look we plan for about 20-30 minutes where the two of you can have private moments, seeing each other in your wedding clothes for the first time and basking in each other’s company.

first look before wedding at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Portraits together & with wedding party: 30 minutes-2 hours

  If we do a first look this leads to more portraits with the two of you.  At this point, the wedding party will get ready because after your portraits they’ll jump in for portraits too.   If there’s no first look,  portraits of you and your wedding party will happen between the ceremony and reception.


Family Portraits: 15 minutes-1 hour

After the wedding party is finished with their portraits it’s your families’ turns.  I recommend doing family portraits all at once.  Splitting up family portraits and at different times of day can be confusing and make portraits take longer.  We pick a specific time and location for family pictures, so everyone arrives at the right place on time and ready.  I’ll help you wrangle everyone together.  It’s also good to ask someone who knows both your families well to help track down missing or late family members.

For more info on planning your family portraits read this blog:  How to plan family portraits at your wedding

family portraits at your wedding

Ceremony: 15 minutes- 1 hour

It’s important to finish all  pre-ceremony photography at least 30 minutes before your ceremony so you can take a break and get centered before .  During this time I’ll photograph guests arriving and details of your ceremony space.  You will take a break from the camera to have a light snack if you haven’t eaten since early in the morning, and have quiet time before the biggest moment of the day. The ceremony itself might be 15 minutes or an hour depending on your officiant and traditions.

planning your wedding ceremony timeline

Receiving Line/Cocktail Hour: 15 minutes or more

These pictures are candid, and a good way to get more genuine, smiling pictures of your guests before the reception.   Also, when planning this part of photography you should add in your travel time to the reception.

Reception: 30 minutes-3 Hours

If you have a small gathering you might only need pictures of your guests celebrating with appetizers and desserts.  If your reception is longer  you might want me to stay through dinner to capture your first dance and other activities.  Total photography time will vary depending on what you have planned.

planning your wedding reception

Sunset Portraits: 10-20 minutes

If you like sunset portraits we can sneak out of the reception for a break to enjoy fresh air.  For winter, spring or late fall weddings in Minnesota, sunset will be between 4-6pm depending on the month. For summer or fall weddings when the sun sets later in the day the best time will be between 7-9pm.




Final Thoughts On Your Wedding Photography Timeline

The biggest thing to remember about all this wedding photography timeline talk is plans are allowed to change if you need them to.   Your day will be you own and nothing about this timeline is mandatory.  I adapt to whatever you plan for your wedding.    This guide is meant to be a starting point for planning.

When the unexpected happens it’s your photographer’s job (and the job of your entire wedding vendor team) to help you handle things.  I’ll gladly work with your planner on their timeline too.  The day of  your wedding you need to focus on the best choices for the two of you and and your marriage.

I’m a Belle Plaine, Minnesota wedding photographer.  I travel throughout the Twin Cities and state for weddings.  Learn more about me and contact me with your wedding photography questions here.


 Also Read: 6  More timeline ideas from A Practical Wedding.