By Oscar LaVerde
LONDON, ONTARIO — You’re inevitably going to be stressed on your wedding day. According to Dr. Angela L. Thompson, PhD., the main reason is that brides have high standards to live up to. It doesn’t help that there’s a lot to account for; making sure the guests are taken care of, the venues are ready, the catering is on time, etc. The last thing you should stress about is whether the day will be captured on camera.
One of the best ways to ensure your wedding day runs as intended is to plan with a wedding photographer. Knowing roughly how long certain events will take and what moments are important to capture will take some pressure off your shoulders. You won’t have to worry about directing the photographer on the big day.
Based on our years of experience, we’ve created a sample wedding photographer timeline to get the perfect photos of your wedding. Here’s a great schedule you can rely on while your photographer snaps away!
If you plan to get ready at the ceremony venue, we will use the time after arriving to capture photos of the venue’s exterior and interior. We love to capture every detail to help you remember this incredibly important day. These pictures can include flower arrangements, guest seating, the marriage altar, or any other interesting architecture.
Before everyone is dressed, we’ll photograph items such as your dress, tuxedo, rings, shoes, bouquets, and more. This is often one of the more time-consuming portions of the wedding photographer’s timeline. However, it’s a really important part! Documenting these details will help you remember all the little things that helped make your day extra special.
If your bridal party plans on wearing matching robes or pyjamas, this is the perfect time to document a bonding moment.
If you would like a more extensive shoot with the bridesmaids, we can build in a little extra time to ensure you get to document your last time getting ready as a bachelorette. We’ll plan it for after everyone has their hair and makeup done, but before they are dressed. You may decide beforehand that you want to include special props such as champagne flutes, sashes, or signs.
Getting ready can often take longer than you anticipate, so we like to make sure you do not feel rushed. Depending on what type of wedding dress you have, it can take a while to get buttoned, hooked, or laced into it. Hair, makeup, jewelry, shoes, and your veil will also affect the amount of time you will need.
Once the bride and groom are mostly dressed, we’ll capture the most emotional final moments, like your bridesmaids buttoning or zipping up your dress. Make sure to get your parents or siblings involved as well! You will be glad you took the extra time to share these moments with your loved ones.
Many brides underestimate the amount of time it actually takes to finish their hair and makeup. You may want to build in some buffering time for yourself if anything happens to put you behind schedule. Whether something takes longer than expected to put on or you have a broken zipper or loose button, this extra time will help you avoid any stress and get you back on track.
When you are both dressed and ready, we can capture some individual editorial portraits. These are often staged photos to capture the bride and groom separately before the ceremony. These can focus on close-ups with props, such as holding the bouquet, vows, or other details.
This time is for you to share a few moments with your parents and friends after you’re fully dressed. Not every couple decides to plan for these in the wedding photographer’s timeline, but it is a very heartwarming and emotional time to remember. As we take many candid photos, we will be sure to capture the authentic joy of your experience.
While the bridal party may have already seen you fully dressed, this is a great time to take some fun photos together one last time before your vows. These shots are fun and casual and meant to capture the joy of the bride and her bridesmaids.
If you want to take some creatively staged photos, make sure to build a few extra minutes into the schedule. Planning ahead to use props can be a really fun way to commemorate your friendship and add a little extra flair to your group photos!
The first look is the exciting moment you’ve been waiting so long for! This is an optional session, as not every couple decides to see each other before their ceremony. However, millennials are changing how weddings are done, and it is becoming increasingly common for couples to want to share that special moment in private, away from their guests’ eyes. If you decide to see each other before exchanging vows, you’ll want to plan 30-45 minutes to take these portraits.
Alternatively, if you want to see each other for the first time at the altar, we will absolutely still document this special moment. When this is the case, we generally organize the wedding photographer timeline to take the bride and groom portraits after the ceremony, so leave extra time for this session.
Family portraits with multiple generations are some of the most meaningful photos to look back on! We can take these pictures either before or after the ceremony; however, it is faster to take them beforehand. If you’d like to wait until after the ceremony, such as during the cocktail hour, it may be harder to keep people from wandering back to the rest of the guests.
The length of time needed for these photos will vary depending on your family and wedding party’s size. Most people like to have varying groupings with bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family members. We can work with you ahead of time to plan what combinations you would like to help speed up the process.
However, it is a good idea to designate a family member that will identify everyone during the portraits. It will be easier for a fellow family member to help us find specific people since they are more familiar with your loved ones.
If you are not getting dressed and ready at your ceremony venue then make sure you plan for travelling time. Consider the time you will need for driving, parking, and any events in the area that may impact the traffic level.
Getting stuck in traffic can easily get you behind schedule. This is also something to consider if your ceremony is taking place at a different venue from your reception. In that case, you’ll need to account for additional time between guests leaving the ceremony and arriving for cocktail hour.
Anticipate starting your ceremony 15 minutes after the time listed on invitations. This way, your guests will have a buffer period if they are running late and ensure nobody will be walking in during your special moment. We can sneak in a few ready-to-walk photos here as well.
This time block varies depending on what type of ceremony you have. Most non-religious ceremonies generally tend to last for roughly 30 minutes. If you’re planning a religious-based ceremony with a full service, they often last up to an hour.
We love documenting every aspect of your big day. This includes all the reception hall decorations that you’ve probably spent a lot of time planning. We’ll take a few minutes to photograph the full room and then focus on smaller details.
During this portion of the wedding photographer’s timeline, we can easily work around the event staff and focus on individual tables to showcase every magical aspect. If you plan to hold the reception at the same location as the ceremony, we can even adjust the wedding photographer’s timeline to take these photos before the ceremony.
As the name suggests, most cocktail hours tend to last an hour, although they can go longer if you choose. Many couples traditionally take bride and groom portraits and family photos together if they opted to wait until after the service. These will be photos you’ll treasure for years, so you’ll want to invest some time in them!
Using this time for photos will also give the two of you a short break to regroup as a couple. Many couples like to share drinks and appetizer privately in the bridal suite or somewhere else secluded during the cocktail hour. This way, you can re-energize yourselves for the rest of the party! During this time, we can also document your guests preparing to greet you as a married couple.
Your reception’s exact timeline will vary, but our wedding photographer’s timeline will always remain flexible. This is the general schedule many of our couples tend to follow, but it can be adapted and set with your venue coordinator, catering company, DJ, or band director. Whichever way you decide to arrange the time, we will be there to capture every moment!
After the cocktail hour, plan some time for your guests to enter and find their seats. Whether you have pre-arranged seating or not, your guests will need a few minutes to find where they need to be.
If you have an especially large number of guests, you may need longer than 15 minutes for everyone to file in and get settled.
This is when you will be formally welcomed as a newly married couple to your guests! Many couples plan on having their first dance together right after entering, but you can definitely wait until after dinner.
However, dancing right after your grand entrance can be a fun way to get everyone’s energy up before dinner! Whether you decide to dance to a full song, fade it out after a few minutes, or have a multi-song mashup, this is a super memorable time to take photos.
If your first dance together is right after entering, the toasts of welcome are generally offered on your behalf right afterward. These toasts are generally delivered by a parent or family member of each of the newlyweds. Traditionally, the bride’s father gives the first speech, and if you are religious, this is also the time when a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving will be said over the food.
Most dinner sessions tend to last between 45 and 60 minutes. Whether you hire waitstaff to serve each table or you have a self-serve buffet will affect this length. Buffets tend to take more time as each of the guests will be getting up for food, but they’ll be able to eat exactly what they want.
After the bride and groom have finished eating, it’s a good time to begin making rounds around the room to greet each of your guests individually and thank them for coming. If you want a little more resting time, you can also wait until the dance floor has opened up, but this may make it harder to ensure you’ve talked to everyone.
When dinner is wrapping up is traditionally when the wedding party makes the rest of their toasts. The maid of honour and best man usually make the first toasts, but you can also have additional speakers. You’ll want to set time limits for each speech and let your speakers know their time constraints beforehand to keep everything on track.
If you didn’t experience your first dance as a couple when you entered, now is the perfect time to do so! This is also when the father-daughter and mother-son dances traditionally take place. These dances are often a very emotional time in the wedding photographer’s timeline, and you’ll definitely cherish the photos of these special moments.
After the last special dance pairing, the dance floor will open up. Whether you have a DJ or live band, whoever is directing the entertainment will start playing high-energy music and invite all your guests to join you on the dance floor. Many couples like to consult with their DJ ahead of time to give specific song requests.
If there’s one photo session every newlywed couple loves, it’s the sunset. Your wedding day will feel like it’s moving very fast. Setting aside some time in the wedding photographer’s timeline for portraits together in the evening is always a very special moment for every couple. The golden hour’s natural glow is the perfect time to capture that unbridled newlywed joy and celebrate that you are finally married!
The exact timing of sunset photos will depend on the region and year you are getting married. If planning a winter wedding, you may want to anticipate taking these photos sometime in the afternoon since it gets dark earlier in those months. If you decide you want these portraits, though, we’ll check the forecast for the exact time the sun will set to plan for it!
Cutting the cake together is one of the most iconic and anticipated moments of the reception. Whether you keep it clean or get a little messy, we’ll capture every moment for you to look back on. This is also a great opportunity for the newlyweds to thank their guests for coming and share any additional words.
If planning to keep to tradition, once the cake has been cut, it is time for the bouquet toss and garter toss. Some couples also use the surrounding time to play games with their guests. These are often fun trivia-style games to show how much you know about your new spouse. After this, you can reopen the dance floor and dance until the night ends!
Coordinate with your DJ or band director ahead of time to plan a final song to exit with. Your DJ will alert you when the final song is coming up so you can begin saying final goodbyes to your guests.
Many people don’t realize that you can also take exit photos before the end of the night! If you want to ensure maximum guest participation for these photos, you can also plan to take them directly after the ceremony. This way, friends and family members with small children who may not stay for the full reception can also take part in these pictures.
Whichever way you decide, we will work it into your wedding photographer’s timeline! If you want to add an extra flair to your exit with sparklers, confetti, rice, or any other effects, designate someone in your bridal party to organize it. This way, they can ensure everyone has supplies and is lined up along your exit path before you are ready to go. Then when your final song begins playing, you can leave hand in hand with your new spouse and exit into your own happily ever after!
These photos are completely optional as we understand that not every couple wants to leave their reception again, but taking nighttime photos can be incredibly fun! If your venue has interesting architecture or special outdoor lighting, it can be truly enchanting. We can arrange an area outside for photos while the dance floor is open and let you know when it’s ready.
When you’re ready to sit down and plan out your wedding photographer’s timeline, we can discuss any ideas you have together and help you create a plan. We understand this can be an overwhelming time, but you don’t need to worry! We have years of experience documenting weddings and can help you make a wedding photography timeline that will flow seamlessly.
At Oscar Laverde Photography, we believe that every wedding is a unique celebration of two hearts and a passionate commitment to life. We will always make sure to reflect that in your photos. With experience in documentary photography, our goal is to create an authentic portrayal of your wedding day to showcase that special wedding day magic.
When you look back on your special day, you won’t have any regrets about smaller venues or guest lists. All you will remember is how wonderful it felt to marry the person you love. My candid photography will provide you with pictures you can enjoy for decades to come.