Often questions about the Wedding Day timeline will come up in initial meetings with couples. The best I can do is give potential couples estimates about time as they are usually in the preliminary planning stages of their wedding and don't have a solid idea of when things might happen. Without concrete details about when a Ceremony might take place or when a Reception may begin it's hard to give them realistic times. What I usually advise couples is how long I like to spend with the Bride and Groom their Families and the Bridal Party. Since this question gets asked a lot, I thought I'd share my thoughts on what an ideal Wedding Day timeline looks like!
I like to start the day with the Bride (my second shooter with the Groom) about an hour or two before anything major happens, such as the First Look or the Ceremony. I use this time to photograph any details like the dress, veil, bouquet, bridesmaid dresses, shoes and more. In order to get creative and unique images I like to have time to walk around the area, go outside, or rearrange furniture. This requires time, and I'd rather not add any stress to the day by rushing around trying to photograph things.
I also want time to photograph the Bride getting into her dress and time to photograph her alone in all her bridal beauty! There is usually this, "I'm getting married!!" moment that fills the room just after the Bride gets into her dress. Having time to calmly capture this moment is a lot of fun!
After the Bride is ready and in her dress, we will make our way to the First Look or the Ceremony. Ideally I love when couple's choose to have a First Look and so I'll base this example as if this imaginary couple is having one:)
The First Look typically happens about an hour or two before the actual Ceremony. I want to budget for time for the couple to relax or freshen up, so we're not shooting straight up to the ceremony time. Typically the couple will allot half and hour for their First Look. Often they'll also budget in time to have the Family Formals and possibly the Bridal Party Formals taken before the Ceremony as well. I spend around half an hour with the Family and half and hour with the Bridal Party (all depending on the size).
Following the Ceremony, if the couple would like more portraits we'll wander off and do that while my second photographer will spend time at the Cocktail Hour, mingling with guests. If the couple did not choose to have any Family Formals taken before the Ceremony, we'll use this time to rock those out.
Following the Cocktail Hour we will typically go with the flow of the reception and just photograph things as they happen. I don't normally try and influence when things happen throughout this part of the night and typically will consult with the DJ to find out when things have been scheduled.
Here is an hourly breakdown of an "ideal" Wedding Day timeline with a First Look:
1:00pm - Getting Ready
3:00pm - First Look
3:45pm - Family Formals
4:30pm - Ceremony
5:00pm - 6:00pm -- Cocktail Hour
5:00pm - Bridal Party Portraits
5:30pm - More Bride and Groom Portraits, if requested
6:00pm - Start of the reception
Now I realize that not every couple wants to have a First Look. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and traditions so everyone has a varying opinion on the matter. If you don't choose to have a First Look that's ok! But keep in mind that you're timeline will need to be adjusted to make room for all the photos to be taken following the Ceremony.
Here's a hourly breakdown of an "ideal" Wedding Day timeline without a First Look:
1:30pm - Getting Ready
3:30pm - Ceremony
4:00pm - 5:30pm - Cocktail Hour
4:00pm - Family Formals
4:30pm - Bridal Party
5:00pm - Bride and Groom Portraits
5:30pm - Start of the reception
When you go to plan out your day, make realistic adjustments when it comes to your photography. To get images that you see on my blog and on my website, I need TIME to spend with you. I cannot create unique and creative images that represent the couple, if we only have ten minutes to spend together. We time for you to be able to relax and simply enjoy each other. We need time to walk around the property to find good light and good locations. We need time to budget for guests who may arrive late or get lost (which happens at EVERY wedding). We need time to relax.
Every couple I work with is given a Wedding Questionnaire two months before the Wedding. We create at timeline that best suites your needs for your Wedding Day that also allots enough time for photography based on my suggestions above. Ultimately you want to create a timeline that creates a stress-free and complication-free environment. Communicating with your wedding planner, officiant, and venue coordinator (well BEFORE your wedding) about your expectations and what you desire will help do just that!:)
Here is a photo from Brian & Lisa's wedding day this summer. This is a beautiful candid moment from their First Look :)