This is your guide to planning for beautiful wedding photos. We’ve photographed nearly a hundred weddings and hope to photograph a hundred more. Each and every wedding is unique, with its own magical light and unplanned moments, yet the foundation of all weddings is the same: a union grounded in love. We’re not saying every wedding needs the same photos or the same lighting – but as professionals, we specialize in planning for exactly the kind of photos you want! Allow us to walk you through some of the basics, and if you aren’t sure how to connect it with your vision or even feel totally lost, let us know.
Table of Contents
We always tell couples to start with the sun. Most folks choose to hold their ceremonies in the afternoon/evening (though not everyone!) but the exact sunset time varies depending on the day. Start by looking up what time the sun sets on your wedding day. The two hours before sunset can be glorious for couple photos, even if your wedding is all indoors and/or it rains.
Another possible anchor on which to base your timeline can be dinnertime. It can take a full hour to serve everyone at a large wedding, so it’s best to start dinner by 7:00pm unless you’re offering snacks.
10:00am – Begin getting ready
1:00pm – Photographer arrives – Details ready to be photographed, Couple ready to be photographed “getting ready”
3:00pm – First look or formal photos
5:00pm – Ceremony
6:00pm – Family photos, Couple photos / Cocktail hour
7:00pm – Dinner
8:00pm – Open dance floor
9:00pm – Photographer leaves, any last photo requests honored
11:00pm – Reception ends
The timelines below offer an example of what your wedding might look like. Some qualities that may affect your timeline might be:
- Size of wedding party and family. You may need more time for everyone to get ready and for everyone to be photographed.
- Whether you’re having a first look or seeing each other before the ceremony.
- If you’re having an especially long wedding ceremony (1 hour+).
- Planned length of your reception / dance party.
12:00pm – Begin getting ready
3:00pm – Photographer arrives – Details ready to be photographed, couple ready to be photographed “getting ready”
4:15pm – First look or formal photos
5:00pm – Ceremony
6:00pm – Couple/formal photos, or photos of small reception
7:00pm – Photographer leaves, any last photo requests honored
Dinner, drinks, activities and festivities continue…
We customize your wedding collection to suit your wedding party, event location, and your own personal investment in details and décor. While we don’t like to consult exact “shot lists” on the wedding day, we want to know what matters to you! If you hand made every single bouquet and centerpiece, or you’re obsessed with the trees surrounding your venue, we are honored to capture them in a photo. Let us know in advance if there are any details or individuals you want to make sure we take photos of.
Even if you have a small family, a little planning for group photos can go a long way. First, make sure everyone knows in advance when formal photos will be taking place: before ceremony, immediately after the ceremony or after a bit of cocktail hour, etc. Ask one person (or a few folks!) in advance – wedding party or a family member who knows everyone – to assist in notifying and gathering the group when photo time comes.
Whether you are seeing your partner before the ceremony or not, we can plan to take at least some formal photos beforehand to give you more time with your guests afterward. Let us know what you’d like or we can strategize together!
Our general rule with family photos is to start with larger, extended groups and get smaller. Plan to take photos with grandparents, folks with a physical disability and/or small children first so everyone can stay alert and comfortable.
Sample Formal Photo List
- Full Family Photo: Partner A’s Extended Family + Partner B’s Extended Family
- A + B + A’s Grandparents + A’s Parents + B’s Grandparents + B’s Parents
- A + B + A’s Grandparents + A’s Parents + A’s Siblings
- A + A’s Grandparents + A’s Parents + A’s Siblings
- A + A’s Grandparents
- A + B + B’s Grandparents + B’s Parents + B’s Siblings
- B + B’s Grandparents + B’s Parents + B’s Siblings
- B + B’s Grandparents
- A + B + A’s Parents + A’s Siblings
- A + B + A’s Parents
- A + A’s Parents
- A + A’s Parents + A’s Siblings
- A + B + A’s Siblings
- A + A’s Siblings
- A + B + B’s Parents + B’s Siblings
- A + B + B’s Parents
- B + B’s Parents
- B + B’s Parents + B’s Siblings
- A + B + B’s Siblings
- B + B’s Siblings
- Full Wedding Party: Partner A’s Party + Partner B’s Party
- A + B + A’s Party + B’s Party
- B + A’s Party
- A + A’s Party
- A + Each individual from A’s Party
- Portrait of each person from A’s Party
- A + B’s Party
- B + B’s Party
- B + Each individual from B’s Party
- Portrait of each person from B’s Party
- Detail photos of any corsages, boutonnieres and bouquets
We’re glad to help in your wedding planning journey!
More wedding planning resources