Wedding Timelines

Probably one of the questions that nearly every bride and groom have is how to schedule the wedding so that it runs smoothly. Specifically, how do they get everything done in time: hair, make-up, dressing, traveling to the church or ceremony location, AND when to work in the pictures. 

I will outline two scenarios, one for the couples who do not want to see each other before the ceremony, and one for the couples who do. I have a clear preference, but I do see pros and cons of each option.



Couple who DO NOT want to see each other before the ceremony

I have to say, I was in the camp when we got married. No one was talking me out of not seeing Austin before the wedding. Although Austin still maintains that it would have been better if we did, I held my ground. So, I can certainly understand couples who would like to take this more traditional approach. Below is an outline of what works well for this scenario, and you can adjust your starting time for your schedule and preparations for the day based on how long you think you would need to get ready. We need adequate time to create a complete story of your day, and we are happy to come as early as you would like to document all aspects of your wedding day. We feel as though the timeline below is the absolute minimum needed to tell your story.

The times below are for a summer wedding in the midwest. So, if you are choosing a destination wedding or will be hosting your wedding outside of the midwest, please adjust accordingly. Since I am a natural light photographer, I like to utilize the setting sun, since it makes the most beautiful light. Optimal outdoor light for pictures is about an hour before sunset. 

Please remember to adjust your times based on the time of the year. If you are getting married in December, planning to get outdoor pictures at 7:30pm isn't going to be possible. Obviously, we understand that the lighting for your photos isn't the only factor influencing the time of your wedding. We are happy to work with your scheduling needs and the available lighting no matter what time you get married.

Now, for the schedule. Let's pretend the wedding is set to start at 6:30pm and all of the pictures will be taken at the same location as the ceremony. Allow additional time for travel, if necessary. 

3:30 - Bride puts on her wedding dress. Erika photographs this as well as other  last minute preparations. If the groom and his guys are getting ready at the same location, or nearby, my other photographer (typically Austin) will document them getting ready and their "guy time."



This is a great time to snap a few pictures of the bride and her father when he sees her for the first time in her dress.

4:15 - Photos with the Bride and Bridesmaids. 



4:45 - Photos with Groom and Groomsmen. 



5:15 - (Optional) Photos with the Bride and Groom "not" seeing each other. Sometimes couples want to still not see each other but would like to have a moment to themselves. Sometimes they hold hands with a wall separating them, blindfold themselves, or put themselves in a location where they can talk to each other but not see each other. 

If you choose not to have this time, we will use the extra 15 minutes each to photograph each the Bride and Groom alone. 


5:45 - Bridal party tucked away from arriving guests. Photographers take this time to photograph details of the ceremony location and arriving guests. 



Not seeing each other before the ceremony allows us to get the true first reaction of the groom as the bride is walking down the aisle. 




Directly following ceremony  - This is the time for family and entire bridal party shots, as well as shots of the bride and groom together. Make sure that family members know in advance that they are expected to stay for pictures and where they should report. Typically, we like to choose one side of the family and photograph the largest group first, then peel back people until it is just the smallest group, such as the couple and one set of parents. For large groups, try to schedule 10 minutes per shot. This allows time to round everyone up and get them in position. It takes longer than you would think, but usually we can finish typical family pictures in about 30-40 minutes. Usually, it is best if you have a cocktail hour at the reception site where the guests can nibble, chat, and have something to drink before you arrive. Otherwise, they will get impatient pretty quickly.

After all of the family shots are taken, we will take pictures with the bridal party and couple. Followed by pictures of just the couple. Remember, these will be the most "frame-able" shots from the entire day. There is a fine balance between getting what we need quickly so that your guests don't have to wait too long, and taking time to enjoy and document this special moment where you are newly husband and wife. Also, the light will be beautiful at this time. 

Please remember, if you would like typical family shots, bridal party shots, and shots of the bride and groom together to all be taken between the ceremony and the reception, we will need to allow AT MINIMUM 1 HOUR (not including travel time) between the ceremony and the reception. We can work with less time, but to give you the quality and range of images you are used to seeing in our portfolio, this is necessary. 




It's now time for you to join the reception and have fun! During the reception, we will be candidly documenting the events. No more posed pictures, unless you ask us to, of course! 

Be sure that you have scheduled all of the reception activities that you would like to be documented in the time that we are there: cake cutting, important dances, bouquet and garter toss, etc. I will speak with the DJ as soon as I arrive to be sure that they know how long you have us. Also, we will usually try to grab a bite to eat at the same time as the bridal party, whether you are gracious enough to allow us to eat with your guests, or if we step out and have a packed sandwich. We need to keep our energy up and I don't know many people who like to have their pictures taken while they are eating, so this plan usually works out the best.    




Couples who DO want to see each other before the ceremony

Since my wedding, I have come to appreciate the benefits of seeing each other before the ceremony. Every couple that we have photographed who has chosen to see each other before the ceremony and do a first look are very glad that they choose that option. It is a great moment to have some time alone to enjoy each other before the hustle and bustle of the ceremony. It also allows us to get many more pictures of just the two of you in a much more relaxed environment. Remember, these images are the ones that you will most treasure. This plan allows us to create beautiful pieces of artwork for you.

Usually, if this is the option that is chosen, the bride and groom have a "first look" time just to themselves where we can capture the reactions of each when they first see each other. By having a first look, the couple can talk to each other when they first see each other versus if the first time you see each other is at the ceremony. 

This plan also allows you to join your guests quicker at the reception. 

Again, let's pretend that the wedding is at 6:30pm in the midwest in the summer,  and the photos will be taken at the same location as the ceremony. Allow additional time for travel, if necessary. 

3:15 - Bride puts on her wedding dress. Erika photographs this as well as other last minute preparations. If the groom and his guys are getting ready at the same location, or nearby, the other photographer (typically Austin) will document them getting ready and their "guy time."



This is a great time to snap a few pictures of the bride and her father when he sees her for the first time in her dress.

4:00 - "First Look" and pictures with the bride and groom alone. This is a special time for the bride and groom to spend together. We photograph but do not interfere and allow you to take as much time as you need, within reason.




Following the First Look, we will take pictures of the bride and groom alone. 








5:15 - Entire wedding party pictures. 



5:45 - Bridal party tucked away from arriving guests. Photographers take this time to photograph details of the ceremony location and arriving guests. 




Directly following ceremony  - This is the time for family and entire bridal party shots, as well as shots of the bride and groom together. Make sure that family members know in advance that they are expected to stay for pictures and where they should report. Typically, we like to choose one side of the family and photograph the largest group first, then peel back people until it is just the smallest group, such as the couple and one set of parents. For large groups, try to schedule 10 minutes per shot. This allows time to round everyone up and get them in position. It takes longer than you would think, but usually we can finish typical family pictures in about 30-40 minutes. Usually, it is best if you have a cocktail hour at the reception site where the guests can nibble, chat, and have something to drink before you arrive. Otherwise, they will get impatient pretty quickly.

If you choose to take all of your pictures other than the family pictures before the ceremony, then, after the family pictures, you will be ready to join the reception and start having fun much sooner. Making the decision to see each other before the ceremony and taking all of the pictures before the ceremony drastically cuts down on the time needed in between the ceremony and reception. This means less time that you guests are waiting on you!


During the reception, we will be candidly documenting the events. No more posed pictures, unless you ask us to, of course! 



Be sure that you have scheduled all of the reception activities that you would like to be documented in the time that we are there: cake cutting, important dances, bouquet and garter toss, etc. I will speak with the DJ as soon as I arrive to be sure that they know how long you have us. Also, we will usually try to grab a bite to eat at the same time as the bridal party, whether you are gracious enough to allow us to eat with your guests, or if we step out and have a packed sandwich. We need to keep our energy up and I don't know many people who like to have their pictures taken while they are eating, so this plan usually works out the best.    



Sorry this post has been so long. I hope it is helpful!

Erika Brown Photography
Wedding Photography | Engagement Photographer
Gwinnett County | Atlanta | Duluth | Suwanee | Georgia
Available Worldwide | International | Destination Weddings