The Ultimate Guide to Celebrating with Friends & Family: How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

Worried you’ll be consumed with taking pictures your entire wedding day? Unsure if you’ve planned for enough time for the things you want to be photographed? Nervous your photographer will hijack or disregard the timeline and do whatever they want instead? 

Maybe you’ve heard horror stories from newlyweds about these very same things. And because of that, you’re concerned about how your day will unfold… And if you’ll get to actually spend time with your family and friends.

It’s one of the most common concerns I hear when speaking with couples: How much time will our photos take? 

And understandably so. Because there’s no doubt that you want all of the moments and details from your wedding captured. But you also don’t want the whole affair to be centered around a camera. 

Your wedding day should be more about the experience rather than the photos. And any photographer who tells you otherwise… that’s major. And not in a good way!

Because the most significant part of your wedding day is the experience of celebrating with your family and friends. And beautiful photos to remember it by are just the cherry on top.

One of the best ways to ensure a smooth wedding day (and not have a camera in your face the whole time) is by creating a well-detailed schedule.

If you’re not sure how to go about this, no need to worry! Most couples don’t because they’ve never planned a wedding before. And probably like you, they have loads of questions centering around timing: When should photos start? How long will family portraits take? Will we have time to join cocktail hour?

Fortunately, I have plenty of experience creating wedding photography timelines. And I’d love to share my tips with you on creating one that will ensure you get all the photos you want and still leave plenty of time to celebrate with your family and friends. 

Factors to Consider 

First, let’s talk about some of the things to consider before drafting a wedding timeline. Most or all of these things can be included:

  • Attire and details (hint: gathering all the essential personal items (attire, jewelry, ring boxes, bouquets, vow book, invitation suite, etc.) in advance, instead of scrambling to find them the morning of the wedding, will save you time and anxiety)
  • Getting ready moments
  • Couple and family portraits (before and/or after the ceremony)
  • Ceremony
  • Cocktail Hour
  • Reception
  • Send off

A photographer’s style is also essential to consider. For a film photographer such as myself, I build in extra time to the photography timeline for when I need to change out my film rolls.

The time for each of these major events can vary depending on what’s important for you to have captured. They can also vary based on how large your wedding party is, the number of guests, and the time it takes to travel from the ceremony to the reception site. The list goes on and on…

No two weddings are the same, which means no two timelines will be the same. But by keeping the above factors in mind, I help you create a personalized schedule that ensures you receive all the photos you want while also keeping everyone organized and on time. 

Begin at the End

I want to help my couples as much as possible as they plan their weddings. And part of that is ensuring you always have my full support when creating a wedding day photography timeline. 

My process for mapping out a timeline begins at the end. And as odd as it sounds, I do this because I want to account for the natural light throughout the day.

To make sure we capture all of the important events and details before I depart your event, I start creating the timeline by working my way backward. Specifically, from the time the sun sets. This way, I know how much time we have throughout the day to capture you in the magical pre-sunset light that is golder hour. And, I’ll know how much time I have to get what is probably the majority of your “must have” photos before the party really begins. This way, you can get back to being with family and friends – while I unobtrusively capture the moments you all celebrate together.

Once I’ve drafted a rough timeline, I’ll send it to you. Then, we’ll schedule a call where we dive deep and go over the entire day together. We talk about how the day will flow and the time I need to capture your planned (and unplanned) moments well.

Add a Dash of Golden Hour

Golden Hour, the time just before sunset, offers some of the most magical light. I love adding this 30-minute window of time into my wedding photography timelines because it provides you those beautiful, romantic, and naturally timeless photos you love so much. Even if it means taking you away from your reception for 20 or so minutes, most of my couples find it completely worth it. 

Besides, this isn’t just a time for beautiful photos – it’s a time for you. Not only does it provide me with beautiful light to create romantic moments for the two of you, but it’s also an excellent way for you to have some alone time together. To just take a deep breath and reflect back on the day so far. 

The Getting Ready Moments

Some of the most fun times of the day happen when everyone is getting ready. So having an hour to capture all the prep moments is what I consider to be ideal.

I like to have at least one hour with the groom and groomsmen and up to two hours with the bride and bridal party. This allows me to capture all the little details that have gone into their day and some candid getting-ready moments as they naturally unfold throughout the morning.

Confirm and Make Adjustments

At least 3 weeks before the wedding, I’ll resend the timeline and touch base with you to make sure nothing has changed. And if things have, we’ll make alterations as needed and finalize everything before the wedding day arrives.

Rather than seeming intrusive or having a camera in your face all day, I want your wedding day to unfold as naturally as possible. I want to capture you candidly, directly, and only when needed.

By keeping to the timeline we create together and by intentionally framing each photo so that it’s perfect the first time, I promise you’ll have all the time in the world to enjoy your wedding with your family and friends.

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Whether your love story is one blossomed from elegant romance or one of epic proportions, I am so excited to be a part of this journey with you and can’t wait to get to know you more. I am a fine art photographer providing my services all throughout NSW, Australia and destinations worldwide. Passionately devoted to capturing the beauty of your special day. 

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Sheri Mcmahon

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