The schedule of events for the wedding day is one of the most important things you'll plan--and one of the hardest things, in my opinion. Before planning my own wedding, the schedule was sort of a thing I took for granted, but then I realized how many different options there were. It's important to keep the flow of your day smooth--as much as it is a celebration of your love, it's a celebration for your family and friends. It's a party!
Here's a basic time duration for photos:
- Getting Ready: 1 hour -- First half hour is used for me to get details shots of the venue, the dress, rings, any details, and the last half hour is for the final touches of the bride's makeup, the groom putting on the tie, getting dresses and shoes on, etc.
- First Look: 15-30 minutes -- This includes any hiding of the groom.
- Bridal Party: 15-30 minutes -- This depends on the size and rowdiness of your party.
- Family: 5-15 minutes -- This also depends on the size and rowdiness of your party.
- Couple: 30-60 minutes -- This, of course, is the ideal timeframe, and includes any first look photos. Sometimes the schedule doesn't allow for a full hour shoot but there are other options to that.
- Dancing: 60 minutes -- Unless you are having a send off, only about one hour of dancing needs to be captured. There are only so many dancing shots a photographer can get until it becomes redundant, and by this time they will have captured any important first dances and also fun moments. Also if you're curious, I suggest having the dancing portion only last about two hours at most. Any more time after that and guests will begin to leave without giving you a proper sendoff.
If you're like me and my clients, then the couple's photos are the number one priority. If for some reason there isn't time for enough couple's portraits, there are also other options that are popular these days. I see and photograph a lot of couples who opt to do their couple portraits a day (or days) before or after the wedding. This gives us so much more freedom to take our time to create truly beautiful images, and takes all that time pressure away. Plus, you as a couple can choose a separate location from your wedding venue. After all, now you aren't committed to your venue location.
The other thing to consider in planning your schedule is whether or not you'll have first look photos. As a photographer, I love first look photos. They allow for you two to have a quiet moment before the (happy) chaos of a wedding, to have more time to capture your love for one another, and to give you a bit of a breather to be with one another and talk about "wow, we're actually getting married and this is the best day ever." However, I won't be the photographer that says first looks are necessary. I didn't even do a first look at my own wedding. Above all else, it's about what you want to do, and your photographer will be happy to capture your day as it comes.
With that in mind, the schedules below include a first look. You can alternate them out for a cocktail hour, or squeeze the first look into the dinner portion (or forego the cocktail hour for a longer meal). You can also choose to do family photos directly after the ceremony, during the cocktail hour/beginning of the meal. These also follow more traditional weddings, but more and more couples are opting to create a more intimate experience for close family and friends. These schedules are just a basic template, and customizing your day to really showcase your love for one another is what will make your wedding unique, memorable, and just plain fun.
7am-8:30am - getting ready
8:30am-9am - first look
9am-9:30am - bridal party photos
9:30am-9:45am - family photos
10am-10:30am - ceremony
10:30-11am - cocktail hour/couple portraits
11am-2:30pm - lunch/reception
10am-12pm - getting ready
12pm-12:30pm - first look
12:30pm-2pm - bridal party photos
2pm-2:30pm - family photos
2:45pm - ceremony
3:15pm - cocktail hour/couple portraits
3:45pm - reception
Late Evening Wedding
2:30pm-4:30pm - getting ready
4:30pm-5pm - first look
5pm-5:30pm - bridal party
5:30pm - 5:45pm - family photos
6pm-6:30pm - ceremony
6:30pm-7pm - cocktail hour/couple portraits
7pm - reception
Early Evening Wedding
1pm-2:30pm - getting ready
2:30pm-3pm - first look
3pm-3:30pm - bridal party
3:30-3:45pm - family photos
4pm-4:30pm - ceremony
4:30-5pm - cocktail hour/couple portraits
5pm - reception
After all that, it's important to stay flexible and openminded during your wedding day. It's actually rare that a wedding goes perfectly according to schedule. You'll find hitches during the day for which you didn't plan, but don't stress. Above all else, the day is about you and your love for one another, and everything will fall perfectly into place.
It's time to celebrate.