An Ideal Wedding Day Timeline for Photographers

Major disclaimer first: one size definitely doesn't fit all. I don't take that approach with my wedding packages, and I certainly couldn't with your wedding day timeline.

  • This is based on an eight hour day. For destination weddings, if you want to take full advantage of your exotic locale to get some epic portraits, we'll add an hour or two to accommodate travel to the different photo sites (scouted out by yours truly the day before), and a ten hour wedding photography package will be ideal for you. You'll also want ten hours if you want more dancing photos during the reception. Some intimate weddings only require my weekend minimum of six hours.
  • If it's a lesbian wedding with two femme women, two brides in gowns with hair and makeup need more time for getting ready and bridal portraits. Don't forget to add in extra time for a lace up gown! Conversely, two spouses in suits generally have more wiggle room with timing, particularly if one or both are not having professional hair and makeup.
  • If you're skipping the first look and choosing to see each other for the first time during the ceremony, everything will need to be shifted around, too. This is most commonly done at weddings where the ceremony and reception are in separate spaces.
  • If there is no second shooter hired, I will do the job of both photographers. I will be honest and frank with you about whether I think this is fine, or if a second shooter is an expense I think is valuable for you to invest in. Either way, I always have a non-shooting assistant with me. 

That said, this is a general timeline of the way I work, and for the sake of simplicity, I'm saying "bride" and "groom", assuming one gown and one tuxedo. When we sit down to talk about your wedding day, I will work with you and your planner to create the best day ever.

An Ideal Wedding Day Photography Timeline

12:30 photographers + assistant arrive to the bride's suite, meet everyone, and begin styling and photographing details, final touches of hair and makeup, and pre-gown robe shot

1:15 second shooter heads over to the groom for getting ready shots
      assistant loads extra gear out of the bride's suite

1:15 wedding gown goes on, followed by bridal portraits

1:45 second shooter and groom head to first look location

1:50 Amber and bride head to first look location

2:00 first look, couple’s portraits, and groom's portraits

3:00 wedding party portraits

3:30 family formals

4:00 guests begin to arrive
         photographers + assistant to ceremony space: florals, signage, chuppah, etc.
         couple gets tucked away to await the beginning of the ceremony.

4:30 ceremony

5:00 cocktail hour
        Amber photographs reception space + reception details: florals, escort cards, etc.
        second shooter photographs candids at cocktail hour
        assistant sets up reception space lighting

6:00 reception space open to guests

6:10 introduction, first dance, parent dances, toasts

6:30 first course, and “Romantics” with both photographers
         assistant begins backing up images to hard drives

6:50 main course served - couple, Amber, assistant, and second shooter eat

7:30 Dance party! Cake cutting and parent dances

9:00 Amber and team say goodnight


This is an eight hour day (what the majority of my couples hire me for) although it's really eight and a half. This is because I generally like to show up to the bridal suite and chat for a bit with the bridesmaids and moms before turning to my gear. This gives me some time to ease into the room and get a feel for the light, get to know everyone (so helpful for the rest of the day!), and, most importantly, take me, in the eyes of the bridesmaids and parents, from "photographer" to "Amber, who has a camera". It also gives me a sense of calm and mellow to the day that carries through to the last dance, so it's worth it to me to gift every one of my couples this extra half an hour.

It's, like, my process, man.

About the portraits:

I think that portraits are the most important part of the day, and my entire business philosophy and best practices are based around this belief, with the goal of getting the best portraits possible. 

You'll notice I like to do the bride's portraits right after her gown goes on, before the first look, when everything is fresh and pristine. On the other hand, I've found the groom's portraits tend to go more seamlessly during the couple portraits. Experience has taught me that a lot of guys - and my awesome masculine-of-center brides, too - tend to be just a bit more comfortable and relaxed if I have their bride behind me going, "OMG YOU ARE SO HAWT!"

We add on after the couple's portraits, starting with the bridal party. We'll get the tried and true poses first, then any silly shots you want (and that might not be super appropriate to do in front of Grandma). 

After that, the family photos happen, and then the couple gets to relax before the ceremony. 

Right after the first course is served, I love sneaking the couple off for "Romantics". These are the "holy cow, we are actually married" shots that happen after a few glasses of champagne. They are more undone and relaxed. You are wearing your wedding bands in these shots. The light is usually really beautiful and soft (or it's nighttime, in the winter, and we get to have fun with external lighting, and create some darker, sexier portraits.) I *love* them!