How the hell do I plan out my wedding day/how long does shit take?

Pick me! Pick me! I can help you with this. Whether you are a couple reading this or a baby wedding photographer, I can help you figure out how to plan the timing for this whole thing, and in the process figure out how much time you will actually need your photographer for, even if that photographer isn't me.

The main things to look at right now : 

Your ceremony. 95% of ceremonies I shoot take 15-20 mins. Sometimes only 10 mins even. The only exception to this is Catholic, Greek, or other highly religious ceremonies that usually take place in a church or place of worship. Those ceremonies tend to be around 45 mins to 1 hr. I should emphasize religious ceremony here, because I still shoot many ceremonies in churches that take 15-20 mins. The ones that take longer are the more religious ones. You will know if this is you or not. 

Your main photos. Nowadays it's normal (and I actually encourage my couples to do this) for couples to see each other before the ceremony and do all, or most, of their photos beforehand. There are numerousss reasons why I encourage this (and have yet to have a bride or groom tell me they regretted it, always the opposite) but if you want to know more about those reasons hire me and we can talk turkey. But regardless of that right now, here is how timing for each group of photos we need to shoot usually* goes : 

  • Couple photos - The ones with just the two of you and me (and maybe another shooter). 1 hour. This is ideal for me and always what I ask for and plan for. Whoa, you might be thinking that is a lot of time. But wait, this doesn't always mean I get this time. When things go off the rails with timing on a wedding day (news flash it probably will somewhere and that's ok), almost always this is where time gets reduced. I ask for an hour, it's normal for me to get 45 mins (sometimes less). Keep in mind your photographer needs time to do good stuff with you. They (me included) need time to work with you, loosen you up, and get good photos in a few different spots. 
  • Wedding party photos - This is dependent on the size of your party. If it's over 20 people we might need to add some time here. Or if it's only 2 people we can probably cut a lot of time here. However, in general I always plan 30 mins for this. Keep in mind shooting groups of people (especially sometimes rowdy, slightly intoxicated, or slightly "I don't want to do this", groups of people takes time).
  • Your family formals. These are the super boring photos of you and your partner and your mom and dad and Grandma boo boo. 30 mins for these also. 

Other timing things to keep in mind (don't worry, I'm gonna pull this all together for you at the end in sample timeline).

  • The 30 mins before the ceremony starts I will not be shooting the couple or the family or any main players. That time is reserved for the couple to be hidden somewhere (or not, you can hang with your people during a pre cocktail hour for all I care, you do you), and I will be shooting your guests arriving and getting myself ready for the ceremony. 
  • If you are having a sit down dinner this usually takes 1.5 hours with toasts. This is good to know because important dances and cake cutting and all that jazz usually happens after dinner, so you need to know how long that will take in order to know if I will still be around to capture all that post dinner goodness.
  • Getting ready photos. Do you want these? The ones that include pretty shots of dresses, shoes, ties, and makeup-less bridesmaids getting their hair done? Some couples want these, some don't. I usually do 1-1.5 hours of this. 1 hour if you don't want all those detail shots (the dress, the shoes, the bouquets...). 1.5 hours if you do want all of that. 
  • Is your ceremony and reception at the same location? Where are you getting ready? Drive time is important to add into your day, if you have it.  Drive time is pretty easy to figure out, just remember what time of day you will be driving around and maybe add some buffer time if needed for traffic.
  • Some of the above amounts of time might seem excessive to you. We might only be doing 8 or 9 family formals, but 30 mins is planned. Why so much? Buffer time. Buffer time on a wedding day is A+++++. Many things can get thrown off on a day that includes so many moving parts, so having some buffer time here and there is a really good thing. But more than that, rushing through the day is not ideal. This day is going to be the FASTEST day of your life. Sometimes things still feel rushed even when there is a little cushion with time here and there and that is normal. But if possible I would love it for my couples to be able to breath and float through their wedding day with more ease and less time stress. 
  • Lastly, every wedding is different. The times above are what usually works. But I always work with each couple directly to understand their day and timing can be adjusted to meet preferences.


So I think we have the main details we need to throw together a sample timeline so you can see how it all plays out. Also hopefully this can help you plan your invites without making me (or your photographer) freak out when you tell them you only gave them 45 mins for all the photos cause the reception start time can't be moved now.

In this timeline the couple do not want getting ready photos, and their ceremony/reception are all in one place. This timeline also includes the couple doing all of their photos before the ceremony.

Casey and Chris sample timeline : 

  • 2pm - Couple photos start. Casey and Chris did not want getting ready photos, so the first thing we shoot are the couple photos. 
  • 3pm - Wedding party group photos.
  • 3:30pm - Family formal photos. Couple removes themselves promptly after these end.
  • 4pm - Guests start arriving. Photographer capturing guests and prepping.
  • 4:30pm - Ceremony start time.
  • 4:50pm - Ceremony end time.
  • 5pm - Cocktail hour start time.
  • 6pm - Reception start time, toasts to start, then dinner. (1.5 hours)
  • 7:30pm - Cake cutting, then into main dances, father/daugther, mother/son, 1st dance.
  • 7:45pm - Guest dancing starts.
  • 8pm - Photographer end time (6 hours total)

With this timeline we fit in all the bare bones parts of the day within 6 hours. If you are a couple who wants the getting ready photos or wants drunk dancing photos then I suggest adding on 1 hour (or more) and we can work it and twerk it from there.

Obviously every couple is very different which makes their wedding day their own. Location, time of day, travel time, preferences, non-tradtional vs. traditional approach, photos after or before the ceremony, etc, can make this sample timeline change in many ways. But that is something I work with all my couples on as soon as they are ready. Questions? Just send me a message!