A wedding day has so many moving parts. Your day starts with hair and make-up, getting dressed, travelling to the wedding venue, the bridal party photo shoot and through to the reception. With all these events happening on the day, how do you know how long each will take? And how long will you need for photos at each stage? In this article I will run you through an ideal wedding photography timeline to get the most out of your wedding photos.

Of course things can (and usually do) run a little late, so I always recommend adding a 30-60 minute buffer around each part of the day to allow for this, and for travel delays. This will ensure you’re not stressed if things run overtime.

To summarise, you should allow:

  • 1.5 hours at bride and groom’s homes prior to leaving home (detail photos, bride/groom portraits, family photos, any ceremonies or rituals, photos leaving home)
  • 45 minutes for family photos after the ceremony (including a group shot if possible)
  • 30-90 minutes for bridal party location shoot
  • 60 minutes for pre-reception shoot (if your reception is on a different day)
  • 20 minutes for reception night shoot

Rings, dress, shoes and other details

Allow 30 minutes in the morning for us to photograph your important wedding details.

Ideal time allotment: 30 minutes
Ideal location: Area where bride and groom are getting ready
Ideal time of day: As soon as the photographers arrive

You’ve spent a lot of time and money choosing the details that make your wedding day special. It’s our job to capture these beautiful details so that they become a lasting memory. Make sure to leave all your items out for your photographers to capture. We typically photograph the details when we arrive at each home around 1.5 hours before you plan to leave home. You don’t have to arrange or style them; leave that to us. Some ideas of wedding-related items to leave out for us to photograph:

  • Shoes
  • Dress
  • Rings
  • Jewelry
  • Perfume
  • Invitations
  • Bouquets / boutonnieres
  • Custom clothes hangers

Getting ready, portraits, family photos

Allow 1 hour for us to photograph getting ready, bride and groom portraits and all the moments in between.

Ideal time allotment: 1 hour
Ideal location: Area where bride and groom are getting ready, front or backyard
Ideal time of day: 1 hour before you plan to leave for the ceremony

Before you leave for the wedding ceremony, we like to have an hour at each home to photograph the last parts of you getting ready, individual portraits of you fully dressed, and family photos. We find an area in the house with nice light (usually a living room, dining room or large bedroom), and take candid photos of your bridal party and family members helping you get ready, along with the final touch-ups of hair and make-up.

Once everyone is dressed, we capture all the different combinations of family photos, including some fun natural ones. We even break it down to you and each sibling, each parent, grandparents etc. These are very important photos and we won’t let you leave home until they’re done!

We then photograph you leaving home and leaving in your car, as it’s an important part of your wedding day.

Post-ceremony family photos

While not the most “creative” photos, family portraits are some of the most important photos from your wedding day.

Ideal time allotment: 30-45 minutes
Ideal location: Near the ceremony area (outside the church, in front of the stage, in the gardens etc.)
Ideal time of day: Immediately after the ceremony, before heading off for bridal party photos

While the creative and artistic photos are the more “interesting” photos from your wedding day, I would argue that the formal family and group photos are by far the most important. They form a big part of your wedding story, and invariably end up in your wedding book and as large prints on your walls at home (especially for your parents).

After your wedding ceremony, allow around 30-45 minutes for family photos. We need about 2 minutes per group (including getting everyone to the photo area, in the right position and doing the right thing). I tell all my couples to make a list in advance of all the different combinations of people you want photographs with (bride’s family, groom’s family, siblings only, bridal party, grandparents only, work friends etc.) and give it to someone trustworthy so that they can help round the groups up. This will save a lot of time and ensure you don’t miss a particular person or group of people.

If there is space at your wedding venue, and not too many people (around 200 maximum) we can take a big group photo of everyone which people always love to see. I also like to have a little fun after the “posed” group photo and get everyone to give a big cheer. This whole process takes about 10 minutes. These photos almost always end up nice and big in the couple’s wedding book.

Bridal party location shoot

Your bridal party location shoot should be fun and relaxed, and time to enjoy being newly married.

Ideal time allotment: 30-90 minutes
Ideal location: Anywhere you like (time permitting)
Ideal time of day: After leaving wedding venue

Now that the ceremony is done, you can now relax and enjoy some time as a newly married couple. whether or not you are having a bridal party, use your location shoot as time to just enjoy each other’s company. I truly believe that if you’re relaxed and enjoying yourselves at your shoot, it will shine through in your photos.

Your location shoot with me is always a fun experience, with lots of laughs and joking around. If we’re strapped for time, I recommend choosing a location near your reception venue so that you can maximise your time on location without worrying about travel time or traffic.

If you have time to spare between your wedding and reception, get creative! Ask me for ideas if you have a certain look you’re after, or if you have somewhere special in mind we can head there. You could even do two locations if you have around 2 hours spare (not including travel time).

If you’re bringing a bridal party along, I typically photograph them first, then let them go chill out while I spend some time with just the two of you. I like to allow up to 1.5 hours for your location shoot, however I can still make do with less time if your timeline is a bit tight.

Pre-reception shoot

A pre-reception shoot is a great way to get some unique, creative photos on your reception day.

Ideal time allotment: 1 hour
Ideal location: Anywhere you like (time permitting)
Ideal time of day: 2 hours before reception invite time

If your reception is on a separate day (as is often the case with Indian weddings due to the long ceremonies and early starts), you can have a pre-reception shoot. Finish your hair/make-up/dressing and we meet you at the location you’ve chosen. It’s a good idea to pick a location that looks different to your wedding day. For example, if you’ve had your photos in greenery on the wedding day, have your reception photos done near a beach or in the city.

It’s best to start your pre-reception shoot 2 hours before your invitation time. For example, if your reception invite time is 6pm, you’ll have your pre-reception photos from 4-5pm, and allow the hour to return to your cars, travel to the reception venue, and chill out in the bridal suite before guests arrive.

Reception night shoot

Duck out for a quick night shoot at dinner time for a few romantic, moody images.

Ideal time allotment: 20 minutes
Ideal location: Inside or just outside your reception venue
Ideal time of day: Dinner break

During your dinner break, there is usually some time where there are no speeches or formalities happening. This is a great time to sneak out for a quick night photography session. Some of my couples’ favourite images from their day have been the night photos, because they look so unique and different. I usually use features inside the venue (e.g. interesting furniture, mirrors, chandeliers), or just outside the venue depending on what looks good at night.

I bring along specialised lighting equipment (along with smoke cans, fairy lights and other gadgets) to create moody, atmospheric photos that look amazing as the last pages of a wedding book. I typically keep the night shoot at a maximum of 20 minutes, because I don’t want to take you away from your guests for too long.