Wedding Photography Timeline - Tips and Advice!

Posted on April 12, 2010 at 9:15 AM

Wedding Photography Timeline - Tips andAdvice

Wedding photography is an art. Tomaster it requires being familiar with the minor details, procedures andtraditions that are tied up into this special day. This sample timelineoutlines a series of steps a professional photographer might experience as wellas typical responses and preparations needed to carry out a wedding tocompletion. Every wedding is different, and chances are slim that you will eversee a wedding process that goes exactly like this. For beginning weddingphotographers, this article may provide useful information and give an overallglimpse into the timing for photographing a wedding.

Note: This is one perspective of thetimeline for a wedding and mainly focuses on an American-style Christianwedding ceremony and traditions. We invite you to share your own timeline atthe end of the article.

4-12 months priorto the wedding date

·         Initial contact with Bride and Groom (noted as B/G from hereforward) via phone or email.

·         Meet in person with B/G. Show portfolio, provide price sheet andother printed promotional materials and discuss rates/packages/contract.

·         Receive signed contract and retainer which can be anywhere from20 to 50% to hold the date.

·         Discuss wedding with B/G and gather initial information abouttimes, locations, number of bridal party members, etc. Help the couple berealistic with timing especially with regards to how many family photographsthey require.

1 month prior tothe wedding date

·         Contact B/G by phone, email or in person. At this point you willwant to go over the timeline; double check the information you gatheredpreviously; be clear about the priorities, details, times and locations andformal family photographs. Make sure you know if there are any divorces and howthose photos will be handled with regards to step-parents/siblings etc.Whenever possible get the information in writing.

1 week prior to thewedding date

·         Contact B/G to once again confirm all info.

·         Get emergency phone numbers.

1 day prior to thewedding date

·         Charge all camera/flash batteries and make sure you have morethan enough batteries on hand.

·         Format all memory cards.

·         Remove dust from camera body imaging sensors.

·         Clean lens elements.

·         Pack camera bags/cases with all needed gear.

·         Review all your information that you have (hopefully written).

·         Make sure you have accurate directions (if needed), contract andany written information about the details, group shots, etc. packed in yourbag.

·         Get a good nights sleep.

Wedding day, 2-5hours before the ceremony

·         Eat something, you may not get a chance later.

·         Pack all gear into car. Double check to see that batteries andmemory cards are there.

·         Map and directions on hand if needed, and/or your GPS is readyto go.

·         If this is not a local wedding, make sure you have budgetedenough travel time.

Wedding day, 1-3hours before ceremony

·         Images of Bride/Bridesmaids getting ready. Makeup, hair, etc.

·         Images of Groom/Groomsmen getting ready. Ties, cufflinks, makinga toast, etc. if time allows.

·         Images of Mother of Bride (MOB) attaching veil, zipping upbride's dress, etc.

·         Images of decorations being put up.

·         Images of guests arriving.

·         Formal portraits (see dedicated section below) if doing theseprior to the ceremony. If not doing these formal family photographs prior tothe ceremony, this is a good time to do the Bridal Portraits while she's fresh.Also, if possible, take portraits of the Bridesmaids with Bride and perhapsfamily with bride, which will save time later after the ceremony.

Wedding Day, lasthour before ceremony

·         Images of guests arriving.

·         Prayers with family or minister.

·         Last minute hugs, tears, toasts or prayers withbridesmaids/groomsmen/parents.

·         Guests being seated.

·         If there is time and ceremony is at a venue rather than a church- this might be a good time to get photos of the tent, reception room, flowers,decorated tables and other details.


The Ceremony,processional

·         Parents and Grandparents.

·         Groom and Groomsman usually arriving from side door orBridesmaid/Groomsman pairs.

·         Bridesmaids, if not in pairs above.

·         Maid of honor, if not in pair above.

·         Ringbearer and/or Flower Girl.

·         Bride and her father (traditionally).

The Ceremony,giving away of the Bride

·         Bride and father reach the altar and Minister addresses Fatherof Bride.

·         Father of Bride answers (sometimes both Father and Motheranswer) and "gives" bride to Groom, typically hugs daughter andshakes Groom's hand.

·         Father of Bride leaves to sit with family.

The Ceremony

·        Minister talks to everyone (B/G typically facing minister, awayfrom guests).

·        Minister addresses B/G.

·        B/G recite vows (B/G turn and face each other).

·        B/G exchange rings.

·        Minister addresses everyone, issues pronouncement.

·        B/G kiss.

·        Minister presents "Mr & Mrs..." (B/G turn to faceaudience).

The Ceremony,popular additions to above

·        Minister leads prayer (B/G typically facing minister).

·        B/G acknowledge parents/grandparents, walk down to hug or shakehands.

·        Mothers of B/G light candles, then B/G use those candles tolight central unity candle (hard to photograph, may be facing away fromaudience at all times).

·        Minister may lead closing prayer after vows but beforepronouncement (B/G facing each other).

The Ceremony,recessional

·        B/G walk back down aisle first, usually fairly quickly.

·        Bridesmaids/Groomsmen in reverse order of processional.

·        Minister.

·        Parents, Grandparents, family, and honored guests.

·        B/G may return and greet/release guests row by row, though thisis less common than it once was.

The Ceremony,afterwards

·        Bridal party will be hugging, high-fiveing, and crying whereverthey all stopped after recessional (excellent candid photo opportunity).

·        Guests will swarm around B/G and congratulate them.

·        Possible receiving line, B/G greet each guest as they exit thechurch.

·        B/G signing wedding license with minister and witnesses(typically best man & maid of honor).

Formal Portraits(basic groupings for example purposes)

If doing the formal photos after theceremony it is a good idea to do the largest groups first as well as theBride's family first so they can host the beginning of the reception as soon aspossible. Also, if there are very young children in the formal familyphotographs, it is wise also to get these done right away as children will tendto get cranky and restless. Here is a typical order for family and weddingparty shots after the ceremony. Not all couples want as many as listed here,but this could be considered a "traditional" list. No matter thenumber of groupings, it is wise to let couples know they should plan 5 minutesper photograph to make sure you have enough time to fit everything in withoutstress.

Bride's side

·        Couple with Bride's parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses andchildren

·        Couple with Bride's parents (also step combinations if required)

·        Couple with Bride's Grandparents

·        Bride with Siblings

·        Bride with Parents

·        Bride with Mother

·        Bride with Father

·        Bride with Grandparent(s)

Groom's Side

·        Couple with Groom's parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses andchildren

·        Couple with Groom's parents (Also step combinations if required)

·        Couple with Groom's Grandparents

·        Groom with Siblings

·        Groom with Parents

·        Groom with Mother

·        Groom with Father

·        Groom with Grandparent(s)

Wedding Party

·        Entire Wedding party with Couple

·        Bridesmaids with Bride

·        Groom with Groomsmen

·        Bride with Maid of Honor

·        Groom with Best Man

Possible Additions

·        Bride with flower girls

·        Groom with Ring Bearer

·        Bride with each Bridesmaid

·        Groom with each Groomsman

·        Bride with Groomsmen

·        Groom with Bridesmaids

·        Groom with Ushers

·        Couple with readers

·        Couple with Officiant

Reception, B/Gannouncement and entrance

·        DJ will announce B/G.

·        B/G enter room to applause.

·        Rest of wedding party enters room.

·        Wedding party sits down at head table.

Reception, meal(buffet for this example)

This is where it is extremely helpfulto get the timeline from the couples. Some receptions start with the couple beingannounced into the room and then they do their first dance. Some start with awelcome toast from Dad followed by the Best Man and Maid of Honor Toast, then ablessing and then the buffet or dinner. Others may have scheduled the toastsafter dinner before or after the cake cutting. The first dance can happenbetween courses or before or after the cake cutting.

·        B/G go through buffet line.

·        Wedding party and family go through buffet line.

·        Rest of guests go through buffet line.

·        Everyone eats.

·        B/G finish first and walk around greeting tables.

Reception, toastsand speeches

·        Best man gives speech, toast.

·        Maid of Honor gives speech, toast.

·        Father of the Bride, toast.

·        Father of the Groom, toast.

·        Other family members, toast.

Reception, cakecutting

·        B/G hold knife together and cut a piece of cake.

·        B/G feed each other cake.

·        B/G mash cake in each other's face (optional).

·        B/G kiss.

Reception, firstdances

·        B/G dance.

·        Bride and father dance.

·        Groom and mother dance.

·        DJ calls wedding party onto dance floor.

·        (alternate) DJ calls all married couples onto dance floor.

·        Everyone invited to dance.

Reception, bouquetand garter toss

·        DJ calls single girls to get in group.

·        Blindfolded or with back to girls, bride throws bouquet.

·        Girl catches bouquet, everyone cheers and claps.

·        DJ calls all single guys to get in group.

·        Bride is given chair and sits down.

·        Groom reaches up bride's dress and retrieves garter.

·        Blindfolded or with back to guys, groom throws garter.

·        Guy catches garter, everyone cheers and claps.

·        Dancing begins again, continues until end of reception.

Reception, otherevents going on during above.

·        B/G visiting with guests.

·        Children dancing.

·        Grandparents dancing.

·        Groom and other men smoking cigars.

·        Parents of B/G sharing stories.

·        Additional drinking and toasts.

Wedding day,arriving home

·        Download memory cards to computer.

·        Burn backup CD/DVD.

Week/month afterwedding day

·        Identify good photos.

·        Sort photos into like groups (ceremony, reception, formals,etc.).

·        Process images as per personal style or B/G request.

·        Burn DVD/CD of finished images.

·        Deliver proof images to B/G.

·        Accept and send reprint and/or album orders.

·        Congratulate self on job well done.


Note: this is one perspective of thetiming for photographing a wedding.


Categories: Wedding Photography, Wedding, Journalism-Style Photography

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