10 Tips for Planning your Photography Timeline on your Wedding Day


  1. Getting Ready Photos:: A good time to start your preparation coverage is when you are getting your hair and makeup done. Your bridesmaids and/or anyone special helping you dress like your Mom or best friend may prefer to already have their own hair and makeup completed and be dressed in their wedding clothing when you are ready to get into your gown. (Some brides don't care if that person is already dressed up, so this can vary, but if those photos are important to you, you may want them to be ready.) It also helps to do a 5 minute sweep of the room to clean up the mess that is common in bridal suites or hotel rooms when you have 10-20 women getting ready with bags, dresses, shoes, makeup, water bottles, food, etc. Most photographers will want *at least one hour of time for preparation coverage as this is when we can photograph many of your details (gown hanging on a pretty hanger, shoes, rings, invitations, other personal items important to you); and some will want more time depending on their workflow. (1.5-2 hours is common).  The Groom and his groomsmen typically take about half the time needed to get dressed. Allowing 30 min would be reasonable, plus another 10 to pin boutonnières, and then relax time for the guys to drink a beer or have a toast of some kind and just hang out is pretty common.

  2. Hair & Makeup:: When scheduling hair and makeup, its good to allow 1 hour for hair and 1 hour for makeup. Hair and makeup usually always go over time, so it's always a good idea to pad your time there. If it only takes 45 minutes each, that gives you extra time to eat, use the restroom, and relax before getting into your gown. At JBP, we typically prefer to arrive when you are about half way done with your hair or right before makeup starts. This gives us time to photograph your details and candids, while also getting some photos of your finishing makeup touches (mascara, lipstick, etc).

  3. Getting Dressed/Putting on Your Wedding Gown:: This can take longer than you think it will. We typically suggest to brides to allow a minimum of 30 minutes to get into your gown, your shoes, jewelry, and garter and then to make adjustments and put on the final touches.  Brides who have lace up gowns, french buttons, or sashes/belts that tie into bows may need to allow more time.  Many brides lose a little weight the week before wedding due to stress and nerves and how busy it is, so your dress may not fit exactly as it did for your final fitting, and often, small adjustments need to be made on the wedding day.  This is the #1 area that takes more time than anyone thinks it will and where time starts running behind, cutting into other portrait times. Average time is about 30-45 minutes.

  4. Bridal Portraits:: We typically like to take some bridal portraits of the bride right after she has gotten dressed and can do these in the hotel room if it has good light, or around the venue where you are getting married. These can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes depending on your day, the brides wishes, how your timeline has flowed thus far and other factors.

  5. The First Look:: If you are doing a “first look” it will take a little bit of time to get the couple in place, depending on the size of the property and how formal you are about it.  Its common to take about 10-15 min to get everything set up in a space that is somewhat private, has good light and sets the stage.  Then we put on our long lenses, stand back and let the moment unfold between you, capturing lots of images of seeing each other for the first time, the hugs, kisses, laughter, and moments that organically happen from this time.  After shooting hundreds of weddings, we have found 95% of the time that most couples look at us a few minutes in and laugh and say, "What do we do now?" That is our queue to start the portrait time with you. This time portrait varies greatly depending on the couple. We've done these in 15 min for those running behind to taking a full hour to move around an entire resort and get lots of different looks.

  6. If you are not doing a first look, we often schedule 30-60 minutes pre-ceremony to photograph the bride with her bridesmaids, the groom with his groomsmen, bridal portraits, and some immediate family portraits. (Bride & Mom, Bride & Dad, etc.) All other portraits that require both Bride & Goom will be done after the ceremony (Full Bridal Party, all family photos with the couple and Bride & Groom Portrait time).  In this case, you'll ideally want to allow 1.5-2.0 hours of time after your ceremony but with natural light to take all of these.  Small weddings or small bridal parties may

  7. Bridal party portraits will take about 30 minutes, a little longer for groups larger than 6 on each side.

  8. Family formals can last anywhere between 15-30 minutes depending on the size of families and how many groupings you request. We typically limit each side of the family to about 6 groups max to ensure these are all done inside of 30 minutes.


Depending on the time of year, and how much light is still available after your ceremony, we may do bride & groom portraits first, followed by bridal party and finishing with family groups near cocktail hour. We try and avoid using flash photography as much as possible to keep in line with our natural style, but if we must use it due to low light, we prefer to do this for family portraits since they are more posed.


If you are *not* having a first look, plan for your ceremony to end about 1.5 hours before sunset to allow enough time for portraits before the sun goes down.


The decision to see each other before the ceremony (or do a "first look" or "first reveal" will definitely impact your photography timeline and how you structure your day. Couples report less stress, more down time, and less standing around when they do a first look, because it breaks up the timing for portriats. 


Here is a sample timeline assuming a 6 PM ceremony and a 7:30 PM sunset time (common for spring weddings in Arizona)

SAMPLE TIMELINE #1 -- Seeing each other before the ceremony and doing a first look

When you see each before the ceremony, you can do many of your portraits ahead of time and schedule your ceremony closer to sunset time.


1. Start by inserting your ceremony time and work backwards from there. This sample timeline assumes a 7 pm sunset and 8 hours of coverage.

2. Check out www.timeanddate.com to find out what time the sun is setting on your wedding date.


(This timeline assumes that the wedding is all in one place; so you may need to factor in transportation time if moving from different locations).

1:30-3:15 Makeup/ other prep
2:30  Photography coverage begins – finishing touches of makeup, details, and getting ready shots. (Second photographer with the guys)
3:15-3:45 Bride gets dressed/ initial bridal photos (Groom dressed by 3:30pm)
3:45-4:00 Coordination of first look/ more bridals/ groom shots
4:00-4:30 First look & Bride and Groom time
4:30-5:15 Full Bridal Party formals and informals
5:15-5:45 Family Formals
5:45-6:00 Everyone tucked away as guests arrive, photographer to capture ceremony site and details
6:00-6:30 Ceremony
6:40-7:00 Bride and Groom sunset photos
6:30-7:45 Cocktail hour (Second photographer to capture cocktail)
7:00-7:20 Freshen up, bustle, and sign license
7:20-7:45 Bride and Groom attend cocktail party, mingle- candid photos
7:30-7:45 Photographer captures details and reception hall before guests enter
7:45-8:00 Grand entrance, first dance
8:00-10:30 Reception coverage


Not having a First Look: We will need approximately 2 hours before sunset to capture portraits after the ceremony.
1:00-2:45 Makeup/ other prep
2:00 Photography coverage begins – finishing touches of makeup, details, and getting
ready shots. (Second photographer with the guys)
2:45-3:15 Bride gets dressed/ initial bridal photos (Groom dressed by 3pm)
3:15-3:45 Bride with bridesmaids, parents, siblings
3:45-4:15 Groom with groomsmen, parents, siblings
4:15-4:30 Everyone tucked away as guests arrive, photographer to capture ceremony site and details
4:30-5:00 Ceremony
5:00-5:30 Family Formals
5:30-6:00 Full Bridal Party
6:00-7:00 Bride and Groom time, sunset photos
7:00-7:15 Bride and Groom attend cocktail party, mingle- candid photos
7:00-7:15 Photographer captures details and reception hall before guests enter
7:15-7:30 Grand entrance, first dance
7:30-10:00 Reception coverage