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YOUR PERFECT WEDDING DAY PHOTOGRAPHY TIMELINE

February 2, 2023

How long do you need your photographer on your wedding day?

What kind of photography wedding timeline do you need? Like most couples, you want your wedding day to be totally perfect. But with so many things to consider and people to coordinate, knowing where to start can be tough. In this post, we’re sharing our tried and true day-of photography timelines so you know what to do (and when to do it) in the hours leading up to your big day. 

The 8-hour Wedding Day | Our Suggested Timeline 

From our professional experience, we’ve put together these simple steps for a wedding day that goes off without a hitch. We’ve even included a few tips from experts we’ve met along the way. Whether you’re getting married tomorrow or next year, read on for all the info you need to ensure your wedding day is precisely what you’ve dreamed it to be. Thanks, Oprah :).
One quick note – this is a guide detailing how long a series of typical wedding events takes. You DO NOT have to plan for everything. If you don’t want “getting ready” photos, don’t do them! This is simply to help you plan a more efficient and less stressful wedding photography timeline. 

Check out a Four Hour Elopement TImeline


Must have getting ready photos,  WEDDING DAY PHOTOGRAPHY TIMELINE

When should your photographer arrive?

Do you want getting-ready photos, detail shots of your dress, and a first look? The curtain call for your photographer will depend on these key decisions.

Getting Ready Photos (15 – 20 minutes) 

Getting ready photos are perfect for capturing sweet moments of your mom, sister, or best friend helping you with the final details before putting on the dress of your dreams and walking down the aisle to the love of your life. These moments are beautiful, candid ones you will treasure forever. It’s also an excellent time to capture a group photo before putting on the dresses and tuxes – some fun final cheers before “I DO.”

Dressing Details (15 – 20 minutes) 

Do you want photos of your dress, shoes, and jewelry before putting them on? These types of detail shots are great for capturing the day’s story so you can recount it to your children, grandchildren, and yourself (or anyone who might be listening). Plus, they’ll help you remember the little things – the details that often get blurred amidst all the excitement. Years from now, when your things look a little bit different, remember exactly how they looked on your big day. 

The First Look (15 minutes)

I could go on and on about how special it is to do a first look (good thing I’ve got a blog post for that here). In short, a first look is a beautiful private moment to share with your partner before things get crazy. Plus, you get your couples portraits out the way early so you’re freed up to enjoy the post-ceremony celebrations. 

Wedding Party & Family Photos (50+ minutes) 

If you do go for the first look – it’s also the perfect time to get close family and wedding party photos out of the way. Now everyone is freed up to enjoy the party. 

Receiving Line Photos (30 – 45 minutes – depending on guest count) 

This is where you thank everyone for coming after you walk back down the aisle. For some, this formal yet intimate moment is a must to capture. Others can do without it. It’s entirely up to you.


Wedding Reception at Garver Feed Mill, YOUR PERFECT WEDDING DAY PHOTOGRAPHY TIMELINE

Below you will find the timeline I suggest (with buffers) with all of the above.

8-Hour Example Timeline

Now that you have a better idea of the types of photos you’re looking to capture, see how it fits into our suggested timeline below. This timeline includes all of the above photo moments and additional buffer time to account for a full, seamless day. Customize it according to your preferred inclusions (and start time). 

12 PM – Photography starts (the photographer will gather all the details to be photographed, photograph the ceremony site if it’s set up, and capture candids of family and wedding party)

1 PM – Get dressed

1:30 PM – The first look & a few portraits of the couple 

2 PM – Wedding party photos

2:45 PM– Family photos

3:30 PM – Photographers leave the couple and wedding party to finish up any final details and begin photographing guests and the ceremony site. 

4 PM – Ceremony starts (30-minute ceremony)

4:30 PM – Receiving line with 150 people

5 PM – Cocktail hour starts. More wedding party photos off-site that are less traditional alongside some couple photos (we do this now because you’ll both be wearing your rings – and your faces will glow with newlywed bliss!)

5:30 PM – If possible, the photographer arrives early at the reception venue so they can capture photos before guests arrive (and touch everything!)

6 PM – Dinner – the perfect time for photos of speeches and candids of guests.  Depending on the time of year, we also try to steal our couples away for a few photos at sunset (another opportunity for you to take in the day and just be together). 

7:30 PM – Dance party!!!

8 PM – Photography ends

Build In Buffers! 

As we mentioned, this timeline has a few buffers built in which will be important to include on your wedding day. For example, it’s totally normal for some family members to run behind before the family photos that precede the ceremony. Plus, if you’re going from venue to venue throughout the day, buffers can cover travel time between photo locations. 

Do not be afraid to have a little time with the wedding party before going to the reception. I suggest not going too long – as your wedding party probably shouldn’t show up drunk to the reception. Have fun and celebrate, but don’t leave grandma waiting :). 


Villa Terrace Milwaukee, YOUR PERFECT WEDDING DAY PHOTOGRAPHY TIMELINE

If an 8-hour day wedding timeline feels too long, check out this 6-hour wedding timeline!

Get right to the heart of your big day with this more curated timeline (minimal getting-ready photos and no first look).

6-Hour Example Timeline

2:30 PM – Photography starts (the photographer will gather all the details to be photographed, photograph the ceremony site if it’s set up, and capture candids of family and wedding party)

3 PM – Get dressed

3:30 PM – Photographers leave the couple and wedding party to finish up any final details and begin photographing guests and the ceremony site. 

4 PM – Ceremony starts (30-minute ceremony)

4:30 PM– Family photos

5 PM – Cocktail hour starts. More wedding party photos off-site that are less traditional alongside some couple photos (we do this now because you’ll both be wearing your rings – and your faces will glow with newlywed bliss!)

5:30 PM – If possible, the photographer arrives early at the reception venue so they can capture photos before guests arrive (and touch everything!)

6 PM – Dinner – the perfect time for photos of speeches and candids of guests.  Depending on the time of year, we also try to steal our couples away for a few photos at sunset (another opportunity for you to take in the day and just be together).

8 PM – First dance & parent dances

8:30 PM – Photography ends

Because the 6-hour timeline is tighter on time, there are fewer buffers built in. But remember – this is your day! No matter how things unfold, your photographer is there to support you and make sure your day is captured for a lifetime. 


We’re Natural Intuition Photography – 

A down-to-earth photography duo with over a decade of professional experience. Whether you’re booking an epic elopement adventure or a brand photography session, our ethos is the same: authentic photos happen when you feel like your best self. And it’s our job to make sure you do!

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to work with us?

Get in touch today! We can’t wait to chat!

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