Let's Talk About Wedding Timelines | McKinney Wedding Photographer

As a wedding photographer, I have to work often with time constraints. Weddings have schedules (not always well-thought-out ones) and since the wedding isn't about the photos, I have to work with what I'm given. 

I've had couples do first-look sessions to allow themselves the luxury of getting their party on right after the ceremony, and couples who will ONLY see each other at the aisle. I've had a couple couples (ha, ha) choose to do their portraits the day before, which is a total dream.

Now, I'm only me, and I've never shadowed someone else to observe how they do their job. But for any Cortnie Dee couples, I thought I'd give you a couple example timelines to show you how to get the most out of your images. In all these scenarios, let's day your ceremony starts at 4:00.


1. The First-Look

Okay. So you want to get all the fuss and muss out of the way so you can get to the par-tay. I like the way you work, my friend. I, too, enjoy a night of dancing and dining and try to get to those things ASAP.

10:00 - Depending on how long you take to get ready (which really should be dictated by the people doing your hair and makeup), this might be a good time to start. You need to be ready, in outfits and everything, by 1:15 in this timeline, so you can be in position for portraits at 1:30.

1:30 - First look. This is so sweet because everyone gets to be emotional without the pressure of people staring. In my opinion it's a lot more intimate and precious.

1:45 - Posed portraits for the newlyweds. Lots of gazing and laughing and sweetness. 

2:30 - Wedding party comes and takes pictures too. If family is present (or you tell them to come early), we do their photos as well. Group photos take, at most, 30 minutes.

3:30 - Your guests should be arriving, so by this time you should be hidden. Be in a bridal suite and do any last minute touch-ups to hair and makeup.

4:00 - Ceremony! Tell each other nice things and kiss about it! Exchange jewelry and think about how awesome the rest of forever will be.

4:30 - Pose for any groupings that might not have been accounted for before, and head to your reception. If it's in the same location, this should be as easy as turning around and dancing. But from this moment on, I'm all candids, so you get to decide how long you want to party.


2. The Aisle

You little traditionalist, you. I can't blame you. There is something romantic about being presented and getting to watch the look on your love's face as you approach them (or vice versa). I think I would probably make a mad dash to the altar at that point, but kudos to anyone who has that personal constraint.

10:00 - I'm sticking to the same prep-time-start-time. 

2:30 - If you have the time/space to, I highly highly highly recommend at LEAST doing the bridal portraits before the wedding. You'll have the excited jitters and the girls are all giggly and you can get sweet portraits before the other half of the wedding party shows up.

3:15 - If the other half of the wedding isn't at the venue, they should at least be on their way. Go hide! 

4:00 - Ceremony! Woohoo! Smooch party!

4:30 - Immediately begin with family portraits. We start with the ENTIRE family, then follow a pretty specific chain (which I'll explain in another post). Then, it's the wedding party.

5:00 - Then, it's the lovebirds. Leaving that 30 minute gap is really in case of emergency (aka, grandpa gets lost and starts eating food in the reception area and no one can find him for portraits), but we're working with worse-case-scenario right now. If your reception starts at 5:30, we have 30 minutes to knock out all the posed portraits you might want. I'm quick, so this isn't as stressful for me, but there may be some adventurous shots you need to sacrifice. Make key shots a priority, or choose to have a little more laid-back of a session. (Or, make time to sneak away from your reception. You probably won't, but you can try.)

5:30 - Start the grand entrance, start the party!


3. The Wildcard

You can't put a timeline out for a wildcard. There are too many variants! Let me just give you perspective on those options.

  • bridal portraits - I. Love. Bridals. In my opinion, bridal portraits are for you to get images you couldn't already get at the wedding. Maybe you're rocking an up-do at the altar but want big, wild hair for photos. Maybe you're getting married in a barn but REALLY want photos on a mountain. (Random, but you're awesome.) Doing an hour-long session before the wedding, you'll still have to get posed portraits that will take anywhere from 20-40 minutes day-of. So go with your own session if you want more variety and creativity.

  • day-before-portraits - I wish this was a thing. I wish this was a thing everyone did. All the time. Forever. Because it gives us freedom to play with location, with lighting, and with...well, everything. We can do pretty much whatever we want, short of getting your outfits dirty. (But we can do a crazy hiking session after, don't you fret.) Doing these portraits means we would ONLY have to do family-and-friends photos, which you can plan to do before or after the ceremony. Totally your call. Also, depending on how early you get them done, you could totally have photos of you both being all gorgeous all over the reception. People will be saying "Wow, how did you do that?!" Magic. That's how.

Ultimately, it's YOUR day. And if you want to have ten minutes for all the portraits...well, I might beg and plead for at least thirty. But I'll make something work either way. And if you want to break the rules and see each other two months before the wedding in all the glam? I'm so there. 

Is it weird to end a blog post with a song? 

"Anyway you want it, that's the way you need it, anyway you want it..."

Cortnie DavisComment