Wedding Day Timeline -Tips for Photographing a Wedding [Part 3]

Jun 22, 2012

Topic: Wedding Photography
Time Investment: 7 Minutes
Suggested Product: Wedding Photography Contracts


So you have booked the Wedding and today is the big day!! What should you expect? What should you plan for? Read along for some helpful tips.

Typically for myself, the planning begins the first time I sit with my bride and groom. I personally like to do a sneak peek on the Wedding day to give the Bride and Groom additional time for posed photos together, but for most that is not an option as they want the groom to see his bride first when she is walking down the aisle…this may be a New Jersey thing but often times no matter how much I try, the couple wants to remain traditional and I respect that…which makes planning your day very important, so no time is wasted. So this timeline will reflect those needs…


Before Wedding

My day as a photographer actually starts the day before a wedding. The day before the wedding, I will charge all batteries (camera, flash, etc) and format all memory cards, as well as clean lenses and pack all of my equipment. I carry in my bag a list of all my equipment and check in twice while I am packing.

  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon D300s
  • 35mm
  • 50mm
  • 40mm micro
  • 85mm
  • 55-300mm
  • 10-20mm
  • SB900
  • SB600
  • Reflector
  • Tripod and Monopod
  • Video Light
  • 32 AA Rechargeable batteries for flash, video light
  • 4, 4 gig SD and CF cards, 2, 8 gig SD and CF cards and 4, 16 gig SD and CF cards

This list is helpful in not only assuring everything is packed but also at the end of the night to make sure nothing is left behind (which I have done more times then I care to admit LOL). Keep the list on a laminated index card in your bag for safe keeping.


Morning of Wedding

(10-11am) So the morning of the Wedding I typically like to eat a full breakfast (you’re going to be on your feet 6-10 hours with very little downtime so fuel up). After breakfast and getting myself ready to go, I like to decompress for an hour and try to relax and spend a little time browsing Pinterest for fresh and fun posing ideas.

(2-3pm) I start my day at the brides location, and I like to give myself an hour to capture her detail shots of hair and makeup, putting on the dress, and hanging out with her bridesmaids. All detail shots get done during this time as well: flowers, dress, rings, shoes, etc.


Wedding Time

(4-5pm) I will then make my way to the ceremony where the groom and groomsmen are often waiting and do some preliminary shots with them as well. I also use this time to talk with my 2nd shooter and plan where each of us will be shooting from. It’s also important to me to get detail shots at the church. Programs, flowers, guest arriving and being ushered to seats, etc. I never like to split from my 2nd shooter on a wedding day. I want the day to reflect my vision not only on my cards but on theirs as well; you get more accomplished together as a team than alone. It’s nice to be able to utilize your second shooter to help with getting everyone posed, maybe helping to set up lights as well as general crowd control (you know when Aunt Mimi is behind you with her point and shoot…seconds should at all times stop this from happening).

(5-6pm) During the ceremony, I work in conjunction with my second shooter as well as my videographer to ensure we all get the shots and footage we need.

(6-6:30pm) Formal shots are taken either at the church or at the reception site following the ceremony. This to me is the most rushed part of your day, so managing your time wisely is key! What you have to understand is you’re using the time to get these shots done during the couples cocktail hour that they probably paid a lot of money for and that their friends and family want to enjoy. Cocktail hours tend to last 60 minutes so I have worked out all of my formals to be shot and finished within 30 minutes. It’s a tight squeeze, but it can be done. This is not the time to be shy…speak up, get everyone’s attention, and take charge!



(6:30-7pm) From formals, I head into the cocktail hour and get photos of the guest enjoying the start of the night. I typically only stay for 15 minutes in the cocktail hour as I like to make my way into the main reception room before guest are allowed in. I use 15 minutes there to do my table shots, detail shots of place cards, cake, etc before guests are in the room and in my shots. If possible, I try to plan to sneak my bride and groom in there as well for one posed dancing shot, where I can stage and backlight the couple. When the room is filled with guests, it’s a little trickier to get staged shots as well as clean table and detail shots.

(7-7:30pm) The rest of the night is usually pretty standard. When the reception starts, the bridal party and bride and groom are announced into the party. From there the DJ goes into the first dance, parent dances, toast and blessing. My 2nd and I stand opposite sides of the room and are always checking not to capture each other in the photos. Its nice getting 2 perspectives throughout the wedding day.

(7:30-8:30pm) While dinner is being served, I use this as my break time. No one looks good with salad hanging out of their mouth, so I like to tell my bride and groom that while food is served this is my time to compose and break for about 30-45 minutes. I use this time to eat, run to the bathroom, drink 5 glasses of water (not kidding, lol).  I also check-in on Facebook and tag my business page…HELLO FREE ADVERTISING that you are shooting a wedding at a fancy venue. 

(8:30-9:30) After dinner is finished and plates are cleared, the DJ starts up the music and the guests start dancing! I use this time to photograph everyone having fun and focus on the bride and groom dancing with their friends and family.

(9:30-10pm) The bouquet and garter toss comes next followed by the cake cutting. Standard fun shots and of course 2 different views from myself and my 2nd.

I like to leave after the cake cutting because generally at that point there’s about an hour left of the reception and dancing shots start to get repetitive. If the bride and groom want me to stay I will, but this is all talked about weeks before the big day.


End of Wedding

Before leaving, I do take one last shot which is my signature “sparkler” wedding shot. My brides and grooms know I come equipped with a pack of 12 sparklers for their wedding night, and we always take 10-15 minutes to go out and play before I pack up and leave…these are often the shots that they just LOVE!

One last tidbit of advice, if you are (like me) afraid of losing photos on a Wedding day due to memory card malfunction: I start on a 4 gig card and shoot everything at the bride’s house on that one card. I then change to an 8 gig card for the guys at the church and the ceremony as well as formals. At the venue, I change to a 16 gig card and use that until filled and then go onto another 16 gig. My feeling is this…IF something ever happened to a card, I wouldn’t lose the whole day….I’d lose part but hopefully if you’re utilizing your 2nd you’re going to still have shots of the time your card had an issue. This has never happened to me (knock on wood) but I live by the motto…BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY!

 Did you miss the previous posts in this series? Read them here --  Part 1  |  Part 2

Thanks to Sarah from Vibrant Image Photography for the guest blog post!


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