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Creating the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline: Tips for Brides

Tips for Brides:

Creating the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

I’m sure by now you’ve realized that planning a wedding day can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. It’s hard to know what to expect when you’ve never done this before! This blog post will walk you through the perfect wedding day timeline, from the photographer’s perspective! If you can follow these guidelines, you’ll be giving yourself (and your photographer!) the best chance at amazing photos. From getting ready to your exit at the end of the day, it’s all here!

Your Wedding Day Details: 45 minutes

From a photographer’s point of view, the Getting Ready portion of the day begins when your makeup is just about finished. I don’t like to photograph my brides too early. No one wants too many pictures of themselves without makeup on anyway! This is also the time that I will grab your wedding day details. Items such as your shoes, garter, bouquet, rings, jewelry, perfume, “something blue,” or any other sentimental details will be styled and photographed! I love to have this time to really “warm up” for the day and get my creative juices flowing.

Ideal shooting time: 45 minutes

Bridal Prep: 30 minutes

This is the moment you get into your wedding dress! I always tell my bridesmaids to be in their gowns before the bride gets dressed. This ensures they are looking their best in the photos, too! I like to allow 30 minutes for this part, because sometimes getting into the dress is trickier than we think. Things snag, or sag, or need a safety pin, etc. This is also the time I capture your mom or bridesmaid zipping you up, you putting your jewelry on, or opening any gifts for the day. If you choose to have a “First Look” with your Dad, this is when we would bring him in as well. This is generally when my second shooter will join the groom for his details and getting ready portraits!

Ideal shooting time: 30 minutes

Side note: If you are NOT doing a First Look, you will want to add about 15 minutes to your Prep time! So we can take portraits with your bridesmaids and your groom with his groomsmen.

First Look + Portraits : 40 minutes

If you decide to have a First Look with your spouse before the ceremony, ideally we should plan for about 40 minutes for portraits. If you’re undecided about a First Look, be sure to read my blog post on why I always suggest a First Look for my couples! This is such a special, romantic time for the two of you. It will most likely be the ONLY time on your wedding day that you will be ALONE together, to express your feelings and share a hug and kiss without people waiting on you. I don’t like to rush this portion of the day! It also ensures you get the maximum amount of portraits possible! If you prefer to keep things traditional, your portrait time will be a little bit shorter and you’ll most likely miss your cocktail hour. But we will squeeze it all in no matter what you choose!

Ideal shooting time: 40 – 45 minutes

Bridal Party Portraits: 30 minutes

I love making sure we take portraits of you with each of your bridesmaids and groomsmen INDIVIDUALLY. You’ve chosen them to be a big part of your wedding day, and it’s important we highlight each friendship. Of course we will also photograph just the girls and just the guys. And then – the whole party together! If we’re running short on time, I will have my second photographer photograph the guys at the same time as I photograph the girls.

Ideal shooting time: 30 minutes

Bride in hiding + Ceremony details: 30 minutes

With a perfect wedding day timeline, I love to give my couples 30 minutes to “hide” before the ceremony begins. This serves several purposes. One, guests will be arriving already! We don’t want them sneaking a peek. 🙂 Two, this gives you and your groom time to reflect on what’s about to happen! You can savor this time either apart or together! And third, this gives me a chance to photograph your ceremony space before too many guests are seated! If your reception space is in a different area, I can also capture detail shots of your reception decor at this time.

Ideal shooting time: 30 minutes

Ceremony: 30 minutes (on average)

Obviously, if you know your ceremony is going to be longer than 30 minutes than we can make adjustments to this timeline accordingly! Typically speaking though, I find 30 minutes is about the average time for the ceremony! I usually allow for a 10 minute buffer after the ceremony and before family portraits for hugs and congratulations, but no more than that! Your guests will see you again at the reception and you can chat more then!

Family Portraits: 30 minutes

I try to keep my family portrait time as quick and painless as possible! We get the essentials now, and if more groupings are wanted we can always take more at the reception! I like to start with the largest groups first, and allow older family members and children to leave the soonest. Then we work our way down to smaller combinations.

Ideal shooting time: 30 minutes

Sidenote: If you did NOT have a First Look, this is also when we need to shoot bridal party portraits AND your bride and groom portraits. So you’ll need to account for at least an additional 45 minutes of shooting after your family pictures and before the reception!

Romantic Portraits: 15 minutes

If time allows, and if it’s a perfect glowy sunset, then sometimes I will steal my couples for just a FEW more portraits now that they are “officially” husband and wife. It’s not necessary, and really I leave it up to my couples at this point!

Ideal shooting time: 15 minutes

The Reception: 3 hours

Generally speaking, with an 8 hour timeline and all the above time requirements, this usually leaves me with about 3 hours of coverage at your reception. I eat when you eat (no one wants photos of themselves eating!). And then I’m there for the major events during the reception and some dancing!


The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline: With a First Look

12:30 – 1:15: Details
1:15 – 1:45: Bridal + Groom Prep
2:00 – 2:45: First Look and Portraits
2:50 – 3:20: Bridal Party Portraits
3:30 – 4:00: Bride in hiding!
4:00 – 4:30: Ceremony
4:40 – 5:15: Family Portraits
5:30 – 8:30 Reception (Romantic Portraits during Sunset)

The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline: NO First Look

12:30 – 1:15: Details
1:15 – 1:45: Bridal + Groom Prep
2:00 – 2:45: Bride and Bridesmaid portraits, Groom and Groomsmen portraits
2:45 – 3:30: As many family portraits as we can do! This will save time later
3:30 – 4:00: Bride in hiding!
4:00 – 4:30: Ceremony
4:40 – 5:00: Family portraits
5:00 – 5:15: Entire bridal party all together
5:30 – 8:30: Reception ( Romantic bride and groom portraits during Sunset)


I hope this helps you see the difference between having a First Look and not having a First Look! I also hope it helps you plan your perfect wedding day timeline, which in turn ensures that you have amazing pictures and that you don’t feel rushed on your wedding day!



Danielle Durbin is a Pittsburgh wedding videographer and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram here and on Facebook here.




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