How to plan your wedding photography timeline

So you’re a bit confused between my unlimited package, my 10 hour package and you can’t quite figure out how long you might want me shooting at your wedding… I get it, it’s confusing.

I’ve put together this very simple blog post to give you a rough guide on planning your wedding timeline. Let me stress that every single wedding is different! We’ll work together to help you plan a timeline that really works for you. This is just a simple guide to what I recommend when my couples put together their wedding timeline.

Bride greeting guest London wedding photography
Bride sitting on a bed talking to a bridesmaid at a Brixton Wedding

The Biggest Advice for Planning Your Wedding Timeline

Pad the timeline. If you think something is going to take 30 minutes, plan 45. If google maps is telling you it’s a 15 minute drive, allow 25 minutes! Best case scenario, you run ahead of schedule and you have more time together or more time with your guests. Worst case scenario, you run late, panic, get all flustered and you have to leave early.

Why I offer an Unlimited Package

If your budget allows, I’d always recommend that you take the unlimited package. Firstly, let me just explain what that means. When I say ‘unlimited’ I don’t mean that I’ll work for 18 hours straight, but it means that we’re not restricted by an 8 hour or 10 hour limit.

This means if your timeline runs behind schedule, I don’t need to come up to you and either have you rush through speeches or have a difficult conversation about overtime. It also means that if you have a dancefloor that’s going strong at 12pm, and I started the day at 9am - I can still keep shooting and telling your wedding story. So when you think of an unlimited package, it’s really going to fall somewhere between 12 - 16 hours depending on your wedding plans.

Wedding photos in an orchard
Bride and Groom walk down English countryside

How to Plan Your Wedding Timeline

Start with your ceremony start time, and work backwards. And then start with your ceremony end time, and work forwards. And don’t forget to check what time the sun will set that day! (You can always just type in ‘your date’ + ‘sunset time’ into Google and it will tell you!)

Getting Ready & Preparation Photos

Typically, you should be dressed and ready a half hour before you need to leave for your ceremony venue. If you'd like the preparations and some portraits photographed (which I recommend), please budget that I arrive 1 to 1.5 hours before you need to leave for the ceremony. Double check your prep time with any other vendors (make up, hair etc). If you're unsure, please give me a shout!

If your partner is also getting ready in the same location as you, I can alternate between you both. But if that’s the case, please allow 2 hours for this to take place. If your partner is getting ready elsewhere, please allow 45 minutes to an hour with them before I need to arrive at your prep. Remember to include travel time!

The Ceremony

Include the travel time between where you got ready and your ceremony location. Again, pad the timeline here. Guests might still be arriving or fussing for the first 5 minutes. And don't forget to allow time for the confetti, hugs and kisses afterwards! I recommend budgeting 45 - 60 minutes for the whole ceremony including confetti and congratulations! 

Family Photos

To have more time for your couple's session and to make it a pleasant experience, I really suggest limiting these groups as much as possible to ten or less. We can always grab more casual group shots later in the day. Depending on how quick or unruly everyone is - I recommend budgeting 20 - 30 minutes for this. I normally recommend doing this after the ceremony if possible, or during cocktail hour.

Couple enter their barn wedding reception holding hands
Bride delivers wedding speech at Roehampton House London

Wedding Party & Couple’s Photos

How much time you spend on your wedding party and couple's photos is completely up to you. It’s really important to be aware of light when it comes to planning this. Ideally, we want this to be 1-1.5 hours before sunset. That’s not always possible, so on our call, we can come up with a plan that works for you.

If we've already done individual wedding party photographs early during prep time - you might want to skip out the wedding party photographs. If not, I would budget about 15-20 minutes to photograph the wedding party with the couple. 

As you know, I really view the couple's session as a chance for you to get a few moments just the two of you. At the very least - we need 20 - 30 minutes, but we can take it a bit easier and have a more relaxed session for about 40 minutes. All up to you! We can also see how you feel on the day! 

If we're travelling - don't forget to include that in the time!

Your Reception!

If your ceremony and reception are in the same spot, ideally, we need 1.5 hours between the end of ceremony and sitting down for dinner to do any group shots and the couple's photos as well as some time for the two of you to relax and enjoy some time with your guests. (This doesn't include any travel time).

During this time, I'll also try to squeeze in photos of your table decor, guests interacting, cocktail mingling etc. If it’s really important that you grab photos of your guests mingling; you should allow more time for this here, or consider adding a second shooter.

Depending on your caterer and your entertainment for the evening - this part of the schedule is really up to you. You should allow 1.5 hours for the full meal, and add on time for your speeches too.

Cake Cutting, First Dance & Dancing

I always recommend that you do these all at once! That way you’re not constantly interrupting your guests to get their attention. Once everyone’s been herded to the dance floor, your cake cutting and first dance should only take about 10 minutes. If you’ve not chosen the unlimited package, I would grab a few dance floor snaps for about another 15-20 minutes.

Alternative Bride & Groom Hold Hands at London Wedding Reception
Bride & Groom Dance at English Countryside Wedding

Conclusion

Getting ready: Allow at least 1.5 hours before you leave for the ceremony if I’m only photographing one of you. 2 hours if I’m photographing both of you in the same location. 2.5 hours if I need to travel between the two of you with travel time.

Ceremony: 45 minutes - 1 hour

Family photos: 30 minutes

Bridal Party & Couple’s Session: 30 - 45 minutes at least or ideally an hour if you’re up for it!

Cocktail Mingling / Reception Decor: 45 minutes to an hour (if this is important to have photographed for you)

Reception: This all depends on your meal & speeches. Normally 2-3 hours

Cake Cutting, First Dance & Dancing: 30 - 40 minutes

It’s worth saying that this is the minimum amount of time we need to make sure that we capture all of this. If you’d prefer a more relaxed timeline, with more time to spend with your guests, and if you’re travelling between several locations - you’d be better off padding this timeline significantly.

When we work together, I set up as many phone calls as you need to make sure that your timeline works. But for now, if you’re trying to figure out what package would suit you best, this is a great starting point!