Wedding photography is an art. To master it requires being familiar
with the minor details, procedures and traditions that are tied up
into this special day.
This sample timeline outlines a series of steps a professional
photographer might experience as well as typical responses and
preparations needed to carry out a wedding to completion. Every
wedding is different, and chances are slim that you will ever see a
wedding process that goes exactly like this. For beginning wedding
photographers, this article may provide useful information and give an
overall glimpse into the timing for photographing a wedding.
Note: This is one perspective of the timeline for a wedding and
mainly focuses on an American-style Christian wedding ceremony and
traditions. We invite you to share your own timeline at the end of the
4-12 months prior to the wedding date
Initial contact with Bride and Groom (noted as B/G from here
forward) via phone or email.
Meet in person with B/G. Show portfolio, provide price sheet and
other printed promotional
materials and discuss rates/packages/contract.
Receive signed contract and retainer which can be anywhere from 20
to 50% to hold the date.
Discuss wedding with B/G and gather initial information about
times, locations, number of bridal party members, etc. Help the couple
be realistic with timing especially with regards to how many family
photographs they require.
1 month prior to the wedding date
Contact B/G by phone, email or in person. At this point you
will want to go over the timeline; double check the information you
gathered previously; be clear about the
priorities, details, times and locations and formal family
Make sure you know if there are any divorces and how those photos will
be handled with regards to step-parents/siblings etc. Whenever
possible get the information in writing.
1 week prior to the wedding date
Contact B/G to once again confirm all info.
Get emergency phone numbers.
1 day prior to the wedding date
Charge all camera/flash batteries and make sure you have more
than enough batteries on hand.
Format all memory cards.
Remove dust from camera body imaging sensors.
Clean lens elements.
Pack camera bags/cases with all needed gear.
Review all your information that you have (hopefully
Make sure you have accurate directions (if needed), contract and
any written information
about the details, group shots, etc. packed in your bag.
Get a good nights sleep.
Wedding day, 2-5 hours before the ceremony
Eat something, you may not get a chance later.
Pack all gear into car. Double check to see that batteries and
memory cards are there.
Map and directions on hand if needed, and/or your GPS is ready to
If this is not a local wedding, make sure you have budgeted enough
Wedding day, 1-3 hours before ceremony
Images of Bride/Bridesmaids getting ready. Makeup, hair,
Images of Groom/Groomsmen getting ready. Ties, cufflinks, making a
toast, etc. if time allows.
Images of Mother of Bride (MOB) attaching veil, zipping up bride's
Images of decorations being put up.
Images of guests arriving.
Formal portraits (see dedicated section below) if doing these
prior to the ceremony. If not doing these formal family photographs
to the ceremony, this is a good time to do the Bridal Portraits while
she's fresh. Also, if possible, take portraits of the Bridesmaids
with Bride and perhaps family
with bride, which will save time later after the ceremony.
Wedding Day, last hour before ceremony
Images of guests arriving.
Prayers with family or minister.
Last minute hugs, tears, toasts or prayers with
Guests being seated.
If there is time and ceremony is at a venue rather than a church -
this might be a good time to get photos of the tent, reception room,
flowers, decorated tables and other details.
The Ceremony, processional
Parents and Grandparents.
Groom and Groomsman usually arriving from side door or
Bridesmaids, if not in pairs above.
Maid of honor, if not in pair above.
Ringbearer and/or Flower Girl.
Bride and her father (traditionally).
The Ceremony, giving away of the Bride
Bride and father reach the altar and Minister addresses Father
Father of Bride answers (sometimes both Father and Mother answer)
and "gives" bride to Groom, typically hugs daughter and shakes Groom's
Father of Bride leaves to sit with family.
Minister talks to everyone (B/G typically facing minister,
away from guests).
Minister addresses B/G.
B/G recite vows (B/G turn and face each other).
B/G exchange rings.
Minister addresses everyone, issues pronouncement.
Minister presents "Mr & Mrs..." (B/G turn to face
The Ceremony, popular additions to above
Minister leads prayer (B/G typically facing minister).
B/G acknowledge parents/grandparents, walk down to hug or shake
Mothers of B/G light candles, then B/G use those candles to light
central unity candle (hard to photograph, may be facing away from
audience at all times).
Minister may lead closing prayer after vows but before
pronouncement (B/G facing each other).
The Ceremony, recessional
B/G walk back down aisle first, usually fairly quickly.
Bridesmaids/Groomsmen in reverse order of processional.
Parents, Grandparents, family, and honored guests.
B/G may return and greet/release guests row by row, though this is
less common than it once was.
The Ceremony, afterwards
Bridal party will be hugging, high-fiveing, and crying
wherever they all stopped after recessional (excellent candid photo
Guests will swarm around B/G and congratulate them.
Possible receiving line, B/G greet each guest as they exit the
B/G signing wedding license with minister and witnesses (typically best man & maid of honor).
Formal Portraits (basic groupings for example purposes)
If doing the formal photos after the ceremony it is a good idea to do
groups first as well as the Bride's family first so they can host the
beginning of the reception as soon as possible. Also, if there are
very young children in the formal family photographs,
it is wise also to get these done right away as children will tend to
get cranky and
Here is a typical order for family and wedding party shots after the
Not all couples want as many as listed here, but this could be
considered a "traditional" list. No matter the number of groupings, it
is wise to let couples know they should plan 5 minutes
per photograph to make sure you have enough time to fit everything in
Couple with Bride's parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses
Couple with Bride's parents (also step combinations if
Couple with Bride's Grandparents
Bride with Siblings
Bride with Parents
Bride with Mother
Bride with Father
Bride with Grandparent(s)
Couple with Groom's parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses
Couple with Groom's parents (Also step combinations if
Couple with Groom's Grandparents
Groom with Siblings
Groom with Parents
Groom with Mother
Groom with Father
Groom with Grandparent(s)
Entire Wedding party with Couple
Bridesmaids with Bride
Groom with Groomsmen
Bride with Maid of Honor
Groom with Best Man
Bride with flower girls
Groom with Ring Bearer
Bride with each Bridesmaid
Groom with each Groomsman
Bride with Groomsmen
Groom with Bridesmaids
Groom with Ushers
Couple with readers
Couple with Officiant
Reception, B/G announcement and entrance
DJ will announce B/G.
B/G enter room to applause.
Rest of wedding party enters room.
Wedding party sits down at head table.
Reception, meal (buffet for this example)
This is where it is extremely helpful to get the timeline from the
couples. Some receptions
start with the couple being announced into the room and then they do
their first dance. Some start with a welcome toast from Dad followed
by the Best Man and Maid of Honor Toast, then a blessing and then the
buffet or dinner. Others may have scheduled the toasts after dinner
before or after the cake cutting. The first dance can happen between
courses or before or after the cake cutting.
B/G go through buffet line.
Wedding party and family go through buffet line.
Rest of guests go through buffet line.
B/G finish first and walk around greeting tables.
Reception, toasts and speeches
Best man gives speech, toast.
Maid of Honor gives speech, toast.
Father of the Bride, toast.
Father of the Groom, toast.
Other family members, toast.
Reception, cake cutting
B/G hold knife together and cut a piece of cake.
B/G feed each other cake.
B/G mash cake in each other's face (optional).
Reception, first dances
Bride and father dance.
Groom and mother dance.
DJ calls wedding party onto dance floor.
(alternate) DJ calls all married couples onto dance floor.
Everyone invited to dance.
Reception, bouquet and garter toss
DJ calls single girls to get in group.
Blindfolded or with back to girls, bride throws bouquet.
Girl catches bouquet, everyone cheers and claps.
DJ calls all single guys to get in group.
Bride is given chair and sits down.
Groom reaches up bride's dress and retrieves garter.
Blindfolded or with back to guys, groom throws garter.
Guy catches garter, everyone cheers and claps.
Dancing begins again, continues until end of reception.
Reception, other events going on during above.
B/G visiting with guests.
Groom and other men smoking cigars.
Parents of B/G sharing stories.
Additional drinking and toasts.
Wedding day, arriving home
Download memory cards to computer.
Burn backup CD/DVD.
Week/month after wedding day
Identify good photos.
Sort photos into like groups (ceremony, reception, formals,
Process images as per personal style or B/G request.
Burn DVD/CD of finished images.
Deliver proof images to B/G.
Accept and send reprint and/or album orders.
Congratulate self on job well done.
Note: this is one perspective of the timing for photographing a
wedding. We invite you to share your own experiences and timelines