Planning for the Best Wedding Photos: Wedding Day Timeline

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Of all the questions I get answer for couples about their wedding day, the timeline question is the most common. At some point, for every wedding, I sit down (or talk on the phone) with you and develop a timeline for your wedding day.

The timeline helps you give your bridal party and family a time to be at the venue for pictures. It helps the day to go smoothly. It ensures that you get the pictures you want.

At the very minimum, I communicate with every couple two or three weeks before the wedding so we can get all these details ironed out.

But after reading this post last year from Colin Cowie Weddings, it really hit me that the schedule for the wedding day can be important for other reasons, too.

I can always work with whatever timing and light conditions exist, but if you have a choice about when to schedule your ceremony, pay heed to this post!

Wedding couple at sunset

Here’s what can happen when you really get it right: gorgeous sunset photos with the couple at a beautiful location.

Here are some of my own tips for planning a wedding day timeline that really works:

• Know when the sun sets. My favorite tool for determining this is sunrisesunset.com — I recommend it to couples all the time. Go to your location and create a calendar for the month you are getting married. Add this to your wedding planning notebook so you will always know what kind of light you can expect on your wedding day. Even if you aren’t planning a sunset wedding, you may want to arrange to slip away for a few lovely sunset photos.

• Mid-afternoon is great for indoor weddings. You can wrap up group photos as the sun edges toward the horizon, and be ready for photos like the one above as the sun begins to set.

• Consider your catering budget. Snacks or light hors d’oeuvres are for mid-afternoon, while guests may expect a dinner or at least heavy hors d’oeuvres for an evening event.

• Don’t be bound by what everyone else has done. Want a morning wedding with brunch afterwards? Go for it … brunch can be much more cost-effective than dinner!

• Keep the photo list reasonable and under control. As Mr. Cowie’s blog post points out: “Plan ahead how many formal shots you want and keep in mind that it usually takes a minute and a half to two minutes per shot. (Taking 60 shots will tie up the wedding party for at least an hour and a half.)” My note: that’s if everything goes perfectly well; large groups can take much longer, especially if we have people wandering off. Here’s my post on keeping the photo list under control.

• Think of the kids. If there are young children in your wedding, you will get much more cooperation from them — for photos, walking down the aisle, and good behavior at the reception — if you consider their nap time and whether they are hungry. Speaking as the mother of young children, cranky and uncooperative is just par for the course when children are hungry and tired.

• Print and distribute. Make sure everyone who matters has a copy of your timeline: wedding coordinator, hairdresser, musicians, family, your mom … anyone who needs to be somewhere at a certain time (or make sure someone else is where they are supposed to be.

• Know what can cause snags in the timeline, and make plans to deal with problems. Hair and makeup are the most common glitches in the wedding day schedule. Be sure and allow plenty of time for both you and your bridesmaids to get hair and makeup done in a leisurely fashion. If you have a hairdresser and makeup artist, do them the favor of giving them plenty of time to do their job well!

• RELAX. So you get off the timeline? Stressing about it will only cause nervousness, potentially leading to more mistakes and being even later. Do you wish you had set a different timeline? Look at the positive side of what you are working with (for example, after dark is your chance to create your very own beautiful light!) Work with what you have. I will work with what I have and I promise: beauty WILL be the result.





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