Developing your wedding day timeline is an integral part of your experience with the KWP team. From the minute you book, we’re planning your wedding day! We start with a very rough timeline based on our chats with you during the booking and consultation. From there, whenever we chat or email, we’re keeping notes and adjusting things. But the big timeline planning comes about 3 months before your wedding. By this time, we figure most of the logistical details have been worked out, and we’ll put everything together to make a perfect timeline for your photos.
I wrote this blog post in the same way that we work on the tentative timeline. We start with 3 basic key points: Sunset time, First Look option and Ceremony time. From there, we can develop your timeline and shot list for your review!
Your wedding worksheet will be emailed to you several months before your wedding. It is very important that we have this information as soon as possible to put together your timeline! It will get emailed to the bride and groom, but we only need one filled out. If you have to submit it and come back to add details later, it will save your responses and you can open and edit as much as possible. Please let us know if you make any important changes after it’s initially done, so we know to look for updates!
We will send you a tentative timeline and preview of the shot list a few months before the wedding, and we like to have that finalized by the week before your wedding.
To find your wedding worksheet, simply log in to your client portal (use your email address you gave us, and the password would be the first one you used to log in. If you’ve never logged in, just type in any password and that will set it for you. If you need the password reset, simply email us to ask).
Your wedding worksheet will be available here approximately 3 months before your wedding day: https://tave.com/kristenweaverphotography/login/
Teleporting would be cool and all
Before we get in to the timeline details – we have a couple of things for you to keep in mind: buffer time and travel time. First, we include buffer time in all our timelines to set realistic expectations based on our professional experience. For instance, many brides will wonder why we allocate 30 minutes just for her to get in her dress. But in reality, that 30 minutes flies by when you consider we may have to wait for the maid of honor to find her shoes, your dress has a back full of buttons, something needs adjusted unexpectedly, shoes need put on, garter, jewelry, perfume and then all items gathered up to head to the church. The veil needs placed and secured. Then someone announces they can’t find something, 4 out of 5 bridesmaids are packed up but then we need to wait for an elevator and just give ourselves time to walk through the lobby – dodging people as we go.
The timeline would look like this:
3:30pm – Bride gets dressed
4:00pm – Depart for ceremony
But a lot of things can happen in those 30 minutes, and we need to make sure we’re accounting for them.
When you’re planning travel time between venues – always, ALWAYS, over-estimate! If google maps says 15 minutes, but you’ve driven it in 10 before , plan for 20. We’d rather have extra time to shoot rather than underestimating time and being rushed to get you to your next location!
Planning your ceremony time
We start all of our timelines with the ceremony time and work from there. We recommend your ceremony end with a full hour of daylight left in the day. For instance, if the sun sets at 7pm, your ceremony should END no later than 6pm. Then just work backwards based on the type of ceremony you’re having (we listed some examples below). However, if you’d like your ceremony to start on the hour, give yourself more time for daylight rather than less. That way, if something is delayed by 5-10 minutes (which is totally normal and can be expected), you won’t run out of time for photos.
Standard ceremony – 30 minutes
Religious ceremony – 30-45 minutes
Catholic Mass – 45-60 minutes
Full Catholic Mass – 60-75 minutes
To do a first look, or not?
The First Look always seems to be a bit controversial! Our opinion is basically that you should do whatever you want! We can work with any timeline and would never push a couple to do anything they weren’t comfortable with just for the sake of photos. That being said, if you aren’t worried about the more traditional aspect of not seeing each other until the aisle, we love shooting first looks!
One of the things we love best about the first look is the opportunity to have a private moment between the two of you where we can capture the raw emotion and love of the first time you see each other. You have the chance to embrace and talk in a way that you wouldn’t be able to during the ceremony. It’s also a great way to shake out the nerves. Our couples always talk about how they felt so much better after seeing each other – allowing them to really enjoy the ceremony and focus on the moment.
From a logistical standpoint, doing a first look allows us more time for photos of you and your fiancé. Without a first look, we’re limited to just the cocktail hour to complete family formals, wedding party, bride and groom portraits and shooting the reception space. This means bride and groom portraits ends up being about 10-15 minutes long. By doing a first look, we can extend that time to 30-40 minutes easily – and usually, we can grab you again closer to sunset for a few more portraits before the reception begins.
If a first look just isn’t your cup of tea, keep in mind that the bride and groom portraits may feel a bit rushed or we may not be able to get to a lot of different areas of your venue. So we’ll look for spots that optimize the time we have for pictures rather than traveling to multiple different locations at the venue. It will also be very important to make sure everything is running on time so we don’t lose that time entirely!
There are also some alternatives to the first look. We have had couples share a ‘first touch’ or pray together on opposite sides of a door. It’s a great opportunity for photos and to talk to each other before the ceremony.
Starting the day & detail photos
Timing tip: We like to start your day about 2 hours prior to the ceremony start time (without a first look), or 3 hours prior (if you’re planning on a first look). So for a 6pm ceremony start time, we would start at 3pm or 4pm.
3:00pm – Start in bridal suite with details
3:45pm – Bride gets dressed
4:20pm – Groom set up for first look
4:30pm – First Look and Bride/Groom portraits
5:00pm – Wedding Party Portraits
5:30pm – Everyone inside to freshen up, photograph ceremony space
6:00pm – Ceremony begins
Many of the best images are of you getting ready, we love the details! If you could please have all of your details (Dress, set aside on a decorative or wooden hanger, your something borrowed, blue old and new, garter, bouquet and any jewelry you will be wearing day of as well as your shoes and rings) set aside so when we get there we can get started right away. Also, having the bridal suite cleared out of any bags and personal items is great for nice clean images. We suggest putting any additional bags in the bathroom or closet.
When we arrive for the day, we will join the girls in their bridal suite. Hair and makeup should be close to completed, and it’s really helpful to have the room cleaned from bags and personal items. We suggest putting them in a closet or bathroom to give us a nice, clean space for photos. If requested, the second photographer will head to the groom’s room where the guys can be photographed putting on their finishing touches – like suit coats, ties, cufflinks and shoes.
If you and your fiancé plan to exchange cards or gifts, have those ready when we arrive and we will help facilitate timing to make sure it’s documented for you!
In the bridal suite, we suggest to have the following details ready for us when we arrive:
- Dress, set on a decorative hanger
- Shoes and garter
- Heirloom and bridal jewelry
- All rings (engagement, and both wedding bands)
- A full suite of stationery – including programs, menus, envelopes and Save the Date cards
- Clutch or wedding bag
Tip: Kristen recommends selecting a special “wedding only” perfume – one that you don’t previously own. Only wear it again on special occasions, like your anniversary, and the scent will be nostalgic and always remind you of your wedding day!
Family shot list and requests
Following the ceremony, we will capture your family photos. A few months prior to your wedding, you will receive an email asking to fill out the “Wedding Worksheet”. It’s a bit of a long worksheet, but it’s so important to us developing a formal timeline for your day. There’s a family section where you will give us the names of your family members, and then we will put those in to a list that works efficiently for us. We are very systematic in how we organize these shots – so if you have any unique family dynamics, please let us know so we can adjust accordingly!
Our family shots usually consist of just the immediate family – grandparents, (step)parents, and siblings (and their spouses/children if applicable). We do not usually include large extended families (aunts, uncles and cousins) unless requested. Each grouping will take approximately 2 minutes to set up and shoot, so keep that in mind! We’re usually limited to about 20 minutes for these photos, which would be about 10 groupings. Extended family shots can take 5-7 minutes to complete one alone, which is why we don’t include them unless we’re asked.
For any non-priority shots (like a grouping of sorority sisters, cousins, etc), you can note those on the worksheet. We will typically do those during the reception so we don’t lose time for the main family shots.
The Reception – Party Time!
After we work out the ceremony time and beginning of the day, we look at the reception timing! When it comes to the reception, we like to have a timeline from the DJ to get an idea of when events will be happening, but for the most part we’re just along for the ride! In most cases, we won’t stay through until the very end – so we’ll make sure the DJ or band knows our departure time to ensure the major events you want captured happen before we leave.
A typical reception timeline looks a bit like this:
7:00pm – Doors open to guests
7:15pm – Wedding Party introductions
7:20pm – Bride and Groom introductions, first dance
7:25pm – Toasts, Welcome and Blessing (time varies based on number of toasts)
7:30pm – Dinner is served
This leaves us off at an important part – dinner! First, please eat your dinner! Guests will be available to you after you finish (you’ll be the first to eat) and you can mingle as they’re finishing up. I can’t tell you how many couples never eat their wedding dinner because they start walking around right away.
So what are we doing during dinner? We’re eating, of course! This is our opportunity to sit down, kick off our shoes (just kidding, our feet smell pretty bad by that time!) and start working on image backup. We also chat about shots we still may need to get, or things that we may need to look for, etc.
We don’t recommend having toasts in between courses, but if that’s the plan, please make sure someone lets us know to be prepared!
In our contract, it does require that we’re provided with a hot meal – and it’s imperative that we be served at the start of dinner service. I actually go in to a long explanation about this on this (really fun) blog post (check the Bonus Question section at the bottom): https://kristenweaverblog.com/interns/10-things-you-shouldnt-ask-your-photographer/
Sparkler Exits and Niftier Ideas
If the thought of a bunch of drunk party guests waving fire at you doesn’t have you super excited, we can recommend some amazing options for photo opportunities instead! Although sparkler exits are still pretty popular, logistically sometimes it doesn’t make sense. For instance, if you’re staying in the same hotel as your reception, or you want to use the time for photos at the start of the day instead of us staying until the end. So here are some visual examples of great alternatives to a standard sparkler exit.
Confetti Cannons – Kristen’s absolute favorite because it can be used at any point in the evening to either end the night, or just get the party started! They can be used after the ceremony, during introductions, midway through the party, or even at the end of the night. With so many options, and such amazing photos – this ranks top in our books!
Lavender Toss – Following your ceremony, a lavender toss by guests is beautiful and smells amazing!
Sparkler Entrance – If you opted for a first look and want to attend cocktail hour, we can organize a sparkler entrance for all your guests to participate in, welcoming you to the party!
Mock Sparkler Exit – If we’re not staying until the final dance, we can gather your wedding party and parents and take them outside for a mock-sparkler exit. It’s a great way to keep your guests on the dance floor and close out our coverage of the evening. With less people to organize, we can do multiple run-throughs and create some great shots.
Elevator Exit – Grab a quick romantic shot of you guys in the elevator at the end of the night.
Finally, let’s address the elephant in the room: Pinterest. Look, I love Pinterest. I’ve planned all kinds of things – from fashion editorials to styled shoots and my own wedding – using it. I’ve even copied a photo or 2 in my time. We ask for your pinterest board in your Wedding Worksheet to get a feel for your wedding day style. BUT. If you send us a list of photos to “recreate” – we won’t. We’re not that photographer. Our goal is to work from your own relationship and we need to be in the moment, rather than reading from a list. We’re the people whose photos OTHER photographers are copying. So let us be creative and connected to you. Trust us to deliver images worthy of other people re-pinning!
And if you still need a laugh, check out this viral Pinterest board I created, “Photos you should never ask your photographer for” – and you may see a few of my thoughts in there!
You can use these links to download a sample timeline for your wedding day. These are typical timelines we use as a template – but since each wedding may have different events, this is just a sample! We will customize your timeline using your wedding worksheet.