Wedding Day Timeline – How to plan for photos!

Are you in need of a wedding photography timeline to create your perfect wedding day portraits? How DO you fit everything in your timeline and in your budget? Everyone knows how quickly a wedding day can go from perfection to disaster. Most of the reason issues occur is because of the timeline. Hi, my name is Jennifer, and I own J Renee Photography in Wichita, KS. I am a professional wedding photographer, and I have photographed weddings for 20 years. I am here today to help new brides understand what a timeline is and how it can affect their wedding day and photography.

Engagement Portraits | J Renee Photography
Engagement Portraits taken the Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, KS

When a wedding client books with me, I ask how many hours of coverage they think they will need, and 5-6 hours is typically the response I receive. Today I will show you why that is not the best option and why!

A wedding is a complex event and requires many hours of planning to execute. Every bride wants to make sure that every detail designed is photographed thoroughly. Wedding photography is the only thing left after the wedding cake is long gone and the guests have gone home. Considering this, photography should be one of the most important things to consider for your timeline. 

Pre-Ceremony Detail Shots

Consider what is important to document on your day. You put a lot of money into the details of your day. Pre-ceremony is getting ready photo’s will include pictures of these items such as your shoes, dress, garter, bouquets, rings, gifts, jewelry, invitations, and the same with the groom’s details. These photos also may include the decorated ceremony site and reception area.

Having all of these items together in a box when your photographer arrives will help to speed up these pictures. Another pro tip is to have your florist have some extra scraps from your bouquet (flowers, ribbons, etc.) to include in this box to stylize these photos. These photos complement your wedding portraits in the album, and you can estimate about an hour and a half to document these properly. 

What should I include in my photographer’s box?

  • Perfume and Cologne bottles (A new bottle or the scent you are wearing the day of the wedding is always a great memory!)
  • A decorative Ring Box and the wedding rings
  • The Invitation Suite, you can also have your calligrapher create some small pieces with your names like in the image above (RSVP, Invitation, Save the Dates, etc)
  • Scraps from the florals, ribbons, greenery, and accent pieces (ask your wedding florist to provide you with the scraps leftover from your florals for the photographer before hand)
  • Garter, Jewelry, Shoes, Wedding Dress, and Bouquet for the bride
  • Ties, Handkerchiefs, Cufflinks, Boutonnières, and Shoes for the groom
  • Decorative accents like dainty scissors, stamps, buttons, lace, ribbons, and more help round out the detail shots as well! Amazon has a wide selection of cute accent pieces to decorate with.
Brides detail shots with the shoes, florals, wedding rings, invitation suite, and other accent pieces
Brides Detail Portraits
A stylized image of the wedding invitation suite and the wedding rings with a boutonnière, stamps, and jewelry
Invitation Suite Portraits
Grooms detail shots with cologne, tie, shoes, stamps, boutonnière, and trinkets
Grooms Detail Portraits
Getting Ready

Getting ready photos will include portraits with your bridesmaids, getting your dress on, make-up and hair done, and typically your bridal picture before the ceremony. Often, this is also time to do portraits with the bride’s family, bridesmaids, etc. Normally hair and make-up can run 2-3 hours (typically 45 minutes per bridesmaid, mother of the bride, flower girls, and the bride is typically about an hour), so you need to plan for at least 30 minutes of photography for those photos and another hour and a half for individual portraits with bridesmaids and the family.

If the groom is getting ready at the same time as you, you may consider hiring a second photographer to capture his portraits with his groomsmen, his family, and getting ready. If you only plan to have a single photographer, it will limit the number of photos unless you arrange for additional time for the portraits of both the bride and groom. Plan for 3-4 hours for a single photographer and 2-3 with two photographers. This time is in addition to the time for detailed photos. 

  • Grooms Portrait at KS Star Casino in Mulvane, KS | J Renee Photography
  • Bride at Bourgmont Winery in Kansas City, MO | J Renee Photography
  • Bride at Bourgmont Winery in Kansas City, MO | J Renee Photography
  • Bridal Portrait at The Round Bard in Derby, KS | J Renee Photography
  • Groom Portrait at Bourgmont Winery, Kansas City, MO | J Renee Photography
  • Groom at Bourgmont Winery in Kansas City, MO | J Renee Photography
  • Bride Portrait | J Renee Photography

If you can only budget for one photographer consider staggering the getting ready times for the guys and the girls, and getting ready in the same location will help so there is no travel needed (for example the girls getting ready at the hotel and the guys getting ready at home). If it isn’t possible remember we can always stage photo’s later as well! The guys are way easier to stage portraits later as well!

First Look & Formals

Before the ceremony, you may want to do a first look or family portraits. For the first look, you will want to dedicate 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Not only will you need time for the pictures, but you will want a few minutes to enjoy each other before the hustle and bustle of the wedding day. If you choose to do formal family portraits before the ceremony, the timing will depend on how many people will be there.

If both sides have large families, then the formals can take up to 2 hours or longer. It will help list the family members you want to have portraits with and designate a person to help organize people during this time. This list will also help ensure your photographer doesn’t miss an important picture with someone you are close with. 

Plan for 1-2 hours for formals before the ceremony time to capture these before. The benefit of doing formals before the ceremony begins is not to chase down people in the excitement after the wedding. They can continue to the reception immediately following the service. Assume you include bridal Party portraits before the event; adjust this to 2-3 hours of coverage needed depending on the size of your bridal party. 

Ceremony

You made it to the ceremony! Congratulations! It’s time to get married and put the stress of the day behind you. Another pro tip I can offer is that it’s great to have two photographers, which gives you different angles of the ceremony and people during the service. More than one photographer will allow photos of the groom while you walk down the aisle, etc. I highly recommend having two photographers capture different views of this momentous event and plan 30 minutes to an hour or more for ceremony coverage, depending on how long your service is.

Wedding couple leaving the ceremony site on their way to the wedding reception. Receiving line is blowing bubbles
Guests blowing bubbles in the receiving line for the bride and groom after the wedding ceremony
Bride and Groom Portraits

Whew! Half the day over! As you are starting to see, this easily exceeds the 6 hours of coverage initially requested. Let’s continue and get the party started with reception coverage. 

After the service, your photographer will start with bride and groom portraits. These photos are great because the stress of the wedding day is over and you can both relax. These are the photos where your photographer will get creative. Plan on 30 minutes to an hour for these pictures. Take your time to make sure you get some great images of just the two of you for your album. 

Bride and Groom Portraits | Wedding Photography | J Renee Photography
Wedding Photography | Union Station STL | J Renee Photography

Reception Coverage

It’s crucial not to have your photographer or videographer leave before essential events during the reception. Your reception coverage will include the entrance, toasts, cake cutting, first dances, mother/father/dollar dances, games, garter toss, bouquet toss, and table shots. Your photographer and videographer will work with the DJ to make sure everything is covered. Reception coverage typically needs 3-4 hours. 

Bride and groom enjoying their reception together at the head table
Reception Dinner

Wow, what a day! Most brides and grooms do not realize how much coverage is needed during a wedding day. You will need between 10-12 hours of coverage for a typical wedding day to capture everything. A professional photographer will meet with you before the wedding to ensure everything you want is within your time. I hope this timeline will help you plan your wedding day more realistically! For more tips and tricks for your wedding day, make sure you follow my blog! Congratulations, you made it to the end!


Jennifer Graham | J Renee Photography

Hi, my name is Jennifer Graham, owner of J Renee Photography, and professional wedding & portrait photographer in Wichita, KS. I am an MS Warrior, a mom of two boys, and I love tacos. Doesn’t everyone? If not, they should! I have received several awards from expertise, the knot, wedding wire, wedding rule, & been published on the cover of Curated Quilts, in Voyage KC Magazine, and in ShutterUp Magazine in 2021.

My photography career began 20 years ago in film and I received my Bachelor’s in fine art in Photography in 2015. My style is very artistic and editorial, and I love to create something epic and bold! When I am not photographing weddings, you can find me at rock concerts, traveling to exotic places or looking for the best street tacos around.

I am a PPA Photographer and I offer Creative, Editorial and Modern Wedding Photography in Wichita, KS. If you’re getting married in Wichita or the surrounding metro areas, I’d love to be your photographer!

Whether you’re getting married in Wichita, Valley Center, Derby, Augusta or anywhere in this wonderful state, I’m excited to hear more about your wedding plans! Let’s connect!

Schedule a consultation below and I’ll tailor a custom wedding collection to your budget.

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