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Everything you need to know about Wedding Photography Timelines!

Veteran Asheville Wedding Photographer shares Everything you need to know about Planning your Wedding Day Photography Timeline like a pro.

Bridal party walks together at Cabin Ridge Wedding in Hendersonville, NC.

One aspect of the wedding planning process that every single couple who I’ve ever worked with has always had questions about is: the Wedding Day Photography Timeline! An important consideration when booking your photographer is: TIME & having enough of it….

About a month or two before each of my weddings, I schedule a phone call with my couples to chat about their wedding day. We chat about what their hopes are for their wedding photos, how they want to use the time that we have together that day and what their anxieties or concerns are regarding their wedding photography. Then I work out their Wedding Day Photography Timeline which outlines how the hours that we have together will be used on their wedding day. The timeline is meant to make certain that my couples and I are on the same page about what we’ll be shooting and when. On the wedding day, I use this timeline to walk me through their day, to be sure that I check all the important boxes!

Creating a wedding photography timeline is essential because it provides a clear view of how the day will unfold & how much time we’ll have to shoot each portion of the day.

How many hours do we need? When choosing which wedding collection (or how many hours) you would like to book with your photographer, you want start from reception end/send off time (or whenever you would like your photographers to leave) and work backwards from there. For example: If your sparkler exit is at 10pm and your ceremony is at 4pm, you’ll want to book a 7 or 8hr wedding collection so that you have at least 2hrs ahead of the ceremony for pre-ceremony photography.

When you’ve never done this before, trying to imagine how long it might take to photograph the various part of your wedding day might be a little intimidating. For instance, you might think that photographing you getting into your dress might take about 10-15 minutes when in reality, it takes at least 30 minutes to photograph that portion of the pre-wedding documentation of your day!

What actually happens is: Hair & makeup finishes up, the BM’s & MOB get dressed & then there’s a mad dash to tidy up the area for portraits of the bride getting dressed. Bride goes to the restroom before getting into her dress, she gets into the dress with help from MOB and/or BM’s & there’s the garter, shoes, jewelry and the veil to think about! Realistically, this process takes at least 30 minutes from start to finish in order to photograph it well. You probably wouldn’t know that or think about these small but important logistical details unless an experienced photographer told you how long it actually takes!

When you’ve been doing this for as long as I have, it’s like a well oiled machine over here! 😉 I have hundreds of sample wedding day timelines that I’ve produced over the years and will include a few sample timelines for 4, 6, 8 & 10hr weddings for your reference! 🙂 Of course, everyone’s day is different & people want to use hours differently but these sample timelines will give you a pretty good idea about how time is generally used during a wedding day!

Sample 4hr Wedding Day Timeline:

If you’re planning anything more than an elopement, you really need a minimum of 4hrs to document the event well. As you can see in the sample timeline below, for Adrienne & Yoly’s Wedding Day, they had 4hrs with me at Hidden River Events and what that meant was: there was just (less) of everything. You’ll notice, in the early part of the day, during the pre-ceremony photojournalistic documentation of the day, each of the bride’s had 30 minutes with me. In my opinion, this is the minimum amount of time needed to photograph the pre-ceremony preparations (you also have to consider the time it takes for the photographer to make their way from place to place, which means that each of them actually got 25 minutes with me pre-ceremony). When you only have 25 minutes to photograph details, getting dressed and candids, the reality is that everything is going to need to happen just perfectly and the vibe is going to be all business just out of necessity.

Sample 4hr Wedding Day Photography Timeline.

Sample 6hr Wedding Day Timeline:

I really enjoy a 6hr Wedding Day because it’s enough time for adequate coverage of the day, I stay super busy and my workday goes by in a flash! 😉 You’ll notice in Merry & Matt’s Wedding Day Timeline, that despite having 6hrs we still only had 30 minutes with each of them pre-ceremony. This is because during their Pre-Wedding Phone Consultation, Merry & Matt expressed their desire to spend more time on Newlywed Portraits & coverage of their Reception. Professionally, I prefer having two hours pre-ceremony (45min-1hr with the bride, 30-45 minutes with the groom (they always require far less time to photograph) + 30 minutes for details) but as you can see in this sample 6hr timeline, it can be done with 30 minutes for each + 30 minutes for details! Merry & Matt were married at Rumbling Bald Resort on Lake Lure in mid October.

Sample 8hr Wedding Day Timeline:

If you’re planning a more “traditional” wedding day as far as: you want ample pre-wedding documentation, details, ceremony, portraits + newlywed portraits & you want the reception, 8hrs is the ideal amount of time to tell your story! I love 8hr Wedding Days because it’s plenty of time, it never usually feels rushed or chaotic & the vibe is always super chill! 😉 Alyshia & Tyler had plenty of time to tell every part of the story on their Wedding Day including this 30 minute time block for their first look & private exchange of vows as seen below! Alyshia & Tyler were Married on the most perfect fall day at Cabin Ridge in mid October.

Below, you’ll see a sample 8hr timeline where an hour was given for documentation of the bride pre-ceremony + 30 minutes documentation for the groom pre-ceremony. Because the pre-ceremony location for the bride was about 20 minutes from the venue, it was nice to have a 2nd shooter meet the groom/groomsmen at the venue while we were on our way there to get that pre-ceremony documentation. Jaisa & Justin were married in early November at Crest Center.

Below, you’ll find a sample timeline that I sent out today, for an upcoming 8hr + 2 photographer Wedding at Country Club of Asheville in early May and I’m really excited about how the time is going to be used for this Wedding because it’s so nice not to feel rushed in the beginning part of the day!

Sample 10hr Wedding Day Timeline:

Heather & Ryan’s October Wedding at Champion Hills Country Club wasn’t really out of the ordinary at all as far as the blue print for their wedding day. We don’t typically shoot too many 10hr Wedding Days but when budget allows, it’s super nice to have that much time! The only real difference in how their time was used was: there was just ample time allotted to shoot each portion of the day which was so nice because it never, ever felt rushed or chaotic at all and having that extra time provided a buffer for any hiccups during the day (it rained cats and dogs that day and their ceremony had to be moved indoors at the last minute and shooting portraits was pretty tricky because of the rain but we managed because we had this extra time!) Ryan & Heather had a big, fun party with 200 guests and we got to document the entire thing including their sparkler exit (because we had ample time!). Heather & Ryan were married at Champion Hills Country Club in Hendersonville, NC in late October.

Other reasons you may consider 10hrs of coverage time: If you’re getting ready at a location that is 20+ minutes from the ceremony site or if the reception location is 20+ minutes from the ceremony site! OR If portraits are a top priority for you & you’re considering a two hour break between your ceremony and reception to shoot relaxed family, bridal party and newlywed portraits!

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