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Your Photo Timeline on Your Wedding Day

Planning your photo timeline for your wedding day is one of the most important things to ensure you get the photographs you want of your day. I always work with my brides & grooms to come up with this timeline. This actually will help you to plan your entire wedding timeline overall! Most of my brides & grooms do not have a wedding planner (although, having one is a great idea & I highly recommend Magadalyn Hasse of Bend Weddings and Events), so I help fill this role. I always give my clients a thorough questionnaire that helps us to create that photo timeline. Once they have worked through this questionnaire, then I meet with them, sit down, and go through everything to create the time needed for all the photographs. While this might seem like a daunting task, it’s really necessary and will help keep your big day flowing as smoothly as possible. Since I’m often asked how long is needed for certain photos, I decided to write up a blog post about it! Of course, this is just a guideline, as individual circumstances will vary greatly. But, this a great starting point to developing your photo timeline.

Getting Ready:

I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes for these photos, and 1 hour is ideal.  Most of the focus is on the bride, getting her hair & makeup done, and then of course slipping into her gown, and putting on her jewelry and shoes. I want to capture the mother-of-the-bride and her bridesmaids helping her and sharing in her joy. We also don’t want to forget about the groom and groomsmen, if time allows. This is often where a second photographer comes in handy. As the main photographer, I will be working with the bride and her bridal party and the second photographer will work with the groom and his groomsmen. I like to capture the guys hanging out and any getting ready routines that might be part of the day, such as putting on boutonnieres and suit jackets.

Brides getting their hair and makeup done on their wedding day

You spend a lot of money on hair and makeup for your big day, so it’s always nice to include a few photos to remember the process by.

Beautiful brides getting ready for their big day by slipping into their wedding gown, placing their veil and putting on their shoes.

Helping the bride into her gown, adjusting her veil and slipping on her shoes are all part of the getting ready photos.

Sweet moment of a mother helpoing her daughter into her wedding gown, or a best friend helping the bride slip on her high heels are what makes getting ready shots so important.

Tender moments between mother and daughter, sisters & friends help make your getting ready images so special.

A father helps a son place his boutonniere, while a best friend hangs with his buddy before the ceremony.

Grooms getting ready for their day too!

Bridal Portraits:

Formal bridal portraits are always something I recommend, as this is usually a portrait that mothers want of their daughters. We don’t need a lot of time for these, maybe 15-30 minutes, tops. I like to do these right after the bride gets ready and before she sees her groom.

These gorgous Oregon brides posing for their formal bridal portraits in the gowns with their bouquets.

Beautiful bridal portraits are always recommended!

First Look:

More and more couples are opting for the first look, and let me tell you, I love it and highly recommend this choice! Not only is it a special and intimate moment to capture, but in terms of your photo timeline, it really allows the most time for couples portraits without the stress of missing parts of your reception! I like to allow at least 1 hour for the first look and bride and groom formals, but this can be paired down to about 30-45 minutes if time is an issue. If you are a traditionalist, we can forgo the first look and move the formals after the ceremony. The best time to do this is during the cocktail hour. You will most likely miss this, but if you plan for it, then your cocktail hour is for your guests and you can still enjoy your reception.

A groom sees his beautiful bride for the first time during the first look. Such emotion!

The first look is such a special moment between the bride & groom!

Wedding Party Formals:

If you opt for the first look, then we can do both the bridesmaid and groomsmen formals together before the ceremony. I recommend at least 30 minutes for these, with 45 minutes being ideal. Of course, many of my couples are choosing to not have any bridesmaids or groomsmen, and instead want to have some nice photos with their good friends instead. This is the perfect time to do those! Whichever route you choose to go, it’s important to allow for this in your photo timeline. If you have a big wedding party, the second photographer really helps as well, so we can split groups and work quickly to get your photos captured, especially if you are not doing a first look at will be doing these during the cocktail hour as well.

Beautiful wedding party formals and images of the bride taken with her best friends are an important part of your wedding day photo timeline

Wedding party formals or just photographs with the people who are important to the bride or groom are a special part of the day!

Family Formals:

These photos can often take the most time, especially if you have a large family. I highly recommend a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour in your wedding photo timeline to ensure all family groups are accounted for. This is where a detailed list of family members and groupings is really important. I also like to have one family member help out to make sure we have all people who are to be photographed together and ready. We want to make sure Grandma and Aunt Cindy are not forgotten! Family formals can take place prior to the ceremony if you are doing a first look, or most often, these happen right after the ceremony during the cocktail hour. We can also split the time up, doing bride and her family and groom and his family prior to the ceremony, and then the combined families and extended family members after.

Beautiful family formal shots with the bride and groom with each set of parents.

Family formals with the bride and groom with their parents. So many other family combinations happen during these formals.


The length of time needed for this will be dependent on how long your ceremony is. I recommend you do a rehearsal a night or two before the wedding to make sure you stick to your timeline. This really helps to ensure you aren’t cutting into time allotted for formals after the ceremony. Most ceremonies are short, between 15-30 minutes, but if yours will be longer than average, we want to make sure to account for that time when planning the photo timeline.

Beautifully unique wedding ceremony photos of bride walking down the isle with her parents, a groom serenading his bride, the exchanging of rings and the first kiss. All part of your wedding photo timeline.

The wedding ceremony is as unique as you are!

Any Other Formals:

After the ceremony, we will capture any other formals that didn’t take place beforehand. Depending on how you choose to plan your day, will decide what formals we need to shoot. This may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. I will work with you to ensure we have the time needed for all the photos to document your day.


The important things to allow time for during your reception include toasts, cake cutting, first dance, dances with parents/family members, bouquet and garter tosses, and your exit. This is often very personal, so I will work with your to help determine how much time is needed based on what you are including and how much time you have to work with. But, as a guideline, toasts usually last 30 minutes or so, the cake cutting is only a few minutes, dances will be another 15-20 minutes, bouquet and garter tosses and the exit are about 5 minutes each. If your reception lasts longer than your wedding coverage, we can always do a mock exit, so that you have that captured to tell your wedding story!

The first dance is an important part of your wedding day so be sure to include some time to capture that on your photo timeline.

The first dance is just one of the many things photographed during your wedding reception, so don’t forget to allow some time for that!

Remember, this is just a guideline to get you thinking about your photo timeline. I will make sure to work with you to develop a timeline that is unique to your wedding day! Stay tuned for part 2, where I talk about photographing details and the time needed for that!


My name is Erica and I am a lifestyle wedding photographer based out of beautiful Bend, Oregon! If you are getting married in Central Oregon and looking for a wedding photographer I would love to chat with you. Drop me an email and let’s set up a time to meet.


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Sentimental , Free-Spirited , Natural