HELLO MY ENGAGED COUPLES! There are countless ways to arrange your timeline and I am here to help. I've shot 150+ weddings over the last 5 years, so I am well-versed in how long things take and the simplest and easiest ways to set up the day. In general, please allow 45 minutes for couples portraits/first look (usually broken up into 2 sessions, 30 minutes for wedding party, 30 minutes for family portraits.
Why I recommend a first look: Every photographer ever would recommend a first look but I do not require one. They're super helpful mostly for logistics sake: if we don't do a first look, you will absolutely miss an hour or more of cocktail hour / your reception so we can get all your formal portraits in. I want you guys to enjoy your party!!!! Also, my couples always say they felt soooo much better and all their nerves went away once they just got to spend some time together before the ceremony. I've never had a couple regret doing a first look but I have had them regret not doing one. Highly highly recommend! But ultimately, if you don't want to do it, thats totally okay. As long as you're open to doing those portraits during your cocktail hour, we can make it all happen.
*note - please note your sunset time! For example, if your ceremony is at 5pm but sunset is at 6pm (like in late fall or winter weddings), I really insist on a first look. If we run out of natural light before we are done with your portraits, that's a huge problem! Then we have to do them inside and set up flash and honestly that's not very pretty or interesting visually at all.
Couples Portraits: I like to allow 45 minutes for couples portraits, usually broken up into two sessions. I typically allow 20-30 minutes for first look, and then I like to do a second set either during cocktail hour or sunset. That second set is always so much more relaxed and laid back and such a different energy, it’s so worth it to do a second set when you’re nerves have faded and you’re full of those just married vibes! I never keep my couples away from their party long, so the second set is shorter (unless you’re not doing a first look).
Wedding Party: If you have a large wedding party (more than 8 on each side), allow 45 minutes for this. If you aren’t doing a first look, we will do each side separately before the ceremony and then the whole group together after the ceremony.
Family portraits: I really recommend only including immediate family during this time (grandparents, parents, siblings) because of how long it takes when you start including extended family. There are other ways to get pictures with the extended family, like visiting tables during the reception or doing a receiving line (and at any time we can pause for a group photo). This is usually my couples least favorite part of the day, so I do recommend keeping it to the immediate family essentials. If you want to include more, that’s okay! If your combo list is longer than 25 combos, I recommend allowing 45 minutes for this portion of the day.
In general, I suggest doing family portraits before the ceremony, because family is pretty hard to gather together after the ceremony. They are distracted visiting and mingling with friends and family, which is totally understandable! I’ve just found it takes longer when we do it after the ceremony because we are often spending a long time hunting people down to have wandered off.
*A note on family portraits: I do not recommend breaking up family portraits into two chunks (example... some of the family portraits before the ceremony then adding new combos in after). This honestly ends up taking twice as long! It takes me just a few seconds to add one or a few people into a family portrait, whereas it takes twice as long or more to re-do that portrait later in the day just to add in one person or something. This is kind of a weird one to explain, so here's an example: if you aren't doing a first look, you do your family portraits with your family before the ceremony. Then after the ceremony, we do the SAME combos, just adding in your significant other. This ends up taking twice as long because it would only take me one second to add in the significant other when the portrait is already set up. So, in a no-first look scenario, I highly recommend getting all the family portraits done in one chunk after the ceremony to make the best use of time! I also don't recommend doing two different chunks (like immediate family before then extended after) for the same reason, all of the immediate family will also be in those extended family combos, so it really wastes a lot of time trying to gather everyone together twice. I just want to maximize your time enjoying your party and one way I do this is by doing all the family photos in one session.
Here are a few examples of timelines!!! I'm using a 5pm ceremony as the example, so adjust accordingly. These timelines also are assuming everything is happening at the same place, so if there's any travel time between getting ready locations / portrait locations / hotels / etc. that also needs to be added in!
Also, this timeline is an example of an 8-hour coverage day, which is pretty typical for me. If it looks like you will want/need 9 hours or more, you can always add more hours at any time!
option 1: all portraits done before ceremony
1:30 - photographer arrival for getting-ready
2:30 - done with hair+makeup and ready to get into dress
3 - first look + couples portraits
3:30-4 - wedding party portraits
4-4:30 - family portraits
4:30 - done with portraits
5:30 - cocktail hour, license signing, additional couples portraits
9:30/9:45/10-ish - photographer departure
* Personally I think this timeline option is the simplest and most straight forward!
option 2: family after ceremony
2 - photographer arrival for getting-ready
3:00 - done with hair+makeup and ready to get into dress
3:30 - first look + couples portraits
4-4:30 - wedding party portraits
4:30 - done with portraits
5:30 - family portraits, a few more minutes of couples portraits
10/10:15pm - photographer departure
* I don't always recommend doing family portraits after the ceremony, honestly just because it's often really hard to get families attention after the ceremony. Inevitably family members wander off into cocktail hour or get distracted chatting with friends and family. But some couples don't want to have their family get there early and that's okay! Or sometimes this is a good option to save a bit of time in the beginning of the day.
option 3: no first look
2:30 - photographer arrival
2:30-4 - getting ready
4 - wedding party portraits - side 1
4:15 - wedding party portraits - side 2
4:30 - done with portraits
5pm - ceremony
5:30-6:30 - family portraits, couples portraits
10:30pm - photographer departure
*Another option here is to have me arrive earlier, to have both parties ready earlier so you can be done with wedding party portraits with more time to relax before the ceremony. It all depends how long your reception is going for or how many hours you have booked!
* also, in case this wasn't clear, if you aren't doing a first look, I recommend having both sides ready an hour+ before the ceremony so we can get through the individual wedding party portraits before! And I will of course make sure each side is hidden when the other side is out shooting. It just helps us save time so I can get you to your party faster. :)
These are all vendors I have personally worked with OR my close photographer friends have worked with. A group of local photographers and I (all who I trust deeply!) have pooled together our favorite vendors so we can give our couples a more comprehensive referral list (I always put the ones I have personally worked with at the top of the list). I hope this helps as you're looking around and planning!
Joy of Bloom Florals
Fox & Flora
The Floral Craft
My Sun & Stars Co.
Plan Prep Party
Luna Wild Design Co.
Weddings by Lisa Nicole
Creative Affairs Inc.
CC Vintage Rentals
Crown Rentals SD
Farm Tables and More
Circa Vintage Rentals
HAIR + MAKEUP
Beauty by Aubree & Co.
Love P Beauty
Letterpress + Paper Design: Invitation Only Design
Event Design + Installation / Decor: Kindred and Copper