Wedding Day Timeline

Your wedding day timeline - how important is it?

When I talk about a wedding day timeline, it's from an entirely photographic point of view. Or is it?

At it's core, my goal is to make sure that my bride and groom take home a beautiful, and truly wonderful, set of wedding pictures.  That's the entirely singular reason that they hired me, for a beautiful wedding photograph collection, and a stunning wedding album. In order to achieve that, there of course has to be a decent amount of time allocated to the task. Enter the timeline.

Deviating slightly, some people discuss with me the option of photojournalism in their wedding photography, it seems to be the buzz word at the moment. It's explained to them that to truly photograph their wedding in a photojournalistic manner, I would not be interacting with them. A fly on the wall viewpoint so to speak. It's then that I point out that they will definitely not simply fall into 200 great poses during the course of their wedding day.

Coming back to the wedding day timeline, if I am in control of the photography, I'll create those poses needed for a gorgeous set of wedding pictures, I'll make sure that many look natural, and I'll still get those desired candid, photojournalist type images. All bases are covered.


Large bridal party photograph in Franklin, Michigan. Photographer: Hugh Anderson Photography

Wedding day timeline guidance.

It's all in the planning. Photojournalism would simply be taking photographs all day, recording whatever unfolds. That's not what I do, I need to be able to create a timeline that will maximize our goals, and to do that, I need a level of control. I should point out, it has absolutely nothing to do with needing to be in control. I promise, I am not a control freak.

It's about good guidance, guiding my clients down a path that's best for them. My couples are often a little overwhelmed with things, after all they are planning a wedding, and they usually haven't planned a wedding before. It's a monumental task, one of the most stressful things they will encounter in their lives. So many things to deal with, so many family members on the "Do Not Upset" list.

First Look?

During my consultations, there is a key question, always asked early in the meeting. Will you be doing a First Look? A First Look is when the bride and groom see each other, privately, before the actual wedding. It's popular, and I have to be honest and say, I have swayed many a bride and groom into doing one, when it was not what they initially intended. We're back to that "guiding my clients..."

In a nutshell, if a bride and groom don't see each other before their ceremony, they will have a very limited amount of time for photography, in most cases. The guests don't want to spend hours between the ceremony end and the start of the reception - so whatever amount of time that is, often the length of a cocktail hour, is all the photography that's available. Remember that list of family photos? That will eat up at least half of that hour.

Having a First Look alleviates all of the time constraints, and removes the stress of a time crunch. You can plan however long you want for your wedding photography. But that's not the only benefit, there are at least six reasons to do a First Look in my opinion. Probably more.

A wedding day is not the time to wing it.

Weddings are a bustling, jam packed day, with lots to do, and many different situations to consider. It's probably the biggest event you will ever put together. So it really is critical to have a wedding timeline, a schedule of how the day should, and hopefully will, unfold.

At Hugh Anderson Photography, I always include this in my services. My wedding photography experience has helped me to know what is likely to go smooth, and what might cause delays. It's valuable knowledge to my brides, and as mentioned earlier, it helps remove a lot of stress from the day.

Yet, when I mentioned a timeline to a photographer friend not too long ago, I was stunned to hear them tell me that they just turn up at the agreed time, and shoot. Well, if you have booked a photographer for 8 hours, and you ask them to arrive in

Wedding day timeline image. Hugh Anderson Photography.time for the ceremony at 2pm, then they will be shooting until 10pm. Right? It may be logical, but it leaves out an awful lot of important stuff. Let me elaborate.

I fact is have always worked out a wedding timeline with my clients, for every single wedding I have ever covered, and for every one I will cover. Why? Because if the bride intends to have a moment with her father right after getting dressed, I don’t want to miss it.

When the bride puts on that antique necklace that belonged to her grandmother - that’s right, it’s a not to be missed moment. If I don’t have a timeline, then I will be winging it. Important details and events will be unknown. In my book, that’s irresponsible, and definitely not in my clients best interest. In fact, not planning out the day is just plain lazy.

The flow of the day.

Consider another crucial point - the bride and groom have absolutely no idea how a wedding day flows, what challenges to expect, what is likely to hold things up, how long it takes to cover the formal images, how long the romantic images will take, how the size of the bridal party impacts timeline planning, when the best time to cut the cake is, etc, etc, etc. But of course with many, many weddings under my belt, I do. Surely, it is my responsibility to help my clients, to pass on valuable experience to them, to make sure that things go as smoothly as possible on their very special day.

It's not unusual for a couple to be surprised when I say that they should allow 2-3 hours for their photography. But seriously, the time flies by. Moving to a couple of locations eats into that allocation more than you might imagine. You know that saying "time flies when you are having fun", well, having fun while capturing your wedding photographs is extremely high on the goals list.  It should be an awesome experience.

Again, it's more reasons to compile a wedding day timeline.

Remember The Family Photos

Family photographs are also important, and that too should be scheduled.  If the mother of the bride doesn't get that shot with her parents, there will be unhappiness to come, with the photographer at the sharp end of things. Again, winging it is simply unacceptable. There needs to be a family shot list in hand before the day even begins.

As well as making sure that all of the important shots are covered on the big day, there are other variables to take into account. Will the officiant be accommodating or a little more strict? Will the hair and make up girls get the bride and bridesmaids ready in time? If they are late, the whole day will now be running behind, and believe me, this is a major source of delay.

Often, someone will ask for something to be redone, or tweaked in some way, and that introduces delays. A good photographer will account for this in the wedding day timeline. It's better to be ready 15 minutes early and have some time to chill, or enjoy time with friends, than be running 15 minutes late. Especially on a wedding day.

Covering the timeline during the consultation.

The question might be asked, "why on earth do we have to talk about my wedding day timeline during the consultation, often a year before the event?"

The obvious answer to that would be, to work out how much coverage you will need. It might be an eight hour wedding, then again it could go on for twelve hours. Chatting about it in the consultation results in a bride and groom heading off with a much clearer vision of their day.  It really can be an eye opener, and at the bare minimum, extremely useful information.

Guided by what a bride imagines will take place, I will work out the likely best time to start the day, and explain how things are likely to flow. Then, the details will be finessed, usually around a month before the event date. On the wedding day, I will have the information constantly in hand, keeping things moving along as they should. It's like having an extra helper on hand.

It's at this point that everyone you have hired should simply do what they are there to do, without a bride having to give it a second thought, without  feeling any stress. The bride and groom have one job on the day - have a magical wedding. Enjoy the most spectacular day of their lives, and create memories. There is so much going on, and the day will be a blur when looked back upon. Every second should be enjoyed, not spend wondering what's due to happen next. Leave that to the photographer, who will be in attendance all day long.

The Wedding Planner

Of course some couples have a wedding planner, and that will certainly remove a lot of wedding day stress. But here’s the thing, the time that I allowDetroit wedding photographer Hugh Anderson. Photo of bridal party at The Dearborn Inn. for certain images, and the time another photographer allows will be completely different, and we can’t expect the wedding planner to know the routine of others.  By the way, I love wedding planners!

If I intend to spend an hour photographing beautiful, romantic bride and groom pictures, and the wedding planner allocates 20 minutes, I have a problem. If that scenario applies to several segments of the day, it will hugely impact what can be ultimately produced in the final product. So the sharing of information becomes critical.

A wedding day timeline allows me to work out with a client exactly how they want their day to flow. Almost always, when discussing the details, things will change based on the information and experience that I provide to them. If I have a formal list from one bride comprising of 8 images, and another bride has a list of 20 images with many large groups, the time required will obviously be different.

Time With Your Photographer.

The bride and groom will often spend more time with their photographer than they will with each other on the wedding day, at least that’s how it is in my business where the average day is 10-12 hours. So who better to help create an accurate wedding day timeline than the person attending weddings week after week, and bringing tons of experience to the table?

A bride should be able to trust their photographer to help immensely in putting together a detailed wedding day timeline, and, as mentioned earlier, it is best to have it all ironed out at least a month before the wedding day. A photographer who doesn't do this, isn't focused on maximizing results for their client. I cannot see any reason to avoid this preparation.

I may be a photographer, and not a wedding planner, but I am also morally bound to make sure that I do everything possible to ensure that my clients have a smooth and glitch free wedding day. The wedding timeline is the blueprint for that, and better still, it's a free service.


Hugh Anderson