Wedding Photography Timeline | Wedding Tips

We’ve discovered that creating a photography timeline for a wedding is one of the most common questions a bride asks. It can be a challenge for a non-photographer to imagine how long certain parts might take. The worse thing you could do is underestimate how long something might take because so much on the wedding day is designed to follow a tight schedule since there are many guests involved.

Every photographer’s wedding timeline is different, because wedding photography is an art. Every artist has creative differences that impact how they handle certain shots during the day. What we’ve put together is a list that gives you an idea of how long various parts of a wedding might take so that from this you could customize it to your needs.

Hopefully this is helpful.

Outer Banks Wedding Photography


(A minimum of 25 minutes.)
– The Dress.
– Shoes.
– The Rings.
– Bouquet.
– Other Jewelry.
– The ceremony area before guests arrive (and after decorations are finished).
Tip: we might be able to get this done in 20 minutes if he or she doesn’t have to wander around looking for everything. Have someone collect everything and have it ready.

Getting Ready (Girls)

(15 minutes if staged, but normally the duration of the makeup process. 45 minutes)
– Makeup shots.
– Bridesmaids getting ready.
Tip: most brides only want the makeup shots that are when the final touches are being put on. If you want the same then make sure you share that with us.
Tip: check with your makeup artist ahead of time of how long this will take. Many brides have gotten off schedule because getting ready took much longer than they expected.

Getting Ready (Guys)

(A minimum of 25 minutes)
Outer Banks Wedding Photography– The guys getting dressed.
– The guys getting their boutonnieres on.

The Boys

(A minimum of 20 minutes)
– A few shots of the groom and his guys.

The Dress

(A minimum of 25 minutes)
– Sliding into your dress.
Outer Banks Wedding Photography– Putting on your garter, veil, and other special items.
– Mom and dad seeing you in your dress for the first time.
Tip: because Sarah and I (Terry) are a husband and wife team we usually split most of these early moments so that we can get better pictures and not miss something important. We also save a lot of time not going from one thing to the next, which is one of the biggest time wasters.
Tip: usually Sarah will be with the bride and bridesmaids during the Getting Ready (Girls) and The Dress portions while I’m getting the Details, Getting Ready (Guys), and The Boys. Providing everything goes according to plan, we usually get done close to the same time, ready to being the next portion.

Bridal Portraits w/ Bridesmaids Shots

(A minimum of 25 minutes)
– Shots of just the bride and her bouquet.
– Shots of the bride, her bridesmaids, and everyone’s bouquets.

Pre-Wedding Formals

(Only 10 minutes if Sarah and I split up)
– Mom and bride
– Dad and bride
– Mom and groom
– Dad and groom
Tip: at this point you are usually getting close to your guest arriving. Some brides prefer to not be seen by anyone until the ceremony.

First Look

(20 minutes)
– A chance for the Bride and Groom to see each other before the ceremony.
Tip:  this is a very common thing in modern weddings that allows the bride and groom an intimate time together before the ceremony to first see each other.  Choose a secluded place where it can be just the two of you and our cameras.
Tip: this is a great time for the bride and groom to exchange gifts that they have hand selected for each other.

Marriage License Signing

(20 minutes if the Bride and Groom desire to not see each other)


(We recommend 15 to 30 minutes)
Tip: this is a period of nothing scheduled, which also allows us to leave ahead of you and make technical adjusts in preparation for the ceremony.

Outer Banks Wedding PhotographyThe Ceremony

(This duration is something you tell us. But it is always best to over estimate rather than under estimate.)
Tip: Rose pedals on the walkway make for one of the most visually stunning pictures.


(15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the group and the number of different groupings)
Tip: if your reception is at another location do your formals at the ceremony location before everyone starts leaving. It’s a huge time waster trying to get everyone back together at another location, unless your group is small.
Tip: get everyone together immediately following the ceremony. Fetching and finding people as they are needed for pictures never works. Everyone will get to talk to the guests at the reception.


(This timing and duration, and even content, are greatly flexible and vary from wedding to wedding)
– Travel to the reception (if at a different location).
– Reception detail photography (15 minutes).
– Announcing the wedding party.
– Everyone eating.
Tip: make sure the MC knows to check with us before beginning to announce you and the wedding party.– Toasts and speeches.
Outer Banks Wedding PhotographyTip: people eating isn’t flattering to anyone so we usually grab a bite to eat at the same time the Bride and Groom are eating so we can be free to take pictures once the Bride and Groom are done eating.

Newlywed’s Shoot

(A minimum of 60 minutes)
– Please, no less than one hour! And more time is needed if we’re traveling to another location.
Tip: we have found that our brides have always treasured these pictures the most so it isimportant to have the perfect lighting and to take it slow so it’s fun!
Tip: look up online when sunset is for your wedding date. If you’re going to devote an hour to your Newlywed’s Shoot then try to make sure the photo session starts one hour before sunset.

Outer Banks Wedding Photography

Reception Continued

(A minimum of 60 minutes)
– First dance.
– Cutting of the cake.
– More dancing.
– Garter and bouquet toss.

From our experience, 6 to 8 hours, with Sarah and I both there, covers a wedding perfectly.

A possible timing for an 8 hour wedding might include two and a half hours before the ceremony, a forty-five minute ceremony, a few minutes to get ready for formals then the session, 15 minutes to travel to the reception, one hour for newlywed’s pictures, and 30 minutes for eating, which leaves roughly two hours for the rest of the reception.

For more wedding tips like this visit our Wedding Tips Section.

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