If we haven't met yet, I'm Ivy! I'm a wedding and senior photographer based in East Tennessee. I hope you'll relax, grab a cup of coffee (or a baja blast), and enjoy seeing my latest work, as well as getting an inside look at my life!

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February 12, 2022

Plan a Photo-Friendly Wedding | Timeline Suggestions

It’s no secret that wedding photos are invaluable. Once the day is over, they’re all you have left to remember it by. But how can you ensure you get the wedding photos of your dreams? Start by creating a photo-friendly wedding timeline. Ideally, your photographer should help you plan a timeline for the day. I like to start by sending my couples a sample timeline based on how many hours of coverage they have purchased. This gives them a basic idea of how much time I need for each set of photos we’ll capture at their wedding. Then, we work together to customize it to their unique needs. (P.S. You can find details on the IBP wedding experience here).

While I offer a few different collections, my most popular collection includes 8 hours of coverage. So I have decided that I am going to share my 8-hour photo-friendly wedding timeline with you! Keep in mind that not every photographer follows the same structure, and every wedding day is unique. Your timeline may differ from this, and that’s okay! The primary key here is communicating with your photographer ahead of time to plan the photo aspect of your big day.

photo-friendly wedding timeline - detail photo of a wedding invitation suite with white, gold, and greenery, rings, and shoes

Bridal Details

Ideal Time: 30-45 Minutes

I love beginning every wedding day with bridal details. My bride has her dress, shoes, jewelry, rings, and the invitation suite together in one spot when I arrive. I find an ideal location with enough space and great natural light, and then I begin photographing the details! It’s fitting to start here because, in my mind, the details are the first page of the wedding day’s story. The invitation suite sets the tone – it’s the first thing guests receive that tells them about the wedding. Photographing the dress, shoes, and jewelry alone honors the thoughtfulness my bride has put into every single detail of her appearance. These images also help us feel the anticipation of the moments leading up to each of these individual elements coming together! I request approximately 30-45 minutes for this part of the day so I can style and shoot each piece.

photo-friendly wedding timeline | bride getting into her dress
photo-friendly wedding timeline | champagne pop photo of bride and bridemaids. bride is wearing white pjs, maids of honor are wearing terracotta pjs, and bridesmaids in navy pjs.

Bride & Groom Prep

Ideal Time: 30 Minutes

The final touches to your hair and makeup. Popping open some champagne in those cute matching pj’s you bought for all your girls. Your mom or bridesmaids helping you button your dress. Now’s the time for those photos to happen! The end of the getting-ready process is typically the best time for photographs because you don’t have your makeup half-done or your hair pinned up all crazy (just keeping it real). I like to have at least 30 minutes to capture this part of the day. If you are doing a first look with a parent or your bridesmaids, I recommend allotting at least 5 extra minutes per first look so we have time to gather everyone!

While I photograph the girls’ preparations, my second shooter photographs the guys! Their photos include tying ties, pinning on boutonnieres, and hanging out in the groom’s suite.

photo-friendly wedding timeline | black and white first look photo at riverbend farms
photo-friendly wedding timeline | bride and groom portrait outside of whitestone chapel

First Look & Couple Portraits

Ideal Time: 30-45 Minutes

Aside from the sweet & emotional moment that a first look creates… it is also helpful for a photo-friendly wedding timeline. When you do a first look, you are able to get the majority of your photos done before your ceremony happens! This allows you to get to your reception sooner & enjoy the rest of your wedding day. After my couple spends some quiet moments together for their first look, we can begin their portraits.

wedding party in pastel greens and greys, spring wedding

Wedding Party Portraits

Ideal Time: 45 Minutes

Since our couple has already seen one another, we can do ALL the wedding party photos before the ceremony. I start with the entire group, then photograph just the bride & bridesmaids and just groom & groomsmen. During this time, I also take individual portraits of the bride with each of her bridesmaids and groom with each of his groomsmen. After all the group shots are done, I get solo bridal portraits & solo groom portraits as well.

reception details, barn reception with orange, white, and red floral centerpieces in mason jars

Ceremony & Reception Details

Wedding Party in Hiding!

Ideal Time: 30-45 Minutes

If your ceremony and reception are at the same venue, I’ll be able to use this time to photograph your ceremony and reception setups before guests arrive. If they are at different venues, I will need some time during cocktail hour to photograph your reception area! You put a lot of work into all your decor; you deserve great photos of it!

mountain ceremony at riverbend farms

Ceremony Time

Average Time: ~30 Minutes

Most ceremonies are 30 minutes or less! If your ceremony will be longer than 30 minutes, we’ll adjust the post-ceremony schedule.

photo-friendly wedding timeline | family photo after wedding ceremony

Family Formals

Ideal Time: 30 Minutes

The longer your family photo list, the more time we’ll need. I send all my couples a questionnaire in advance to help us plan for family formals. I bring their list with me to the wedding day, and my second shooter helps organize the groups so we can move efficiently.

IF YOU DO NOT DO A FIRST LOOK, you will need an additional 30-45 minutes after family formals to capture your full wedding party & your newlywed couple photos!

couples portraits after wedding ceremony

“Just Married” Portraits

Ideal Time: 15 Minutes

I like to spend just a few minutes right after the ceremony to capture that “just married” feeling in your portraits! If this time falls during golden hour, that’s even better. If not… we may also discuss the option of pulling you out from your reception for 10ish minutes during sunset for some golden hour portraits! Completely up to you, of course. Buuuut it is typically the best light of the day. Have I convinced you yet?

photo-friendly wedding timeline | bride and groom first dance, black & white photo in a barn

Get the Party Started!

The rest of the night, I’m capturing your party! Dances, cake cutting, toasts, all the works! My timeline is not as strict at this point. But make sure that if you want your exit photographed, you’ve planned the time in accordance with your photography coverage. You can either do a traditional exit or a controlled exit. I’ll make another post sometime explaining both options.

photo-friendly wedding timeline | sparkler exit

Buffer Time

Although I have listed ideal times for photographing each part of the wedding day, I know from experience that things don’t always go the way you plan. Vendors or bridal party or family members start to run behind. Things happen. So I like to add at least 10 minutes of buffer time between each event to make sure if things start to run behind schedule, we’ll still be able to accomplish what we need to! If I don’t add buffer time in between, then I give myself more time for ceremony details or couples portraits than I usually need so that I can use it as make-up time if needed. If I don’t need it, then we just run ahead of schedule… which is a GREAT scenario!

And there you have it! My actual 8-hour wedding day sample timeline that I build off of when I plan with my clients! I hope this gives you an idea of what all a photographer needs to accomplish on your wedding day. We are legitimately with you more on your wedding day than your future spouse. It’s kinda crazy. Hopefully, this gives you a starting point for a photo-friendly wedding timeline that brings results you’ll LOVE. I know it has done that for me and my couples.

P.S. Stay tuned for more photo-friendly wedding tips. There is SO much more where this came from. Let me know if you’d like to see this turn into a series!

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