Wedding Schedule Planning: How Much Time Do You Need?

While each wedding day is unique, most days will include a very similar order of events from beginning to end. Your schedule will slowly come together as you plan each piece of the day. I like to give my couples an idea of how much time I'd ideally like to have for certain parts of the day so that you can reference this throughout the remainder of your planning. Whether you give me the time I request or not is up to you- but most of my couples find photography to be one of their most important investments and are happy to know what I need to do my best work! I hope this little breakdown helps!

Bride Getting Ready: Minimum of 1 hour

Nearly all of my couples begin their photography coverage before the bride has gotten dressed, and that is definitely my recommendation. This is one of my favorite pieces of the day; we get to hang out for a bit before things get really busy, while all of the excitement is in the air and the day is just getting going. I will find a lovely spot to photograph your shoes, jewelry, veil, dress, and other details while you sip on a mimosa and put the finishing touches on your bridal style.

  • Something to consider: Take note of how long it takes to get into your dress. This is a good thing to figure out on your final fitting, where you should have someone present who will help you on the wedding day. Some wedding gowns are simple and take only a few minutes to put on, while others take a little longer. If your gown requires a good amount of buttoning or lacing, you definitely want to account for that when you decide when to start the clock on your photography.

Bridal Boudoir: 15-20 Minutes

There are a few reasons to set aside a handful of your prep time for just you, me, and the dress. Beyond the lovely images we'll create for your groom to enjoy and cherish later on, I really love when my brides have this time to breathe and relax. It truly does benefit the bride to get a few moments of quiet, reflective time by herself before she slips into the gown and heads off to meet her groom. Wedding mornings are usually a flurry of activity, chatter, nervous energy, and background noise- and it's a good idea to give yourself a short break from all of it! No matter how much you love all the women bustling about in the room next door!

I like to set aside 10 minutes for a bridal boudoir session, preferably just before you get dressed. This is an awesome chance to show off the pretty things you'll be wearing beneath the gown, in a collection of shots that will not be included in the public online gallery. I always share these images privately and separately, with a password or even confined to your USB. We'll want to have your gown, dressing robe, jewelry, shoes, garter, and veil to play with in a room with some lovely window light and enough privacy. We can also work together to make sure the groom doesn't know this is happening, if you'd like to surprise him later!

Don't let the word boudoir scare you. This session can be done modestly, too, and doesn't need to be racy or revealing!

Groom Getting Ready: 20-30 Minutes

the groom is a hero Capturing the guys preparing for the day is not usually quite as intense and detail-oriented as it is with the girls, so it's rarely necessary to have as much time as I request with the bride. Now, keep in mind that if you have a second shooter and are starting your day in relatively close locations (the same house or hotel, or a quick drive away) it may be possible to have your second shooter capture the men-folk while I hang out with the bridal posse. If I am capturing both of you, however, I can keep it quick in the interest of using your time wisely.
  • Something to consider: The guys often get dressed pretty darn fast, and then we're left standing around awkwardly in a bare hotel room watching TV or cracking wise. You may want to consider giving the groom some VIP paparazzi time once he's all done, and head to a nearby lobby, atrium, or quiet outdoor spot for some quick and easy portraits if time allows. An added bonus is that he gets an excuse to leave the boys behind for a few minutes and clear his head before the day moves on.

First Look: 10-20 Minutes

cute groom sees his bride for the first time There are a few different first looks we can account for on your wedding day, so keep these in mind! The first and foremost would be the bride and groom, of course. If you're having your ceremony later in the day or just want to get the nerves taken care of before you've got an audience, then this is a great way to start your wedding celebration just the two of you or among an intimate group of VIP's. This is usually captured in the same general vicinity as your getting ready location. I like to allow about 15 minutes to orchestrate your intimate first meeting of the day so that there's enough time for me to back off and let you enjoy one another's company for a little while before we move on to more portraits. Sometimes, Mom or Dad or someone else special would like to have a special moment to see the bride all dressed up, too! In those cases, we can go a little shorter on time.  

Pre-Ceremony: 30 Minutes


Whether we've done a first look or arrived straight from the hotel, I really like to be sure my bride and groom have 30 minutes prior to the ceremony. This is time to decompress, touch up make-up, and go over any last-minute prep for the big event. I find that my brides often wish to be out of the view of arriving guests, while grooms enjoy greeting family and friends as they arrive and take their seats. This time allows me to photograph the details at the ceremony site, capture some candids, greet and chat with your officiant, and coordinate with my second shooter to be sure we know where the best spots are for the processional. So please allow me at least 30 minutes of time prior to the processional; you'll be glad you did! 🙂

Receiving Line: 20-45 Minutes

Now, this is more for you than for me... I do not photograph your ENTIRE receiving line, and I often use the time to prepare for group portraits that will follow this portion of the day. However, I would like to address the need for adequate time for a receiving line. If you are planning one, please take note that they often eat up a little more time than anticipated. The amount of time you need will depend on the style of receiving line you're opting for as well as how many guests will be in attendance. For example, it is often faster to dismiss your guests from their seats rather than guide them through a line with the entire bride and groom's family members. Obviously, a receiving line will take a while longer if you have 300 people at your ceremony than it will if there are 40. 🙂 Receiving lines can be a wonderful way to touch base with everyone who came to your wedding, so I do not discourage them- but I do urge you to plan accordingly and make sure you have enough time to enjoy it without worrying that you're running into other important time slots.

Formal Family Portraits: 30-45 Minutes

family portraits at a wedding

I don't believe that family portraits should drone on endlessly; I like them to be quick, casual, and painless! You can find more detailed guidance about your family formal portraits in this article here, but for now I will simply request that you set aside 30-45 minutes for your family group portraits. If you're keeping it simple, with only your immediate families and grandparents, then 30 will be just fine and will allow us some time for unexpected delays or last-minute additions. If you have large families and extensive extended family group requests, we should set aside 45 minutes and be very prepared to be quick and efficient!

Wedding Party Portraits: 30 Minutes

how much time do I need for wedding party pictures

You probably already know my philosophy on wedding party portraits, since I usually touch on this during our first meeting. But let's go over it again! I personally believe that your wedding party are not there with you to drudge through hours of grueling, Pinterest-inspired group shots. They're there to support you, enjoy your important celebration, and ENJOY THE PARTY! Whether this means an early dismissal to cocktail hour or the freedom to lounge on the Memorial Union Terrace with a pitcher of local beer, I mean to make this happen for them. AND, for you: it's my goal to get the two of you newlyweds as alone as I can get you, and give you room to enjoy one another's company while we create some awesome portraits. So what do we do with the wedding party?

I like wedding party group photos to be simple, classic, and efficient. I only require 30 minutes with your crew, which gives us plenty of time to get a few variations of group shots as well as all the girls together, all the guys together, and an individual portrait of each VIP with their appropriate best buddy. I love for each bridesmaid to get a shot with JUST the bride, and each groomsman with the groom. And of course, any other combos that make sense- for instance, the bride and her brother if he's standing up for his new "bro-law" (as my sister affectionately calls my hubby!).

Milwaukee wedding photographers

These shots can go pretty quickly, and then we can let the group loose to have some fun. If you have a couple of locations and would like both group and bride/groom portraits in each, that's easy- 15 minutes in each spot and we'll send them back to the limo to refresh their champagne and throw on a playlist.

Bride & Groom Portraits: Minimum of 1 Hour

UW Memorial Union wedding pictures

Okay, kids, this is probably one of the moments you're most looking forward to during your photography experience. Right?? So, I like to go big on these. Trust me, this is not just for my benefit- you will really appreciate having a good chunk of your photo schedule devoted to just the two of you. I highly encourage my couples to give me at least one hour throughout the day's festivities, with at least a 30-45 minute stretch at one time. Why?

This is not JUST your wedding portraits. This is the closest you are going to get to "alone time" until you stumble, exhausted and overjoyed, into your honeymoon suite. There are so many people who are so excited to see you on this day! But really, who's the one you want to enjoy the day with most? Your brand new husband or wife! So don't skimp on this. Don't force us to rush out of a parked car for twelve minutes before we have to hop back into rush hour traffic on a Friday evening or Badger game standstills in October. You will NOT enjoy that.

Give yourself enough time to stroll casually, to stop and take in the view, to reminisce in a meaningful location that brings back memories of the days that led to this one. Ideally, you'll give me that one hour total... If you're really digging this idea of a mini date, give me even more time. Because you're really giving that time to yourselves. I won't push you from spot to spot in a flurry of one beeeellion poses. I want you to relax, breathe, stand still, hold one another's hands, and realize to the FULL that it is your one and only wedding day.

Cocktail Hour: as Much as Possible!


If at all possible, I would really love to hit up at least half of your cocktail hour. And no, it's not because I'm sick of you and dying for a Jaeger bomb. Promise.

Cocktail hour is part of the fun of your day, and I don't want you to miss it- especially if you did not opt for a receiving line. This is your time to mingle with your guests! Arriving on time for your cocktails gives you a few minutes to freshen up and bustle the wedding dress. Also, it typically allows me to get into your dinner area and photograph the tablescapes, cake, guest book, and other details you've put together before the wedding guests storm the castle and plop down their purses, jackets, and baby carriers. In addition, I get to capture a few shots of your guests mingling. Given enough time, I even snap off a round of "grip and grins"- which are quick group shots of your guests as they chat and gather into their natural groups!

Sunset or After-Dark Portraits: 10-20 Minutes


I love, love, LOVE to sweep my couples out of the party and into the cool, crisp evening air for a few sunset or after-dark portraits. We usually do this just before your first dances begin or after a good set of dance music from the DJ or band. This is a lovely way to get a brief reprieve from the party and the action, and steal a few newlywed kisses with a beautiful evening backdrop. If you'd like to have a sunset session, I highly recommend checking out to check on the estimated sunset time on your wedding date. Take that time and give me the prior 10-20 minutes, depending on what your reception schedule is like and your desired location. I've had sunset sessions that are right outside the venue, and I've had others where we took a golf cart or a leisurely stroll to reach our destination. If sunset won't work for your timeline then it is always an option to find a neat setting for some late-night shots with a city or architectural backdrop. Allow enough time for our travel to your backdrop as well as 10 or so minutes to set up some light and grab a handful of poses! Then, you'll return to your party refreshed and ready to be social butterflies once again.

All the Other Things are up to YOU. How to plan for success!

When it comes to planning your ceremony, dinner, speeches, dances, and other events that will occur throughout your day, you'll want to work with your vendors or your wedding planner for their recommendations and insight. These events can vary in length dependent on different factors that I, as a photographer, am not the expert on! However, my general advice is to be sure you err on the side of caution and plan some buffer time between each event. Give yourself a 10-minute or so window between major slots in the day to account for coordination and unexpected details that could otherwise put you behind and add unnecessary stress to your day. Trust me, you'll be glad you did!