One of the very first things you’ll have to decide when planning a wedding is deciding how much time you need to book with your venue and other wedding professionals. The best way to navigate this is to start with a sample timeline schedule! You don’t have to wait for a coordinator to do it for you, but it is smart to have another professional like myself advise on it so you’re sure to get an accurate first draft.
To view/download my pre-made wedding day schedule drafts, click your season below:
These are based on 8 hours of coverage (except for winter), one venue, and a single photographer.
Most media teams consider 8 hours of photo/video coverage to be standard “full day” coverage, so all important events should fall within that timeframe unless you know already that you need a longer package.
Your anchor is your ceremony time. To choose your ceremony time, schedule it 2 hours before sunset. Google the date and city/state of your wedding with “sunset time” to see when that will be! This is key to preserving the best, most beautiful glow and flattering light of the day for your family & couples portraits.
If sunset is too late (for example, in summer) and you still want those golden glowy portraits, an alternative is to schedule a time during your reception to sneak away from the party for 10-15 minutes and take pictures.
If you want a full suite of detail photos and video (your shoes, invitation suite, jewelry, perfume, heirlooms) allot 1 hour in the very beginning of the day when your media team first arrives. Less time means less details featured, e.g. only the invitations and/or rings.
A 15-minute minimum for each portion of the day is a safe bet. Because each wedding and location has its quirks and custom needs, some events may take more time, but I find that 15 minutes is the minimum to ensure we get quality images.
Schedule hair and makeup to end 30-45 minutes before you’re supposed to get dressed and out the door. Hair and makeup oftentimes runs longer than planned, and if you want touchups or a redo, you need time for that, or the whole day starts behind and then you are stressed from the very beginning!
Family photos should not take more than 15-20 minutes. This is enough time for immediate family, and a couple groups of cousins or other misc. family members. Don’t worry; we will take other photos of friends and family during your reception!
If your schedule feels too rushed, then it will be. Don’t be afraid to ask for more time! The #1 reason my couples get overwhelmed and stressed on their day is because they feel rushed, and our schedule is too packed. If you think you will be anxious about this, book a longer package with your media team and fill it with some cushion so we aren’t rushing every minute.
For multi-location weddings, don’t forget to factor in travel time, potentially bad traffic, and time to load/unload gear.
Finally, consider a photo-exit for your media team so you don’t have to purchase a longer package just for those few last photos. Your video + photo team has already gotten all of the footage they need in the first few hours of your reception, so after that we are just waiting for the end of the night. Plus, this means your exit is handled more calmly and can be prepared better for photo and video, as opposed to real exits that are often haphazard and may lack many guests are family that already left. To see photos of this & more info, view my Exits guide here.
These are your key guidelines, but always make sure to have your media team check the draft for any custom needs before finalizing it with your coordinator!