12 Tips To Ensure Stress-Free Wedding Day Photography

wedding day photography timeline tips

Weddings are elaborate events that involve a ton of moving parts. Since photography covers almost every aspect of the day, it is an important consideration when planning your wedding day timeline. Here are our top wedding day photography timeline tips to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible and you get the photos of your dreams!

1) Communication is key

Working with your photographer to lay out solid wedding photography timeline is the best thing you can do to ensure you enjoy your wedding day and love your wedding photos! That is why we send our couples a detailed planning questionnaire, covering every aspect of their wedding and highlighting what is most important to them. We use their questionnaire answers to create a custom wedding day photography timeline that best suits their needs.

A good wedding photography timeline leaves plenty of time for each part of the wedding day and also builds in an extra buffer in case things get behind schedule or something unplanned comes up. No couple wants to be stressed out or feel rushed on their wedding day! And as a photographer, feeling rushed and overwhelmed can kill our creativity and cause us to miss something important. We want to capture the best images of your wedding day and we want you to feel relaxed! That is why we feel communication with our couples about timeline planning is the most important measure we can take to ensure the best day possible.

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2) Start wedding-day preparations extra early

It is very easy to get behind at this point in the day, so make sure you plan more time than you think you’ll need to get ready. If you are getting your hair and makeup done professionally, make sure the stylists are aware of what time everyone needs to be finished. You should allow a 30-60 minute buffer in case (read: when) things run longer than expected.

Also plan a specific time to get dressed. Does your gown have 100 buttons up the back? Are you clueless on how to tie a tie? Plan some extra time to get dressed at a relaxed pace. Sweaty and disheveled is probably not the look you’re going for!

northern Virginia wedding photographer timeline planning tips

3) Keep the prep room clean and organized

Choosing a large room with plenty of windows for natural lighting is the best option for getting ready in. Keep clutter out of the way by stowing everyone’s bags, extra clothes, hair and makeup accessories, food, etc. out of sight. No one wants dirty underwear and empty water bottles all over the background of their prep photos!

Have all the accessories you want photographed (like your dress, shoes, jewelry, ties, cufflinks, invitations, rings) gathered together so your photographer can quickly take detail shots of those items as soon as they arrive, before you get dressed. Prep all your clothes and accessories before the wedding day. Go ahead and remove all tags, stickers, packaging, etc. from everything you are wearing or want photographed and have things ironed or steamed if necessary. This saves tons of time (and frustration!) during getting ready photos!

northern Virginia wedding photographer timeline planning tips

4) Consider doing a first look and portraits before the ceremony

We highly recommend couples opt to do a first look. Not only is it an opportunity for a special intimate moment on your wedding day, it also makes the timeline run more smoothly and allows more time for photos. If you are unsure what a first look is or if you should do one, read our in-depth blog about them HERE.

Especially if you do a first look, plan on scheduling time for formal portraits of the wedding party and family before the ceremony. That means fewer portraits after the ceremony, so you can get to the party faster!

northern Virginia wedding photographer timeline planning tips

5) Check with your venue/officiant about any photography restrictions during the ceremony

Find out in advance if your venue has any photography restrictions. Some venues, especially churches, might limit where photographers can stand during the ceremony, or how much time is allowed for after-ceremony portraits. Knowing about any restrictions in advance allows us to plan ahead.

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

6) Keep after-ceremony family portraits to a concise list

Post-ceremony family formals are an important part of the wedding day. These photos no doubt mean a lot to your family, and will probably be displayed on the walls of your home for generations to come. However, family portraits are usually also the most hectic and stressful part of the wedding day! Wrangling large groups of excited people can be frustrating and time-consuming.

To ensure this part of the day goes smoothly and quickly (so you can get to the party!) we suggest keeping your family formal list extremely concise. We recommend only including immediate family—parents, siblings, and grandparents. This allows us to complete the family formals in 20-30 minutes. Then we can move on to wedding party photos and—most importantly—photos of the newlyweds! Any additional groups that you’d like a photo with (like cousins or friends) can be done at the reception at a relaxed and informal pace.

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

7) Don’t do a receiving line after the ceremony

A receiving line is when the newlyweds greet each wedding guest as they exit the ceremony. Although this allows couples to say hi to everyone, it is also a long process! Depending on the size of your wedding, a receiving line can easily take 30+ minutes after the ceremony. This can eat up most (or all!) of your formal portrait time.

A better alternative for greeting guests is to visit each table at the reception to say hi. This can be done after the couple is finished eating, while everyone else is still in their seats dining. This also allows for better photos while you interact with the guests!

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

8) Consider a longer break between the ceremony and reception

If you have a large family formal list or are not scheduling time for portraits before the ceremony, consider planning extra time before the start of the reception. Although a typical cocktail hour is 60 minutes, you could extend it to 90 minutes for additional photo time. Or, plan a longer break altogether, giving guests a chance to explore the area or return to their hotel rooms to freshen up before the reception.

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

9) Factor in travel time!

Make sure you account for any travel time to the ceremony and/or reception sites when planning your timeline. Arrange for transportation and build in buffer time in case there is traffic or other delays.

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

10) Consider sunset timing

The hour leading up to sunset offers the absolute best lighting for outdoor photography. If beautiful outdoor lighting is important to you, make sure your ceremony is scheduled before sunset, leaving enough daylight for any post-ceremony portraits. Especially in the winter, sunset can be very early! For summer weddings when sunset is later, we love sneaking the couple away from the reception for a few minutes of sunset photos if they’re up for it!

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

11) Are you having a reception exit?

In most cases, it is not necessary for the photographer to stay for the entire reception. Three hours of (progressively more intoxicated) dancing can get repetitive (and possibly embarrassing!).

However, if you are having a formal reception exit, you may want your photographer to stick around. Just make sure your photography package includes enough coverage time for the whole reception. You might need to add extra photography hours.

If you are considering a sparkler exit, read our tips HERE.

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

12) Relax and enjoy the day

You’ve spent months (maybe years!) planning your wedding, and sadly the day will go by too fast. So above all, relax and enjoy your day! Be present and don’t sweat any small stuff. If you’ve taken these wedding day photography timeline tips into consideration you can rest easy knowing your dream day will go smoothly and you’ll have amazing photos to remember it forever.

wedding day photography timeline tips Northern Virginia wedding photographer

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