A guide to creating your Wedding Day Photography Timeline


Tips for creating a relaxed wedding day experience
and getting the best wedding photos


Educating my brides and grooms on the best practices for timing, settings and light is crucial in order for me to create my best work on a wedding day. Usually a photographer is hired for their specific style and vision, therefore, I feel it important to communicate what I need and the ideal environments to work in, in order to achieve this plus make the day run smoothly.

This guide will help in creating your Wedding Day Photography Timeline. These tips will ensure you have a fun and relaxed wedding day experience and get the best wedding photos.

The best advice I can provide brides and grooms getting married with to create a relaxed wedding day is … planning planning planning!

A wedding checklist that sets out the timeline for the various events that occur during the wedding day is a good place to start. To simplify this task, I’ve created a wedding planning timeline. I will cover getting ready, love them or hate them we will talk first looks, ceremony, family portraits, bridal party location photoshoot, couple portraits and the reception.

For me to achieve the typical kinds of wedding photos I like to capture for the bride and groom, the below timeline sets out the amount of time required for each part of the day based on my all day wedding photography package for up to 12 hours of photography coverage.

This timeline is a suggestion based on a typical wedding day for initial planning purposes. Please make consideration for travel between venues or if you are adding non-traditional elements, for example:

a First Look bridal portrait session
the bride & groom want to mingle with guests during cocktail hour
a morning ceremony
rearranging formal events at the reception, ie cake cutting or first dance, to happen earlier in the evening
incorporating religious or cultural elements
considerable travel distances between venues
have booked a photography package with less hours

Some of these times may seem long, but keep in mind that time gets away from you fast, the day will fly by, even with planning it is common for most weddings to run behind schedule slightly, but I will make the photo time fun so it won’t appear to seem like a long time.

I would be more than happy to create a custom wedding day photography timeline with my couples well in advance of the wedding date, to accommodate your wedding day plans.

The following guide should help you plan a fairly accurate timeline, but I typically get together with my couples around 8 weeks prior to their wedding date to discuss their timeline in detail and create a list of the groupings for the formal family portraits.

In addition, I like to build relationships with my clients on social media, one thing that has proven helpful to get to know them and their likes and what they are passionate about.




Getting Ready – General Information


During getting ready, is the time when everyone is relaxed, almost a case of the calm before the storm. It’s the time for the bridal party to get familiar with having the photographer around snapping away.  As a photographer during this time, I like to observe the connections between the people and gauge the emotions, and also test the lighting conditions and angles in the room.

Let’s talk room environment. Dark, messy cluttered rooms can make be challenging. Getting ready can be a nice time to capture genuine emotions, but the atmosphere of the messy room can distract from the genuine moments happening and the beauty of the morning. Here are some things to consider.

Clutter – there is usually a lot going on, but try to keep clutter hidden and to a minimum. Keep bags, suitcases, laundry and so on in a different room or wardrobe. I usually do a sweep of the room when I arrive to declutter and clean up the area, but its helpful if the mess is kept to a minimum.

Light – natural window light is my favorite kind of light and the most flattering. If possible, get ready in a room with natural window light, that means I won’t need to use flash or artificial light. Rooms often have fluorescent or tungsten lights which give off weird colour casts, usually green or orange tones, which is not ideal for natural skin tones in your photos, particularly with spray tans. I prefer to turn all lights off and rely only on window light where possible!

Where – typical motel rooms often don’t provide the best light or setting for getting ready photos. If you can, I recommend looking into other options, like well known chain hotels as they tend to have nicely styled suites, utilise AirBnB as they have a range of options, or my favourites are charming Bed & Breakfast accommodation rentals. Also consider getting ready at home, we are lucky in Queensland as quaint Queenslanders make ideal backdrops for getting ready photos!

Hair/Makeup – your hair stylist and makeup artist will also need window light to ensure well-blended foundation and natural skin tones.

Groom Preparation / Portraits of Groom & Groomsmen

allow 45 minutes – 1 hour

Groom & Groomsmen should be dressed in pants and shirt ready for photographer’s arrival
Parents and any other family members should be fully dressed ready for portraits
Have all the Grooms details laid out

Typical photos taken during this time :

Groom Details & Wedding Bands { allow the first 10-15 minutes }
Candids of the Groom & Groomsmen getting ready
Gift Giving – Groom receiving Bride’s gift, Groom giving gifts to Groomsmen, Groom giving gifts to Parents
Groom putting on Father’s boutonniere and Mum’s corsage
Portraits – Groom, Groom with all the Groomsmen, Groom with individual Groomsmen
Groom with Mum, Groom with Dad, Groom with Mum & Dad,
Groom with any additional family members present

If a two photographer package is booked,

the second photographer will photograph the groom preparation section of the day
while the main photographer will start with bride preparations,
therefore groom preparation time will start around the same time as the bride preparation.

< travel to bridal preparation venue >

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Bride Preparation / Portraits of Bride & Bridesmaids

allow 1.5 – 2 hours

Bride & Bridesmaids are usually still in hair & makeup when the photographer arrives
Parents and any other family members should be fully dressed ready for portraits

The best spaces for getting ready photos have lots of natural light, whether it’s a home environment,
hotel suite, quaint cottage or Queenslander.
Where possible, I prefer to take the dress/details outside, hanging the dress on a verandah or in a tree, with the utmost care.
This can take some time, but well worth the effort. If you are against taking your dress outside,
please advise me prior to the wedding day.

Where possible, I prefer to do the portraits in the hotel lobby or a shady garden area.
Usually the lighting is also more flattering in the lobby or garden.

Typical photos taken during this time :

Bride Details { allow first 15-30 minutes }
wedding gown on hanger, flowers, shoes, engagement ring, hair pieces, jewellery & perfume
please have these items laid out together on a table/bed prior to the photographer’s arrival
hair & makeup should be finished except for final touchups for photos

Candids of the Bride & Bridesmaids getting ready { allow 45 minutes }
final touchup for hair & makeup, photos in robes, etc
Gift Giving* – Bride receiving Groom’s gift, Bride giving gifts to Bridesmaids, Bride giving gifts to Parents
*The bride can choose to give gifts either in their pretty robes or after she is in her gown
Bridesmaids get dressed ready to help Bride into her wedding gown
Bride Preparation – bride gets in her gown, puts on jewellry, shoes, perfume, veil, etc
with assistance from the Bridesmaids and Mother-of-the-Bride
Bride reveal to Father-of-the-Bride / Putting on Father’s boutonniere and Mum’s corsage

Portraits { allow 30-45 minutes }
Bride, Bride with all the Bridesmaids, Bride with individual Bridesmaids, Bride with Flower Girls
Bride with Mum, Bride with Dad, Bride with Mum & Dad,
Bride with any additional family members present

< travel to ceremony venue >

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First Look

allow 20-30 minutes

We all have our own opinions about first look portraits, some love the idea, while others hate them. As a photographer, I can see the benefits and personally love photographing them, for a few different reasons.  Ultimately, it’s entirely up to the couple if they decide to do a first look or not. Here are points about first looks that you may not have considered.

Firstly, lets start with what is a first look session. It is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time in a more private and intimate setting before walking down the aisle. Apart from a few directions from the photographer, they aren’t staged, but genuine reactions of the couple seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day, they are rather romantic.

Reasons why you might consider doing a first look:

1.There is nothing that relaxes nervous brides and grooms more than the couple get to finally see each other and enjoy a few moments alone together, before all the official wedding events begin and they are surrounded by a number of their guests with all eyes fixed on them.

2. It gives the couple time to take it all in. They can share what you’re feeling with each other, they can hug, the groom can actually say “you look so beautiful in that dress”– all things the couple can’t do when they are at the front of the aisle with everyone watching. For any bride or groom concerned about showing emotion or tearing up at the alter, then a first look is a chance to get that out of the way.

3. If you are having a late ceremony, where the bridal party location shoot and couple portraits fall into after sunset and its dark, it means we still have ample natural light which is the key ingredient to natural wedding photos and makes the timeline easier to work with. Also for those couples that don’t want to be away from their guests for long, with photos out of the way, the couple can enjoy cocktail hour with their guests once the family portraits are over.

If you are a bride that has always dreamed of walk down the aisle and getting the first glimpse of each other, then it’s no problem skipping the first look. It’s your wedding day!

Pre Ceremony

allow 20-30 minutes

Typical photos taken during this time :

Location & Ceremony Details after stylists have finished but before guests arrive or are seated
Putting on boutonnieres if parents were not present during earlier preparations
Candids as wedding guests arrive
Portraits – Groom, Groom with Groomsmen, Groom with Parents, Groom with Parents/Siblings

Unplugged Weddings


Unplugged weddings are no longer a new thing. We’ve all seen articles about unplugged ceremonies, and we’ve all seen the photos where guests are leaning into the aisle blocking the groom from seeing the bride as she walks down the aisle. But honestly, for me, having guests taking photos isn’t a huge concern. Maybe I’ve gotten lucky. I have never had to ask people to move from the aisle, nor have any guests posed a problem for me during the ceremony. To be honest, I kind of enjoy getting those shots of the guests lining up taking shots. It’s a sign of the times we live and honestly I get their need to have to take a photo of this special occasion! Hey and if someone is getting in the way, Im going to take a photo of them! haha …  I don’t want to be one of those photographers that makes demands on my couples or request an unplugged wedding, but I certainly can offer some knowledge from my years of experience in the wedding industry as well as some suggestions on whether an unplugged wedding is for you.

If you don’t know what an unplugged ceremony is, its when you ask your guests to refrain from taking photos during the ceremony.

Asking your guests not to use cameras or any device that can take photos, allows your guests to be present as you make your vows, rather than trying to take a photo or firing off flashes as the bride and groom exchange moving and sentimental words, and in many instances where the photos are pretty ordinary photos at that.

If you choose not to go unplugged, I would at least recommend that guests refrain from leaving their seat and standing in the aisles, and for them to just take photos from their seat. If anyone is in the aisles during any part of the ceremony, at some stage they will most likely be in my way as I move about and restrict my view. It’s even more important guests are not lingering in aisles if you have also hired a videographer due to the extra manpower in the aisles and potentially blocking the view of the cameras.

If you are planning on having an unplugged ceremony, I encourage you to let your guests know ahead of the day with a simple message in the wedding invitations, as well as a sign placed in the ceremony area, and asking the officiant to make an announcement before the ceremony begins.



allow 30 minutes to 1 hour

Most outdoor garden ceremonies are around 30 minutes, whereas most church services are around 45 minutes – 1 hour
but I suggest you check with your officiant for a more accurate duration once you decide on your vows.

Ceremonies in nature are my favorite: surrounded by nature, a magnificent tree as the backdrop,
the light, and the freedom for me to shoot from a variety of angles.

For outdoor ceremonies, light and sun are super important factors and how they affect photos.
Dappled light and harsh uneven light are not ideal.
If you’re having your ceremony outdoors between 10am and 3pm,
try to always position the sun behind the couple to avoid squinting.

Naturally overcast weather is perfect for photos, but we can’t control nature so can’t rely on that approach.
A better option would be to plan your ceremony for later in the day, so the light is softer and not coming from overhead.

For indoor and church ceremonies, while they have the advantage of a wet weather backup,
lighting in historical cathedrals can be minimal due to the small windows.
Also many of the cathedrals don’t allow the use of flash photography
and while I use professional camera equipment that performs well in low-light situations such as this,
this can affect image quality depending on how much natural light and at what direction it is coming from.
More modern churches usually allow in more light.

For Queensland weddings, the best ceremony start time for Spring and Summer would be 3pm,
however in Autumn and Winter try for an earlier time of 2pm.
Just be sure to leave enough time for congratulations, family photos, bridal party photos, and bridal portraits around sunset.
If you are unsure, feel free to ask me about your ceremony location and I’d be happy to give my advice and tips.




allow 15-20 minutes

Congratulations is a great time for capturing candids of your wedding guests.


Family Portraits

allow 15-30 minutes

Family portraits, while not the most creative photos, they are very important.
I photograph family portraits at every wedding.
Most of the time it’s a short list with just the immediate family involved.
Immediate family includes the couple’s parents, siblings, sibling’s family, grandparents and any step-parents/siblings.
Others add extended family groups – aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as friend groups.
The amount of time needed will obviously differ depending on the number of groups, but I move through them fairly quickly.
Prior to your wedding day we will create a list of those groups.
It is recommend having a designated helper on each side to assist with gathering people for the family photos.
Bridal party photos are not listed here as they are done throughout the bridal party location shoot.
However, if there are flower girls and page boys in the bridal party, I would typically do them following the family portraits
as the flower girls and page boys don’t typically go on the bridal party photo shoot.
Ideal location is a shaded area just near the ceremony location.

{ allow 15 minutes for immediate family or 30 minutes for immediate & extended family }

< travel to first bridal party photoshoot location >


Bridal Party Location Shoot
Bride & Groom Portraits

allow 1.5 hours

All couples are different, some prefer more variety using several locations, while others just want a few photos in one location.
I recommend 1-2 locations at most, with each location offering something different for variety.
If you have chosen a venue with ceremony and reception in one location, we can leave site, however I usually find
the couple wish to remain on the property, then we simply go for a wander utilising various parts of the property.

I’ve done weddings where I have 2 hours allocated for portraits, and weddings with only 20 minutes because of delays.
As far as ideal time however, I will work with what I’m given.
The more allocated time usually means the shoot can be at a slower pace, allow the couple to relax into the session
which generally achieves more relaxed expressions as well as time for creative photos.
Whereas less allotted time usually means we are there to take photos, and as many as we can in a short amount of time.

I prefer to split the time in two. The first part is dedicated to the bridal party, then I like to focus on the couples portraits.
When attention is off the couple, some of the best, most genuine and joyful moments occur.

The ideal time to start the bridal portraits is 30-45 minutes before sunset as that is the best light, as it’s soft and golden.

The most important thing to ensure we get great photos is trust.
You naturally feel in love with my photography because you booked me to capture this special day,
so now is the time to trust me to create beautiful photos.
The best wedding photos come from collaboration and trust between the couple and photographer!

Typical photos taken during this time :

A variety of candid, fun, creative and classic portraits
of the entire bridal party, the bride with the bridesmaids & the groom with the groomsmen.

If a two photographer package is booked,

the second photographer will remain with the guests for candids during cocktail hour
as well as reception room details prior to guests entering main reception room.

< travel to reception venue >


Wedding Reception

coverage depends on the chosen photography package 

Reception Lighting – it’s all about mood for me. I embrace the dim romantic light and where possible shoot without the use of flash for anything other than dance floor shots. I want to capture the natural ambience of the venue so you remember exactly how it looked. I’ve shot in incredibly dark restaurants and still managed to not use flash, but you do usually sacrifice a bit of quality. By that I simply mean you couldn’t print those images above say an A4 size, but they are typically not photos you would ever print larger than A4, in fact not even A4, mostly small images in an album spread with many other images smaller than a 6×4 print. I do love a venue with Festoon lights! It’s important to have sufficient lighting for ambience for this type of low light photography. I like to embrace that gritty mood reminiscent of the old days and film photography with grain in the images. It usually is a judgement call once I see the lighting in the reception venue. And if I don’t think there is adequate light, which makes focusing a bit tricky, I most definitely break out the flash.

Photographers Meal – if a photographer is at your reception for more than 1 hour, then its typical for the couple to provide them with a meal. While this can be a controversial topic, considering that most photographers run around for hours on end without a break, maybe the odd snack if you are driving between venues, but if you are on the one property for the day, then usually you don’t have time to even snack, the first chance you get to sit down for a break is after 6 hours of shooting, running between venues, organising guests for family photos, and both physical and mental exertion directing bridal parties and couples, surely it’s the least a couple can supply the photographer with a main meal – I promise the photographer will be ever so appreciative. A happy and fed photographer will certainly perform better for the last few hours of the reception when they’ve had a break and filled their bellies. It is ideal for the photographer to be served their meal after the bridal table, so that they have time to eat quickly while guests are eating, and be finished in time for speeches, cake cutting or dances that might happen during or at the end of dinner. Some venues insist on serving vendors at the end of serving the guests meals, which means the photographer doesn’t have a chance to eat before speeches begin. The easiest way is for your photographer to be considered a “guest” as opposed to a “vendor.”  If you are having a buffet, it’s easy for the photographer to grab their own food at the appropriate time.

Sparkler Exit – if you are planning on a sparkler exit, you will need photography coverage to the end of the reception which would typically be a photography package offering 10-12 hours.

Typical photos taken during this time depends on the coverage in your photography package :

The 6 hour photography package generally allows up to 1 hour
Reception Room Details prior to the guests entering the main reception room
Fake Cake Cutting

The 9 hour photography package generally allows up to 3 hours
Reception Room Details prior to the guests entering the main reception room
Bridal Party and Bride & Groom introductions
Cake Cutting
Bridal Waltz
Father-Daugher & Mother-Son Dances
Candid photos documenting guests mingling & laughing
Candid-style portraits of couples and groups

The 12 hour all day photography package provides coverage until the bride and groom depart the reception
Same as 9 hour package plus the below:
Bride & Groom enjoying pre-dinner cocktails and canapes with their guests
Dancing once the dance floor is opened to the wedding guests
Bride & Groom departure / Sparkler Exit

Note :

If you wish to have any night-time portraits during the reception, ie. creative couples portraits
using interesting lighting, city nightscapes, sparkler photos, please notify me prior to the wedding day.
You will need to plan to leave the reception for 20-30 minutes for night-time portraits.
The ideal time is after the bridal waltz or once the guests have left.
Night photography is quite technical and slower paced, but can be dramatic and well worth the effort.

< Photography finishes >



That sums up the wedding day photography timeline.

If you are incorporating any traditional or nontraditional elements, for example a First Look portrait session, rearranging events or adding religious or cultural elements, I am more than happy to work with each couple to adjust the timeline to make it possible.


Great news, there’s a stack more tips from where this article came from!
In fact an entire library of resources for planning your wedding.
Consider it your personal e-library. Grab a cuppa or a wine and dive on in.
Get reading …

All photographs are the property of and copyrighted to Deb Boots.
Please do not reproduce or share without written consent unless you are the couple or family and friends of the couple.

If you are a wedding supplier involved in this wedding and wish to use any of these images
for the purposes of advertising your business this is classified as commercial use and is subject to licensing (read about commercial use here).
I’m more than happy for vendors to use images, but please ask permission first!
Please contact Deb Boots here

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