To Timeline or Time Frame, that is the question.


Summer is approaching and I thought I would give my pat. pending guide to figuring your photo timeline.

Years ago we had a very “minute by minute” detailed form we would send to couples. I found out very quickly that things happen and you can’t predict without having flexibility. For me it is more important to know family dynamics, names, special shots and ceremony start time. We developed our “important peeps” document for that purpose. We send it to couples at the time of booking to assist us in that knowledge. The formula I use is pretty simple if you know your ceremony time and venue access time. It’s more of a time frame than timeline.

Basically I go backwards from the ceremony.

1. TRY to be done with photos at least 45 minutes prior to ceremony so you can get hidden, freshen up and relax.

2. Based on that I generally ask for about 1½ to 2 hours of shoot time for an average-sized wedding party.

3. First hour or so: bride, groom and wedding party.

4. Second half immediate family; i.e., parents, grandparents, siblings and their spouses and children.

5. After the ceremony, at the start of reception I love to do the extended families in groups. Generally during cocktail hour or after dinner before events.

Pointing the way.

Pointing the way.

If couples decide not to see each other prior, this same formula still works. You can get all the individual photos with the wedding party, parents and even immediate family on each side. After the ceremony all you need to do is bridal party with couple, families with couple, and finally the bride and groom photos. I can generally get this done with good coordination in a 45-minute window.


Two questions I routinely get are what time should grandparents be there and what about the little flower girl and ring bearer? I usually answer that by saying towards the end of the pre-ceremony photos. If the little ones’ parents are in the wedding, of course, anytime. Grandparents can also be there during the immediate family photos depending on their mobility and health. Sometimes I even say we will shoot them at the family groupings after. Again be flexible but when in doubt towards the end of the pre-ceremony session.


One huge variable these days, especially with Seattle weddings, is logistics. Traffic getting from hair and makeup appointments HAS to be factored in. I once had a bride ask if I would drive up to a salon in Seattle in the morning, shoot an hour, drive to the guys in Puyallup for getting-ready photos and then head to the venue in Orting. Technically 65 miles of driving and 13 hours of shooting, really?

When possible, having your stylists at venue is desirable. Getting ready at the actual event venue, if possible, will greatly reduce your stress level and adds more photo time. Let me put it this way. Let’s say you have a ceremony start time of 3:00 and you are seeing each other prior for photos. That is a 12:30 “First look”. If you are getting offsite makeup and it’s logistically not close, you may have to start as early as 9:00!!! That makes for a very long day for you! Of course, I understand budget and preference play a large part in this decision.


Remember when it comes to timelines, be flexible. Keep in mind there are multiple vendors with agendas that all need to sync. The coordinator, DJ, Caterer… lions and tigers and bears-o-my! My approach is to let your MC or DJ schedule out your reception and have your coordinator tie it all together.


Lastly I almost always walk the couple out for a late reception “sunset” shoot for a few minutes. Generally, the best photos are done with little time. I usually use this time to think in my head “What have I forgotten”. I ask the couple and specifically their parents is there anything I missed? (Which sometimes is a hard question to answer after a few drinks, but you need to ask!)

Hope this helps as you plan out the big day!