A wedding photographer’s duties extend beyond the posed photos after the ceremony – if you want your photographer to capture the whole day, they should be there for all the little moments. We outline a typical wedding photography timeline so that you know which key moments need to be captured.
Getting ready – groom and bridal preparations
The first step of your wedding day will be getting ready, having hair and makeup done and putting on your outfits. This stage isn’t purely functional, however, and can produce lots of fantastic memories that you will want your wedding photographer to capture, such as the wedding party seeing each other dressed up for the first time, or sharing a laugh with your parents. I normally aim to arrive around 3 hours before the ceremony so we can all take the morning nice and gently and so that everyone can get used to the cameras!
First look (if applicable)
The first look is when the couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day. Traditionally, the two of you won’t see each other until one of you walks down the aisle, but now, many couples choose to have a private moment away from the guests to see each other before the ceremony. This can be a wonderfully intimate moment to capture, with plenty of emotion that you will be glad to have recorded!
The next point in a typical wedding photography timeline will be the main event – the ceremony itself. There are plenty of shots to be taken here, from the initial (and hopefully prompt!) arrival of you both, the guests, and the wedding party, to the mingling before the ceremony and the ceremony itself. If you don’t have a separate first look, then this will also be where the photographer will be able to capture the moment the couple first sees each other. So when you’re walking down the aisle take it nice and slowly and don’t rush it – this only happens once!
After the ceremony, there is usually a drinks reception, which has a few natural photo opportunities of its own but is also the time to get any posed photos that are required, such as family photos, the wedding party, friends of you both, and couple portraits. This can also be another opportunity for the newlyweds to have some time on their own and have their first photos as a married couple away from the guests. I know people worry about being dragged away for portraits and missing their reception so don’t worry I try and keep it as brief as possible. I break the portrait session down into a couple of twenty-minute sections so you never miss the important moments!
The next step in a typical wedding photography timeline is the meal, as this is also when the speeches take place. The speeches provide plenty of opportunities for emotional moments that you will want to capture, such as the reactions to speeches, the wedding party drinking through a particularly embarrassing bit, and the laughter or tears caused by a heartfelt and emotional tribute to the couple. If possible I’d suggest trying to have them all before or after the meal as trying to fit them in between courses always ends up throwing out the following timings. No matter what, if someone says their speech is only five minutes it’s always closer to 15!
Cutting of the wedding cake
The cutting of the cake is a key moment in the traditional proceedings of a wedding and also in the wedding photography timeline, as most couples will want this iconic moment immortalised. This is also an opportunity for some light-hearted and humorous shots, especially if you opt for the tradition of feeding each other the first bite.
The first dance
The first dance is an incredibly important moment to capture with as much coverage as possible. As well as the first dance itself, there will also be the opportunity to capture some emotional reactions and the guests joining the dancefloor. The photographer will need to know that the first dance is coming in plenty of time to position themselves for the best shot, while also not being in the way at all. Also if you’ve got some serious moves planned out do let the photographer know in advance so they can be ready for your recreation of Flashdance/Dirty Dancing!
… And on into the evening! (my favourite bit!)
Once all the above moments have passed, the wedding photographer’s job is just to photograph the merriment of the evening in as much detail as possible. This will include plenty of dancing and joviality, as well as guests participating in any games or entertainment. Some couples also choose to have the moment they leave photographed, as this can be a good opportunity for all the guests to give them a proper sendoff.
Not all wedding photography timelines will look exactly like this; each wedding is unique and there are sure to be extra features and photo opportunities depending on the event. However, these are the key moments that most weddings will feature, so if you want to capture them, make sure your photographer is there from start to finish!