Wedding planning guide 

Creating the ideal wedding day timeline

As a Chicago wedding photographer,  my mission is to capture every special moment that tells the unique love story of each couple. One of the top questions my wedding couples ask is about the ideal photography coverage they need. A good gauge for full coverage is having the wedding photographer start 1.5 hours before the bride puts on her wedding dress and then stay until 1 hour after the dance floor opens. To create a simple yet stunning photography timeline, here are the essential steps to follow:

Flexibility is Key
Keep in mind that weddings can be unpredictable, and remaining flexible is crucial. Some of the most genuine and emotional photographs arise from unexpected moments

Sunset Photo : 15 minutes

12:00- Photo Coverage Starts 
12:00-12:30 - Groomsmen get dressed
12:30-1:00- Detail photos
1:00 -1:30 - Candids/ End of hair and makeup 
1:30-2:00 - Bride puts on wedding dress
2:00 - 2:15 - First look
2:30-4:30 - Couple portraits/wedding party portraits
5:00 - Arrive at ceremony location and chill
5:30-6:00 - Ceremony
6:00-6:30 - Family formals 
7:00 - Reception starts 
8:30 - First Dances 
8:45 - Open Dance Floor 
9:30 - Night Photo
10:00 - Photo coverage ends





12:00- Photo Coverage Starts 
12:00-12:30 - Groomsmen get dressed
12:30-1:00- Detail photos
1:00 -1:30 - Candids/ End of hair and makeup 
1:30-2:00 - Bride puts on wedding dress
3:00 - 4:00 - Ceremony
4:00-4:30 - Family formals 
4:30-6:00 - Couple portraits/wedding party portraits
6:00-7:00 - cocktail hour
7:00 - Reception starts
8:30 - First Dances 
8:45 - Open Dance Floor 
9:30 - Night Photo
10:00 - Photo coverage ends





Sample Timeline
No First Look 


Sample Timeline
First Look 

Remember, every wedding is different—these are just suggestions!

Getting Ready: 1.5 - 2 Hours 

• Detail Photos: Allow 30 minutes or more for shots of your dress, rings, and other unique details that tell your love story.

• Candid Moments: Approximately 30 min or more to capture genuine, joyful shots of you and your loved ones.

• Putting on the Dress: Budget 30 minutes. This always takes longer then you think . It also gives time for some bridal portraits.

First Look: 30 minutes 

Wedding Party & Couple: 2 hours 

This is the perfect time to capture some couple portraits when emotions are running high. 

PRO- Tip : Ask your florist for some extra loose flowers to jazz up the detail photos 

If you're getting ready off-site, remember to give yourself extra time for everyone to gather their belongings and head to the next location 

PRO- Tip : Consider adding a first look with parents or bridesmaids,  Add  15 min. 

Ceremony: 15 min. - 1.5 hours 

Family Formals: 30 min

3 min. per grouping. If you have very large groups consider adding more time.

PRO Tips 
• Select a family member or friend who is familiar with most of the people attending the wedding to be the photo wrangler. Having someone who knows the guests will help streamline the group photo sessions.


Your ceremony's length is entirely your choice, and I'll be there, like a fly on the wall, capturing every precious moment discreetly. 

PRO- Tip : Take a break before the ceremony! Finish pre-ceremony photos 30 minutes beforehand. Use this time to relax, freshen up, and prepare for your grand entrance down the aisle. Enjoy the moment!

Sample Timelines


Prioritize your couples portraits! They are the most cherished photos of your wedding day, likely to be framed and treasured forever. Let's make them a top priority in your timeline. Ideally I love to have the couple for 1 hour and the wedding party for at least 30 min.

• Opt for pre-ceremony family photos! While many couples schedule family photos during cocktail hour, having all family members arrive early allows us to capture these moments before the ceremony. This way everyone can fully enjoy cocktail hour without any rush.

PRO- Tip : If hitting up multiple locations in Chicago make sure you add lots of travel time.
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Reception 3-5 Hours

PRO Tip 
Think about having a second photographer. At times, I may not photograph cocktail hour because I'm capturing formal photos and reception details. If capturing cocktail hour photos is a priority for you, consider hiring a second photographer OR completing formal photos before the ceremony.

Make time for reception detail pictures! I'll capture them in the last 20-30 minutes of cocktail hour, after the setup and before guests enter the room. 

Cocktail Hour: 1-1.5 hours

Night Photo : 15 minutes

PRO Tip 
Sunset photos are a dream come true! The lighting is magical, creating flattering and romantic shots that you'll cherish forever. While we understand time constraints, these once-in-a-lifetime shots are worth it! We'll ensure you sneak out of the reception for a quick session and get you back to the party ASAP. Note: Depending on your venue, we might not be able to get a good shot of the sunset. 

The timeline for your reception is usually coordinated by your venue, caterer, and DJ, while your photographer's role is to document the unfolding moments. Nonetheless, there are several essential aspects to bear in mind regarding your photography during this significant part of your wedding day!

PRO Tips 
• Avoid having toasts during dinner - While photographers usually don't mind whether you have the toasts before or after dinner, it's best to avoid doing them during the meal. This moment presents a fantastic opportunity for capturing candid laughter or emotional moments, which can be ruined if everyone's mouths are full of food during the toasts.
• Arrange for your photographer to eat at the same time as you. This thoughtful planning will ensure that your photographer will be fed and ready to capture the rest of the evening.