How to Create Your Wedding Photography Plan

You’ve been dreaming about your wedding day for months, and you want every moment captured perfectly. The key to breathtaking wedding photography is having a plan in place. You’ve already booked a wedding photographer, so all you have to do is make a plan. 

There are a few details of your day that impact your wedding photography plan. In this guide, we cover the keys to capturing pre-ceremony memories, the pros and cons of a first look and how it impacts your wedding photography timeline, and a sample wedding photography timeline to get you started. 

bride getting ready preceremony brooks wedding

Pre-Ceremony Photos With the Bride = 1 Hour

Your wedding photography plan should begin with pre-ceremony photos. Your wedding photographer will typically spend 1/2 hour photographing details and candids. The remaining 1/2 hours is spent capturing attendants, family and planned images of the bride.

Pre-Ceremony Photos With the Groom = 1/2 Hour

The photographer will typically capture the groom’s attire, images with groomsmen and family, pinning of boutonnieres, and other detail shots.


If your church has restrictions on wedding photography, share that information as early as possible when you are developing the wedding photography plan. Let your photographer know if there are honored guests, candle lightings, or other items to make special note of.

Post-Ceremony = 30 Minutes

Following the ceremony, many couples like to have a balloon release or bubble exit. This is typically done immediately after the ceremony. You will likely sign your marriage license before beginning your family images as well.

Altar Images = 30 Minutes

Work with your photographer to develop a list of images that should be captured at the ceremony location and those that can be done at the wedding reception. Because time must be used effectively, assigning a friend to help gather groupings is most helpful.
Detroit Wedding Photography at The Holly Vault_Tara and Gary's Wedding at The Holly Vault
Bride and Groom kissing at Stonebridge

Romantics = 1 Hour

This is the time that your wedding photographer’s artistic abilities can really shine. Develop a plan for what images you would like to capture of you as a couple, with and without the bridal party.


Share the timeline that you have developed with your wedding DJ with the photographer for the grand entrance, cake cutting. toasts and special dances. Most couples focus the wedding reception photography on those key moments and take a more candid approach to the remainder of the evening.

Free Timeline Template

Download your FREE wedding timeline template! We’ve broken it down into 3 categories:

  • Church weddings
  • Venue weddings with a first look
  • Venue weddings without a first look.


Start by choosing the template that best fits your wedding day.

  1. Next, plan what time you think your ceremony should start. It is best to plan the start time, then build your timeline around that. If it seems you wouldn’t have enough time, or something doesn’t flow, then change your ceremony time and try again.
  2. Use the “notes” section to jot down things like vendor arrival times, deliveries, and more.
  3. Don’t feel restricted. While this template is meant to help you plan your timeline, we recognize that every couple is different, and you may need to add or remove some things.

Preparing for Your Pre-Ceremony Wedding Photography Plan

bride pre-ceremony with large windows

Pick the right pre-ceremony location.

You’ll love your pictures when they are taken in a room that is orderly, not cluttered, and has some natural light options. The light pouring in from a window is much more flattering than overhead fluorescents that can create shadows and tint skin with a yellow tone. Ideally, you and your fiance will get ready in locations near each other, making better use of the time you have for your photographer. Simply put, less travel time equates to more pictures. The similar backgrounds and architecture help to create a cohesive feel in your wedding album too.

Schedule the photographer for the right time.

When you are creating a photography plan with your photographer, discuss the type of images you would like captured. It is recommended that your photographer arrive after your hair and makeup are completed (or nearly), but before you begin dressing. It is important to note that most delays occur during the hair and makeup preparation, so you’ll want to plan accordingly and build some time into your wedding day timeline. While your finishing touches are being applied, your photographer can capture your wedding day details like the dress, shoes, jewelry, and other items.

bride with bridesmaids pre-ceremony
details shot during pre-ceremony

Have items to be photographed available.

Your wedding day is a flurry of activity, so planning in advance for the items you want photographed is essential. It’s common to capture photos of the bride’s bouquet, jewelry, shoes, dress, handkerchiefs, invitation, something old, new, borrowed and blue and other personal items. The groom’s cuff-links, pocket watch, boutonniere and attire is also commonly photographed. Any items you will give to your parents or bridal party attendant gifts are also photographed during this time. It’s easier for you and the photographer if your getting-ready items are available and not tucked away in bags or left at another location.

Let the subjects know they are needed.

When you have decided what images are to be captured during this time, let the subjects know. It is common to get pictures of the you and your attendants, each of you with your parents and other important family members (such as siblings) during your pre-ceremony time. It’s not uncommon for family members to begin visiting guests or attending to other issues. Letting them know in advance that they will be needed for pre-ceremony wedding photos, keeps everyone on the same page.

bride and mother pre-ceremony