Your Wedding Photography Plan

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 an experienced wedding photographer that totally gets you, 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 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

Should You Do a First Look?

Picture this: Your groom is standing a short distance away with his back turned. You walk up in your wedding dress, carrying your bouquet, and tap your groom on the shoulder. He turns around and sees you for the first time on your wedding day during a special, private moment… (awwww)!

It used to be considered “bad luck” for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony. Today, many brides and grooms decide to have a first look. This can be a lot of fun – surprising each other and enjoying this unique time alone together while getting rid of some wedding jitters. Plus, your wedding photographer will capture fantastic images!  

Before you decide whether to try or nix the first look, consider the pros and cons of embracing what’s becoming a romantic tradition.

bride tapping groom's shoulder for first look


Your wedding photographer can get the majority of your photos taken prior to your ceremony. That means you wouldn’t have a large time gap between the ceremony and the reception, which allows more time with guests and or simply time to breath and not feel rushed.


You get a private moment between just the two of you, plain and simple. (Which you’ll learn quickly come few & far between on your wedding day). You share tears, share a few laughs and can really just be ‘in the moment’.


Even though you’ll still be left with great reaction first look photos, you simply don’t get the same reaction when you’re walking down the aisle.


The earlier you take your photos, the earlier you’ll need to be ready! Since a first look essentially pushes your wedding timeline up a few hours – AKA – a longer day. Keep this in mind when building your wedding day timeline.

bride looking back for first look photo

Creating Your Wedding Photography Plan

bride looking at her dress wedding day morning

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.
Couple kissing at outdoor ceremony
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.

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