Wedding Photographer Blog

Your Wedding Day Photography Timeline, Minute by Minute

Mandy M - Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Your Wedding Day Photography Timeline, Minute by Minute

No two weddings are the same, so it’s difficult to pin-point an exact wedding photography timeline. However, there are ideal time frames you should consider when planning your day. Some of these times may seem long on paper but keep in mind that the day will fly by in a literal blink. That’s where we come in to take care of organizing all the minutiae that you don’t want to be worrying about being captured on camera…until after the fact.

wedding gown reflection in mirror and vintage bouquet

detail of bridal shoes and jewelry
Wedding Attire and Other Details

Ideally: 30 minutes, Morning, Bridal or Hotel Suite

Keep in mind that there are times when a hotel room is too crowded or simply unappealing, and we have to take the dress down to the lobby or even outside. This can take some time, but as you can see from our results, it’s well worth the additional time and effort to have a showstopping, dramatic photo of your wedding attire before you actually put it on.

bridesmaids toasting in hotel room Hilton Univeristy Charlotte NC

groom getting ready ballantyne country club charlotte nc


Ideally: 45 minutes, Morning or Early Afternoon, Bridal or Hotel Suite

During this time, we are getting close-ups of makeup and hair as well as the candid sentimental moments as the bridesmaids and groomsmen get ready for the day. Keep in mind that these are some of the most emotional and fun times of the day so you definitely don’t want to cut it too short. Our lead photographer will be shadowing the bride, while the second shooter will be with the groom. Even though it doesn’t take guys an hour to get dressed, there are still tons of awesome moments during this time between the groom and his family and friends.

Bridal portrait photography at Columbia Metropolitan Convention CenterGroom portrait before wedding at Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

Individual Portraits of Bride and Groom

Ideally:  20-30 minutes, Morning or Early Afternoon, at Bridal or Hotel Suite, Venue Lobby, or Venue Garden

Right after prep is the best time for individual portraits of the bride and groom (separately). Besides makeup and hair being completely fresh, the day hasn’t gotten hectic yet so we can take our time and really get those perfect portraits. Also keep in mind that the window lighting in most hotel rooms create a unique look that can’t be duplicated in any environment throughout the rest of the day.

Bride coming down stairs behind groom at first look

First Look

Ideally: 20-30 minutes, Morning or Early Afternoon, Venue Garden, Empty Venue Hallway (shaded areas with natural light)

A first look should be around 20 to 30 minutes. During this time, the bride and groom finally get to see each other for the first time on the wedding day. See here what the true benefits of a first look really are. While the actual first look might only be 5-10 minutes, the rest of the time we segue into the bride and groom portrait session.

Football lineup bridal party at Ballantyne Country ClubAerial bridal party photo Charlotte NC
Wedding Party Photos

Ideally: 45 minutes, Morning or Afternoon, Venue Lobby, Venue Garden, Beach, Park, Off-site Location

Wedding Party Photos should be around 45 minutes to 1 hour. During this time, we get a variety of shots and poses. We start off with the basic, classic photos focused on great expressions and lighting. Then we move into a set of fun and creative shots according to your personalities. Finally, since we know how much your wedding party means to you, so we are sure to get pictures with you and each one of your bridesmaids or groomsmen individually.

Charlotte NC wedding family portrait bride crying with grandmother

Immediate Family

Ideally: 20-45 minutes, Morning or Afternoon, Venue Lobby, Venue Garden, Beach, Park, Off-site Location

Immediate Family Photos should take another 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how large your family is. It’s important to have additional images with your parents, grandparents, and siblings beyond the basic formals (mentioned in the section below). We all know how much weddings mean to the immediate family and we want to make sure we’re capturing enough pictures with them.

Lake Norman Generations Kiss Wedding Family Portrait

Formals (Extended Family, Immediate Family, and Friends)

Ideally: 20-30 minutes, Morning or Afternoon (Post Ceremony), Ceremony Site

Formals should take around 20-45 minutes depending on the size of your family and whom is included on the list of relatives that you request. Some couples decide that they want a picture with all guests, while others that they only want pictures with select VIPs in order to save time. We recommend something in between. We also recommend being highly organized, with a list of groups and helpers from BOTH sides of the family to help round people up and ensure no one is missed.

bride and groom portrait on piano at Westin Hotel Charlotte NC

Couple’s Session

Ideally: 45 minutes - 1 hour, Late Afternoon, (Sunset depending on time of year...we can check the calendar for you), Venue Garden, Beach, Hotel Lobby, Park

Couple’s session should be around 1 hour and should take place ideally 30 to 45 minutes before sunset. This the best time in terms of lighting. It also allows us to capture awesome scenic images with sunset skies, weather permitting. If your wedding is in downtown or in an area with tall buildings, it’s not quite as important for us to have this specific time frame(although it still helps). However, if you booked your venue because of the spectacular view of the ocean or the gorgeous vines in the winery, it’s essential to follow this advice in your timeline

Palisades Country Club wedding ceremony setup Charlotte NC

Ceremony Detail and Venue

Ideally: 20-30 minutes, Morning or Afternoon, Ceremony Site

Please allow 20 minutes for the second shooter to take pictures of the ceremony site, completely set up with no guests or vendors in the area. You’ll rarely get to see the complete set up of your ceremony site before any guests are seated so it’s important that we are there to capture these images for you.                                                                              

Fahrenheit wedding and event decor by Head Over Heels Events Charlotte NC

Mint Museum Uptown wedding reception decor Charlotte NC 

Reception Detail and Venue

Ideally: 20-30 minutes, Early Evening, Reception Site

Please allow 30 minutes for the second shooter to take pictures of the reception room, completely set up with no guests or vendors in the area. Similar to the ceremony details, this is the only opportunity we have to capture the full drama of the reception room prior to guest arrival.

bride and groom sneak out during reception nighttime photo

Couples Session – Reception Sneak Out

Ideally: 10-20 minutes, Dusk to Night Time, in areas with interesting lights, fountains, cityscapes, mirrors, etc. 

During the reception, please plan on sneaking out for a couple of night shots. We only need 10 minutes, as we understand the importance of being a good host. However, this time is important of you appreciate the nighttime photography that we deliver. The ideal time for this is right after you grab a bite to eat or maybe right after the dance floor opens up.

Other Things to Keep In Mind

Table Shots – No , not shots of Fireball on us...Table shots are photographs taken while you circulate around visiting tables. There are two options for capturing images during this time. 1) You can take formal pictures with each of these tables or 2) We can simply focus on photojournalism, capturing your candid smiles and hugs and laughs as you mingle with the people at each table. If you are planning on doing formal table shots, please keep in mind that these will take a significant amount of time(up to 1 hour or more, depending on the size of your wedding). We highly recommend option 2, the photojournalism route, with exceptions for the VIP tables.

wedding party jamming on dancefloor at reception 

And THAT'S how a Fusion wedding is done, peoples! Your photographer is going to be there for every important moment of your day. Make sure they (we...ahem) are in tune with all the details and are prepared for the tiny snafus that almost always happen. Call us to discuss your future wedding timeline and how we would break it down individually for you. We won't miss a beat. 


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We felt extremely lucky to have Fusion shoot our wedding and engagement session. My wife and I had never been professionally photographed before and so we were probably a little awkward at first, but the Fusion team made us feel comfortable in a hurry.

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Stephanie & Chris