The Ultimate Wedding Day Timeline - Michigan Wedding Photographer

When it comes to weddings- timing is everything. After photographing a ton of weddings, we have learned what usually works, along with what does not, and how to get the most out of your already-packed day. It's our priority to create a balance between staying organized while going with the emotional flow of the day. We have found that subtle changes can really alter the way photos turn out, given the limitations of each and every venue.  These tips will not work for everybody but we hope that they can provide some insight and pointers for anybody who needs them! If you are one of my couples and we haven’t done your timeline planning yet, I create a custom timeline for all of our couples so just message me!


Getting Ready (Suggested Photo Time: Roughly 2 Hours Depending on Travel)

Getting ready: Pick a hotel, airbnb, house, etc. that has decently sized windows. Clean up the room (food, suitcases, purses) so that they are not in the background of your getting ready shots. If your makeup artist allows you to - get your makeup done facing the window. Have all of your accessories, wedding invitations, dress in a pile so we don’t need to hunt it down for detail shots. Try you best to have a nice hanger OR a solid colored hanger (wood, black, etc). for dress shots. Having a clear plastic hanger with your size on it usually doesn't make for the best shots! 

Matted Lipstick: Great idea for kissing shots! Other types of lipstick tend to stain your significant other’s face. Hiring a makeup artist is also great! You want your makeup to last and to show up well in photographs. We suggest makeup + hair trials prior to your wedding so you can tweak whatever you don't like. Some brides debate wearing makeup for their wedding, we suggest whatever YOU feel most comfortable doing. Makeup helps enhances the detail of photos but it's whatever you prefer.

First looks: Yes! About 60 - 70% of our couples do a first-look. It helps give more time for photos, it prevents your guests from waiting for a long time in between the ceremony & reception. It provides an intimate moment to see your bride/groom for the first time, alone. It tends to be more emotional for both the bride + groom. It allows hours for photos and multiple locations (if desired). It helps you two spend more of the day together. It eliminates nerves. When you see each other down the aisle for the first time - you tend to be distracted by the guests, venue set-up, etc.  It’s also SO important to keep this private. We don’t want the bridal party or any family during this moment to keep the authenticity and beauty of the moment shared between only you two. (of course we love our non first-look weddings as well). Want to read more about this topic? Click here.

Ceremony, Portrait Session, Family Formals (Suggested Photo Time : Roughly 2.5 - 3 Hours Depending on Size)

Shot lists: We love to hear your visions and ideas for the day. We love seeing your pinterest boards and screenshots that you’ve been planning since before you were even engaged. We do our best to recreate those but, you hired us for our style & direction. Long shot lists cause us to waste too much time trying to recreate moments that didn’t happen, instead of capturing the actual candid moments that ARE truly happening. Pinterest is inspirational, but this is YOUR day. It’s unlike any other. We do have an option on our questionnaire to let us know significant photos you want us to try to capture (we love that!), but we typically avoid super long checklists!

Family Formals: To be honest, this will probably be the hardest part of your day. I HIGHLY recommend keeping your list small with about 10-15 combinations. We have had lists as short as 3 combinations and lists as much as 85 combinations. This part of the day is stressful because somebody always forgets to stick around for them. An aunt or uncle always goes missing, a kid is always crying, etc. Keep it to immediate family, family from out of town, etc. You do not want to spend over 25 minutes doing these. Want a free family list that you can copy & paste for your photographer? Click here.

Ceremony: Outdoor ceremonies are beautiful. When choosing your venue, you want to do your ceremony with the sun BEHIND you. (For example: the sun should be setting behind your officiants back.) Sunset ceremonies are the best, but if you have to have a midday ceremony, try to find a shaded area! If none of those options work, it's okay too! This start time really depends on if you are having a catholic mass, what time of the year you are getting married, where you are getting married, etc. The ceremony start (and if you’re doing a first look or not) determines the rest of the timeline. I would start here when choosing specific times for your day, work your timeline around the ceremony.

Bridal Party + Bride/Groom Portraits: Smaller bridal parties (or no bridal parties) tend to work best for wedding days but we totally understand wanting all of your friends by your side to celebrate. If you have a larger bridal party, just allow more time. Sunset is the absolute best time for bride & groom photos, even if we do a first look, I would love to take just the bride & groom back out for a mini sunset session. These photos tend to be the most artistic part of your day, and the entire reason that you are having a wedding, to celebrate you two! We want to give you a moment to just love on each other, alone, and get away from the chaos for a few moments while we capture it. 

Location for Photos: The location you chose for photos is really important! If you love your venue location - let's do them there! If you don't think your venue will photograph that well, we can venture to a nearby location for portraits! Feel free to message us and we can scout some options out. As much as people love gazebos and bridges - going somewhere with less objects to pose with tend to be best. For example- the woods, nature, water, mountains, cities, rooftops, botanical gardens, murals, historical homes, art museums, etc. But if the gazebo or bridge means a lot to you, we will absolutely do it!



Reception: Christmas + string lights! They photograph super well. Or lots of candles. Outdoor receptions are incredible too (though, uncommon). There isn’t too much to be picky about this part of the day, we will be using the natural light that we have left for this part of the day along with flash and capturing all of the candid celebrations that go on. The more little lights you can add, the better (depending on venue). The best reception tip is to avoid doing TOO many games/activities. We love toasts, cake cutting and first dances but try to avoid doing every tradition in the book (shoe game, anniversary, dollar dance, bouquet, garter) because guests tend to get disinterested after too long. Unless you don’t see your crown being very big dancers, then more activities might be a great idea!


Final Details

Again, this is YOUR day and the visions you have are what we will try our best to make true! Timelines can be stressful and if something doesn’t work out, 90% of our job is to improvise. Don't worry if some of the advice listed doesn't work for you - we have worked with a spectrum of weddings and can handle whatever you give us!