FAQ: Wedding Day Timeline ~ Chicago Wedding Photographer

Well folks, it’s that time of year again… booking season! Lots of couples got engaged over the holidays (congratulations!!) and are now looking to book their wedding photographers, and the questions always on their minds are:

How much photo coverage do we need?!?

Which package should we go with?!?

What on earth is a wedding day timeline?!?


I know when we got married (when I was not yet a wedding photographer) – I didn’t have a clue about photography coverage or wedding day timelines. I literally was flying by the seat of my pants! And since our wedding photographers were friends of mine from photography school (who didn’t have experience with weddings) – they weren’t able to give us much help in the timeline department. I basically told them when I thought they should be there, what I thought was important to capture, and that was it.




Sadly, I’d say the one thing I somewhat regret in regards to our wedding is that I had no clue about timelines and didn’t utilize the little time we had with our photographers very well at all. (That’s not to say we were unhappy – we loooved the images we got! See below! I just wish I had managed the day a little better & had more time for photos of James & I!)


*Photos courtesy of Jon Hamblin + Patrick Sablan.

But – you live and you learn – right? So now after having gone through my own wedding, and shooting countless others… I have a pretty good grasp on creating timelines that make your wedding day flow smoothly without feeling rushed or stressed… and still allow you to absolutely enjoy your day while also taking full advantage of the time you have with your photographer!




So – here’s a rough draft of the timeline I suggest to most of my couples: 

2:00 – Preparation photos: accessory detail shots (dress, flowers, rings, shoes, family heirlooms/mementos) / James with one partner, Christy with the other

2:30 – The couple gets dressed with help of those standing up with them and parents (or whoever you’d like!)

2:50 – A few separate portraits in each of their rooms then head out to First Look location (one w/James, one w/Christy)

3:15 – First Look / Couple’s portraits

4:00 – Bridal Party Photos

4:30 – Family Photos

5:00 – The couple/Bridal Party go freshen up while we shoot ceremony details & candids of guests

5:30 – Ceremony

6:00 – Cocktail Hour (Candids + photos of reception details before guests enter room)

7:00 – Guests are asked to be seated for dinner

7:15 – Announce Bridal Party (and/or) Couple into Reception / Cut cake (if there’s cake)

7:30 – Dinner / Toasts

8:00 – Sneak couple out for a few quick photos at sunset while guests finish meals (depending on sunset time & weather)

9:00 – Dancing begins… First dance, Parent dances, More dancing!

10:00 – Photo coverage ends



Please note that this obviously does not include travel time to the various locations of the day if the wedding is not being held all in one place – so make sure to add in more than enough time for driving if you’ll be doing that between locations (because it always takes longer than you think)! If you’re having a church wedding or longer ceremony, or if you’d like more coverage of the preparations and/or reception – feel free to add time where necessary!

If you’re uncertain how much coverage you should get for your wedding, make sure to talk over the layout of your day with your photographer and discuss the options you have for your wedding day timeline so you can book a package that makes the most sense for your day. Some weddings may only need 6 hours of coverage, others may need 10! Whatever the case may be – make sure to discuss the timeline before booking so you can ensure all the aspects of the day you want documented are able to be.

And lastly – don’t forget about noting when the sun sets! Depending on the time of the year your wedding is being held, the sun can set pretty early. Make sure you keep this in mind when deciding on your wedding day timeline. (And so you can plan to sneak out and get a few photos like this with your love!) 🙂




I hope this information helped someone out there even a little bit! Of course every wedding is unique and because of that – this timeline is just a generic version that can (& should) be altered to fit your day! So email your photographer (if you haven’t already) to get this conversation going! And of course – feel free to write me if you have any questions!

xoxo! ~Christy 🙂



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Christy & James are Chicago based but happily travel anywhere in the world that beautiful love stories take them!