For the Bride: Timing Portraits

For Brides

One of the main questions I receive from brides all the time is: how much time do we need for portraits? The answer is actually pretty simple but I want to break it down a little first and explain a few things.

First, when we speak of “portraits” on a wedding day, there are three categories: bride & groom, wedding party, and family formals. Depending on the timeline and flow of the day, these various types of portraits might be done all in a row, or they might be split up and put in different parts of the day. So it is important to clarify your terms and divide your “portrait” time into these categories.

Within these three categories, there are actually a couple of sub-categories. Under bride & groom portraits, there is “the first look”, “just married”, and “sunset portraits”. Again, depending on the flow of the wedding and each wedding’s particular timeline, one or all of those subcategories might be irrelevant. We’ll clarify that further on.

Under the wedding party, there are three subcategories: “the whole wedding party”, “the girls”, and “the guys”. Typically, I shoot all three of these in a row, starting with the whole group and then the girls, and finally the guys. However, sometimes the girls and guys photos can be done in the morning at the end of the “getting ready” part of the day.

The second thing I want to explain before we dive into the exact timing details is the idea of buffer time and travel time. I have done enough weddings to know that one of the main things that make the difference between a stressed wedding and a relaxed wedding is having 5-10 minutes of buffer time sprinkled in throughout the timeline. This is vital because every single wedding will fall behind schedule at some part of the day, and having that buffer time allows you to make up for the lost time.

Travel time is super important to remember as well. You need to calculate the travel time between locations (getting ready, ceremony, reception, separate portrait location, etc). One of the biggest mistakes that couples make when creating their timeline, is to forget to add in the necessary travel time. I would also encourage you to add in an additional couple minutes for each time you are moving to a new location. Simply looking up the drive time on google maps will not account for the minutes it takes to get everyone in and out of the car, any extra traffic time, making wrong turns, or parking. You don’t need to stress about this or find the exact time it will take you: just give your best estimate based on all those factors and round up a few minutes and you’ll be good to go.

Ok, so on to the actual time need for your wedding portraits.

BRIDE & GROOM: 30 minutes for the main portraits. This is the time for those romantic portraits of just the two of you. I will find the locations for these shots because the LIGHT determines where we shoot and so I can’t decide on portrait locations until the day-of.

-“First Look”: you can read all about the first look here, and if you decide to do one, I suggest setting aside 15 min in your timeline for it.

-“Just Married”: If you do a first look and your main bride and groom portraits before your ceremony, I love doing a couple of portraits of the two of you right after you are married and your “just married” excitement is at its peak. I would suggest setting aside 15 min for these.

-“Sunset Portraits”: These are entirely optional and having nothing to do with a first look or not, basically, if it is a sunny day and you would like some of those glowly, golden hour portraits, I will keep an eye on the sun and will sneak you out of your reception for about 10-15 minutes for these portraits. You don’t really have to add these into your timeline as I will work around your reception timeline and the sunset time for these. Also, they are entirely dependent on sunset, so they are not a guarantee, and thus it doesn’t make sense to add them to your official timeline.

WEDDING PARTY: You need a minimum of 30 minutes for your wedding party portraits. One way to make sure we stay on schedule for wedding party portraits is to have someone put the boutonnieres on the guys BEFORE they arrive for portraits. Even if you plan on doing the girls and guys portraits separately as part of the “getting ready” portion of the day, you still want to set aside a full 30 minutes for these portraits, either after the first look or after the ceremony. This is because more often than not, getting ready takes longer than planned and we don’t get to those girls and guys portraits in the morning.

FAMILY FORMALS: You should set aside 30 minutes for your family formals. Family formals normally take place immediately following the ceremony and it’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because then ALL of your family will be present at that time. Plus, if we are doing some beforehand or in the morning, it is a lot easier to accidentally forget or skip one of your groupings. I will send you a questionnaire before your wedding where you can list out the various family shots that you want. It’s best to assign one person from each side of the family to be in charge of wrangling everyone in their respective families. Typically, I can get through family formals in under 30 minutes, but there is often that rogue uncle, or missing sibling, or crying children that hold us up and make us grateful for those extra minutes. Also, a lot of ceremonies run longer than planned, which puts us behind schedule for family formals, so again, the extra minutes act as buffer time and can be a lifesaver.

So as you might have noticed, each one of those categories gets a minimum of 30 minutes. I say minimum because extra time is always a welcome thing, and there are sometimes cases where extra time is necessary. That would be if we are driving between multiple portrait locations, you’ll need extra time. If you have a massive wedding party (I’m talking 20+), you’ll need some extra time. And if you have large families, or are planning on doing extended family shots in your family formals, you might need some extra time.

I hope all of this was helpful and can help make the timeline creation process a little easier. If you are an IMK Couple, I will be in contact with you closer to your wedding to go over your timeline and help you with any questions you might have. If you have hired a different photographer, I would suggest reaching out to them and seeing if they would be willing to go over your timeline and let you know if they think you have enough time set aside for all of the various parts of the day. While planning the timeline is often overwhelming and stressful, it is important to remember that the reason you are creating a timeline in the first place is so that on your wedding day you don’t have to stress or worry about time at all.


Mary Kate


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