So you are getting married in Philadelphia and putting together your dream day – this is such an exciting time! Wedding days are a big day and there are often a lot of moving parts swirling around in your head. As a Philadelphia wedding photographer, I have some helpful tips for putting together a photography timeline for your wedding day that will help you not just with getting the photos you want, but most importantly – enjoy your wedding day!
I should start by saying that each wedding day photography timeline will be different and custom for your particular day. There are also many factors that affect your timeline such as how long your ceremony will be, if you are doing a first look, if you will be traveling to different locations, Philadelphia city traffic, if you have one or two photographers if you want getting ready photography, how many different grouping you want for your family photos etc. These are just some of the variables! It is important to plan out your timeline and write it down so you get the photos you want and enjoy your celebration. I will touch on each section of your wedding day timeline and some things to consider while planning out your day.
Recommended Time: 1 hour
Tip: If you are having hair and make-up done make sure it’s all done before your photographer arrives
Many couples would like the classic “getting ready” photos of putting on their wedding day look and getting help from family or loved ones. Typically I recommend one hour for this and if you are having hair and makeup done, that should all be done before your photographer arrives. Also, whoever is helping you get dressed should also be hair and makeup ready if they are having those services done. That way we can jump right into photos. During this getting-ready time, you would have your details photographed (such as rings, invitations, flowers, outfits, shoes, and anything sweet and sentimental that you will have with you for your wedding day). You will also have photos of you getting dressed and some portraits. For Philadelphia weddings, it can be very helpful to do your getting-ready photos in a hotel close to where you are taking your formal photos or where your venue is to keep things streamlined as getting around in the city can take time.
Recommended Time: 15 minutes
Tip: Having a first-look has become popular because then you are able to join cocktail hour instead of take photos during this time
Some couples chose to do a “first look” on their wedding day. A first look is when the couple decides to see each other before their wedding ceremony in order to do all of their formal photos(couple’s photos, wedding party, and family) before the ceremony. The main reason that couples choose to do this is so they are able to join their guests at cocktail hour and each drink and be merry with their loved ones. Weddings often feel like a whirlwind for couples, so having more time to be present with their guests can be a gift. If the couple decides not to do a first look and instead see each other for the first time walking down the aisle they will often miss cocktail hour and do their formal photos during this time. If this is the way you decide to go, I recommend you try to get a few photos beforehand with the couple separately with the wedding party and family in order to trim down your formal photo time post-ceremony and fit it into the allotted hour of cocktail time. For first looks in Philadelphia embrace your surrounding to find a fun place for your first look that will lead right into your couple’s photos.
Recommended Time: 30 minutes for each section
Tip: Make sure everyone knows where to be and what time to be there
Formal photos are made up of three sections: couples photos, wedding party, and family. Deciding the location for these photos will help you organize your day. There are so many iconic locations for wedding photos in Philadelphia! Also deciding on who will be in these photos will be helpful too. If you are doing formal photos after the ceremony it can be a good idea to ask those who are in the formal photos to stay seated after the ceremony, if they wander into the cocktail hour is difficult to get them back out for photos! Sometimes when the ceremony and reception are in different locations couples may decide to add time in for photos between the ceremony and cocktail hour so they can take photos and not miss cocktail hour.
Recommended Time: 30 minutes
Tip: Write out a list of who you want in each group
Family photos typically include immediate family and grandparents if they are attending. If you are doing extended family you may need to add more time or do the extended family during another part of the day. For family photos, I recommend you write out a list of each group that you want to be photographed so that you make sure you don’t miss a photo that you want. It is often helpful to do these photos at your venue or ceremony location rather than asking all your family to travel through the city. If there are Philadelphia locations you love, I recommend doing these for couples’ photos.
Recommended Time: 30 minutes
Tip: Try to plan your day so you have pretty sunlight for your couples photos
Couples photos are so much fun! Make sure you plan out where you want to do these photos. Is the venue picturesque? Do you want to go to a park or another Philadelphia location? There are some locations in Philadelphia that require permits for photos such as Race Street Pier, and National Park areas like Second National Bank and Merchants Exchange. Definitely do your research and plan ahead for a smooth day. It is important to think this through and make sure you have allotted enough time and have the proper transportation if you are going to another location. Often couples can be nervous about having their photos taken, if this is you don’t worry it’s normal and you will be guided through it!
Recommended Time: 30 minutes
Tip: Have a point person on both side to help keep everyone where they need to be
Wedding party photos will take more or less time depending on how many are in your wedding party. Also if you are including a ring bearer or flower girl decide if they will be included in the wedding party photos. It can be nice to include individual photos with each of member of the wedding party as they are some of your closest friends and family. Think about if you are doing your wedding party at your venue or if you are doing these photos at another location in Philadelphia. If you are going off sight, you will want to provide transportation for them and maybe some snacks and drinks!
Recommended Time: 30 minutes – One hour or more
Tip: Enjoy the moment!
Ceremony time really can vary depending on what kind of ceremony you have and your preferences. Some are short and sweet and under 20 minutes and others can be more than an hour. My only suggestion here is just to know how long it will be and plan for it. Also, decide what your plan is after your exit. Are you getting in a car and being driven away? Are you doing a bubble exit? Are you circling back and going right into family photos? Sometimes it is helpful to have the officiant tell your guests at end of the ceremony what happening next so they know where to go/what to do.
Recommended Time: 1 hour
Tip: Decide if you want to join cocktail hour as a couple or take photos during this time
Decide if you are going to join cocktail hour as a couple or use this time for photos. Sometimes couples split the difference and join the cocktail hour halfway through. As far as photos for this time it is usually candid photos of guests enjoying themselves and celebrating the couple!
Recommended Time: Varies often 3 hours or more
Tip: Consider popping outside for an “end of night couples photos”
This part of the day can look very different depending on the vision and flow you have planned. Is it a formal sit-down coursed meal? Is it a buffet? Are you including formalities such as being announced in, parent dances, toasts, and cake cutting? It’s important to plan this out and coordinate with the venue, and DJ for this part. As for photography during the reception, we are typically documenting the events as they happen. Often photography concludes before the end of the reception. Consider including an “end of night couples photo”. It can be fun to pop outside in the city for a cool photo. Some venues have rooftop views of Philadelphia or fun street views to incorporate.
If you will be traveling to different places for getting ready, formal photos, ceremony or reception make sure you schedule this into your day and include it on your wedding day photography timeline. Going even a short distance in downtown Philadelphia can take more time than you would think due to traffic so be sure to add buffer time. Padding your day with a little extra time throughout will make your day more relaxed and enjoyable!
Definitely check to see what time sunset is on your wedding day. You will want to be sure you have pretty daylight for your formal photos and if you are doing your ceremony outside. You don’t want to be surprised by the sunset on your wedding day.
Weather is always an unknown and you never really know what the weather will be like on your wedding day until the day of the wedding. Philadelphia has four distinct seasons and they all have things to keep in mind. If you are planning a summer wedding expect that it might be hot and have water on hand for your guests. In the fall know that it can get quite chilly once the sunsets. No matter what time of year, it is always a good idea to have a rain plan. Where will you do your formal photos if it rains? Check with your venue about possibilities and policies ahead of time so you are on the same page. Often venues have restrictions on when you can use the space that day. It never hurts to have clear umbrellas on hand for the couple and wedding party just in case!
Wedding days are bug days and having a solid and realistic timeline is one of the keys to having a smooth and enjoyable day. The whole point of having a wedding is to gather and celebrate the union of your love and make sure your timeline gives you time to enjoy!
Want more wedding planning tips for your Philadelphia Wedding? Here are some more blog posts that might be helpful: