July 20, 2011

Planning the Wedding Day Timeline: a photographer’s top tips

General Love Wedding Planning

Thank you for choosing McKay’s Photography to document your wedding day. In most cases, I will work an 8 hour day, unless otherwise noted in your contract. Getting ready…. through the beginning of all the crazy dance party… and leaving after you all become a hot mess. Probably the number one question I get asked about wedding planning is about planning the wedding day timeline. As a hands on wedding photographer, I prefer to guide you to the realities and logistics of your unique event so there are no surprises. For you or for me.

Finger Lakes engagement and wedding photographer blog

30 days prior to the wedding, we will meet to discuss the final time line of your event.

Here is a general overview to planning the wedding day timeline:


Typically, I will arrive at the Bride’s preparation location at least an hour before the ceremony, unless otherwise noted. Please cut the tags off of the dress, and hang on a fancy padded hanger (I will provide). Also, please have all of your details in one location if you would like photographs of these important items (shoes, jewelry, headpieces, heirlooms, etc.). I will move things around when I arrive, to find the best location. Typically, I like to get you ready in a nice open room with a large window. If you have your own ideas, I am always open to making the images important to you and your family.

planning the wedding day timeline


I prefer to arrive at the ceremony location at least 20 minutes prior to start time in order to set up and get details. The Groomsmen should arrive at least 45 minutes prior to the ceremony time. After the ceremony, I will leave you around 15 minutes to greet your guests unless you have a receiving line. If you plan on having a receiving line, plan on at least an hour. There are a lot of alternative options, if you are interested.

Formal Portraits:

The more time you allocate towards this part of your day, the more thorough and focused I can be on producing the best possible quality. That being said, after years in the business, I have this part of the day down to an art. The couple stays where I place them and then I add and remove family members. Like an assembly line, if everyone is on time and paying attention, this can go very fast!

planning the wedding day timeline tips from Rochester's top wedding photographer Heather McKay

I recommend a minimum of one hour for formal pictures. Typically, we will take 20-45 minutes for the families, 20-40 minutes for the Bridal Party, and 20-40 minutes for the Bride and Groom. If your family or Bridal Party is large or unorganized, please over estimate the time necessary.

Also add travel time (including getting lost).  Alternate locations are always welcome, but not needed. Delegating a “family wrangler” is helpful if we do formals after the ceremony. Please be sure that Grandparents (and their drivers) know to keep them after the ceremony!

planning the wedding day timeline tips from Rochester's top wedding photographer Heather McKay

If your wedding is in the evening, all formals should be done prior to the wedding itself. After the ceremony, I will steal you away to get the newly wed images, as those carry more energy after the wedding has taken place.

The only formal images that I believe are a “must have” are of the Bride with her parents/siblings/grandparents and the Groom with the same. If you have God Parents or other special guests, please allow extra time and notify me/them before the wedding day.

If I’m working on a list of extended family portraits (aunts/uncles/cousins), then I’m not taking candids or creating magic…..


I will stay through the last of the formal reception events and I will find you before I leave. Unless you have chosen Full Day coverage, I will not stay all night. If at any time during the day we fall behind on portraiture, I will make every attempt to get those images during the reception. Please feel free to find me during the reception if you would like additional pictures taken of friends or family, but please do so before I pack up for the night. The same goes for your parents. I am happy to capture an image of them with their siblings/parents!

 Rochester wedding photography at Colgate Divinity School with Lance & Jessica by McKay's Photography

For a more detailed break down of the wedding day, read this perfect article:

Are You Scheduling Enough Time for your Wedding Photography?

fire pit with smore's at a destination wedding in the finger lakes

Any questions about planning the wedding day timeline? Comment below and I’ll help!


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