How long does each activity take on your wedding timeline?

April 7th, 2024

The photos from this blog were photographed at a wedding Kent Island Resort in mid-July 2022.

Kent Island resort has several lovely spaces for weddings, both indoor and outdoor. The wedding photographs in this blog took place in and around the Farmstead building, as well as the Manor house.

Here are the vendors from this wedding: 

Venue/Coordinator -

Hair and Makeup- Behind the Veil

DJ- DJ Paul Entertainment

Wedding Dress- David’s Bridal

Bridesmaid Dresses - Azazie

Florist - WildFlower Weddings

Wedding Photography Activities with Ideal Times for Photography

Wedding day timelines can vary greatly by a couple's desires, cultures, and budgets. Ideally, each wedding will contain activities that are basic story-telling components. Not every wedding is long enough to allow all of these, but when we have the time, we help the couples fit these into their timeline. Sometimes a couple may need to decrease the time of some activities due to timeline limitations, and we do our best to fall within those constraints, but remember that the more time that we have, the more artistic photos we can take. If you have mixed genders in your wedding party, please feel free to replace bridesmaids and groomsmen with bride's people and groom's people (or bride tribe and groom entourage) in your timeline.

Basic Activities

Details photos

Ideal time 30 minutes

This will give us plenty of time to find a good location and get varied angles and depth of detail. Plus, if the hotel room is messy, or doesn't have an interesting surface, we will have time to take the items elsewhere.

A closeup of a wedding ring

Bride Steps into Dress

Ideal time - 30 minutes

Depending on the complexity of the dress, this can vary. If the dress is easy to put on, we may only need 15-20 minutes to stage some shots of a family member or bridesmaid helping the bride with the last few buttons.

We recommend timing how long it takes to get your dress on before approving the final timeline. Also, if your dress needs any bustling before the reception, please practice and incorporate that into your timeline as well.

A mother helps button up her daughter's wedding dress

Groom prep

Ideal time - 15 minutes

Like the bride, we try to incorporate the groomsmen or groom's family in the groom prep to make the activity more meaningful. We will catch a mixture of candid and posed moments. These moments can be fun, emotional, and help relieve stress just before the ceremony, so we recommend this activity in every wedding.

A best man helps the groom put on his suit jacket

Bride solo portraits

Ideal time - 30 minutes

Windows give off beautiful directional light for solo portraits. During the bride's solo portraits, we focus on her, the dress, the details, her hair and makeup. We endeavor to help her portray her elegance, grace, and charm.

A bride poses in front of the window in her wedding dress, holding her bouquet.
A closeup of the bride holding her bouquet.

Groom solo portraits

Ideal time - 15 minutes

With the groom, we focus on him, his outfit, and any details like cufflinks and watches. We focus on helping him portray his confidence and presence.

The groom stands next to a window looking out the window while buttoning his jacket.

Bride and bridesmaid portraits

Ideal time - 30 minutes

Here we get photos of the bride and bridesmaids in a mixture of fun and candid moments as well as posed moments. We also take time to photograph each individual bridesmaid with the bride.

A bride and her bridesmaids stand together talking and laughing in front of the farmstead building at Kent Island Resort.

Groom and groomsmen portraits

Ideal time - 30 minutes

Same with the groomsmen. We try to capture the comradery in candids and also pose them together in various locations. We might have them do an activity that reflects things they like to normally do like playing a card game or hanging out at the bar. We also get each individual groomsmen posing with the groom.

The groom and groomsmen stand on the front porch of the Manor house at Kent Island Resort.

Bride and groom portraits (Preferably during golden hour)

Ideal time - 30 minutes

Golden hour is what photographers call the last 2 hours before sunset. This is when the sun is close to the horizon and gives a beautiful glowing backlight to our subjects. Generally, this is also when we can get the best dramatic and romantic closeup and landscape imagery.

If you're in the city or the venue is surrounded by tall buildings, golden hour still helps but it won't have the same effect. If you have a venue where you chose it because of the scenery, we highly recommend scheduling this activity in 30-40 minutes before sunset, even if it means sneaking out during the reception.

Bride and groom kiss with the sun setting behind them.
Bride and groom hold each other with the sunset behind them.


Ideal time - 30-60 minutes

For this activity, we will have little to no involvement other than photojournalistic coverage. Before the wedding, we advise that our couples do any activities in such a way that the audience can see. In other words, try not to have any activities where your back is to the audience, or they cannot see you pushing the ring onto your spouse's hand.

Also, for important moments like the first kiss, try to hold the kiss for several seconds to ensure we can capture the photo.

The bride walks down the aisle with her father escorting her to the groom.
The bride and groom and the officiant standing with the bridal party in front of the seated guests.
The groom puts the ring on the bride's ring finger.
The bride and groom kiss at the altar.

Bride and Groom family formals

Ideal time - 30 minutes

We ask that the couple provide us with the list of names of each grouping, and to keep in mind that each grouping will take between 2-4 minutes to photograph depending on size. It's a good idea to start with the larger groups first, and any groups that include children, or people who have difficulty walking or standing.

Also, we ask them to notify the specific family members before the wedding day and right after the ceremony not to go to cocktail hour but to stay behind after the ceremony has ended. This way, we don't need to send someone to chase them down and hold up the family formals. If we do have to chase people down, assign helpers from each side of the family to help retrieve those who have wandered off.

The bride and groom standing with the bride's family in front of the Farmstead building at Kent Island Resort.
The bride and groom standing with the groom's family in front of the Farmstead building at Kent Island Resort.

Bride and groom and wedding party portraits

Ideal time - 30-45 minutes

Of course, we must get the get group photos of the entire wedding party as well. We would start off taking classic formal photos. The more time we have, the more creative and fun photos we can take.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen cheer for the newlyweds who are performing a dip kiss.

Ceremony and reception space photos

Ideal time - 30 minutes

You have been planning this wedding for months, so we do our best to capture the details in wide, medium and tight shots. We prefer that we are allowed to access and photograph these spaces after the staff has deemed them "picture perfect" and before guests are allowed in. Also, this should be scheduled before or after other vendors like the DJ are testing their lights or walking through to set up.

A picture of all of the decorated tables and chairs for a wedding reception at the Farmstead building at Kent Island Resort.
The head table at the wedding reception in the Farmstead building at Kent Island resort.

Grand Entrance

Ideal time - 5 minutes

The best photo opportunities for this activity takes place the middle of the dance floor surrounded by guests. When the family and wedding party are announced into the reception space, we recommend that they do any dancing or celebrating all the way to the dance floor, and not just in front of the door when they first enter.

The crowd celebrates as the the bride and groom enter the reception space.

First dance

Ideal time - 5 minutes

During the first dance, we recommend keeping conversation short and meaningful. Oddly enough, a lot of couples forget to smile because they are self-conscious. Try to be focused on each other, and the moment.

The bride and groom do their first dance at their wedding reception.


Ideal time - 10 minutes

Timewise, it's up to you how many toasts you want and how long you want them. For photography purposes, we recommend that they stand close to the table so that we can get everyone in a single frame.

The groom's father gives a speech next to the head table.

Parent dances

Ideal time - 10 minutes

Not every couple still has their parents with them, but if this is something you can and want to do, we once again recommend to try to be focused on each other, and the moment, and smile.

The father and his daughter dance together at her wedding reception.
A groom dances with his mom at his wedding reception.

Additional Activities

If you have more time in your timeline after these basics, you can add more discretionary activities.

Bride and Bridesmaid Robe shots

Ideal time - 15 minutes

This usually takes place after the hair and makeup artists are done but before the dresses are put on. It's a great time for candid and fun group shots of the bridesmaids having a good time together.

The bride and her bridesmaids sit on a couch in their pajamas and drink glasses of champagne.

First Look

Ideal time - 25 minutes

Expect it to take 10-15 minutes just to get everyone into position. After we have positioned the bride and the groom, we give them some basic instruction and then tell them to focus on each other and the moment and forget about us. We don't tell the couple when the first look has ended, we let them tell us. Then we take them straight into the daytime bride and groom session.

The first look itself is the anchor for our two types of timelines. The traditional timeline has the bride and the groom not seeing each other until the ceremony. This has the con of forcing all the family formals, bridal party photos into the cocktail hour. Plus any bride and groom portraits will need to be forced into the reception time or the cocktail hour would need to be more like a cocktail hour and a half. With a first look timeline, we can do all these activities before the ceremony so that once the ceremony begins, we may only have to do a few extended family formals. The rest of the night is party time, except maybe the sunset portrait session if that hasn't been done yet.

The bride touches the groom's shoulder during a first look. They stand outside the Farmstead building at Kent Island Resort.
The bride and groom kiss under an arbor with a field of wheat behind them.

Father-Daughter Reveal

Ideal time - 20 minutes

This is like the first look but between the father and daughter.

The bride smiles at her father's expression as he sees her for the first time in her dress.

Daytime Bride and Groom Session

Ideal time - 45 minutes

This takes place immediately after the first look and focusses on capturing classic and "must have" shots around the venue's best locations.

A bride rests her head on the groom's shoulder as he kisses her head with their eyes closed.
The bride and groom look at each other and walk together down a boat dock.

Cocktail Hour Candids/Group shots

Ideal time - 30 minutes

With the first look timeline, the bride and the groom have a more relaxed timeline and can attend the cocktail hour. We take candid photos, focusing on people who are smiling and having a good time. We also follow the bride and the groom so that we take group photos of them with their guests if they want to.

A bride and groom with friends gathered around them during the cocktail hour of their wedding day.

The following activities were not photographed during this wedding.

Bridal Preparation

Ideal time - 20 minutes

If you want bridal prep photos, at the least we recommend 20 minutes at the end of your hair and makeup time just to take some "finishing touches" photos with your makeup artist and hair stylist. The two areas where the timeline is often delayed is in hair and makeup and in transportation, so be sure to give plenty of time for the artists to work their magic. Otherwise, if anything goes wrong and they have to redo something, you could be looking at a 30-60 minute delay to the timeline which will eat into other activities.

If you are doing your own makeup, please use makeup that can survive tears because having to touch or redo up your makeup often will also eat into other activities.

Bride Opens Groom's Gift & Letter

Ideal time - 15 minutes

This activity usually occurs before the ceremony or first look. It can be a very sweet time of the wedding day, just be sure to have some tissues on hand because you just had your makeup done.

Groom Open's Bride's Gift & Letter

Ideal time - 15 minutes

Not much to worry about in terms of makeup streaming, but please let us know ahead of time if the gift includes bridal boudoir so that we know to have this be a private activity to keep the photos to his eyes only.

Nighttime Bride and Groom Portraits

Ideal Time - 30 minutes

This activity requires us to slip away during the reception and set up lighting for some epic and dramatically lit photos. These are especially recommended if you are doing fireworks, or if your venue is beautifully lit at night.

Grand Sparkler/Flower/Confetti Exit

Ideal Time - 20 minutes

This activity takes 10-15 minutes to set up, and it helps if we have a wedding coordinator to work with us. We recommend stopping at the end of the exit for a dip-kiss or a kiss with everyone standing behind.

Final Thoughts

The duration of certain activities like dinner or hair and makeup are better informed by other vendors like the caterer or the makeup artist. Also, in case of delays, things like when the ceremony starts or when food is served often cannot be delayed. Delays will most likely eat into your photography time, so be realistic and add buffer.

For other activities that are not on this list, think about how long it might take to do that activity and travel to and from that activity. Cultural or religious ceremonies like signing a Ketubah for Jewish weddings, or the Baraat for Indian weddings take time to photograph. Receiving lines can take an hour or more for weddings over 100 people. Traveling the reception tables and taking group shots can take 3-5 minutes per table.

Keep these things in mind for your wedding timeline because the purpose of the timeline is to ensure that we are able to capture everything that you want captured on your wedding day. So use it to help us serve you the best. Remember that the more time we have, the more creative and fun shots we can take, and the more buffer we have in case something goes wrong.


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