Scheduling Wedding Day Portraits. Tips from a Martinsburg, WV, Wedding Photographer

Planning out a timeline for your wedding requires juggling lots of competing interests. Your caterer needs to know when the food should be served to keep it warm, your photographer needs adequate time to get relaxed portraits, and your guests have rumbling bellies. Not to mention buffer time for traffic, hair and make-up, and the like.



This is exactly why I am working on a bridal guide for all my wedding couples. This magazine will give timing tips and break down the most flattering lighting conditions and most stress-free approaches to photography.  I can’t wait!

But in the meantime, here are some general guidelines to help you make the most of your photography coverage!


Best time of day to schedule first look and/or cocktail hour:

The most flattering light available to natural light photographers is “golden hour.” We get two golden hours a day. One that starts right at sunrise and the other that begins two hours before sunset. Of course the sun’s patterns change by the season and your location, but this can easily be determined with a quick google search.

In this Morgantown, WV wedding, we didn’t have time for a full shoot at golden hour, but snuck the bride and groom away from their reception for about 20 minutes for a quick retreat. I think it was worth it!


But even if you can’t swing a portrait session during this prime time, fear not. An experienced wedding photographer can make beautiful portraits in a bit of shade with surrounding neutral colors. We were able to create beautiful portraits of Ashley and her maids at high noon (the WORST time of day for portraits) with a single porch!


How much time should be scheduled for portraits?

Typically, I like to have 20 minutes with each bridal party, an additional 20 minutes with the bride, 15 with the groom, and then a minimum of 40 minutes for bride and groom pictures together. This gives the couple time to relax and get those romantic snuggly shots and just be together as husband and wife for a few moments. If I have less time, it’s do-able, but we have to rush through some posing to make sure we get those “must have” shots. It’s just a more enjoyable experience when we have adequate time for portraits.

As you can see, this time really starts to add up. Which is why it’s really lovely when we can do the majority of these shots before the ceremony, leaving only the family formals for cocktail hour. We get the bridal party to the reception so much sooner and things are so much more relaxed when there isn’t a huge shot list to cram in while guests are paitently munching on hors d’oeuvres.


Speaking of which, how much time will you need for family formals? My typical equation is about 3-4 minutes per set-up and that’s with me hustling. So each time you want to swap out a parent with a sibling or a spouse of another family member, remember that’s going to take some time because we’re always having to pull people away from side conversations and reposition the composition of the shot. If we’re doing it inside a church or building, tack on an extra 10 minutes at the beginning and 5 minutes at the end for the set-up of light stands, flash heads, and umbrellas.

Of course, if all this makes your head spin, you can ask your photographer to pick their times and plan around it or hand over the task to a wedding day coordinator who will be happy to work with your photographer to make the most of the day’s events.

Either way, planning out your day with photography in mind will pay off in dividends! Less stress and better pictures!

Happy planning out there, lovebirds!