When Do You Take Wedding Photos

One of the biggest questions a couple faces when planning their wedding timeline is when to take photos. And perhaps the best advice when deciding when you want to take photos is to talk with your fiancé(e) about the wedding day experience you want. And that is specifically related to your wedding day timeline and the kind of day you want to have.

Once you know what kind of day you want to have, you’ll find it much easier to know when to take photos, because the wedding photography parts of your day will fall into place based on what kind of day you want to have.

When Do You Take Wedding Photos

When Do You Take Wedding Photos


There are several factors that will come into play when determining when you take your wedding photos:
  • What month your wedding is taking place?
  • When is sunset?
  • Do you want outdoor photos (or is that important to you)?
  • Do you want to do a first look?
  • Do you want to do wedding party or immediate family photos before the ceremony?
  • Do you want to be part of cocktail hour?


Your wedding photographer will tell you there are typically five potential areas of photography that will be part of your wedding day. And this is specifically referring to those times when your photographer is in control of the event, and people are aware of the camera. And are gathering for the specific purpose of taking photos while looking and smiling at the camera.

  1. First Look
  2. Couple Photos
  3. Wedding Party Photos
  4. Immediate Family Photos
  5. Extended Family Photos


Before you can know when to take these photos and where to put them in your timeline, you’ll need to answer a few questions:
  1. Do you want to be part of cocktail hour?
  2. Do you want to do a first look and see each other before the wedding ceremony?


If you want to be part of cocktail hour, in most cases you’ll have to do a first look. This is of course in a traditional American wedding where the wedding ceremony is in the afternoon (5:00 pm for example). And there is a cocktail hour after the ceremony, followed by the reception.

The big exception to this would be if the ceremony is earlier in the day. Catholic weddings are a good example, where the ceremony is more typically earlier in the day (2 pm for example). And then there is a several hour break. Then followed by a cocktail hour later in the afternoon (6 pm for example).

If you’re doing a First Look

If you’re doing a first look, then in most cases, you’ll want to consider doing couple photos. And photos with your immediate family and wedding party before the ceremony. If you can get all this done before guest arrival and before you walk down the aisle, then you’ll only have extended family photos to do after the ceremony and you can spend a significant amount of time at your cocktail hour.

An advantage of this is being able to not only enjoy the food and drink you picked and paid for. But also, and more importantly, you’ll be able to spend quality time with your guests. And if you can do this, you’ll be able to enjoy your dinner more. And without feeling obligated to rush to get up to greet all your guests.

When Do You Take Wedding Photos

Sunset Photos

If you’re doing a first look, and all those photos beforehand, then usually you’ll be doing this around mid-day or mid-afternoon. If this is the case, and photography is important to you, then you’ll want to consider photos during the golden hour. The golden hour is that hour before sunset. Which has beautiful light that most couples (and photographers) love.

couple sunset photo

Other options with a First Look

Just because you’re doing a first look doesn’t mean you have to do all these photos before the ceremony. You can do just the first look and save everything else for after the ceremony. Alternatively, you can do the first look and wedding party photos before the ceremony. And save the family photos for after the ceremony. Some couples might find this easier for family who can’t be ready earlier on the wedding day.

Best time to take wedding pictures

Not doing a First Look

If you don’t want to do a first look, you still have options. The first option is to do all your photos after the ceremony. If you want to do this, you’ll want to pay attention to your sunset and daylight savings. To make sure you have enough light (if you want to do outdoor photos). You will need most, if not all of cocktail hour. It is common that all of this will take more than 30 minutes and closer to 45 minutes to an hour.

Another option is to do separate bride and groom (or bride/bride and groom/goom) wedding party and immediate family portrait sessions photos before the ceremony. With this option, you’ll need more time in the morning, but, you’ll save time after the ceremony. But for this option, you’ll really want to consult with your photographer to find out if the time savings is significant. Where your wedding is if there is travel involved, and how your photographer works will all play a factor in determining if this option makes sense for your wedding.

Wedding photography schedule

A few more things to think about

Extended Family Photos

When we talk about extended Family Photos we are talking about the photos with family members including aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and possibly different friends groups. These family portraits are great photo opportunities and almost always, this is going to be right after the ceremony, during cocktail hour, before the grand entrance.

TIP: Be sure to have your parents, or siblings, or someone to remind all those people not to leave the ceremony site. Extended family photos are typically done at the ceremony site. And it is very common for some extended family to leave without being party of the photos. If this happens, this will more than likely throw a big wrench into your timeline as you try to track them down and get them back.

Sunset Photos

If you do not do a first look, and depending on when your wedding ceremony is, where it is, and other factors, it’s not uncommon that your couple photos will be around the sunset time. So if this is the case, then keep in mind you won’t need a line item for sunset photos in your timeline.

If you need help with planning when to take wedding photos, setting up a timeline,  or having guidance as to determining what kind of wedding day experience you want to have, set up an account with us here! We make timelines for real weddings, with ideal times.


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