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How Much Time Do I Need for my Formal Wedding Photographs? When Should They All Be Scheduled?

As you may have already discovered, your wedding planner and your wedding photographer have completely different ideas on how much time you need after the ceremony. The planner is usually looking at it from a logical standpoint of getting things set up and letting your guests enjoy cocktail hour. However, unless the planner has worked with a lot of professional photographers, they may not know how long they need to allow time for. In fact, even most professional wedding planners I've worked with do not put in an adequate amount of time into the wedding day timeline for the formals.

Dairy Barn Wedding Photographer Fort Mill SC Charlotte NC


2 - 3 minutes per grouping is industry standard. On my FAQ page I give an hours guide, because usually people do not plan in adequate time for the formal photographs, and the bride is left with the decision of making things late or not finishing her list. However, the hours guide is just a guide. Once you get closer to the wedding day, about 4 months away, is when you should start writing out your formals list. Then you can take the number of groupings and multiply it by 3 to get a more accurate number of how much time you will really need for your pre-formals and post-formals. You will then need to communicate that with your planner.

Here is a short mock shot list of the post-formals (after ceremony), and the time it will take. This would be the time you would have cocktail hour for your guests.

1.) Bride, Groom, preacher

2.) Bride, Groom, Bride's Parents

3.) Bride, Groom, Groom's Parents

4.) Bride, Groom, Bride's Parents, Bride's Siblings

5.) Bride, Groom, Groom's Parents, Siblings

6.) Bride, Groom, Bride's Family

7.) Bride, Groom, Groom's Family

8.) Bride, Groom, Groomsman

9.) Bride, Groom, Bridesmaids

10.) Bride, Groom, Little People (Flower Girls, etc)

11.) Bride, Groom, Entire Wedding Party

12.) Bride, Groom, Entire Wedding Party Cute/Fun Pose 1

13.) Bride, Groom, Entire Wedding Party Cute/Fun Pose 2

13 minutes x 3 = 39

This does not take into account how much time it will take for the ceremony venue to clear out if you are having them at the alter, or in a place where guests may be. Nor does it take into account if you will be having a receiving line. It also doesn't factor in the 30 minutes to an hour that your photographer will need with you 2 alone. Let's break it down further:

15 minutes of the Venue Clearing out

39 minutes for formals/groupings

1 hour Bride and Groom alone

1 hour 55 minutes

Dairy Barn Wedding Photographer Fort Mill SC Charlotte NC

Why does my photographer need that much time for formals per grouping? Does it really take 3 minutes to click the camera?

Your photographer has to get you all lined up and posed. Yes, even the natural/candid looking shots are all posed in some way. Usually the photographer will use a posed guidance technique to achieve this.

Your photographer has to make sure everyone looks polished. You cannot see what you look like, so your photographer has to make sure everyone in the line up has straight ties, straight necklaces, collars are pressed, no hair fly-aways, etc.

With groomsmen it can take even longer than 3 minutes per grouping if you have a rambunctious bunch! We will get them all posed up, start checking their appearance details, and low and behold-there's one goofing off and out of line/pose again, and to top it off, he gets everyone laughing and out of pose/line. While it's definitely fun, it really does eat away at time, and people don't realize it. If you know you have a lively bunch, you may want to factor in a multiplier of 4 minutes for the pictures the groomsmen will be in.


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Let's look at an entire wedding formals list with alternatives

Pre-Ceremony Formals

1.) Bride and Bridesmaids

2.) Bride and Bridesmaids pose 2

3.) Bride and Bridesmaid 1

4.) Bride and Bridesmaid 2

5.) Bride and Bridesmaid 3

6.) Bride and Bridesmaid 4

7.) Bride and Mother

8.) Bride and Father

9.) Bride with parents

10.) Bride with siblings

11.) Bride with sibling 1

12.) Bride with sibling 2

13.) Bride with whole family

14.) Bride with Flower Girl

15.) Bride with Groomsmen

16.) Bride Alone (30 minutes)

15x3+30=1 Hour 15 Minutes

You can always take individuals out to make your list shorter as well as combine groupings to cut some time out like this:

1.) Bride with Bridesmaids and Flower Girl

2.) Bride with parents and siblings

3.) Bride with parents

4.) Bride with Grandparents

5.) Bride with Groomsmen

6.) Bride Alone (30 minutes)

5x3+30= 45 Minutes

For the post ceremony formals, we will use our list above, and we will just double the Bride's Pre-Ceremony Formals for the Groom's side. Here is how the math breaks down for the longer pre-formals:

1 Hour 15 Minutes | Pre-Ceremony Bride

1 Hour 15 Minutes | Pre-Ceremony Groom

1 Hour 55 Minutes | Post Ceremony Formals

4 Hours 25 Minutes

Here is how the math breaks down for the short pre-formals:

45 Minutes | Pre-Ceremony Bride

45 Minutes | Pre-Ceremony Groom

1 Hour 55 Minutes | Post-Ceremony Formals

3 Hours 25 Minutes

You can also shorten the post-ceremony formals, but at the very least, you need to leave 30 minutes for the Bride and Groom alone. In the below picture, Jackie penciled in 30 minutes of time at sunset for her and Chase even after the post-formals! How amazing!

Dairy Barn Wedding Photographer Fort Mill SC Charlotte NC

When should the pre-formals start?

To answer that question I usually start backwards. For the Pre-Ceremony Formals, time must also be left for the Bride to get out of the public eye, and for the photographer to get prepared for the ceremony. Guests generally show up early for weddings, so the bride should be hidden away at least 30 minutes before the ceremony. You also need to allow about 30 minutes of time for your photographer to photograph the ceremony venue before guests start arriving. If your wedding is a 4PM, it would be a good idea to have formals done by 3PM to allow the photographer at least 30 minutes to photograph the ceremony venue. Then they will have 15 minutes to take a small break (yes they do need them!) to get refreshed for the ceremony, as well as hone their vision for your ceremony and communicate with their seconds and assistants what they will be expecting from them. These meetings with their team really need to be done right before the ceremony, and cannot be done hours in advance. You see, the light changes if outside or inside a building with windows.

Phew that was long! Now let's see how this looks on a timeline with a ceremony at 4PM.

Long Pre-Formal List With Venue Details

12:30-1:45-Groom's Formals

1:45-3:00-Bride's Formals



5:30-6:30-B&G Photos

This amounts to 6 hours of coverage, and does not include reception, getting ready photos, b&g or reception venue details.

Short Pre-Formal List Without Venue Details and only 30 minutes of time for b&g

2:00-2:45-Groom's Formals

2:45-3:30-Bride's Formals



5:30-6:00-B&G Photos

This amounts to 4 hours of coverage, which also leaves a good amount of time for getting ready photos, details, and maybe reception or partial reception.

Your formals list will impact the amount of time you've booked greatly. Just by shortening the first list by taking out individual bridesmaid/groomsmen portraits with the B&G and condensing family photos, 1 Hour and 30 Minutes was taken out of the coverage and could be put somewhere else.

I hope this information helps everyone! Thanks for reading my Beauties!


Jennifer Brecheisen

Fine Art Destination Wedding Photographer

Charlotte NC, Asheville NC, Charleston SC, Savannah GA, Aspen CO


The above wedding of Jackie & Chase was held at The Dairy Barn in Fort Mill, SC right outside of Charlotte, NC and close to Lake Wylie and Rock Hill.

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