How To Plan Your Wedding Photography Schedule

Planning Your Wedding Photography Schedule

One of the most common questions we get from our couples is “How do we structure the day to get the most out of our photography?” And while every wedding is different, and each photographer has their own preferences, here are a few tips on scheduling your wedding day.

Preparation photos:

Start early! While most people assume that it only takes about a half hour to do their preparation shots, we recommend at least an hour and a half.  We know you want to enjoy your wedding, so we try to get as many of the important photos out of the way before the ceremony. During this pre-wedding time we not only take photos of you getting ready, but we take photos of the dress, shoes, bouquet, and all related accessories. We also capture candid moments, and your individual portraits.

planning your wedding schedule - bridal prep - shaun and skyla walton

A few extra tips:

  • Have your bouquet ready and delivered to where you are getting ready. This allows us to get photos of it before  the flowers wilt or get damaged.
  • Hang your dress on a nice hanger! There is nothing more distracting than a beautiful photo of your wedding dress on a plastic hanger.
  • If your bridesmaids will be helping you put on your dress, have them be fully ready and dressed when they do this. It looks much better in the photographs than having them in their pajamas still!
  • Keep your getting-ready space free of clutter and mess!  
  • Think about the accessories you want photographed and keep them all together so your photographer knows exactly what you want photos of and where they will be located (this counts for guys too!)
  • Bring along a few sets of your beautiful and undamaged wedding stationary (invitations, save the dates, etc.) for your photographer to capture

Shaun and skyla walton - planning your wedding schedule - detail shots copy wedding rings in a pink rose - santa barbara - shaun & skyla walton photographywedding shoes with spanish themed background - santa barbara - shaun & skyla walton photography

(Separate) Wedding party photos:

Before the couple has seen each other, we like to take 20-30 minutes to take photos of the Bride with her bridesmaids and Groom with his groomsmen. This gives you a great opportunity to relax and bond with your friends while having beautiful and meaningful photos taken.

bridesmaids laughing - rustic pink wedding dresses - winery wedding solvang californiagroomsmen laughing - vintage chic malibu wedding - shaun & skyla waltonA few extra tips:

  • Another great reason to always opt for two photographers is that these separate wedding party photos can be taken at the same time.

The First Look:

A first look/first see is when the couple meets up at a beautiful location and sees each other for the first time. It is all ridiculously emotional and beautiful (let’s be honest- I cry every time) and every moment is captured on camera. And while there is the issue of some people feeling like they are going against tradition, this is something we highly recommend (but that’s for a whole ‘nother blog post!) This time is not only wonderful for you, but it is wonderful for us because it gives us time to do some really amazing couples portraits without having to keep you too much from your own wedding. We recommend scheduling 45 minutes to an hour for this.

first look - pasadena wedding - shaun & skyla walton wedding photography

Full wedding party photos:

Now that you have seen each other, you’re calm, excited and ready to just get married already. This is when we recommend you bring in the full wedding party for photos. We recommend about a half hour for this.

full wedding party in front of old train - shaun & skyla walton wedding photographywedding party at calliote canyon - shaun & skyla walton wedding photography


Once we have finished with your couple’s and group photos, we like to give you about a half hour  to relax and enjoy yourself before the ceremony. During this time we  photograph the details in the ceremony and reception space.

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A few extra tips:

  • If you can’t have the entire reception space ready by this time, ask your coordinator (or whoever is putting everything together) if they can have one table set up and ready during this time


Every ceremony is different, so be sure to let your photographer know how long the ceremony will be and if you will be doing anything different we should know about- such as lighting candles, pouring sand, or even having your dog bring your rings.

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A few extra tips:

  • If possible, stand in the shade or with the sun behind you during your ceremony. This keeps you from having to squint during the ceremony, while also providing much more flattering light. 
  • If you are planning to use a sound system, make sure that speakers and cords are far from the space where you will be standing as these can be very distracting in photos. 
  • If you are planning on having a sunset ceremony- do all of your formal photos before the wedding! You do not want to have your formal photos taken in the dark!

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Family photos:

It is often best to do family photos right after the ceremony because everyone is already together. Each group photo takes about 3-5 minutes depending on how organized and calm everyone is. We recommend restricting this to the family members that are closest to you; parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. We can always get photos of you with your second cousin twice removed spouse’s sister during the reception. Any more than seven groupings and this time gets more stressful, than fun and meaningful.

robert riskin & fernanda machado wedding photo - shaun and skyla walton photography

A few extra tips:

  • Have a coordinator, bridesmaid or friend stay for these photos to help keep people organized and together.
  • In the future, these photos will mean more to you than you can imagine, so lose the cheesy smile and step in close and give your parents a good old hug and kiss.

shaun and skyla walton photography - bridal portraits with family

Cocktail hour:

The great thing about doing the majority of your portraits before the ceremony, is that it gives you the chance to actually be a part of your cocktail hour. So have a drink, hug your friends and family, and celebrate that you’re married! We’ll be around to take photos of your guests and details. 

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Reception (part 1):

For most of our clients, we recommend going from your grand entrance directly into your first dance. Then, after your first dance, immediately going into the father daughter dance and mother son dance. Not only does this keep your guests entertained, but it allows us (depending on the location and time of year) to capture these things before the sun goes down, which equals better and more flattering light. After the dances we recommend going straight into eating, then cake cutting, bouquet toss, and garter toss. Keeping these events early and close together means that your guests will be there, sober, and fully attentive to what is going on.

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A few extra tips:

  • Feed your vendors! This will make them so much happier, and want to work harder for you, I promise! We, being vegan, do not expect vendor meals and typically eat before and/or bring something light with us. 
  • Doing toasts before food is served keeps your guests’ fully focused on whoever is speaking, rather than on their own food.
  • If you plan to keep and preserve your bouquet, toss a small “tossing bouquet” or a bridesmaid’s bouquet in order to avoid your bouquet being obliterated to the tune of “All the single ladies”

Sunset photos:

At some point during your reception, we will likely pull you aside and do some more photos as the sun goes down, giving you some (almost) private time with your brand new spouse while we capture those stunning, glowy and romantic photos that you’re just going to love!

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Reception (part 2): 

Now that you have all of the formalities out of the way, it’s time to party! So get out on that dance floor and enjoy the day you have worked so hard for. Another benefit of doing all of “the big stuff” early means that your guests that may not be so interested in dancing and “partying down” are able to say their goodbyes, leaving the people who really want to be there to enjoy the rest of the night. And while we love this part of the wedding (and honestly, have a really hart time not boogy-ing down right there with you) you only need so many photos of your guests dancing. If you are not doing an exit of any sort, a good time for us to finish up is about 45 minutes after the dancing has started.

shaun and skyla walton photography - detail photographs at weddings

Grand exit:

If you are planning to do a grand exit, then we stay through the dancing until you’re ready to leave. While sparklers are always a grand exit favorite, many venues do not allow flaming, sparking sticks on their property (party poopers.) Bubbles, lanterns, glow sticks and dried lavender can all be fun and beautiful.

A few extra tips:

  • Walk slowly! I know you want to run, but walking slowly gives us a better chance to get more photos and gives your guests more time to see you.
  • If things are being thrown i.e. rice, confetti, flowers,  don’t look up! It is never fun to get that stuff in your eyes.
  • Smile, laugh giggle, yell, kiss! This is literally one of the best and most beautiful days of your life. Don’t be afraid to show how excited you are.
  • Stop and take a look back. Take a deep breath and take in every part of the day. This is a memory you will have forever!

shaun and skyla walton wedding photography - jasmine dustin corey nelson - grand exit






  1. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
    It’s the little changes that make the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

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