Crane’s Chicago Wedding Photography
General Timeline Guidlines

General Timeline

A lot of time-sensitive variables go into planning a wedding. It’s impossible to develop an exact photography timeline for your big day, but this guide will give you a brief outline of what to expect and has proved an invaluable asset for my couples over the last decade.

Some sections of this timeline may sound long on paper, but you’d be surprised; your wedding day will go fast, most weddings run a little behind schedule and the sessions I have planned are fun and exciting, making the time fly even faster. Having a general photography timeline in place helps you plan for other aspects of the day, minimizing your stress and maximizing your enjoyment.

Rings, Dress, Shoes and Other Details

Expected Time: 30 minutes

The first thing we do upon arrival is photograph the details of your wedding. We allow at least 30 minutes for this process, which includes photographing the dress, rings, shoes, bouquets and other intimate details. Please deliver the wedding bands and flower bouquets to the ladies so they’re available for pictures. Also, please keep the room clear of clutter.


Expected Time: 60 minutes for the ladies / 30 minutes for the guys

This is the part of the day where we photograph the bride and groom and the wedding party getting prepared for the ceremony. Of the course of 60 minutes, we’ll take close-ups of the makeup and candid images of the wedding party. Anticipation is high before the wedding, making this an especially emotional and exciting time to photograph.

If you have two photographers, the lead photographer (me, Randy!) will be with the bride and my partner will be with the groom. It typically doesn’t take the men an hour to get ready, but it’s a lot of fun to photograph their interactions and playful manner. This section will also include photographs of the father of the bride seeing his daughter for the first time and images of both the bride and groom with their parents.

Individual Portraits (Separate)

Expected Time: 30 minutes

The best time to take individual portraits is immediately following hair and makeup. Everyone is fresh and looking their best at this time, and the festivities of the day have yet to truly begin. This section also usually includes images of the bride and groom with their bridesmaids and groomsmen. Note: Bride and groom individual portraits are separate.

First Look and Daytime Couples Sessions

Expected Time: 60 minutes.

During the first look, we photograph the bride and groom seeing each other for the first time on the day of their wedding! The actual first look only takes a few minutes, but the remainder of the time is spent photographing the couple together.

Most of the couple shots are taken later in the day, but we may update this aspect of the timeline depending on your post-ceremony schedule. If time is limited between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the cocktail hour, I may suggest we include the wedding party in this session. If so, we should allow for at least 2 hours for this shoot.

*If you opted out for a first look, the daytime couples session will take place after the ceremony.


I will arrive at your venue about 30 minutes before the ceremony to meet the officiant, scout out the area and find the best angles and lighting and to photograph the decorations and guests as they settle. I photograph the ceremony 100% from a photojournalistic perspective. I will take pictures of the entire event as it unfolds, without interacting with the couple or any guests. At this point, I fall into the background and discreetly photograph the natural timeline of your wedding ceremony. I’ll be sure to capture any special, cultural aspects of the ceremony, but it helps if you let me know what to expect beforehand. If you are getting married in a church, I understand that this is a religious ceremony, so we’ll take the utmost care to be unobtrusive and respectful as we work.

Family Portraits

Expected Time: 30 minutes

Family photos are one of the most important parts of your wedding day. They should take place immediately following the ceremony (or immediately before, depending on the circumstances). Your wedding day is very important to your immediate family, so we want to allow as much time as is needed to capture stunning images with your parents, grandparents, siblings and other immediate relatives.

If you have a very large family, additional time may be needed. Post-ceremony is the best time for these images since everyone is fully dressed and looking their best. Also, this part of the photography timeline can be very hectic since there are so many different groups and photo combinations. We welcome a helper from each side of the family and a list of the different groups you’d like photographed. These elements help us stay on time and reduce stress/confusion among your family members.

Bride & Groom | Wedding Party Photos

Expected Time: 2 hours

As mentioned previously, we may want to include wedding party photos in the first look session. Or, if you haven’t done a first look, this is the perfect time to get creative and take some fun, romantic images at the location we’ve chosen. From my experience, this is where we’ll capture the most epic photographs of the day. Please allow at least 2 hours for wedding party photographs. The more time, the better, as it will allow everyone to relax and take more natural pictures. The time allotment is completely up to you, but I want to make sure your expectations are accurate. If you’ve hired me based on images you’ve seen in my portfolio, please understand that we’ll need a certain amount of time to re-create those types of photographs.

We know how important your bridesmaids and groomsmen are to you, so we’ll take pictures of the bride and groom with each groomsman and bridesmaid individually as well as in a group.

Reception Details Photos & Reception First Look

Expected Time: 30 minutes

The second photographer, if chosen, will spend about 30 minutes photographing the reception room after the vendors exit the space and before guests enter. We also take first look shots of the newlyweds seeing their reception for the first time.

Couples Session at Sunset

Expected Time: 30 minutes

Photographs at sunset are the things dreams are made of! The lighting is incredible, making for flattering and romantic shots that you’ll cherish for the rest of your lives. We understand if you need to cut time from various aspects of the photography timeline, but please keep this one as is! A full 30 minutes are needed for these once-in- a-lifetime shots.

Note: These images usually require the couple to sneak out of the reception. We understand you need to be a good host and the reception is lots of fun, so we’ll keep this session on time and work to get you back to the party ASAP. Depending on your venue, we might not be able to get a good shot of the sunset. The sunset might not be visible from your venue, but that’s ok! We’ll still capture artistic images, but focus on the available features, such as historic vistas or the city skyline.

Additional Wedding Day Considerations

Table Shots - If you are considering visiting each table and interacting with your guests, this can be done in one of two ways: We take formal pictures with every table, or we take a photojournalistic approach and photograph you naturally, without posing, as you visit each table. Note that this part takes a lot of time. If you allow 3-5 minutes per table, twenty tables will take about 60-100 minutes.

Driving Times - If your getting ready space, ceremony and/or reception are in different areas, please don’t forget to factor in additional time for travel. We haven’t allowed for any travel time in this timeline, so it’s definitely something to consider. Remember, travel time doesn’t just refer to actual driving time – loading a wedding party into a party bus also takes time.

Receiving Line - Not all couples have a receiving line, but if you, allow about 30 minutes to for every 100 guests. Instead of a formal receiving line, you may opt to have a quicker receiving line as guests enter the reception, or visiting each table to greet everyone.

If you’re working with a wedding coordinator, don’t hesitate to put them in touch with us from the beginning of the planning phase and we’ll work together on the timeline. I regularly work with coordinators who get the first draft of the timeline right on the first try! We’ll combine our skills and experience to develop a concise and relatively accurate timeline that’ll ensure your day runs smoothly and every detail has the appropriate amount of time.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know! Helping to organize your wedding timeline is part of my job and I’m happy to help. My goal is to do everything in my power to make your wedding day stress-free and enjoyable for you.