How to Build Your Wedding Day Shot List

In all likelihood, your photographer thinks about your wedding day a little differently than you do. To him / her, your day is a multi-act play with different scenes and actors / actresses.

Without carrying the play analogy too far, let’s break a wedding day into its scenes:

  • Bridal party getting ready
  • Groom and groomsmen goofing off and delaying getting ready
  • Groomsen at church / ceremony venue
  • Bridal party getting to church
  • Guests arriving and being seated by ushers
  • Ceremony
  • Post-ceremony at church
  • Family photos
  • Wedding party photos
  • Bride and groom photos
  • Cocktail reception
  • Dinner
  • Speeches
  • Formal dances
  • Cake cutting
  • Bouquet / garter
  • Sunset shots
  • Reception (dancing)

There’s a list of 18 different scenes that your photographer will ask if you want captured. You may have some others in mind. The point is that your photographer is one busy dude or dudette who wants to get the shots without getting in the way and without causing your schedule to careen out of control.

The Importance of Planning Your Shots

With so many people and places that need photographing, detailed planning of your day’s photography is vital. Your photographer will bring suggestions and will also ‘interview’ you to ask what shots you want, but you can help by thinking about who and what you want photographed and keeping itemized lists.

Some examples, just to get you thinking:

  • Do you have a list of people you absolutely must be photographed with? Grandparents, lifelong friends, people you don’t see often?
  • What family groupings do you want photographed? I’ll come back to this one.
  • Are there locations that have special meaning to you and your partner?
  • Are there objects that have special meaning? (Lockets, photographs, letters)

Give these lists to your photographer well before your wedding day, and before your schedule is too firmly set. Why?


Wedding photography is a balancing act between keeping your day flowing and recording every important image. If your photographer doesn’t know that you have twelve aunts and uncles and 30 first cousins, and you’ve allowed 20 minutes for family photos — guess what. Your entrance into the reception is not going to happen when you think it is, and your blood pressure will skyrocket as precious minutes tick by. So do yourself, your photographer and your guests a favour: take the time to write an extensive list of family photo combinations.

Every photographer will have a rule of thumb regarding how much time to allow for formal photos. On the aggressive side, you’re looking at two or three minutes per grouping, and that’s if you have a good ‘wrangler’ – someone who knows the guests and has them waiting their turn. Make your list of groupings and do the math – you will probably be surprised by how much time you’re going to need. But it’s better to be surprised beforehand than when your expensive dinner is getting cold!