The Wedding Photography Checklist

Must Capture Moments for Your Wedding Shot List

You’re engaged! Are you ready to dive into the wedding planning process? Let’s make it easier on youat least when it comes to photography. Whether you’re still finding what you like, providing examples for what kinds of shots you’re looking for, or even a photographer looking for some inspiration, my wedding photography checklist is here to help. Already have a photographer with a built-in shot list? You can still let this list be your guide! Capture it all or tone it down to get an idea of how long you’ll need to book the photographer for your big day. (My bookings start at six hours!)

Weddings are always so beautiful, filled with details and personal touches that are passed down for generations or completely your own. There are so many memorable moments! Being prepared to capture the moments, as well as the details, with a wedding photography checklist will make sure that nothing is missed and you’ll be able to look back at everything that went into your day forever.

While some photographers won’t ask for input on the shot list (we’re here so you don’t have to worry about it, after all!), it’s important that you communicate any specific photo requests ahead of time. Are you wearing your great-grandmother’s bracelet? Make sure there’s a photo of that detail! Are there parts of the family or friend groups who are rarely in the same place at the same time? Make sure you capture everyone together for a moment, too. These are things your photographer won’t know unless you tell them! This is your wedding day. At the end of it all, your photos should reflect what matters to you.

So without further ado, here are the watered-down, most important things for your wedding photography checklist: 


Capture a timeless shot with your gown near a window. While it may not be a photo you frame, you’ll enjoy looking back at how much you loved your dress, and it will bring back all your memories of picking it out and getting ready that morning. 

Getting ready moments 

Candid photos are my absolute favorite! There’s so much time spent and preparation that goes into getting ready for not only the bride, but also her bridesmaids, flower girl, moms, etc. Capture getting ready together and those special moments of calm before the day gets going. While it may be tough to narrow down candid specifics for a wedding photography checklist, I recommend getting help situating your dress, train or veil, final touch-ups on hair and makeup, and the calm and happy moments in between.

The little details 

You may think to yourself, why should I have my fiancé’s watch or shoes photographed? Aren’t these small, unimportant things? Yes, they’re small, but they help paint a big beautiful picture of your day. Maybe your grandparent or someone special in your family gave you a handkerchief or piece of jewelry that’s sentimental or has a special story. Maybe years from now you find yourself unable to remember what your earrings looked like, or which accessories you paired with each piece. Let us help you remember the details. (Plus, when you create a wedding photo book, these pictures can leave a little bit of breathing room between the momentous shots!)

wedding photography checklist

The invitation 

Save the date and invitation suites play an important role in the big day. Save a set of wedding stationary to have a photo taken in the setting for which they were made. 

Reading letters or writing vows 

This isn’t for everyone, but if you choose to write your vows, exchange letters, gifts, etc. between the bride and groom, add those gestures to your wedding photography checklist. Those can be very touching moments! See the look on each others faces, and look back on those expressions together for years to come. 

Toasts with groomsmen 

Generally speaking, the groomsmen take a lot less time getting ready. A few photos of them laughing, playing games or sharing a toast together is all you need. They may not be the sentimental type, but they’ll be glad to have these keepsakes of their closest pals.

wedding photography checklist

Moment of reflection 

A quiet moment between the groom and his best man or father, or the bride with her maid of honor or mom, are the moments that are more significant on a day as special as this. Make sure you remember those times, the words said and the wisdom passed down. A photo can be all you need to remember a moment and the impact it had.

Bride with parents 

When everyone’s almost ready, make sure you get a photo with your parents – either mom helping to secure the zipper on your dress, or fixing your necklace, or capture your father’s first look at you and the heartfelt hug that’s sure to follow. 

First Look 

Listen to me: DO A FIRST LOOK! It’s the absolute best. They’re some of the most touching reactions, and so many brides and grooms say it was their favorite moment of the day. It’s a time just for the two of you to soak it ALL in… this moment, this special time has finally come. (And the genuine reaction and anticipation of the arrival is absolutely priceless!)

first look

Bridal Portraits 

Fresh makeup, no wrinkles in the suit, no flyaway hairs. This is the time to capture those bridal portraits individually and together. If you chooses to wait until after the ceremony to do photos, shoot for right after the wedding concludes. 

The ceremony site 

Take a moment before people are seated (or when they get up) to get photos of the entire space of where where you got married. The exterior of the venue, the backdrop or where the light is hitting in just the right way is all very meaningful. 

Guests at the ceremony 

Try to capture a wide-angle photo of your guests beginning to arrive and find their seats. Hugs and genuine smiles can portray excitement and fun at the occasion! 

Walking down the aisle 

During the procession, plenty of people might walk down the aisle, but none are more important than the bride and those who “give her away.” Well, the bride and…

The groom watching the bride enter 

The groom’s reaction as his bride comes down the aisle is emotional, touching and usually one of the best photos captured of the ceremony. (This is the time when you may want to really think about having a second photographer so they can divide and conquer, one capturing the bride and the other the groom!) 

Wedding party at the alter

The people standing at the alter are thought of as family, and likely your closest friends. Standing to support you on your day carries weight! The smiles, tears and happiness on their faces as they watch your entrance and marriage are images you’ll be glad to look back on. 

Ring and vow exchange 

A key moment in the ceremony and day is the exchange of vows and rings. It’s a staple moment in any wedding album! It’s the stuff of fairy tales, and this one is all yours.

The first kiss 

If there’s a moment more classic than the ring and the vows, it’s the kiss! The first kiss at the ceremony’s end is just one of those magical moments. In it, there’s joy, relief and excitement all wrapped up into one. Don’t miss it! This one’s a definite must on your wedding photography checklist.

Recession up the aisle 

There’s never a shortage of smiles and cheers during this moment. Capture the hands up in the air, the second kiss that may happen, and the looks between bride and groom now that everything’s official!

Pre-reception (cocktail hour) 

Since cocktail hour is often used for wedding party for portraits, it may go unseen or unphotographed. I highly recommend a second photographer to add this to your shot list! It’s a fun and happy atmosphere where people are catching up, having a blast and are generally very receptive to having their photo taken. When you look back on your big day, these shots give you a glance at the moments that happened while you were away.

Full family portraits 

Weddings mark the merging of families, so be sure to gather parents, siblings, and immediate (and extended!) family members from both sides of the aisle. Having everyone in one place (and all dressed up!) won’t happen often in your lifetime, so take the extra time to capture these special moments. It helps to think ahead here to make good use of everyone’s time, so take a moment to come up with the different combinations of family members you’d like to photograph before the big day!

Couple separately with parents 

The big family portraits are fun, but make sure to capture those smaller family photos, too. Communicate different combinations of people you hope to capture with your photographer (bride with mom, bride with dad, groom with brothers, etc.). You never know when you’ll want to use that photo with the family member for their birthday or a Father’s Day shout out! 

Wedding party group shot 

Making people wait around and forcing them into group poses used to make me nervous, but here’s the thing: Those people signed up to be in the bridal party, and part of that includes having patience for these photos! A few of everyone, some of the girls, some of the guys, bride with each bridesmaid, groom with each groomsmen and there you have it! You can be done with these in 20-30 minutes, or less depending on the size of your wedding party. Enjoy the break from all the festivities. You’re going to want these photos later on!

A moment alone 

Maybe you’ve already taken bridal portraits during the first look, but it’s really nice to capture a few more of the bride and groom between the ceremony and reception, or right before sunset. There is something so sacred about the peace and tranquility of these moments during the big celebration. It often makes for some of the most poignant photos of the day, when the bride and groom are just more relaxed. I’m telling you, these are the ones that end up in frames!

Marriage license (or the ketubah signing) 

Don’t forget to capture photos signing the marriage license; that document represents the union, which is why it’s included in this checklist! It’s officially official. That’s a big deal!

Reception decor 

It’s such a process to decide on reception details. You might think nobody cares or even pays attention, but it’s your wedding day and it should matter to you. Make a point to get a few photos of the space at large, and smaller, detailed items like centerpieces, flowers, cutlery, and the guestbook. It’ll all go so fast that you won’t have time to really pay attention to all the beautiful details, and you’ll love looking at it afterward! You put a lot of time and care into planning these details. Make sure you capture them so they can live on forever!

Speeches and toasts 

This is a great pause in the reception, and a great time for your guests to get to know you, your new spouse and your family. In addition to still photos, if you don’t have a videographer, be sure someone captures any speeches or toasts on video, even if it’s just on their phone. You’ll love listening back down the road to remember all the kind words. 

The bride and group at their table 

Capture yourself at the head table during the reception during those above-mentioned speeches and toasts. The facial expressions are usually priceless! 

The first dance 

Whether it’s a slow sway or a choreographed performance, it’s a moment just for the bride and groom. This moment, and this photo, are quintessential on the wedding photography checklist.

Parents dances  

Some of the most touching moments are captured on the dance floor. One simple photo can capture a precious family relationship, and having tangible proof of that will mean so much to you both. 

Special cultural traditions 

Traditions like a bouquet toss, chair dances (or horah), cake cutting, or fun games can say a lot about what you two find important. Remember the fun, not just the formality, of your big day! 

Dance floor 

Get shots of the joy, happiness and love of your friends and family together on the dance floor. They’re all there to celebrate you! Everyone looks happy when the DJ or band is playing them on, and you’ll love having these joy-filled moments on film.

Final exit 

The final exit from the reception is one of the more artistic opportunities for wedding photographers. A tunnel with sparklers, bubbles or confetti is a popular way to end the night (and a perfect way to end your wedding book!). You’ll be busy heading out to your new life together, but a photo of this moment will always bring you back to where it all began.   

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