Wedding Planning Guide

Lauren Photo

Welcome to my favourite page on my website: the (secret) wedding planning guide, designed to help steer you through the entire planning process and provide you with a ton of resources!

As your photographer, you are trusting me to create the BEST images of your wedding day to serve as your memories (and I am SO deeply honoured you have chosen to work with me)! Part of my job is to help you create the perfect environment for this to happen, so we get the best possible outcome for your photos.

This guide was carefully crafted from years of experience in photographing weddings: observing what works best, learning from mistakes, and taking all of the valuable first-hand information and compiling it into one resource. I hope it can bring you comfort in times of overwhelm, answers in times of question, and honest, human advice. I truly want the best for you.

Lauren's Signature

Ready to dig in?

Three Photos Collage



Because it’s way easier than making you read the whole thing front-to-back!


 a sample timeline to help you build your own



coming up with backup plans in case of rain



different things to keep in mind when shopping



ways to optimize the morning of your wedding



ideas of details to include in your own day


REVEAL    06

creating special moments with those you love



deciding if a first look is right for you


things to think about when structuring your ceremony



tips to help you make family photos run smoothly



my approach to wedding party photos



carving out time for you and your love



things to think about for your cocktail hour



structuring your evening to optimize your photos



what to expect for your wedding gallery

Text Before The Wedding
Number One


Building your wedding day timeline is a process, and it is not something that will happen overnight. If you’ve hired a planner/coordinator, they will likely be designing this for you (so you can just ignore this)!

But for those who are planning their own day, I’ve included a sample timeline below to give you an idea of how you could structure your day. It reflects how much time is optimal for photographs (and for me to be able to capture different moments), but you will likely need to tweak or change certain parts to fit your own day. At the very least, hopefully it can be a helpful starting point for you!


We’ll need approx. 90 minutes for this (and if you’ve booked a second photographer, we’ll have them capture your partner’s wedding morning)


We won’t need more than 5-10 minutes for this. I’ll help to get everyone in place and suggest locations for the best lighting and experience


Don’t forget to factor in time to travel to the first look location. It’s good to give yourself about 20 minutes for the first look itself, so we don’t need to rush through any of these moments!


I like to give about 30 minutes for these photos. It’s good to ask your wedding party to arrive slightly before the start time in case of any traffic delays

Bride Next To Her Bridesmaids And Her Father

If we’ve taken the group photos earlier in the day, you can use this time to celebrate and mingle with your guests! We can also get extra group photos, candids, and indoor decor shots during this time


At this point, I usually work off whatever timeline your venue/DJ/planner has crafted for the evening, so be sure to let me know the schedule of events so I know when things are happening


I’d love to sneak you outside for some dreamy golden hour photos, and to give you some time alone together to decompress from a busy day! It’s good to let your planner/DJ/MC know about this, so they can add it to their schedule too.



11:00am – 12:30pm




12:30pm – 12:40pm




1:00pm – 1:20pm




1:30pm – 2:00pm




2:30pm – 3:00pm




3:00pm – 3:30pm




4:00pm – 4:30pm




4:30pm – 4:45pm







5:00pm – 6:00pm





6:00pm onward





*time TBD

Wedding Couple First Look

It takes about 30 mins to do family photos, assuming this is just your immediate family and everyone arrives on time! Give extra time for extended family, elderly guests, and kids


You may want to use this time to chill out and relax together before your ceremony (while I discreetly document these moments)!


I’ve included 30 mins of travel time to get to your ceremony, but you may need to add more. Also add extra time to touch up your hair and relax pre-ceremony if you think you might need it


Some people like to do a group photo after their ceremony! Factor in extra time if you’re also handing out champagne for a toast.

Wedding Couple Standing Together While Smiling
Number Two


If it rains on your wedding day, seriously – no stress! It may not be what you’ve been anticipating for your wedding day, but I can promise you (with ever fiber of my being) that your photos have the potential to be even MORE beautiful with rain! Here are some hypothetical scenarios to consider.



Let’s take it as it comes! Keeping our timeline flexible to shoot outdoors (and potentially re-locate to an indoor location if it does rain) is key. But no need to stress about clouds. They act as the perfect light filter and actually create the ideal environment to photograph! To be entirely honest, I usually keep my fingers crossed that every wedding day is a little overcast (because it creates the most beautiful photos and keeps the lighting even)!


If you love the outdoors and don’t mind getting a little wet, let’s venture outside and see what magic we can create (just remember to wear the right shoes)! I always carry clear umbrellas in my car, so we can bust them out if its drizzling. Outdoor photos in light rain honestly make for some of the most beautiful, intimate, and cozy photos! It’s the perfect excuse to snuggle up to your boo, and I promise your photos will be spectacular! 



There’s always a point where we need to draw a line, and that will look different for everyone. For the record, I’ve photographed during a tornado before, so I’m always willing to make it work (no matter what)! But if the rain is too much, stick to an indoor location. I’ll help brainstorm locations and find some indoor alternatives that make sense for your day. But let me worry about it on your actual wedding day, you just focus on enjoying yourself!

Two Photos Collage Showing Rainy Weddings
Number Three


Whatever you choose to wear on your wedding day will, of course, be in all of your photos. But how you FEEL in your wedding outfit will also translate directly into what your wedding photos look like. If you feel good, you’ll look good!

Groom Lifting Bride

Choosing an outfit that looks great AND feels great, is key! I am certainly not suggesting you shouldn’t glam out in a wild outfit if that’s what your heart is set on. You do you boo, and I’m all for it if it makes you happy! 

I’m mentioning this because when you can move around freely in your outfit, and breathe freely, and pee freely (lol), your wedding experience will be very different than if you can’t. Wearing an outfit that allows you to move naturally will look (and feel) way more comfortable in photos. And remember, if your wedding day experience is truly a happy one, it will show in your photos!

If you like to glam out but you’re worried you won’t be able to shake your bootie on the dance floor, you could even consider changing outfits before the reception!

Bride Dancing With The Groom
Two Photos Collage Showing Bride's Outfit

Quick note for my brides out there: if you haven’t already found your wedding dress, or if you have no idea where to start, I wrote a blog post to help you! I was feeling overwhelmed when I started looking for my own dress, and after receiving dozens of tips from former brides, I compiled all of the advice and created a blog post full of tips!

Wedding Couple Walking Together At Manoir de la Forêt



If you choose to do a first look, I’d recommend waiting to put your wedding veil on right before the ceremony (and keep it off for your first look)! This is why:

  • This gives your partner something new to see when you’re walking down the aisle
  • Your neck won’t be hurting from wearing it for so long (some veils are HEAVY!)
  • Nobody will accidentally yank on your veil and pull it out when you’re taking photos before the ceremony!
Text The Day Of The Wedding
Number Four



Ideal amount of time for photos: 90 minutes

(add extra time if you’re doing a reveal, giving gifts, reading

letters, and of course capturing your boo getting ready too!)

This is one of my favourite parts of the day because the energy is electric! Whether you have chosen to get ready together (to maximize time together on your wedding day), or get ready separately (to make your first encounter a surprise), there are so many ways you can structure this. I never want you to feel awkward with me tip-toeing around the room silently or directing people like a drill sergeant, so I try to just blend in with whatever is happening to capture beautiful candid moments.

Bride Getting Ready
Groom Getting Ready

I always make time to capture you both getting ready (together or separate). This might require adding a little extra time into the schedule to drive over to your partner’s place. Or if you’ve added a second photographer, I’ll send them over to capture it all. This is something we can chat about together and figure out the logistics!

Groom Getting Ready
Bride Getting Ready

Here are some factors that will affect the way your photos look (for you both to consider):

-a spacious getting ready location with big windows is ideal

-keeping beds made and clutter out of sight really help

-if the lights in the room cast a funky coloured tone, turning them off will keep things looking natural (if there’s a makeup artist, they may also do this to match your skin tone to the natural light)

-switching out any plastic hangers for wooden ones will keep anything hanging on them looking great in photos

-if anyone is helping you get into your outfit (your mama, friends, etc), it’s good if they are already dressed beforehand

-save any jewellery or accessories for the end, after you put your outfit on, so we can capture all of those little details too

Bride Getting Ready
Number Five




(the time for this is already factored into

the getting ready portion of the day)

Three Photos Collage Showing Wedding Details

I love detail photos and try to set aside some time in the “getting ready” portion of the morning to play around with these! It really helps to have all of the details you want captured set aside early before I arrive so I can jump right into it when I get there.


I like to think outside the box and I try to capture things less traditionally than your average photographer. I want your wedding details to look unique, not like everyone else’s.


That means while I love a good flat lay, I prefer incorporating the natural environment into it. I might spend some time scouting your living room for little items to include into your detail photos. Or I may photograph some of the details outside if the lighting is good. The more personalized these details are, the more accurate a reflection your photos will be of you and your wedding day! And isn’t that just the best way to remember it?

Three Photos Collage Showing Wedding Details


  • your dress
  • stationary/invitations
  • your wedding shoes
  • bouquets
  • jewellery or accessories
  • wedding rings and engagement ring
Wedding Ring On A Wedding Bouquet



  • your vows to one another
  • postcards from your vacations
  • cheesy love notes you’ve written to each other
  • gifts you’ve given each other
  • your favourite perfume
  • a cork from a special bottle of wine you’ve shared
  • your grandparents wedding photos
  • heirloom items (such as a sentimental bracelet your gramma wore on her wedding day)
  • some of your favourite snacks
  • your favourite bottle of scotch
  • one of your house plants
  • anything that includes an inside joke between the two of you
  • your pets
  • any little trinkets involving your pets
  • printed photos (or polaroids) of you two together
  • concert ticket stubs
  • airline tickets that you’ve saved
Number Six



Ideal amount of time for photos: 5 – 10 minutes

Bridesmaids And Family Seeing The Bride For The First Time

One thing I highly recommend to all of my couples is to do a reveal with someone special. You might do a reveal with your dad. Or maybe your grandma. Or you may choose to do a reveal with your bridesmaids. 

A “reveal” is a moment before the ceremony where you show yourself all dressed up in your wedding outfit to someone special. This is basically a first look with your family or friends.

These are often some of the most emotional photos of the day, and always (always!) make the person you’re sharing this moment with feel super special. I can help you coordinate this so it seamlessly flows into your wedding morning!

Number Seven




Ideal amount of time for photos: 20 minutes

(add extra time if you are reading vows/letters to each other)

Wedding Frist Look

This is an incredible time for you and your boo to see each other for the first time on your wedding day before the ceremony happens. This doesn’t have to be a big awkward staged moment. We can keep it simple, genuine and intimate.

I do recommend keeping your first look private. It gives you the time and space to just be together without worrying about any onlookers, or distracting you from being in the moment with one another!

No stress about trying to find the ideal first look location! I gotchu boo. Unless you already have the perfect spot in mind, I usually scout for locations on the day of the wedding since the lighting that day will determine what will work best! I’ll be there early to help coordinate it so everything runs smoothly (and help you and your babe through the whole process)! Easy peasy!

Not everyone chooses to do a first look, but here are some reasons why it might be a great option:

  • you get to see your babe earlier in the day and maximize your time together, on your wedding day.
  • you have a private moment together to express what you’re thinking the first time you see them (it’s tricky to do this at the top of the aisle during your ceremony)
  • it gives us more flexibility with the timeline, and we can get a lot of photos done earlier in the day so you can mingle more with your guests at cocktail hour
  • it diminishes any nerves you have, and takes the pressure off the ceremony entrance!


If you’re nervous about reciting your vows in front of everyone at the ceremony, you could instead choose to say them privately to one another at your first look! It’s an amazing way to express how you feel to one another without any pressure (and honestly – they are some of the most emotional moments I have ever captured)

Weddign Couples Sharing Theri Vows
Number Eight



I’ve photographed ceremonies ranging from 5 minutes to almost two hours long. There is no right or wrong way to ceremony, as long as it fits who you are as a couple!

During the ceremony, I am really just documenting everything that happens and I do my best to be as discreet and non-obtrusive as possible!


I focus on getting as many different angles as I can, and catching emotional reactions of your guests. If you have hired a videographer, I always work cooperatively with them so we can each get the shots we need, while staying out of each other’s frames!

Collage Of Two Photos Showing A Wedding Ceremony


If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, it’s a good idea to consider: what time the sun sets on that day, which direction the sun is shining from at that time of year, and where it will be in relation to you at the time of your ceremony.

Ideally having the sunlight shine evenly over the ceremony will be best for the images, rather than half of the ceremony be in the sun, and half in the shade. I can help you figure out all of this!


You may also want to consider doing an “unplugged ceremony”. This is where you ask your guests to put away their phones, iPads, and cameras and refrain from taking photos.

This is becoming more and more popular as many people prefer their guests to be fully present during the ceremony. Whether or not you choose to do this is entirely up to you (and I can work with whatever decision you make)!

Wedding Couple Kissing At Their Wedding Ceremony At Red Pine Camp




  • Asking your officiant to step to the side during your first kiss will give you a seamless backdrop (and no creepy photo-bombing shots—trust me, it happens!)
  • During your recessional (when you’re walking back down the aisle together at the end of your ceremony), I recommend stopping right before the end of the aisle and having one more “just married” kiss! These turn out to be incredible photos, with you surrounded by your guests cheering, encapsulated in wedding magic!
Number Nine



Ideal amount of time for photos: 30 minutes

for immediate families with approx. 10 groupings

(add extra time if you are including extended family)

Bride Standing Next To Her Family

From my experience, family portraits are usually the photos that end up being the most cherished (and the most printed!) in different families. This will likely be the most “posed” part of your wedding day, but I do take a few more candid “interaction” photos to keep things natural.

I will help direct everything and ensure it runs as smoothly as possible! There are, however, two key factors in making this portion of the day easy and stress-free:

  • Preparing a shot list ahead of time 
  • Communicating a specific time and location to your family members so they know what to expect
Bride Next To Grandma

I’ll send you a questionnaire before your wedding that includes space to write your family list. Making this shot list ahead of time ensures you don’t forget any crucial family members, and makes it super easy for me to read out people’s names.





If there are little kids or older grandparents involved in your family photos, let’s plan to take those photos first. Kids often don’t have a long attention span, and older people might have difficulties standing for too long. Taking their photos first will make this experience much better for everyone!

Number Ten



Ideal amount of time for photos: 30 minutes

Not everyone chooses to have a wedding party (in which case, just ignore this section OR we can replace it with taking photos of you with different friend groups)! 

Two Photos Collage Wedding Couple With Their Bridesmaids And Groomsmen

If you do have a wedding party, this is the fun part where you get those epic shots of you and your people! I always make sure to get a couple great group shots, then individual photos of you (and your boo) with each of your wedding party members.

I make sure I get a couple camera-aware photos (ie: where everyone looks at the camera) so you have them, but I also make sure to get you interacting for the rest (which looks a lot more natural)! If you have any specific poses in mind, be sure to let me know ahead of time so I can make a note in the timeline!

Groom And Groomsmen
Bride And Groom Walking Wth The Bridesmaids and Groomsmen


  • This is a great time to bust out some champagne and pop a bottle or two for photos! It’s fun, you get to have a drink, AND they make for hilarious/epic photos! With larger wedding parties, I usually recommend having one bottle for every 4 people!
  • If you choose to do a first look, we can also opt to do all of the wedding party photos before the ceremony. This really helps take the pressure off the timeline, and allows your wedding party to enjoy the cocktail hour. If you do this, just remember to bring bouquets with you and get all those boutonnieres on before arriving!
Number Eleven



Ideal amount of time for photos: 60 minutes

(but ideally broken up into 2 or 3 mini-sessions throughout the day)

Wedding Couple Holding Each Other

First off, why break your couples photos into 2 – 3 mini sessions throughout your wedding day?

  • An entire hour of having your photo taken is exhausting without having breaks in between, and we gotta save that energy of yours for the dance floor boo!
  • You get more variety in your photos. Diverse landscapes/environments. Different times of the day. Varied lighting. Lots of that good stuff.
  • It’s usually easier to fit 20 minutes of photos into the timeline rather than a full 60 minutes
  • Your wedding day is going to be a rollercoaster of emotion, so getting photos at different times of the day helps to ensure we capture all of it (and not just one particular portion of it). To be super blunt – many couples are nervous pre-ceremony, so taking photos before AND after the ceremony help to ensure we get photos of you looking more relaxed later in the day, too!
Wedding Couple Kissing While Holding Each Other

If you’re nervous about having your photo taken, or have never had professional photos taken before – no stress! I work hard to create a great dynamic with all of my couples, so that when I show up on your wedding day, you feel like I’m an old friend showing up for you (which really, I am)! I will help direct you if you feel like you might need that, but I try to capture you two as candidly and naturally as possible!

Wedding Couple Holding Hands
Wedding Couple Enjoying Sunset


  • If you or your babe are still a little nervous about getting your photo taken, I find it helps to have a drink beforehand. Crack a beer or pop a bottle of bubbles – it really helps!
  • Let me sneak you away for 10 – 20 mins during sunset! “Golden hour” is the best time of day for lighting. These photos often result in the best images of the day. Beyond that, it also gives you a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of your reception to take a moment to pause, snuggle up with your babe, and slow down for a moment. I recommend sunset photos to ALL of my couples, rain or shine.
Number Twelve



Ideal amount of time for photos: 20 minutes

Wedding Couple Kissing

If there is space in the timeline for you to enjoy cocktail hour and mingle with your guests, this is the perfect time for me to capture candids of everyone! I like to float around capturing the overall vibe of the day, and the interactions between people. I try to focus on moments and emotion, with the occasional posed photo here and there.

This is also a good opportunity to get any extra photos we may have missed earlier in the day, or take some extended family photos, or pictures of different friend groups. The key is to not schedule too much during this time, since we also want to ensure you can relax and mingle a little!

Wedding Guests Gathered
Number Thirteen



Everyone structures their reception a little differently, and it often varies based on the schedule of your venue and caterer. If you need help putting an evening timeline together, let me know and I can give you some great ideas!

Guests At Wedding Dinner


It sounds so weird to say this, but since I’ve had a couple experiences with it, I’ll say it: please feed me! haha after a long day of exerting energy, food (and a quick moment to sit) is very much appreciated!

I’m very flexible and can sit/eat anywhere, but feel free to seat me for dinner with your guests. This allows me to be fully immersed in the events of the evening and gives me direct access to capture candid moments and speeches!

And in case your caterer asks, I have no food allergies or dietary restrictions.

Wedding First Dance


I love to capture the mood of your first dance, and it’s always ideal to keep the lighting ambient and natural. If at all possible, asking your DJ to keep the party lights off until the dance floor opens will help keep the romantic mood in tact (and avoid awkward blotches of colour all over your faces).

Also, try to stay on the dance floor for at least one fast song after your first dance (or parent dances). This way I capture you in your element, with your people, having a blast!

Confirmation Thank you


At this point, I focus solely on documenting the people, the epic dance moves, and all of the energy of the night! I use my flash at this point forward to make sure I can capture all of the movement properly. 

I usually don’t need much more than 30 minutes to capture the overall vibe of the dance floor. Anything longer typically results in having a lot of repetitive photos (of the same people dancing) or sloppy drunk dancing! I usually gauge this on the night of the wedding itself, and I’ll always touch base with you before I leave to make sure we captured everything you wanted!

Three Photos Collage
Text After The Weddding
Number Fourteen


Once the confetti has fallen and the cake has been eaten – you can sit back, chill out, and get excited to look back on all of your amazing memories!

One of the things I (shamelessly lol) pride myself in is having a quick turnaround time to deliver your images back to you. I know how excited you are to see these, so I really make it my highest priority to get these to you as soon as humanly possible.

I will deliver a handful of “highlight” images to you between 1 – 3 days after your wedding. You will get a password-protected online gallery sent to you in an email. You can share the link and password with any family and friends that you want! Feel free to post these photos anywhere your heart desires, and I always appreciate it when you credit (and tag) Lauren McCormick Photography!

Photo Album
Seanna And Matt Sitting Together

Once the rest of your wedding images are delivered to you (this takes approximately 4 – 6 weeks depending on the season), the same process applies.

You can share the link and password with any family and friends that you want. I will also be sending out a curated online gallery to all of the vendors you’ve hired (so you don’t have to worry about any of that)! Everyone is free to post these photos anywhere their heart desires, with a credit (and tag) for Lauren McCormick Photography.

Text You Made It

At the end of the day, the best advice I can give you is to be yourselves. This counts for both the planning process, as well as your interactions with each other in front of my camera. 

Your wedding day is about YOU, so make it true to who you are. If you’ve always dreamed of wearing a blue dress, do it. If you really hate wedding cake, opt for your favourite dessert instead. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to get married, as long as it works for you.

I want you to look back on your wedding photos and feel like they are a true reflection of who you are, not just the era you live in. If you’re honest and vulnerable and allow me to capture your true dynamic with each other, then I can promise you will end up with timeless photographs.

Enjoy this time of your lives together and the wild ride of wedding planning! I’m here for you every step of the way, so never hesitate to reach out if you need anything.


Lauren's Signature
Wedding Couple Holding Each Other While Smiling
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