Wedding Day Timeline photography planning

How to plan the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

A well designed wedding day timeline is an important part of planning your wedding day. The need for one can often be underestimated by couples, leading to feeling rushed or stressed on their big day and missing out pictures they would have loved. Which is why I work with all my couples to craft a perfect plan that ensures you get everything captured without feeling rushed or bored throughout the wedding day.

A good wedding day timeline will ensure every moment gets documented beautifully. Having one from the start helps avoid stress during your big day- which means no regrets when imagining what could’ve been if only we had more time!

bride and groom at four corners winery vineyard wedding

Tips for better photographs & a more relaxed wedding day:

  1. Most weddings need 8-10 hours of coverage, 12 for larger parties or weddings with tons of travel. Personally, 10 hours is what I most recommend because it allows for a more relaxed flow of the day and can lead to more time in reception for fun photos on the dance floor.
  2. Do a first look: Its less pressure on your partner, you spend more time together during the day, and it will massively calm your nerves.
  3. Take bridal party photos earlier in the day, its more fun and your bridal party less likely to be… over-served.
  4. Budget extra time for transitions, things go off time and thats almost a guarantee if you don’t have an extra few minutes here and there in the schedule.
  5. Limit time on speeches and people giving speech. Seriously, one time a guest went on for 15 minutes and it the couple didn’t even want to hear it.
  6. Have an aisle exit or do a fake exit before all your guests have been to the bar.
groom getting ready on his wedding day

How to budget time for the best results:

Wedding Details | 30 minutes

Thirty minutes is about perfect for making sure all your details are captured. This is typically the first thing on the schedule and includes things like the wedding dress, shoes, and rings. Invitations, bouquets, perfume and gifts from your partner are also good things to consider having nearby. I recommend putting all your details in a single area make getting these details in shots much easier because then the wedding photographer can focus on arrangements or moving the dress to the best light instead of looking for everything.

wedding day details: wedding ring and flowers

Prep & Getting Ready | 60 minutes

Getting ready is one of the most important storytelling parts of the day. Its when a ton of little candid moments happen that really add to the story of your day. Mom or a maid of honor helping you into your dress, candids of bridesmaids getting their hair ready while they wait for the next part of the day. After hair and makeup is finished I’ll photograph I usually start taking some intentionally positioned portraits to show off your wedding day look. My second photographer will be with the guys and telling the story there as well. Plan to have your hair and makeup finished about 30 minutes after the photographer is scheduled to arrive. That way your photographer is working the details as you finish hair and make up

Protip: You are the star of the show, you should have your hair and makeup finished before any bridesmaids. If you are late, it can throw off the schedule. If a bridesmaid is late, not much is typically affected.

Bride & Groom Portraits | 30 Minutes

Listen, all that prep is not for nothing. A quick separate session for each of you allows you cement that look in your memory. You look incredible right now, and deserve time and photographs for yourself and your partner. Usually this is done in your hotel room, bridal suite or separate parts of your venue.

First Look & Portraits | 45 minutes

The photographers have looked around the property and picked a space for your first look then you’ll get in position and fight all the nerves as you see your partner for the first time on your wedding day. This is intentionally private and intimate which is why we wait until after you signal to begin the first portrait session with the two of you for the day. There is no rush, just breath in the moment with each other. This is one of the few times during the wedding day its just you and your partner.

Tip: If you decide to skip the first look and wait for the aisle, no problem. Just make sure your ceremony is earlier in the day or you won’t spend much time together and portraits will get squished into reception/cocktail hour.

Bridal Party | 30-45 minutes

Time for shots! Both kinds. Actually, you can do this after your ceremony if you prefer and definitely include shots. This time is used for different locations, poses, and some fun photos. This is a great time for candids together as well, you should all be celebrating your day.

empty ceremony space for a catholic wedding

Ceremony Details | 20 minutes

Having a few minutes of the venue before guests show up allows time for detailed photographs of all the things you decorated for your wedding day.

Ceremony | 15-60 minutes

You’ll have different needs for this in your wedding day timeline depending on the type of ceremony and officiant you have. You should ask the officiant or church official how long to expect and base this off of that answer. If you are having a non-religious ceremony, it is typically under thirty minutes.

Family Portraits | 15-60 minutes

Depending on the size of your family and who you want included this could go very fast or need a little more time. The more group configurations and people in the photos the more time is needed. If you want a high-end look instead of a casual one, more time may be needed for lighting. If this time is meant to include the bridal party, immediate family, and your extended family then planning a little closer to an hour is probably best.

Reception Details | 20 minutes

This is usually done during cocktail hour if that is held in an area separate from the reception. You spent a lot of time planning and pinning the perfect reception decor that it would be a shame to miss these details. For weddings with a second photographer, this is usually what they do while the lead is with guests at cocktail hour or vice versa.

Sunset/Evening Portraits | 30 minutes

About an hour prior to sunset is the best time for portrait, most often referred to as golden hour. This is the beautiful golden light that you see in most Pinterest images and to be honest, my own instagram.

Reception | 60-180 minutes

From the first dance all the way until the ChaCha Slide on the dance floor, these will be the most relaxed photographs of the day. You’ll want to have the songs with the most guest interaction right after dinner so that guests that leave early make their way into reception photographs. At the end of the night, I recommend a send off image that will cap off the evening in a memorable way.

wedding reception champagne spray send off photograph

Send off image | 15-30 minutes

The send of image can be a sparkler shot, a dance floor shot with confetti or glow sticks, or just a creative shot away from the dance floor at the venue. This is basically the bookend to your wedding day and typically ends up being most guests favorite wedding photograph. It is usually taken after all the dance floor photographs and its definitely one I wouldn’t leave out of a wedding day timeline.

Wedding Day Timeline Templates

groomsmen having fun together on a wedding day

Traditional Wedding Timeline

  • 1030a Details/ photographer arrival
  • 11a Getting ready
  • 12p Portraits
  • 1230p Ceremony details
  • 1p Ceremony
  • 130p family portraits & full bridal party
  • 230p seperate bridal party
  • 315p bride & groom portraits
  • 4p cocktail hour
  • 440p reception details
  • 5p reception
    • Bridal party entrance- Speeches- Dinner- Cake cutting- First dances- Open dance floor
  • 7p sunset or evening portraits
  • 730p open dance floor – chacha slide
  • 815p send off /bookend images
  • 830p photographers leave

First look Timeline

  • 1030a details/photographer arrival
  • 11a getting ready
  • 12p portraits
  • 1230p first look
  • 115p bridal party
  • 2p ceremony details
  • 230p ceremony
  • 3p family portraits / full bridal party formals
  • 4p cocktail hour440p reception details
  • 5p reception- Bridal party entrance- Speeches- Dinner- Cake cutting- First dances- Open dance floor
  • 7p sunset or evening portraits
  • 730p open dance floor – chacha slide
  • 815p send off /bookend images
  • 830p photographers leave

Elopement Timeline

  • 4p details
  • 430p getting ready
  • 530p first look / portraits
  • 615 prep/ceremony details
  • 630p sunset ceremony
  • 7p group photos or start of portraits
  • 730p bookend images
  • 8p exit
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