How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline—Tips from a Photographer

Creating a Day Of Wedding Timeline

Having a solid wedding day timeline will help your wedding day go smoothly, which in turn helps you enjoy your special day with less stress! There are so many events to schedule into the day, vendors to coordinate, and people to organize. Creating a timeline will help you keep everything in order as you plan your day. For example, you will know what time vendors and the wedding party should arrive as well as how many hours of photo coverage you need. Because it can be overwhelming to start creating a timeline, here are some ideas to make it a little easier: 

Questions for Creating a Timeline

As a professional wedding photographer, when assisting my clients in creating a wedding day timeline, I always start with a list of questions. With the answers to these questions, we can understand what the day will look like and where there will be time to schedule photos, etc. Here is the list of questions I use:

  • Are you doing a first look?
  • What time does the ceremony start? You’ll need to add a 30-minute buffer ahead of the ceremony start time.
  • Will everything be at one location, or will there be travel between locations? You’ll need to add enough travel time for transportation between locations.
  • Are there any significant events happening at the very end of the reception that you would like to be captured? Like a grand exit, etc.?

Creating a Wedding Photography Timeline

Once you know your ceremony start time, account for travel, and have decided what special moments will be at your wedding, you can start creating a timeline. I recommend going backward from the ceremony start time to schedule time for each part of the day. It’s also important to know how long your hair and makeup will take, so be sure to coordinate with your hair & makeup artist to figure out how much time to schedule for getting ready. I recommend starting your photography coverage when hair and makeup is just finishing up so that you can get the final touch-ups included in your photos.

getting ready for wedding day timeline

Your wedding photography timeline will be a little different from your wedding day’s general timeline. Depending on how many hours of coverage you have, you may want to rearrange the moments you’d like to be documented into the part of the day when the wedding photographer will be there. For example, you may be exchanging gifts with your fiance on the morning of your wedding. If you’d like this moment documented, be sure to schedule it during your wedding photography coverage. 

How Long Photos Will Take

wedding timeline - how to create your own

Planning ahead for how long photos will take is also extremely helpful. In general, I recommend scheduling one hour for getting-ready photos. When coverage starts, a bride should have their hair as well as most of their makeup done. Then your photographer can capture some images of the bride putting on the wedding dress, jewelry, and shoes. If the bride isn’t completely ready before the photographer arrives, that would be an excellent time to capture some detail images.

I also recommend scheduling two hours for all of your portraits—family portraits, bridal party portraits, and portraits of the couple. The rest of the time set aside for photos will be a bonus. If you have a specific vision for portraits, let your wedding photographer know so that they can allocate more time to capture those. Also keep in mind as a general rule of thumb, allocating 1-2 minutes for each family portrait grouping – so if you have a large family you’d like captured, or many smaller groupings, this will take some time. If you don’t want to miss out on the party, or are short on time, consider making the groupings larger to include everyone in one photo.

Wedding Timeline With a First Look

creating a wedding timeline - first look

Creating a timeline with a first look allows more time for portraits before the wedding ceremony. If you are having a later ceremony or simply want to spend more time with your person on your wedding day, a first look will help. Here’s a sample wedding timeline with a first look with 10 hours of photo coverage, with different locations for ceremony and reception:

8:00 am – Start getting ready

10:00 am – Photographer arrives to take detail & getting-ready photos

11:00 am – First look

11:30 pm – Couple portraits

12:30 pm – Bridal party portraits

1:00 pm – Family photos

1:30 pm – Drive from getting-ready location to ceremony location

3:00 pm – Wedding ceremony

4:00 pm – Transportation from ceremony location to reception location

5:00 pm – Cocktail hour

6:00 pm – Reception begins 

7:30 pm – First dance

8:00 pm – Cake is cut; photographer leaves

10:00 pm – Sparkler exit

Wedding Timeline Without a First Look

wedding timeline without a first look

If you prefer not to have a first look, your timeline will look a little different. You’ll probably start getting ready at the same time to make sure everyone’s makeup and hair is done on time. Your photographer could arrive a little later and capture the end of the night instead of more portraits earlier in the day. You might consider doing your bridal party portraits separately to save some time later in this scenario. Here’s a sample wedding timeline without a first look:

8:00 am – Start getting ready

12:00 pm – Photographer arrives to take detail & getting-ready photos

12:30 pm – Bridal party portraits with each side separately

1:30 pm – Drive from getting-ready location to ceremony location

3:00 pm – Wedding ceremony

4:00 pm – Family portraits

4:30 pm – Transportation from ceremony location to reception location

5:30 pm – Cocktail hour.
                  During cocktail hour, couple and bridal party will take portraits.

7:00 pm – Reception begins; Dinner is served

8:30 pm – First dance

9:00 pm – Cake is cut

10:00 pm – Sparkler exit; photographer leaves

Timeline Advice from a Photographer

A wedding photographer can help you create a customized timeline to fit your wedding day. I help couples figure out their timeline to maximize their photography time with me. When you book an inquiry call with me, I will help you go over the logistics of your day, and we will see if we’re a fit! Since I am a documentary wedding photographer, my goal is to help you get organized and make sure we’re on the same page before the wedding, so that you can enjoy your wedding to the max, and leave the memory-capturing to us! 

Contact me here to set up a quick call to get to know each other!

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