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The Wedding Day Timeline

May 28, 2014

One of my favorite things I do with my couples between the engagement session and the wedding day is getting together and creating their wedding day timeline. Last week, I mentioned that this is usually done during (or right before) the Pre-Wedding Consultation but it can be done much earlier if you’re like me and like to plan things way in advance. Some couples are even ready to discuss it at their engagement session before they’ve even decided on their ceremony start time….and that rocks my world!


Creating the timeline is nothing to fret over but your photographer should never assume that you know how long it will take them to capture certain parts of your day – and therefore should not add that to your already mile high to-do list. When I am creating a couple’s timeline, I like to start with the areas of the day that are not within our control. A few questions, therefore, will need to be answered:

1. What time can you get into your ceremony and reception venues? What time do you have to be out?
2. Are you setting up yourself or is someone hired to do so?
3. What time is sunset?
4. How long will hair and makeup take for the number of ladies getting ready?
5. How long do you expect the ceremony to last?
6. For how long is your DJ/band contracted?
7. Are you doing a First Look?
8. How far apart are your ceremony and reception venues?
9. Are you having a cocktail/appetizer hour?
10. Are you making a formal exit or dancing until the last song?

Below are a couple sample timelines, just for examples, and are based upon a sunset time of around 8pm (which is when the sunsets in the summer in our area) and a travel time of 15 minutes between venues. Both timelines work really well for the couple, the guests, and all of the vendors!


3:15 – Bride gets into dress
3:45 – Bridal Portraits
4:00 – Groom’s Portraits
4:15 – Bride & Groom’s First Look and Bride & Groom’s Portraits, part 1
4:30 – Wedding Party Portraits
5:00 – Family Portraits
5:30 – Bride & Groom hide away, guests start to arrive
6:00 – Ceremony starts
6:30 – Ceremony ends, everyone heads to reception
7:00 – Reception begins with a grand entrance for Wedding Party and Bride & Groom
7:05 – Bride & Groom’s First Dance
7:10 – Blessing of the food
7:15 – Food is served starting with Bride & Groom
7:45 – Bride & Groom’s Portraits, part 2
8:00 – Father-Daughter Dance and Mother-Son Dance
8:15 – Cutting of the Cake
8:20 – Toasts
8:30 – Dancing begins
9:30 – Bouquet & Garter Toss
10:30 – Formal Exit


3:45 – Bride gets into dress
4:00 – Bridal Portraits
4:15 – Bride & Bridesmaids Portraits
4:30 – Groom’s Portraits
4:45 – Groom & Groomsmen Portraits
5:00 – Groom’s Family Portraits
5:15 – Bride’s Family Portraits
5:30 – Guests start to arrive
6:00 – Ceremony starts
6:20 – Ceremony ends, guests head to reception for cocktail hour
6:30 – Family Portraits
6:45 – Wedding Party Portraits
7:00 – Bride & Groom’s Portraits
7:45 – Reception begins with a grand entrance for Wedding Party and Bride & Groom
7:50 – Bride & Groom’s First Dance
7:55 – Blessing of the food
8:00 – Food is served starting with Bride & Groom
8:30 – Father-Daughter Dance and Mother-Son Dance
8:45 – Cutting of the Cake
8:50 – Toasts
9:00 – Dancing begins
10:00 – Bouquet & Garter Toss
11:00 – Formal Exit

Of course, there are a few things to remember:

1. The above timelines do not list my arrival time because I like to come a tad earlier and photograph bridal details (Wedding Wednesday post coming soon!), ceremony decor and reception decor

2. Guests will sometimes comes earlier than 30 minutes before. I’ve been asked MANY times why they show up 1 hour early and my answer is simple. They hope to see the Bride & Groom and chat with them. A blog post is coming where I address this phenomenon.

3. The above times are what I need to document your wedding day accurately. Times may differ for other photographers.

4. And finally, your timeline isn’t meant to be inflexible. Do not freak out if things run a a few minutes behind “schedule”. A good photographer/wedding planner overestimates the time things will take and therefore allots MORE time than necessary.

Have a question about creating your timeline? Even if I’m not your photographer, I’d love to help!