Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

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After photographing weddings for the last five years, I’ve picked up some knowledge on how timelines run for the day. And since more and more of my brides are asking to me for advice in planning their timeline I thought I’d blog about how I come up with an outline that allows me to capture the best images possible throughout the wedding day. Hopefully this will help my future clients when they’re planning their wedding day timeline!

One of the most important questions I’ll ask when outlining the timeline is what time does your ceremony start? Once I have this piece of information I need to know the reception end time, whether you’re doing a First Look or not, and approximate end time for the ceremony.

Here is an example of a timeline WITHOUT a First Look and a 5 p.m. ceremony time:

2:30pm Photographer arrival / Photographer photographs details like dress, shoes, jewelry, invitation,

2:45pm Guys get dressed

3:00pm Bridesmaids get dressed 

3:00pm Groom/Groomsmen photos

3:30pm Bride gets dressed

3:40pm Bridal Party photos

4:10pm Bride gets tucked away from early arriving guests before ceremony

4:30pm Photographers photograph ceremony decor

5:00pm Ceremony

5:30pm End of ceremony / Guests head to cocktail hour

5:30pm Family photos

5:45pm Full Wedding Party Pictures

6:00pm Bride and Groom Pictures

6:40pm Reception Begins

6:50pm First Dance

7:00pm Welcome/Prayer

7:10pm Dinner

7:45pm Toasts

8:00pm Father /Daughter & Mother /Son dances

8:10pm Open dancing

9:15pm Cake cutting

9:20pm Bouquet/garter toss

9:30pm Open dancing

10:00pm Exit/Photographers leave

Obviously, the events and times of the reception will vary between clients.

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Here’s an example of a timeline WITH a First Look and a 5 p.m start time:

2:00pm Photographer arrival / Photographer photographs details like dress, shoes, jewelry, invitation,

2:30pm Guys get dressed

2:30pm Bridesmaids get dressed 

2:45pm Bride gets dressed

3:00pm First Look

3:10 Bride/Groom Pictures

3:40 Wedding Party Pictures

4:10pm Bride gets tucked away from early arriving guests before ceremony

4:30pm Photographers photograph ceremony decor

5:00pm Ceremony

5:30pm End of ceremony / Guests head to cocktail hour

5:30pm Family photos

6:00pm Reception Begins

6:10pm First Dance

6:15pm Welcome/Prayer

6:30pm Dinner

7:15pm Toasts

7:30pm Father /Daughter & Mother /Son dances

7:45pm Open dancing

8:30pm Cake cutting

8:45pm Bouquet/garter toss

9pm Open dancing

10:00pm Exit/Photographers leave

You will notice that it’s important to allot about 30 minutes for Bride/Groom pictures, and 30 minutes for each side of the wedding party. This ensures that you get a good amount of images without having to rush. I also like to have at least 15-30 minutes for the family portraits depending on the family size. Usually it’s best to keep family portraits for just immediate family members. We can always capture a few extended family portraits during the reception.

This timeline also works best for wedding packages that include up to 8 hours of photography.  Extra hours may be useful when you are traveling between your ceremony and reception venue, or you’re planning a later reception exit.

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Sometimes, during the slower wedding season or on an “off-day” of the week, I may be able to offer a smaller number of hours. A timeline for a 5 or 6 hour package might look something like this:

4:00pm Photographer Arrives and photographs as much detail and prep as possible
4:30pm Bride gets dressed
4:40pm Photographer photographs ceremony space and prepares for ceremony
5:00pm Ceremony
5:30pm End of ceremony/Guests head to cocktail hour
5:30pm Family photos
5:45pm Full Wedding Party Pictures
6:00pm Bride and Groom Pictures
6:40pm Reception Begins
6:50pm First Dance
7:00pm Welcome/Prayer
7:10pm Dinner
8:00pm Father /Daughter & Mother /Son dances
8:10pm Open dancing
9:15pm Cake cutting
9:20pm Bouquet/garter toss
9:30pm Open dancing
10:00pm Exit/Photographers leave

With a smaller package, you’ll have to choose whether prep and detail photos or exit pictures are more important to you. If you’d like a lot of preparation/detail images you’ll want me to arrive a little earlier and leave before the exit, if you want the exit, then I try to get as much detail as I can in the time allotted.

Of course, each timeline will vary a bit depending on the events planned for the day, but they will give you a good start. And I’m always happy to help design the timeline with my brides. I find that when we plan together the day runs smoother and we’re all on the same page.

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