I truly believe there is no photograph more beautiful than that of someone in love. I love telling stories not only through my work but also through a short conversation with someone. My blog is a way to create a unique story in an organic way for viewers to relive their best moments all over again.

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November 2, 2020

How to plan a wedding timeline

A lot of my couples ask me how to plan a wedding timeline. This is something I am more than happy to assist with. After photography numerous weddings, I’ve learned the best ways to plan a smooth, stress-free wedding timeline.

How to plan a wedding timeline

What is a wedding timeline?

First off, what is a wedding timeline? Typically, a wedding timeline is your itinerary for the day and includes everything from when to take photos, how long to get ready and of course, time for the actual wedding ceremony.

How to plan a wedding timeline?

Planning a wedding timeline requires marking down the exact times and durations for each event of your wedding day. Items to consider include:

  • Transportation time to the place where you’ll get ready
  • Time to get ready
  • Bridal portraits
  • Groom portraits
  • First look photos
  • Buffer to grab a snack and take a few moments to yourself before the ceremony
  • Potential transportation time to the ceremony location, if different from where you’re getting ready
  • Ceremony
  • Cocktail hour for the guests while the couple and bridal party takes photos
  • Potential transportation time to the reception location
  • Reception
  • Toasts
  • Dancing
  • Couple exit

I often recommend that you build up from the ceremony time and down from the reception time. For example, if the ceremony is at 4 p.m., consider the travel time to the ceremony just before that, the time for portraits if doing a first look, how long you’ll need to get ready before photos, etc. You’ll start with the 4 p.m. ceremony and plan out the duration for events earlier in the day. This will tell you how early you’ll need to wake up and start preparing in the morning!

Conversely, your reception time can be planned thereafter. When is the reception? Will there be toasts and dancing? Start with the reception time at 6 p.m., what will take place at 7 p.m. and so on.

Wedding timeline with first look

12:30 Details Shots (Invite, Jewelry, etc.) Rental House

1:00 Photography coverage starts

(Please have any details ready to go, rings, stationery save the date and a tidy room, save any gift opening until I’m there) exchange of a gift + vows

1:30 Second shooter (if you have one) arrives with the guys

(guys be in pants and a white shirt, room tidy, shoes, watch, cufflinks save any gifts to open when photographer is there) exchange of a gift + vows 

1:15 Group girls / prep shots

1:30-2:30 Guys start to get ready, candids, group photos, individual of each guy

1:30 Bride in dress

1:30 Mom first look

1:45 Bridesmaids’ first look

2:30 – 2:45  Girls arrive at venue or the first look location

3:00 First look

3:20 Bridal party photos

3:45 Bridal party individual photos

4:00 Family formal photos

**Shot list for this immediate family only

4:30 – 4:45 Bridal party hides

5:00-5:30 Guest arrival & music starts

5:30 – 6:00 Ceremony

*10 minutes to themselves* marriage license signed 

6:00 – 7:30 Cocktail hour

7:45 – 9:00 Introductions, dinner and speeches

9:00 Cake cutting and dancing

10:00 Photographers leave

How to plan a wedding timeline

Wedding timeline without first look

2:00 Photography coverage starts

(Please have any details ready to go, rings, stationery save the date and a tidy room, save any gift opening until I’m there) exchange of a gift + vows

2:30 Second shooter (if you have one) arrives with the guys

(guys be in pants and a white shirt, room tidy, shoes, watch, cufflinks save any gifts to open when photographer is there) exchange of a gift + vows 

2:15 Group girls / prep shots

2:30-3:30 Guys start to get ready, candids, group photos, individual of each guy

2:30 Bride in dress

2:30 Mom first look

2:45 Bridesmaids’ first look

2:45 – 3:00  Girls arrive at venue

3:30 Bridal party tucks away for ceremony

4:00 – 5:30 Guest arrival & music starts

5:30 – 6:00 Ceremony

6:00 – 7:30 Cocktail hour

**Shot list for this immediate family only

6:00 – 7:00 All family photographed, bridal party and couple portraits (with leaving about 20 minutes left to enjoy cocktail hour)

7:45 – 9:00 Introductions

Dinner + Speeches

9:00-10:00 Cake Cutting + Dancing

10:00 Photographers leave

Frequently asked wedding timeline questions

1. How long should I plan for getting ready?

I recommend setting aside 1 hours for getting ready. It’s best if you can take things slow, giving yourself time to rest and providing ample time for hair and makeup. Be sure to do your hair and makeup first. As for the guys, I recommend 30 minutes for getting ready so when myself or the second photographer shows up we can start with candids and full groomsman photos.

2. How long does a first look take?

It’s best to have about an hour for your first look. You’ll want time to really embrace each other and be in the moment. Additionally, this is often a time reserved for intimate couple portraits. You can also take group portraits at this time if you’d rather spend cocktail hour with your guests. After the couple has taken the time to enjoy a moment together, this is when we will photograph the full bridal party and immediate family.

3. If I don’t schedule a first look, how long do I need after the ceremony for pictures?

If you don’t schedule a first look, you’ll need at least 45 minutes to an hour for portraits after the ceremony. You can learn more about first look wedding photos here. The biggest thing is to have all bridal party portraits done before hand that way after the ceremony we will do a full bridal party together.

How to plan a wedding timeline

4. How long will the ceremony take?

This depends on any special traditions that you would like to take place, but ceremonies range from 10 to 25 minutes or up to 1 hour at a church.

Do you have questions on planning your wedding timeline? Comment below!

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