, Creating Your Wedding Timeline

Creating the Perfect Wedding Timeline

Follow this Guide to make a perfect timeline

Creating the Perfect Wedding Timeline

When it comes to planning your wedding day timeline, it’s important to keep in mind how much time your photographer needs to capture the beautiful photos you hired them for.  Every photographer will know how long they need to capture certain aspects of your day, so take their advice when they share with you their professional guidelines when it comes to time and what’s realistic to accomplish in the time they have.  It’s important to understand the time investment that you’ll be making before you start to plan other aspects of your timeline like hair and makeup and your grand entrance, so we usually recommend getting together with your photographer to create a photo timeline that will act as a skeleton for the rest of your day.

1. Start With Your Ceremony Time

When developing your timeline, I always recommend starting by planning your ceremony time and working backwards and forwards to develop the other timing you’ll need for the day.  Decide what time your ceremony will be based on your venue’s availability. For outdoor ceremonies keep in mind that the closer we get to sunset the better light you’ll have for your ceremony.  It’s natural to be tempted by a sunset ceremony, but it’s important to remember we’ll still need time to capture photos of your friends and family as well as your couple’s photos after the ceremony concludes, so a ceremony right at sunset isn’t typically the best option for photos.  If you can plan for your ceremony to be finished about 90 minutes before sunset, you will ensure the best light for your photos, while ensuring you’ll have enough daylight to spare for photos.

2.  Decide What Time You Need to Be Ready

It’s important to complete a beautiful wedding album that we have photos from the entire day, including getting ready shots in the morning down to the last events of your reception.  In order to ensure your wedding album flows beautifully, we recommend your photographer arrives as hair and makeup is finishing up to capture a few prep photos and get started on your wedding details such as the dress, shoes, invitations, flowers, and of course, rings.  For this portion of the day, we recommend setting aside 45 minutes in your timeline. Your photographer can make the best use of your time by capturing these details before you need them, while you’re still in the makeup chair. If we time it correctly, we will be done with these photos by the time you’re made up and ready for the camera!  Every photographer is different, but our studio recommends hair and makeup be completed about 3 hours before the ceremony is scheduled to start, and about 3.5 if you’re doing a first look. Keep in mind that hair and makeup on the wedding day typically takes a bit longer than your trial did, so leave some cushion.

3. Leave Plenty of Time to Get Dressed

Believe us when we say, it takes longer than you may think to put your dress on.  Between the buttons, lace, and ribbons, your photographer wants to be there to capture it all, and may ask you to pose for photos in between.  We recommend leaving a half hour for this process.

4.  Don’t Forget the Groom!

The groom needs getting ready pictures too!  Even though it doesn’t take him nearly as long to get ready as the bride, we want to capture his getting ready moments as well.  These photos will balance out the album, and make sure you both get photos of that anticipation before walking down the aisle. We recommend leaving about 20 minutes for these photos, which will include photos of him getting dressed and great moments with his groomsmen.

5.  Are You Doing a First Look?

Traditionally, seeing the bride on the wedding day before she walked down the aisle was considered bad luck, but now-a-day that has been debunked and many couples are opting for the intimate moment of the first look.  The first look will allow you to see each other in your wedding attire in a more intimate space rather than in front of all of your guests when you walk down the aisle. For many couples, this helps ease their nerves, and allows them to take in the morning of their wedding together.  This also means that you and your fiance will have much more time together on your wedding day, and you have the benefit of being able to schedule some of the photos you would be doing during cocktail hour to this time before the ceremony. If you plan to do a first look there’s a few things you should know!  

  • First, the first look doesn’t add much time to the beginning of your day.  We recommend leaving a half hour to your timeline for the first look and some preliminary couple’s photos.  This is the perfect time to start your portraits together, and allows us to capture both of you in different light before we capture photos closer to sunset during cocktail hour.
  • Second, we would recommend taking your bridal party portraits during this time as well so that they can enjoy the party once the wedding starts, and you can focus all of your time and attention on getting amazing couple portraits during cocktail hour. Expect bridal party photos to take about 20 minutes depending on how large your group is.  
  • Third, if you opt for a first look, consider having your immediate family come together for photos before the ceremony, so you don’t have so many family portraits to get through during cocktail hour.  This will make things go quickly later in the day, and allow your family to enjoy cocktail hour! We recommend starting these about an hour before the ceremony is scheduled to begin so that the bride can be tucked away before her guests start to arrive.  

6. Ceremony

Every ceremony is different, and will depend on whether you’re doing a church wedding, outdoor wedding, or something in between.  Make sure to check with your coordinator or officiant about how long your ceremony will be, and factor that into your timeline. Also keep in mind any drive time between your hotel and the ceremony venue, as well as the drive from the ceremony to reception if they’re in different places.  We recommend checking with your ceremony venue if it’s a church or venue separate from your reception regarding how long you can stay to take photos afterwards. Some venues have multiple weddings a day, so they have strict guidelines about how long you can use their space before and after the ceremony.  If possible, your photographer will typically want to shoot your family photos at the ceremony site so everyone is in one place, which will make things much smoother when it comes to organizing your guests.

7.  Cocktail Hour

Cocktail hour is a time for your guests to mingle over appetizers and drinks.  If we plan it right, this time also has some of the best light for photos, sitting about an hour and a half before sunset.  During this time, we’ll want to finish up any photos we haven’t done before the ceremony. If you haven’t opted to do a first look, this will include family photos, bridal party, and of course portraits of the bride and groom!  We recommend at least 45 minutes for bride and groom creative portraits during cocktail hour, for both our couples who have done a first look and those who haven’t. With the sun lower in the sky later in the day, this is the most opportune time for gorgeous dramatic shots as well as soft romantic light.  Even though it’s called cocktail ‘hour’, we typically recommend a 90 minute cocktail hour to ensure you capture all the photos you need. Keep in mind you’ll want to leave about 15 minutes before the grand entrance to bustle your dress and freshen up!

8.  Reception

It’s time to party!  This is the part of the night you’ve been waiting for, where you can really let loose and enjoy your guests. During this part of the evening, your DJ and planner should be coordinating your toasts, dances, bouquet and garter toss, and cake cutting.  Keep in mind that you’ll likely want photos of all your reception events in your wedding album, so it’s important that the last event of the night (typically your cake cutting) happens before your photographer is scheduled to leave. One of our favorite parts of the reception is being able to capture night portraits for our clients.  We recommend dedicating the 15 minutes before your photographer is scheduled to leave for these photos, where we can get creative with lighting and capture some amazing images that are incredibly different than what we can capture during the day.

We hope these tips help with planning your timeline!  Keep in mind, every wedding is different and your timeline can be customized to your needs, but these guidelines will help ensure you have time to capture amazing photos on your wedding day!  Happy planning!


, Creating Your Wedding Timeline

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