How to plan your wedding day timeline

I can’t think of many pieces of information regarding your wedding day more important than the timeline of the day. It is crucial to keep the events of the day moving and to make sure everything you want documented is documented.

How does one create the timeline? Most photographers have a questionnaire they will send you before the wedding so you can fill out information that will help them create it. Are you doing a first look? Do you have huge families? Small wedding parties? Are the ceremony and reception in the same place? How long will your ceremony last? All of these details are things we need to know ahead of time.

Once we receive your responses, we will take the information and figure out how much time to allot for everything. Below I’m sharing two sample timelines, one with a first look and one without a first look. But before I do that, I want to give a general idea of how long it takes to complete all the photos of family, wedding party, and you and your groom. This is one of the biggest misconceptions I see with brides planning their wedding!

how to plan your wedding timeline

 1. Family photosI like to do family photos immediately following the ceremony because this is the largest group of people you’ll have waiting around. And the more people you have hanging around, the more chaotic things will become. So we start with the largest group first (i.e., extended family) and move to smaller groups (you and mom, you and dad, etc.)

Because family portraits are fairly straight forward and traditional, I typically budget 20-25 minutes. I recommend including your immediate family and grandparents in this section. If you have a favorite aunt, by all means, include her. Otherwise, extended family (cousins, great uncles, etc.) can be photographed at the reception.

TIP: Make sure you communicate clearly to your family members that they are to stay after the ceremony for photos (or come before the ceremony!) So often we are chasing down family members who have already gone to the reception because they didn’t know they needed to stay.

how to plan your wedding day timeline

 2. Wedding party In most cases, I try to take photos of the bride and her bridesmaids and the groom and his groomsmen before the ceremony so all we have left to do are some shots of the full wedding party. If you are doing a first look, we will likely knock all of these out before the ceremony.

If there isn’t time to do wedding party photos before the ceremony, we will do them after all the family members have left for the reception. Overall, depending on the size of the wedding party, these photos can take 10-30 minutes.

TIP: Most photographers will take photos of you and each individual bridesmaid (or the groom and his individual groomsmen) so you likely don’t need to list that on your questionnaire. You can always ask your photographer about this to make sure they do it and they know it’s important to you!

how to plan your wedding day timeline

3. Bride and groom These are, without a doubt, the most important images from the day. They’re the ones you will print and hang on the walls of your first home. They’re the ones you’ll put in your heirloom wedding album. They’re the ones your children and your grandchildren will want to see some day.Unfortunately, when couples don’t do a first look and have been smiling for photos for almost an hour at this point, they want to take a few and head to the reception. And I get it! Your guests are here to see you and celebrate with you, and you want to spend time with them. But you might regret not allowing for enough time for photos of the two of you.

The more time you give your photographer, the more creative we can be. When we have 10 minutes and we’re rushed, we can certainly deliver you a good product. But if we have time to walk around your venue, we can find different spots and try different things.On the other hand, if you don’t feel like you’re getting enough photos or like your photographer is (gulp!) rushing you, please say something! You have paid a lot of money and you deserve to be happy with your experience and your product.
TIP: Can you guess? Do a first look! This will give you time before the ceremony for a lot of photos and it will likely you give you time after the ceremony for some dreamy, glowy golden hour photos.
Sample timeline with first look:
2 p.m. Getting ready photos
3 p.m. First look
3:45 p.m. Bride & bridesmaid photos
4 p.m. Groom & groomsmen photos
4:15 p.m. Full wedding party photos
4:30 p.m. Tuck away before ceremony
5 p.m. Ceremony
5:30 p.m. Recessional
5:40 p.m. Family photos
6:05 p.m. A few more bride & groom photos
6:15 p.m. PARTY TIME!
Sample timeline without first look:3 p.m. Getting ready photos
3:30 p.m. Bride & bridesmaid photos; family if available
4 p.m. Groom & groomsmen photos; family if available
4:30 p.m. Tuck away before ceremony
5 p.m. Ceremony
5:30 p.m. Recessional
5:40 p.m. Family photos
6:05 p.m. Wedding party photos
6:30 p.m. Bride & groom photos
7:15 p.m. PARTY TIME!

I’d love to know what confuses you the most about planning your timeline! Are there other things I didn’t cover that would be helpful for you? Tell me in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond!

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