Planning a Wedding Timeline

April 14, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

You spend so much time planning all the beautiful details of your wedding: the centerpieces, the flowers, the dress, and so much more.  It is also important to take a moment while planning to consider the timeline of your wedding day.  Yes, you will start your hair at 9:00, your ceremony will begin at 2:00, and your meal will be served at 5:30. But what about the important moments in between?

It is so important to take a moment to consider how your day will unfold.  To help give you some tips and ideas to assist your planning here are a few things to think about:

Getting Ready

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Have your photographer arrive towards the end of hair/makeup.  This allows them to capture beautiful candid shots of you getting ready for the day with your finishing touches being put in place.  During this time your photographer will get pictures of dress and details before you put them on, pictures of guys relaxing together, putting on their finishing touches, and details of tuxes.

The First Look 

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I love first looks.  They allow for a beautiful moment alone, just the two of you before the hustle and bustle of the wedding day begins.  Give yourself 15-20 minutes so you can relax and enjoy the moment without feeling you need to rush onto the next thing.  I definitely recommend beginning formal portraits together while you still are filled with emotion and are glowing with happiness.

Formal Portraits

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Plan at least three minutes per grouping and be sure make a list that you provide to your photographer in advance.  On the day of the wedding, your mind will be busy with other things.  Making the list will give you one less thing for you to worry about.  Try to keep to the most important groups, as a long list can take a while and you want to spend your time enjoying your day.  Many photographers will have a basic list you can work from and customize.  To help things run smoothly, be sure to clearly communicate to all persons involved in portraits where they need to be and when.  

If you plan on moving between locations, be sure to include your travel time into your timeline.  

Pre-Ceremony Candids & Details

Plan on your formal portraits to end about a half hour to forty-five minutes before the ceremony begins.  This allows time for your guests to arrive and be seated.  During this time you can relax with your family and bridal party.  Your photographers will be capturing additional detail shots (programs, flowers, unity candles/sand) and candids of guests arriving.


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Be sure to let your photographer know about how long the service will last, what events or ceremonies will be taking place, if anything unique or unusual, any church/location restrictions.  

Receiving Line and Grand Exit


If you are planning on dismissing your guests or having a receiving line, you will need to add that into your timeline.  Receiving lines can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the number of guests you have.  Often times, this aspect of the wedding day is overlooking in timeline planning, which can make for time crunches later in the schedule for the day.

Post Ceremony

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I know it's traditional in modern times to go bar hopping between ceremony and reception, but bars don't typically make for great photos.  Consider planning in a few moments to stop by a nearby park or in the urban area around the bar for a few more relaxed portraits of you and your bridal party.  This is an excellent opportunity for more fun portraits and to get a variety of locations.  I do recommend trying to keep it under two hours so guest don't get distracted or feel neglected.  Also, be sure to consider travel time to the locations.


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Try to keep big events at the beginning of your reception timeline so all guests are present.  Bouquet tosses done later in the evening may result in less single ladies to catch it.  It is a good idea to plan to have your photographer eat while you are eating.  The, they can be ready to go when you are, whether it is moving on to the toasts or capturing candids of you interacting with your guests.  As for seating, I typically recommend not seating photographers with guests, but don't seat them away from the reception.  Make sure you have clearly communicated the timeline for the evening with all of the reception vendors: DJ, caterer, videographer, and photographer.


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Plan a few moments to steal away from the reception for photos during the sunset.  They are magical and you will love them!  Generally, these portraits only take about 15-20 minutes.  The best time to do so is either between big events or once the dance floor is open to guests.  Check the sunset time for your wedding date in advance, plan to be out there about 30 minutes before the sun sets.

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