You know what they say,
“Creating a wedding day timeline is easy as 1-2-3…4!!”
Grab a pen and paper, take some notes, and you’ll be able to create your wedding day timeline in a matter of 4 easy steps!
Step 1: Ask Yourself
Creating a wedding day timeline can sometimes feel overwhelming or daunting, but it’s something that is really necessary to keep the day running smoothly. It’s pretty easy, once you’ve got a few questions answered:
- Will you do a first look?
- What time will your ceremony start?
- How many minutes will your ceremony last?
- Will you do a party bus/cocktail hour/entertainment between ceremony & reception? If so, how many minutes will it last?
- What time will your reception start?
- What time will the sun set?
- Will you have any commutes throughout the day?
Step 2: Work Backwards
Once you’ve answered the questions from STEP ONE, you’ll begin with your ceremony start time (because that’s the biggest part of your day – saying I DO). We will work backwards to plan the beginning of the day.
How long do you expect your ceremony to last? Definitely consult your pastor/officiant on this one, because they will have a good estimation on how long the ceremony will last. After you’ve set your ceremony time frame and know how long the it will be, you’ll move backwards to plan everything before the wedding ceremony.
Before the ceremony, I always suggest couples include a 30 minute buffer. This time is typically used for the bridal party to hide, relax, and touch up makeup or hair. It also can be used just in case family portraits go a little longer than expected.
I always photograph family portraits right before the buffer, which allows family to be “hanging around” for little as needed before the ceremony. Depending on the size of families, formal portraits can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes. I always recommend the bride and groom tell their families that the formals portraits will be photographed about 15 minutes before they actually start, so everyone is on time or even better, EARLY!
Before family portraits, I always photograph the bridal party. This typically takes 30 minutes and consists of photographing the entire wedding party, the bride and her bridesmaids, the groom and his groomsmen.
Your first look is one of my favorite parts of the day! I combine first look and bridal portraits of the bride and groom into its own time slot. I’ll set up the groom and then I’ll have the bride walk towards him. I’ll give you time together – as much as you’d like – to soak in this moment! It’ll really be one of the only times you two will have a moment alone together of just you two.
Will you be getting ready at your hotel room? Will you be getting ready at your house? If so, you’ll need to add in travel time. If so, factor in a little more time here, because you don’t know what traffic will look like.
Photos of the wedding party getting ready are fun! I especially want to photograph the bride getting buttoned up in her dress and putting on her jewelry with her bridesmaids! Because this can sometimes take a while, I always devote 45 minutes to the whole “getting ready/ putting on final touches” part of the day.
Quickly, right before I photograph the girls, if the guys are at the same place, I’ll photograph the groom getting ready and hanging with his buddies. This typically doesn’t take up much time, because guys aren’t as fond of being in front of the camera.
DETAILS!! One of my favorite parts of the day. Because I want to photograph and capture all of the small details that make up your special day, I typically devote an 60-90 minutes to this. If you’re getting ready at your reception venue, I’ll use some of this time to photograph your reception space.
Step 3: Work forwards
Now that you’ve got your morning planned out (while I’m there), we can plan everything after the ceremony moving forward.
Most couples either do a receiving line or dismiss their guests from their seats. This process can take up to 30 minutes, because you’re chatting and hugging everyone!
Will you have to travel to the reception venue? Again, factor in a little more time here, because you never how traffic will look. If you ceremony and reception are at the same location, this time could be used for a “social hour” or a party bus. If you do use this time for a party bus, you’ll need to factor the specified time you’ll be on the bus. For this example, I’m using it as regular travel time between the ceremony and reception locations.
Figure the time your wedding party will enter the reception space, the time dinner will begin, and when first dances will begin.
Open dancing is always fun to photograph, so you can look back at the images of your friends and family of their good (or bad) dance moves. If your DJ plays a few good dancing songs to get the crowd on the dance floor, I can get quite a few photos for your gallery.
Lastly, I love to take romantic bridal portraits at sunset. The lighting is absolutely beautiful at this time. If the reception property is pretty, we can just stay there, otherwise we can venture off (within a few minutes) to take bridal portraits! Couples always tell me that their sunset portraits are some of their favorites from their wedding! This time obviously varies depending on the time of the sunset on your wedding day.
I’ve created the 9 hour timeline to the right based upon the bride and groom doing ceremony beginning at 4:00 PM and lasting approximately 30 minutes, reception beginning at 5:30 PM, sunset at 8:30 PM, and a few travel commutes.
When figuring how long each of these smaller parts of your wedding day should last, consider adding 5-10 minutes as a buffer, just in case…
In the words of my grandma and referencing time, “You’d rather have it than not need it, then need it and not have it!”
Step 4: The Exceptions
The only thing that would change this timeline too much would be if you and your fiancé aren’t doing a first look.
If you aren’t doing a first look, you can still do bride + bridesmaids and groom + groomsmen portraits before the ceremony, but will need to do the entire wedding party and family formal portraits in-between the ceremony and reception, altering the timeline a little bit.
Naturally, no two wedding timelines are ever the same, but I am happy to help come up with a plan that is perfect for you!
4 Steps to Creating a Flawless Wedding Day Timeline