How to Create the Perfect Wedding Timeline

Tips from a wedding photographer to plan and create the most perfect wedding day timeline that prioritizes the most important parts of your day!

planning your wedding timeline can be tough, but you don’t have to do it alone!!

creating the perfect wedding day timeline can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be! as a photographer, i realize the day is about YOU!!! i follow my couples around on wedding days like a new little puppy – during hair and makeup, getting on your dress, and toasting champagne with your besties (i run over to your fiances room for a minute but they have just about two things to do for getting ready!)

i want to share all my best tips for a perfect wedding timeline so here they are! i have met many dj’s, wedding planners, venue event coordinators, and even parents who want to control the day, and that’s always helpful! but, if photography is important on your wedding day, you have to make sure there is time for it! and my job is to always capture behind the scenes of the day, every detail and moment will be photographed!

the one thing many couples can forget is to allot time after the ceremony for their photographer – after the family formal photos are done, after you hug everyone who sneaks to the group photo area, i will pull you and your groom away for as much time as possible for those images you have always dreamt of!

manor house wedding bride and groom walking to venue at sunset

i know you aren’t spending all that time getting ready before the ceremony to have it forgotten!

everyone at the wedding knows you are going to look so incredibly beautiful, but i want to capture shots of you both, together, MARRIED! it is truly one of the moment memorable moments of a wedding day, to take a breather, step back and soak in being MARRIED. i want to pull you both away for an intimate moment together where you get to breathe and relish in your day! you deserve it!!

so, here’s the general layout i use for the a simple and organized day! whether you choose to have a first look with your boo or not, there is a simple timeline for both! 

*with first look
GETTING READY 2:00 pm photographer arrives
2:00 partner 1 & vips getting ready photos
2:45 partner 2 & vips getting ready photos
3:30 first look + couples portraits
4:00 full wedding party formal photos
4:30 photos completed
CEREMONY
5:00 ceremony begins (usually 30 minutes)
5:35 family photos
6:00 couples sunset photos
couple has time to join cocktail hour if interested
6:25 depart for reception
RECEPTION
6:30 reception begins
6:35 arrive at reception + wedding party announced
6:40 grand introduction
6:45 first dance
7:00 speeches & toasts
7:30 dinner is served
8:00 cake cutting
8:10 open dance floor
8:45 open dance floor
10:00 formal exit
*without first look
GETTING READY
2:00 pm photographer arrives
2:00 partner 1 & vips getting ready photos
3:00 partner 1 formal group photos
3:30 partner 2 & vips getting ready photos
4:00 partner 2 formal group photos
4:30 photos completed
CEREMONY
5:00 ceremony Begins (usually 30 minutes)
5:35 family photos
5:50 wedding party photos
6:00 bride and groom photos
6:25 depart for reception
RECEPTION
6:30 reception begins
6:35 arrive at reception + wedding party announced
6:40 grand introduction
6:45 first dance
7:00 speeches & toasts
7:30 dinner is served
8:00 cake cutting
8:00 open dance floor
8:45 open dance floor
10:00 formal exit

of course, these timelines are for fairly traditional wedding days. there is no one size fits all for a wedding timeline but that’s why working with your photographer to create it can really benefit your sanity and help you get the most wonderful images on your big day! i make sure to include a timeline planning meeting with every couple i work with to make sure the day is pre-planned and well thought out to help you enjoy every moment!

bre + brandon had a traditional day without a first look, and everything went as planned! i had a moment with bre before she walked down the aisle and she glanced out the window to see brandon waiting at the altar for her, i remember how excited and in love bre looked in that moment and being able to see each other for the first time while walking down the aisle can be so incredible!

callie + ethan opted for an intimate first look on their big day. we planned it so there would be enough time to get bridal party and family photos done before the ceremony (which was right at sunset!) so we would have great light for everything, and it worked out perfectly! it made the day smooth and they also got some super sweet time together before they said I DO!

a huge part of planning your day and deciding to have a first look depends on what time your ceremony begins and ends. that will be the first thing to decide and the rest of the day can flow right around it!

again, this is my recommendation for my couples,

and i hope it helps you in your wedding planning! whether i am your photographer, or your photographer is new to the business, or you are a new wedding photographer just trying to learn the ropes, this is what many many weddings (and crazy days) have taught me!!

remember, your wedding is going to be perfect, whether it’s sunny or rainy, with 500 guests or 3, it’s your special day and nobody can take that from you! follow your heart and make it perfect for you! hopefully these tips for a perfect wedding timeline help you just a bit in your wedding planning!

if you want me to help you plan and create the perfect wedding day timeline, drop your info below and we can chat!

happy wedding planning!