Wedding Day Timeline Planning Made Easy! ✨

A Timeline Can Make Your Wedding Day So Much Easier

A well throughout timeline is one of the best steps you can take toward preventing those nightmares situations that I'm sure you've probably worried about coming across on the big day. Creating a fleshed-out timeline of events'll save you a lot of unnecessary stress on the day of. Ideally, having a timeline will save you from running around in circles all day, attempting to round up your family and/or bridal party members for photos, confusion with the DJ, and/or trying to find your spouse when it’s time for your first look.

But What Even Is A Wedding Timeline?

A wedding timeline essentially serves as a general itinerary for how your wedding day will go. You sit down together and decide how your big day is going to go from start to finish. Then you meet up with your photographer or wedding planner/coordinator to smooth out the details and make it as efficient as possible. Sharing details like if you want to share a first look, when you plan to say "I do," and how you want to make your grand entrance and exit are all super important milestones to include in your timeline that will help serve as a guide to you + your vendors through each part of the day.

Basically, it's a comprehensive outline of everything that you want to happen on your wedding day. It gets distributed out to your vendors and shared with your fam and bridal party so that everyone can be on the same page and you don’t just arrive to a day of unplanned chaos.

So, How Much Photography Coverage Do I Need?

Every couple's wedding needs are unique, so it's really hard to say how much coverage you need without knowing what your plans and visions are for the day... but you can follow this handy guide I've put together to help you calculate how much time you think is right for your photography needs.

Things You Should Consider While Planning Your Big Day



You get to experience those emotions of first seeing each other in your wedding attire right there in the moment leading up to saying those two magical words. Family + wedding party photos will take place during cocktail hour or dinner. The photographer starts coverage a little later in the day.


You get to experience those same emotions... just a little sooner than when you're walking down the aisle. You get to spend the moments leading up to the ceremony together, celebrating each other a bit more intimately before the big moment, rather than in front of all your guests. It also gives you the option of capturing family and bridal portraits before the ceremony happens. You can still schedule them after the ceremony – just be mindful that you’ll probably be getting hungry by then + will be ready to get the party started. The photographer shows up earlier in the day to allow time for these.


When it comes to achieving certain looks in photos, a lot of it has to do with the lighting conditions present at the time of capturing. Light is one of the most important aspects of your wedding day, yet many couples are unaware of how it actually affects the outcome of your photos.

For example, if your vision for your wedding portraits includes a beautiful warm sky and golden skin tones, golden hour (the hour before sunrise/sunset) is going to be the best time to capture them, and you’ll need to make sure your ceremony isn’t so late that you miss that sunset lighting... but you’ll also want to make sure it’s not way too early in the day that you end up having harsh/midday light and shadows (if at all possible... it's really the worst for a moody photographer like myself, haha.), a cocktail hour that lasts FOREVER, and the reception ends up dragging on.

If you want to include a special exit, such as a sparkler exit, you may want to consider scheduling it during blue hour (immediately after sunset) to allow for more details to be captured, including the emotions on you and your guests' faces, than if it were pitch black outside, as it’s much harder to capture that beauty in the complete dark. 

You may want to consider doing a “faux sparkler exit” an hour or two before your guests actually leave, in order to get that beautiful lighting. Or, if you want to do a true sparkler exit, so you & your partner can leave right after it, consider having your guests leave when there’s still a little light left in the sky!

Really though, this is a topic you’ll want to consult your photographer about helping you with, as they’re the lighting expert. 


If you think your wedding won’t run late... I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but chances are you WILL fall behind schedule at some point, whether it’s due to your bridesmaids disappearing for a coffee & donuts run, your grandparents getting stuck in traffic, hair & makeup taking longer than you predicted, the ceremony running a few minutes long, or needing to stop for an emergency potty break (nervous blatter, anyone?).

Instead, play it safe and schedule a few minutes of buffer time between each part of the wedding day. As a photog, I like to make sure couples leave at least 10 minutes between each “section” of the day, so that way even if something runs longer than planned, you can still be on track and avoid the stressful panic of last-minute changes!


This is SO FREAKING IMPORTANT GUYS. Build in a 15-20 minute break - whether it be used to snag a snack and drink (gotta stay hydrated!), make a quick pitstop in the restroom, or for you and your spouse to just be for a moment. Your wedding day is going to go by so much faster than you realize right now and you should take a few moments to just stop and appreciate the commitment that the two of you have just made to each other. 

Those few minutes of alone time with your spouse to take it all in may just end up being one of your favorite memories of the day. 

So, go ahead and intentionally block out some time in your day, wherever you feel is best. You and your photog/coordinator will go over the logistics and make sure it's feasible – and make sure that you actually take the break. (;

A Visual Example of a Wedding Day Timeline

An example of a customized 6-hour wedding timeline I created in Canva after discussing their ideas for the big day. They opted to go with a first touch and private vow exchange before the ceremony.

Here's a copy of their timeline that I simplified so they could distribute it out to guests, if they wished. This just helps keep everyone on track throughout the day.

A Verbal Breakdown of a Wedding Day Timeline

A General Breakdown of How Long Things Take On Your Big Day...

Here is a general breakdown of how long things take to do/capture. They are in no specific order and are just meant to help serve as a guide to help you schedule an appropriate amount of time for activities throughout your wedding day.

60-120 minutes: Wedding party gets ready

Start off your wedding day by giving yourself plenty of time to get ready with your wedding party. Throw on your custom robes and slippers, blast a feel-good playlist to hype you up, crack a few cold ones, and enjoy the glamourization process. A larger group means you'll want to block off more time to prep. Scheduling for one hour allows plenty of time for the photog to capture the bride and her bridesmaids getting ready. If you're getting ready in the same venue, the photog may be able to snag a few portraits of the groom getting ready, too, since it's usually a quick process. Two hours allows for plenty of time for the photographer to capture both the bridal party and groomsmen getting ready.

20 minutes: Bride gets dressed

If you're wearing traditional wedding attire, you'll want to give yourself enough time to get dressed and accessorize. The last thing you want is to feel rushed while trying to put on all the finishing touches for your glamourous look. 

45 minutes: Solo portraits

Now it's time to capture all the glam shots featuring the beautiful bride. 30 minutes with the bride and 15 with the groom should be long enough to capture all the typical poses. 

30 minutes: Photos with your wedding party

Gather your crew for wedding party photos. Don't forget to include your parents, your partner's parents, and kids in the wedding party for this portion too. 

45 minutes: Photos with your family

Gather up your families for some group photos. Don't forget to include those who matter the most for this portion. When it comes to family portraits, it's best to reserve a generous amount of time.

*Make sure the photog has an important shots list if you want photos of/with anyone specifically.

45 minutes: First look and portraits with the couple

See each other in your wedding attire for the first time before you walk down the aisle and savor those emotions while your photographer helps guide and pose you to create beautiful images that you'll love to look back on.

30 minutes: Prelude music begins as guests start to arrive

This happens while the bride and groom are wrapping up their portraits and getting ready to walk down the isle. Having music play as guests arrive will set the mood, and it'll alleviate any awkward pauses or confusing moments. 

*30 minutes: Ceremony

Need to go over the details for this one because every wedding is different.

May range from 15 minutes to over an hour.

60 minutes: Cocktail hour

Time for your guests to converse before dinner while you go get photos taken, (If you didn't do them before the ceremony)

50 minutes (during cocktail hour): Bridal/Groom / Bridal Party / Family Portraits

If you choose not to include the first look, your time will be best served taking couples' portraits during cocktail hour, along with capturing images with the bridal party and important family.

*Make sure the photog has an important shots list if you want photos of/with anyone specifically.

20-30 minutes: Grand Entrance / First Dance

Once guests find their seats, it's time to make your grand newlywed entrance. After your wedding party enters, you'll be announced as a married couple. This will lead directly into your first dance. 

20 minutes: Guests invited to dance floor 

Guests often like to join the newlyweds on the dance floor after the first song. Work with your DJ or band or arrange a few hits to start off the evening. 

60 minutes: Guests return to seats / Dinner is served

After a few songs, guests are encouraged to take their seats as dinner begins to be served. 

15 minutes: Welcome toast

The hosts traditionally give a welcome speech as the first course is served. Your parents can speak during this time, or you can use it to thank your guests for attending. Do what feels right for your wedding!

20 minutes: Wedding party speeches

This moment is likely the last time all guests will be seated, making it an opportune moment to arrange wedding party speeches. The best man is traditionally the first to speak, followed by the maid of honor.

10 minutes: Parent dances

Once dinner wraps up, it's time for parent dances. Though they'll be brief, both are emotional (and special) moments for parents to enjoy with their kids. 

15 minutes: Cake-cutting ceremony / Dessert served

20 minutes: Wedding exit

Cue your wedding exit song and leave your reception with a grand departure. Give your guests sparklers to wave, arrange a fireworks display or deck out your getaway car with extravagant decorations. This is your time to enjoy every last moment of your wedding day.

Depending on how late the festivities go, you may need to schedule a mock exit a bit earlier in the night. This is due to the lack of light that's available, which causes grainy images.

Well, I think that covers everything!

I hope this blog serves as a helpful guide for you while you are planning your wedding!

-Aireal Sage Robbins

Sunflower & Sage Photography

Hey Homie, I'm Aireal.

Meet the West Virginia Wedding Photographer

I'm focusing in to capture souls who are wildly in love & searching for a fun, passionate, laughter-filled photography experience for their wedding and elopement day.
By capturing photojournalistic, candid, and posed images throughout the day, you'll be sure to have a wide variety of images that illustrate your wedding day and love story.
Inclusivity & representation matter. I am an LGBTQIA+ Wedding Photographer in West Virginia. Same-sex & non-binary couples are always welcome in front of my lens.

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