A Timeline Can Make Your Wedding Day So Much Easier
A well throughout timeline is one of the best steps you can take towards preventing those nightmares situations that I'm sure you've probably worried about coming across on the big day. By creating a fleshed-out timeline of events, you'll save yourself 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, 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.
A General Breakdown of How Long Things Take On Your Big Day:
Again, this 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. You, your spouse, and/or bridal party may take more or less time with certain parts of the day, opt to skip some of them, or even create your own, and that's okay! My best piece of advice to set yourself up for success is that if you aren't sure how long something will take, add more time than you think it will take, just as a buffer. If you end up running behind, it won't be as huge of a deal, and if you end up finishing early, that gives you time to take a breather!
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 two hours allows time for the photographer to capture both the bridal party and groomsmen getting ready as well, if desired.
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 accessorize.
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.
60 minutes: First look and portraits with the couple
30 minutes: Prelude music begins as guests start to arrive
Having music play as guests arrive will set the mood, and it'll alleviate any awkward pauses or confusing moments.
*60 minutes: Ceremony
You'll need to go over the details for this one because every wedding is different.
May range from 15 minutes to over an hour.
1 hour: Cocktail hour
50 minutes (during cocktail hour): Bridal Party / Family Portraits
If you choose not to include a first look, your time will be best served taking them 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 the 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!
15 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.
10-15 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.
10 minutes: Cake-cutting / Dessert served
60+ MINUTES: RECEPTION/PARTY TIME
Time to hit the dance floor! Bumo some classics and get the party started!
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.
Examples of timelines I've created for couples:
Things You Should Consider
Ceremony time & Lighting Conditions
When it comes to achieving certain looks to 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.
Factor in buffer time
If you think your wedding won’t run late, sorry to burst your bubble, but in my experience, weddings ALWAYS run late, whether it’s due to your bridesmaids getting stuck in traffic after a coffee & donuts run, hair & makeup taking longer than you predicted, or even the ceremony running a few minutes long.
Instead, 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 10-15 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!
Include a 15-20 minute break
This is SO FREAKING IMPORTANT GUYS. Build in a 15-20 minute break for you and your spouse to just be for a moment. Your wedding day will 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. (;
This is also a great time to make sure you're hydrated and have got some food in you.
TO LOOK OR TO WAIT? - THAT IS THE GREAT DEBATE
If you choose NOT to do to a first look:
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.
If you DO choose TO do a first look:
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 keep 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.
It's your wedding day and you deserve the absolute best!
Your wedding day is a moment to be treasured forever, and it deserves to be captured in the most beautiful way possible.
In order to ensure my couples are getting the absolute best service I can provide, I take on a limited number of weddings each year.
Fill out this form to contact me and see if we can create memories that will last a lifetime!
Hope to talk to you soon, lovebirds!