How to Make a Wedding Day Timeline

I think one of the more common questions that I’ve been asked is how to make a wedding day timeline. There’s so much going on that day that it’s hard to figure it where to even start. Since most people don’t get married on a regular basis (if you do, more power to ya) they have no idea what to do when and then it becomes so overwhelming they shut down. 

Today I thought I would lay out the basics of making a wedding day timeline. But before I get into the meat and potatoes of this blog post I want to give you my biggest piece of timeline advice. It will take longer than you think. I repeat. It will take longer than you think

Getting Ready- 2-3 hours

Getting ready is usually the time on a wedding day that is most likely to cause delays. There is so much going on and when you have a group of people all trying to get ready at once it’s chaos. I recommend that if you’re getting hair and makeup done in the same location you’re getting dressed, try not to go very last. I don’t know about other photographers, but I don’t take photos of my brides (for the most part) until makeup is pretty much done. If I have to wait till everyone else is done before I can take photos of the bride it pushes everything back. 

First Look – 30 minutes

If you’re having a first look I’d plan for about 30 minutes. The first look isn’t just a few minutes where you see each other the first time. It’s also another portrait time for the couple.

Ceremony- 30minutes to 1hour

Most ceremonies take about 30 minutes. Sometimes it’s less, but that’s the average amount of time. Some church weddings may take an hour or more. Make sure you know how long your ceremony will be.

Family Portraits/Couple’s portraits – 30 to 45 minutes

I HIGHLY, and I mean HIGHLY,  recommend that you make sure all the family that will be photographed knows they need to be ready and in the location for family photos. Hunting down someone can eat up time quickly. It’s also a good idea to have a list of the family groupings so that people can move in and out as quickly as possible. I send my couples a family portrait questionnaire before the wedding. That way I have a list and we can make sure we don’t lose time figuring out what photos you want. I’m always up for an extra photo of a different grouping that you may have forgotten, but having the majority of the grouping written down helps keep everyone on time.

This is also the time we do full wedding party photos if it wasn’t done before the ceremony. If there wasn’t time for separate photos with the bride/bridesmaids or groom/groomsmen before the ceremony, this is also the time we’d get those photos.

Reception – 3 hours

Most receptions are 3 hours. Lost of venues will already have a schedule for the reception events. I like to check in with the venue coordinator to find out those times. Since I’m just taking candids I want to make sure I’m there when the event happens and not across the room getting a photo. If you’re having to plan your own reception events try to space out each event about 45 minutes apart unless you really want to do them back to back. 

This is the most basic way I could come up with a timeline example. There’s a ton of factors that go into figuring out a timeline. Things like drive time, wedding party size, wedding guest count, first look/no first look, etc. have to be factored into a timeline. I help all my couples with timeline planning when we get closer to their wedding day. I’ve also worked with wedding planners to make sure we’re on the same page with the timeline. My goal is a smooth wedding day so my couples can enjoy the day and live in the moment without the added stress.

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