How To Organize A Timeline For Your Wedding Day

Do you want to organize a timeline for your wedding day but don’t know where to start?

Let’s be realistic here, not all of us plan events for a living so there’s no doubt that figuring out how to organize every detail to make sure your wedding day unfolds smoothly –is indeed overwhelming. Not only is an organized timeline helpful for you, but your vendors who you will be working with to pull off your big day. Having everyone on the same page is a game changer and helps so much with saving time.

As an experienced photographer, I’ve captured a handful of weddings with unique timelines and I truly believe the more planning you do ahead of time, will result in a stress free wedding day and guess what? You get to enjoy yourself and celebrate every moment.

*Pro tip: Break down your timeline into sections and be realistic when planning time for each. You may think you’ll only need an hour or two for each section of the day but you’ll thank yourself for allowing extra time for specific parts of the day. Here is a breakdown of each section and what you may include in your timeline:

  • Bridal prep photos
  • Groom prep photos
  • First Look/Gift or letter exchange
  • Guests arriving at ceremony
  • Ceremony
  • Ceremony recessional
  • Receiving line
  • Cocktail hour
  • Family portraits
  • Group photos
  • Wedding party photos
  • Couples Portraits
  • Guest seating for dinner
  • Grand march
  • Dinner (buffet style or plated)
  • Cake cutting (if you’ll have cake)
  • First dances
  • Speeches
  • Sunset portraits
  • Dancing
  • Exits

Here are additional tips to consider when creating your timeline:

GETTING READY PHOTOS

Figuring out how much time you’ll need for getting ready photos can be a bit tough and a much longer process depending how big your wedding party is. You may need to hire more than one hair or makeup artist for a bigger party to get things going quicker and also consider if you’ll be fully ready for when your photographer arrives to reenact touching up makeup/hair or 50% ready to really capture the getting ready process. Keep in mind your ceremony time –a golden hour ceremony gives you more time during the day to get ready vs a noon or early afternoon ceremony.

Communication is key with your photographer during this step since they’ll have to capture getting ready photos of each party. You may consider getting ready on the same property as your partner which will save you time but if that’s not possible, coordinate with your photographer. Picking a package that includes 2 photographers can be a lifesaver! Ask your makeup and hair artists how much time they’ll need to complete your whole wedding party so when planning out your timeline, you can add extra time for so during getting ready you won’t feel so rushed.

FIRST LOOK

Are you and your partner squeezing in a first look? First looks may be the right choice for many couples, if you want to read your vows in private and see each other before walking down the aisle to rid of some anxiety. If this is you, allotting enough time for a first look after getting ready photos will save you time on couples portraits later on. This is the perfect time to take a breather with your partner and soak in the moments before saying your I do’s!

If you prefer not to do a first look with your partner but have considered doing a first look with either of your parents, grandparents or even bridal party, I do highly recommend these because it’s the perfect time to squeeze in some family portraits to save time later on during cocktail hour.

CEREMONY

Thinking about the time to set for your ceremony is important, depending on what season of the year your wedding will take place. In the summer, I recommend having a later ceremony as the sun sets much later in the day. If you are having an outdoor ceremony, your guests will appreciate you not seating them in the hot sun, midday. As your wedding day approaches golden hour, it’s the perfect time for photo opportunities and getting those dreamy golden images.

If you’re having a Winter wedding, I suggest having an earlier ceremony and if it’s indoor, you won’t have to worry much about when the sun sets. Having an earlier ceremony during the Winter season gives you more time so you don’t lose light for your photos.

Chat with your wedding planner and or officiant to discuss how long your ceremony will last. Make sure you aren’t leaving your guests hanging before the reception/dinner, it’s a good idea to leave about an hour or two in between the ceremony and reception.

PORTRAITS

Portraits during your wedding day can get rushed so make sure you allot at least 45 mins to an hour for portraits. You will need at least 10-15 minutes or more for group photos depending on how large your group is. Another 10-15 minutes for family portraits and 30-45 minutes for you and your partner.

Taking portraits later in the day during golden hour for you and your partner is the best time. Factor in travel time in your timeline is crucial and being realistic when thinking through of all the little details. You wouldn’t want to travel to a spot and end up being stuck in traffic for hours, so take the time to do some research if there are any special events happening during your wedding day that may cause heavier traffic.

DURING THE RECEPTION

It’s party time, but also dinner, speeches and mingling that can last longer than expected. During this time, I like to sneak the couple out for sunset portraits so factoring in at least 10-15 mins for portraits is one you won’t regret. Have your photographer get all of the formalities out of the way earlier during your reception.

If you plan on having a special exit, know when this will happen. Your photographer can determine when to leave the event without missing out on any important moments. Having an organized timeline helps to keep you on track but being flexible is okay too! There are things that are just out of your control, like the weather for instance.


Continue to communicate with your vendors throughout your wedding day to ensure any adjusting of your timeline. Leave yourself some buffer time and just like that, you’ve been sipping on that bubbly and soaking in every moment. I hope you were able to get thinking with reading my blog, if you have any extra tips, do leave them below!


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