Wedding Day Timeline Tips

wedding day timeline tips

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So you are going over your budget and see that you can’t afford a wedding coordinator. So who’s going to work on your wedding timeline? Without having ever planned a wedding, that will be hard and frustrating and without a wedding day timeline, your wedding day will be stressful. Good news, most wedding photographers help with a timeline you just need to ask if they offer that. If not, I got you. I have compiled a few wedding day timeline tips to think about when working on your timeline.

Why a good wedding timeline matters

A timeline will make or break your wedding. Okay, not really but a bad timeline will be stressful as heck and if one thing falls behind, everything will. This leads to having less time for after ceremony photos and rushing through everything. Most photographers help with the wedding timeline because they know how to get the best images.

Keep in mind: a coordinator works with the photographer to tailor a wedding timeline that favors the photos you want with the lighting and a day of coordinator makes sure everything is executed perfectly.

Where to start

First things first, you need to first decide whether or not you’re having a first look. This will determine what time you should start your ceremony. If you do not have a first look, you want to make sure there is enough light for your photos after your ceremony. While a sunset ceremony is beautiful, if you don’t have a first look, flash will need to be needed.

Once you’ve decided, we can figure out the moments you want captured. Do you want a first look with your parents/wedding party/kids/dog? Do you want moments with wedding party? Robe shots? Once you know the kind of images you want captured, it’s time to fit it in to your timeline.

Keep in mind having different locations and only one photographer make the timeline tighter and will give you a bit less images from each moment. I truly recommend having 8 hours coverage and having two photographers. While I am with one partner, the second photographer will be with your partner. Another perk to that is all the genuine moments.

Recommended time is needed for each event (one photographer)

Getting ready: 1 hour and a half

When I get there, I start with the details (shoes, jewelry, invitations, rings, etc). Then the touch ups and robe shots. I recommend having everything in a box ready to be photographed and that the room be clean and ready to photograph. I tell my clients having two rooms next to each other is ideal. One room can be for getting ready and the other can be for photos that way you don’t have to worry about cleaning up. Everything will be a lot smoother. In addition to this, having your room close to your partner is also ideal especially if there is only one photographer. It works when they have a room down the hall from you.

Here are a couple of tips that I’ve learned from photographing weddings:

  • Don’t be the last one to get your make up done
  • Before your makeup is done, have the person who is zipping you up be dressed

First look: 30 minutes

First looks don’t take this long but I like to squeeze in some romantics and portraits. It adds some variety to your gallery. Having a first look is a game changer to your timeline as it makes it so your timeline isn’t so tight and you get alone time to enjoy before the ceremony. Here’s a blog to explain more in detail. I would like to add that if you choose to have a first look, you will be able to join cocktail hour and be with your loved ones. I 1000% recommend you have a first look as it makes the day stress free

Bridesmaids and Groomsmen: 20 minutes each (preferably 30 each)

This varies on whether I have a second shooter or not. If I don’t have a second shoot I speed things up to be able to do both sides of the wedding party. The time will depend on how many people are in your wedding party. I usually spend about 10-15 minutes with the group and then take on of you and each person in that group.

Whole wedding party: 20 minutes

Group photos go by quickly and are easy as long as everyone is listening and cooperating.

Ceremony: 30 minutes

This depends the type of wedding you have. Some weddings tend to be longer and we have to account for that if that is the case but most weddings are about 30 minutes.

Family photos: 30 minutes minimum

I recommend only immediate family and having a shot list. It’s truly important that everyone knows they have to stay in the same area. This will make things go by quicker. Trust me, you don’t want to be worried that you are not going to be able to take a picture with a certain family member if they weren’t there for family photos. In addition if other family members and friends want to take photos, they can be taking during the reception. Any other combinations can also be taken during reception. If you do want extra combinations during family photos, I’d recommend adding more time.

Romantics: 30 minutes

This time depends on if everything is on time. If for some reason one event took longer than the others, this would be cut short. Weddings are unpredictable and time moves quickly. If there isn’t much time for romantics, I definitely recommend adding an after wedding session so you can get more photos with your partner without the stress.

Reception coverage time varies

Reception coverage is dependent on how long your coverage is. If it’s 6 hours, I will only be able to photograph important moments such as grand entrance, first dance. If it’s 8 hours, you’ll be able to get some dancing photos. You get to choose what you want during your reception. Most traditions are first dance, family dances, cake cutting, speeches, bouquet toss, and garter toss. Another favorite is table photos and group photo. All of this can be added to your timeline. It’s definitely possible to add a fake grand exit for just the photos. After the photo is taken everyone goes back to dance so you don’t have to worry they will leave after the photos are taken.

Alright, so you get how much time should go for each event, but would like to see some examples to help you out a but more? Below are some example timelines :

8 hours with one photographer & first look

1:00 pm – Photographer arrive and begins photographing bride details

1:30 pm – Groom getting ready 2:00 pm – Bride gets into dress/ Bridal portraits

2:30 pm First look + romantics 2:30 pm First look

3:00 pm – Wedding party photos 3:30 pm Invitation time

4:00 pm Ceremony Begins 4:30 pm Family Portraits

5:00 pm Sunset photos

5:30 pm Grand entrance / First dance

5:45 pm Dinner begins

6:45 pm Cake cutting

7:00 pm Toasts

7:15 pm Family dances, anniversary dance

7:45 pm Group photo

7:30 pm open dance

9:00 pm Photo coverage end

8 hours with one photographer & no first look

1:00 pm – Photographer arrives and begins photographing bride details

1:30 pm Groom getting ready

2:15 pm Bride gets into dress

3:30 pm Invitation time

4:00 pm Ceremony Begins

4:30 pm Family Portraits

5:00 pm Wedding party photos

5:30 pm Romantics

5:45 pm Grand entrance / First dance

6:15 pm Dinner begins

7:30 pm Toasts

7:15 pm Family dances, anniversary dance

7:45 pm Cake cutting

8:00 pm open dance

9:00 pm Photo coverage end

If all of this is too confusing, don’t worry, I help all of my clients with their timeline regardless if they have a coordinator or day of coordinator. I only hope these wedding day timeline tips give you insight on how much time we need for each part of your wedding.

I hope these tips were useful. Wedding planning can be overwhelming and time consuming which is why I love help my clients with information like this to make it easier. Check out my resource page.

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