As a wedding photographer, I’ve compiled countless wedding timelines and am going to share two line-by-line wedding timeline samples with you!
Wedding timeline tips
Keep in mind that the wedding timeline samples below are just general outlines. I recommend that you customize as needed, adjusting based on your ceremony time, party size and travel time. Here are some tips to help you out!
Bigger wedding parties need more time for portraits.
A 25-person wedding party requires more time for photos than an 8-person wedding party. When you look at the amount of time reserved for portraits, this is where you can increase or decrease the time based on your wedding party size. Typically, formal photos take about 30-45 minutes.
Set aside time before sunset for couple portraits.
On a wedding day, you’d be surprised at how little time the couple actually gets to spend alone! If you set aside 10-15 minutes for intimate golden hour portraits as a couple, you’ll not only increase the breathtaking wedding photos you receive after the wedding, but you’ll also get one-on-one time that most couples miss out on.
Depending on when you ceremony is, though, you might need to get creative in order to step away for these golden hour photos. For example, if the sun is setting during the reception, I often encourage my couples to cut the cake and then step out for photos while guests wait in line for the cake. They’ll hardly notice that you’re missing!
Consider a first look.
If you’re struggling to squeeze in enough time for portraits, consider a first look. A first look is a time before the ceremony in which you and your soon-to-be spouse see each other for the first time. It’s a bit unconventional, but provides much more intimacy! Plus, you can take more couple portraits and spend more time with guests at your cocktail party because you’ve already taken photos before the ceremony.
Before the first look, you can also do a first look with parents and bridesmaids — resulting in irreplaceable candid, emotional photos.
If you’re going with a first look, you might want to consider taking wedding party photos at the same time. You’ll already be dressed and ready for the ceremony, and so will your essential guests. Again, this decreases the amount of time needed for formal portraits after the actual ceremony.
Add enough travel time.
Planning for travel time is crucial on a wedding day! Think of the time it will take to travel from your getting ready location to the ceremony location, and to the reception location as well if that’s in a different setting.
Give yourself extra time for hair and makeup.
One of the first things that can disrupt a wedding day timeline is hair and makeup. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the process, even if it means getting up a touch earlier. You won’t want to feel rushed before the day has truly begun.
Ask your officiant for an estimate on the ceremony duration.
As for the ceremony, get an estimate from the officiant on the duration. Traditional religious weddings will often have a longer ceremony. Knowing the approximate duration of your ceremony will help you accurately plan out the rest of the agenda — including time for golden hour portraits, cake cutting, first dance and more!
Set aside time for photos with the groom’s side of the family.
The most overlooked individual on the wedding day is often the groom! Sometimes the groom’s parents regret having time for candid photos with their son. To prevent this, I always ask the groom’s dad to help put on his jacket, and for the mother to put on the groom’s boutonniere. This gives them a candid moment for the parents of the groom that they may otherwise miss out on. I do this at every wedding and all of my couples love it.
Wedding Day Timeline With First Look
If you have on photographer and are planning on a first look, I recommend the following wedding timeline sample as a template!
1:30pm – Photographer arrives to bridal suite — starts photographing candids and bridal details
2:30pm – Bride puts on wedding dress (mom and bridesmaids should already be dressed and ready). Photographer takes candid shots and bridal portraits.
3:00 pm – Photographer arrives at the groom’s suite — takes groom “getting ready” photos.
Dad assists the groom as the groom puts on his jacket and Mom pins on boutonniere (this creates candid photos for both parents, which is often missed on wedding days for the groom’s side).
3:30 pm – First look
4:00 pm – Bridal party photos
4:45 pm – Immediate family photos
5:15 pm – Head to ceremony location. Photographer takes detail photos of ceremony, reception and guests.
6:00 pm – Ceremony begins (will take 30-45 minutes depending on the ceremony or religious program). Photographer takes shots of the bride walking down the aisle and the couple at the altar.
6:30 pm – Portraits with extended family. (Ask them to stick around after the ceremony.) Take bride and groom newlywed portraits.
9:30 pm – Grand exit (sparklers, bubbles, confetti, glow sticks)
Wedding Timeline Without First Look
Here is a wedding photography timeline without a first look. The below template begins at 10:30 in the morning with a 3:00 pm ceremony.
10:30 am – Photographer arrives and takes bridal detail photos — dress, shoes, invitations, getting ready, etc.
11:45 am – Bride puts on dress (mom and bridesmaids should be dressed and ready first)
12:15 pm – Bridal portraits
12:30 pm – Groom getting ready photos — candid photos with groomsmen, Mom pinning on boutonniere and Dad putting on the jacket for the groom
1:00 pm – Bride and bridesmaids portraits, plus immediate family photos
1:40 pm – Groom and groomsmen portraits, plus immediate family photos
2:15 pm – Head to ceremony location. Photographer takes detail photos of ceremony, reception, set up lights and guest candids.
3:00 pm – Ceremony begins (will take 30-45 minutes depending on the ceremony or religious program)
3:30 pm – Family portraits and cocktail hour (please let family know ahead of time to stick around after the ceremony for photos)
Portraits with the entire wedding party
Bride and groom portraits during golden hour just before the sun sets
5:00 pm – Candid reception photos
6:30 pm – Grand exit (sparklers, bubbles, confetti, glow sticks)
Using wedding timeline samples as a template
I highly encourage you to use one of the above wedding timeline samples as a template for your wedding day. Adjust your wedding ceremony start time and work backwards from there up until the time you need to start getting ready.