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WEDDING DAY TIMELINE

The secret to a stress-free wedding day? A well planned wedding day timeline.

If you ever have, or are currently planning a wedding, you will soon find out how challenging it is to come up with a timeline on your own when there are so many things to consider. Believe me, I’ve been there!  For that reason, I create a wedding day timeline for each and every one of my brides. This is helpful because it keeps everyone on the same page and allows enough time to capture the shots desired. A well planned wedding day timeline will ensure that your day runs flawlessly, while creating a stress-free atmosphere.

The most important thing I need to know when creating my brides’ timeline is whether or not they will do a first look. Why? There are (at least) 3 types of portraits that I need to make sure I capture on a wedding day:

  • family portraits
  • bridal party portraits
  • bride+groom portraits

With this in mind, I need to make sure I get all of these photos, but most importantly, WHEN I am going to get them. And I am going to talk about this in detail later. The second thing I need to know is what time the ceremony will start.

how to build a wedding day timeline

Here are the two main things I need to know when planning a timeline for my brides:

  • If they are doing a first look
  • Ceremony start time

Also, this is often overlooked, but just to give you an idea, here is the ideal timeframe a photographer usually needs in order for them to perform to the best of their ability:

Details & Getting Ready Photos: 60-90 min

This involves photographing all the details (invitation, dress, jewelry, shoes, heirloom pieces, bouquet, garter, veil, rings, perfume, your something old, new, borrowed and blue, etc.), as well as candid shots of the bride and her bridesmaids getting their hair and makeup done.

Bridal Party Photos: 30 min

The bridal party portraits can be a bit tricky as we need to divide this time into three mini sessions: bride+bridesmaids, groom+groomsmen, and full bridal party. This means that we only have about 10 minutes for each session. This includes getting everybody to the spot where the pictures will take place (which is not always easy, especially if one of the ladies is not done with her makeup or hair), taking the photos and hoping that everyone cooperates — the bigger the bridal party, the harder it is to get everyone to focus.

Bride & Groom Photos: 30 min

If you do an engagement session prior to your wedding, you are going to find out how fast 30 minutes fly by. On a wedding day they go by even faster :) Could we use more than half an hour for the bride and groom portraits? Absolutely! However, more often than not, we find ourselves only having 10-15 minutes left out of the 30. Why? Sometimes the hair and makeup take longer than anticipated, one of the bridal party members is not ready, putting on the wedding dress takes longer than we thought because we have to wait for mom to help with lacing up the back of the dress, etc. But, if we  run behind schedule (90% of the weddings do) and don’t allow at least 30 minutes for the bride and groom portraits, the chances are that we are going to be rushed to take the most important photos of your life up until to this day, and this is not something you want to happen on your wedding day.

Family Photos: 30 min

For the sake of staying on track, I recommend that you only include the immediate family in these photos. That means: parents, grandparents and siblings + their spouses  (if applicable). The bigger the crowd, the more time it takes to group everyone together for pictures. It is extremely important to communicate to everyone where they need to be for the family pictures. Having to wait on a family member can cause delays in the timeline and other areas of the wedding day can be compromised.

Reception Decor: 10-15 min

Ceremony Decor: 10-15 min

Remember the 3 types of portraits I was describing above? If my bride and groom are doing a first look, it will allow time for all those pictures to be taken BEFORE the ceremony and not worry about them later in the day.

Wedding Day Timeline WITH a First Look

1:00 Photographers arrive

1:10-2:10 Photographers photograph the bridal details: dress, rings, shoes, flowers, invitation, etc.

Pre-ceremony pictures (getting ready, hair, makeup)

1:40 Bridesmaids get dressed (for picture purposes, the bridesmaids should put on their dresses before the bride starts getting ready)

Photographers photograph last-minute hair and makeup touchups

2:10 Bride gets dressed

2:35 Groom departs for First Look

2:40 Bride departs for First Look

2:45-3:15 First Look, Bride+Groom Pictures

3:15-3:30 Bride+Bridesmaids Photos

3:30-3:45 Full Wedding Party Portraits

3:45-4:00 Groom+Groomsmen Photos

4:00-4:30 Immediate Family Photos

4:30 Bride gets tucked away from early arriving guests

4:35-4:50 Photographers photograph ceremony decor

4:55 Bridal Party lines up for Ceremony

5:00 Ceremony Starts

5:30 Ceremony Ends

5:30-6:30 Cocktail/Refreshment Hour, Photographers photograph Reception decor and cocktail hour, More family pictures if needed

6:25 Guests invited to enter Reception and find their seats

6:30 Reception Starts

6:35 Bride+Groom Grand Entrance

6:40 Bride+Groom First Dance

Father-Daughter/Mother/Son Dances

7:00 Dinner is served

8:00 Open Dancing

8:30 Quick sunset photos of Bride+Groom (10-15 min)

9:55 Reception Ends/Formal Departure

10:00 Photographers leave

Wedding Day Timeline WITHOUT a First Look

2:00 Photographers Arrive

2:10-3:10 Photographers photograph the bridal details: dress, rings, shoes, flowers, invitation, etc.

Pre-ceremony pictures (getting ready, hair, makeup)

3:10 Bridesmaids get dressed (for picture purposes, the bridesmaids should put on their dresses before the bride gets ready)

Photographers photograph last-minute hair and makeup touchups

3:30 Bride gets dressed

4:00-4:15 Groom+Groomsmen Pictures (by starting with the guys it gives the ladies more time for finishing touches — hair and makeup, etc.)

4:15-4:30 Bride+Bridesmaids Pictures

I will also try to take some of the family pictures in this time frame (groom and his parents, bride and her parents) so that we don’t take too much time away from the cocktail/refreshment hour.)

4:30 Bride gets tucked away from early arriving guests

4:35-4:50 Photographers photograph ceremony + reception decor and early arriving guests

4:55 Bridal Party lines up for Ceremony

5:00 Ceremony Starts

5:30 Ceremony Ends

5:40 Cocktail/Refreshment Hour Starts

5:40-6:10 Immediate Family Portraits

6:10-6:20 Bridal Party Portraits

6:20-6:50 Bride and Groom Portraits

6:50 Cocktail/Refreshment Hour Ends

Guests invited to enter Reception and find their seats

6:55 Reception Starts

7:00 Bride+Groom Grand Entrance

7:05 Bride+Groom First Dance

7:10 Dinner is served

7:30 Open Dance Floor

8:20 Quick sunset photos of Bride+Groom (Depending on the time of the year, I like to take my bride and groom out for sunset pictures — 10-15 min)

9:55 Reception Ends/Formal Departure

10:00 Photographers Leave

Now, I could use a LOT more time for portraits, especially the Bride & Groom portraits. In my opinion, these are the most important pictures at your wedding, these are the pictures that you’ll want in your wedding album, these are the pictures that you will print and hang on your walls. However, I do take my bride and groom out for sunset pictures as well to compensate for the lack of time during the cocktail/refreshment hour. I could probably go longer and extend this time to at least half an hour more, BUT, I do NOT want to make the guests wait and delay the reception. Why? I believe that your guests should have a great wedding experience as well, and not have to wait for the reception to start more than they have to. There is nothing worse than being a guest at a wedding and having to wait for hours before you can start eating.

These are just examples of wedding day timelines that seem to work very well. Whether you are doing a first look or not, the timeline can be adjusted to fit your own needs!

 

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