Wedding Day Timeline

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Not all weddings are the same. Each wedding is customized to fit the needs of my couples. Some weddings are short, like an elopement, and some weddings have a longer timeline from the getting ready, ceremony, and reception. So as a bride and groom, how would plan your wedding day timeline? Yes, the thought of it sounds daunting and impossible, but that’s what a professional photographer is for, so let me help you (you can also have an experienced wedding planner, which I do recommend to ease your wedding planning!).

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As a professional wedding photographer, with 10 years of experience, I’ve helped hundreds of couples plan their photography wedding timeline. If a couple has a wedding planner, they may send me a sample of the timeline for the day, or I send them my photography timeline and we work around the schedule I laid out. Most often, my couples ask me to help with the timeline, and to help guide them through the process, I send them my questionnaire that asks about where they are getting ready, where the ceremony will be, and where the reception is going to be. Based on the answers, I would analyze the locations (where the bride and groom are getting ready), if they’re doing a first look, and how far the getting ready location is from the ceremony location. In addition, I look at the ceremony location to the portraits location and then to the wedding venue reception. I always add time for traffic, driving, travel, and the “what if?,” to make sure there’s ample time for the couple’s photos, in addition to ensuring the entire day falls into place.

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Not only that, I ask how many people are in the bridal party, how many people will help the bride and groom dress, approximately how long hair and makeup will take to take care of the entire bridal party. This way I can have an understanding as to when photography should really start, when the bride should have her hair and makeup done and based on how the women’s timeline goes when the men should start getting ready (because it’s faster for the men to get ready than the women).

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I also take into consideration if the couple is having a first look. This is when the bride and groom will see each other for the first time. Once the emotional moment happen, the full bridal party gets photos done, and maybe the VIP family members. Sometimes, it’s just the family photos taking place and the bridal party photos happens after the ceremony. Often times, no first look happens and all the photos happen after the ceremony, so now I’m creating a timeline that determines how to fit all the photos between the ceremony and the reception. It’s not feasible to have only 60 minutes between the end of the ceremony, portraits of the couple, the bridal party, families, AND drive to the reception location. Could be doable if the getting ready, ceremony and venue are all taking place in one location, but again, everything is customized to the couple’s needs. There are many factors to consider, so I make this as painless as possible for my clients.

Photography isn’t the only thing to consider on the wedding day. You’d have to consider when the flowers should arrive, when the cinematographer/videographer will start, the limo pickup time, and many more. Once I create, or you create, a draft of a timeline, everything can be adjusted based on these new factors.

Here’s a sample of a timeline with a First Look:

12pm: Bride starts hair and makeup

1pm: The photographer arrives. Takes photos of details and getting ready. 2nd photographer arrives at groom’s location.

2pm: bride puts on dress; groom puts on suit. Bridal party helps.

2:15pm: Quick solo shots of bride/groom by window.

2:30pm: First Look.

2:40pm: Family portraits - immediate family only.

3:00pm: Bridal Party photos.

3:30pm: Bride and groom photos.

4pm: Travel to ceremony.

4:30pm: No photos.

5pm: Ceremony starts.

6pm: Bride and groom photos inside/outside of church.

6:20pm: Travel to reception.

7pm: Cocktail Hour. Photographer takes photos of couple inside reception area for 15 min. Photographer takes detail shots of reception.

8pm: Reception begins.

11:50pm: Sparkler exit.

12am: Reception ends/Photography ends.

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Here’s a sample timeline without a First Look:

12pm: Bride starts hair and makeup.

1pm: photographer arrives. Takes photos of details and getting ready. The 2nd photographer arrives at groom’s location.

2pm: Bride puts on dress; groom puts on suit. Bridal party helps.

2:15p: Quick solo shots of bride/groom by window.

2:30pm-3:15pm: Travel to ceremony.

3:30pm Ceremony begins.

4:30pm: Family portraits.

4:50pm: Bridal Party photos.

5:15pm: Bride and Groom photos.

6pm: Travel to reception.

7pm: Cocktail Hour. Photographer takes photos of couple inside reception area for 15 min. Photographer takes detail shots of reception.

8pm: Reception begins.

11:50pm: Sparkler exit.

12am: Reception ends/Photography ends.

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There’s still many details than can go into a timeline. For example, the timeline for the reception can usually be created with the help of the DJ/Band/Emcee and the venue. Sometimes the wedding planner creates it with input from the venue when certain meals will be served. Again, many factors are involved, but don’t worry! It will all fall into place once you have details from your various vendors. Just remember, your timeline does not have to be finished in one day. Often times, a timeline is created 1-2 weeks before the wedding day, so rest assure you will have time!