Your Wedding Day Timeline | Wedding Planning

September 11, 2018

OMG wedding planning… so many questions!!  So many little details you never even thought of, or thought that you would have to know!  One of the biggest is trying to arrange your wedding day timeline, or order of events.  So you are having a 4:00 ceremony, but umm what all happens before that?!  Or after??  It’s totally cool.  Chances are you have surrounded yourself with an awesome wedding team, and that should mean they are providing you with some legit details so you know exactly what time in the am to pop the bubbly!

Your wedding day timeline from your photographer.

One of the things you have hired your photographer for is to provide you with your wedding day timeline for the events that concern them. (Think: first look, but not necessarily when the bouquet gets tossed)  I’m sure everyone does things very different so what you’ll see below is how I run my timeline.  Even though I let my couples know that I do this, and they have the timeline about a month before the wedding I thought it might be useful for anyone just kind of beginning the planning of the day to have a rough idea of what it looks like.  Sometimes as a wedding pro we forget that not everyone attends a wedding every weekend!  (Although they should- there’s free cake…)

So let’s go!  Below there are two different timelines, one with a first look, and one traditional.  (For anyone who is wondering, a first look is when the couple chooses to see each other before the ceremony.  It is coordinated to be in a more intimate spot with just the couple and photographers/videographers present.  Even if we’re not keeping the first time you see each other that day traditional, we still want the emotion to be the same!

Also please know I am using the terms Bride and Groom just to keep things less confusing.  I always use my couples names in their timeline, but for the sake of this article it seems to be easier to write out bride and groom.  For a same sex couple with only one photographer hired we would just discuss who wants getting ready photos (if getting ready at separate locations and I’m not able to pop in between two different hotel rooms), and who would like to be at the first look location first, etc.  It’s definitely not my intention to be offensive.  I feel like it’s ok to just go ahead and say that, right?

Your wedding day timeline if DOING a First Look.

You will find a lot of info on there about whether or not to do a first look.  Everyone is different, and I always tell my couples to go with their gut.  If you have always envisioned seeing your bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle, then go for it.   There are positive and negatives to both, and I’m happy to talk to my couples about them, but pleeease just don’t make either decision because “it makes more sense”, or someone told you to.

The only time I will tell a couple they should really consider it is if they are having a later ceremony, especially in the fall or winter, but still want sunset photos, or photos outside.  If you have a 5:00, hour long ceremony in November and want to do your photos outside, well we can but it’s going to be completely dark out.  But still your choice!  So this is what a sample timeline would look like:

xx- Hair and makeup.  You let me know when your hair and makeup artists have told you they will be arriving.  I will just usually mention to my brides to let them know what time you are getting dressed, just so we’re all on the same page.  Typically a hair and makeup artist will take an hour with the bride, and 35 minutes per bridesmaid/mothers if doing hair and makeup together, so you have a general idea considering how many bridesmaids you have.

12:00- I’ll usually arrive now to photograph detail shots.  Dress, shoes, invitations etc., and also the end of hair and makeup finishing touches.

12:45- Bridesmaids get dressed (I think it looks better to have all the girls dressed if they are going to be in photos of the bride getting dressed.)

1:00- Bride gets dressed

1:15- Bride’s portraits

1:30- I leave for first look

1:45- I’ll meet groom and take a couple portraits of him.  I will then put him in place somewhere preferably shaded and facing away from where she will be arriving.

2:00- Bride arrives, first look.  I’ll say to the bride to tap him on the shoulder if she wants to be close to him, or call his name from a few feet back if she wants him to see the whole dress and everything when he turns around.  I’ll tell him to take a breath, compose a little and then turn.

2:15- Couple’s portraits

2:45- Groomsmen group photos / Bridesmaids group photos and full wedding party photos

3:15- Groom, groomsmen, photographer to ceremony site

4:00- Ceremony

4:30- Cocktail hour/ Family formal photos.  My couples are provided with a questionnaire that they fill out which tells me which family they would like included in family formal photos.  From there I make a list, and on the day of once everyone is gathered I call out names of family members.  We typically start with the largest group and work our way down until its just couple with parents, and do the same for the other side of the family.  Plan around 2-3 minutes per grouping, and 5 minutes for large extended family (it can be difficult if there are a lot of wanderers or chatters in the group 😉 ). But I usually plan 15 minutes for a list with parents, grandparents, siblings and nieces or nephews.

If you’ve done a first look, this is also when I’ll be able to photograph some reception details while everyone is still at cocktail hour.

5:30- Reception begins

5:40- Announcements / first dances

5:50- (From here on out your venue coordinator will let you know the order of events.) But there would be dinner, and then possibly:

6:30- Parent dances

7:30- Cake cutting, bouquet/ garter toss if doing

8:00- I end coverage.  It’s important to communicate with the dj what time you have your photographer until so they know if they need to get everything in by a certain time.

Your wedding day timeline if NOT doing a First Look

1:00- I’ll usually arrive now to photograph detail shots.  Dress, shoes, invitations etc., and also the end of hair and makeup finishing touches.

1:45- Bridesmaids get dressed (I think it looks better to have all the girls dressed if they are going to be in photos of the bride getting dressed.)

2:00- Bride gets dressed

2:15- Bride’s portraits

2:30- Bridesmaids group portraits

2:45- I leave for ceremony location

3:00- Groom/ Groomsmen group photos

3:15- Groom, groomsmen, photographer to ceremony site

4:00- Ceremony

4:30- Cocktail hour

4:30-4:45- Family formal photos.  My couples are provided with a questionnaire that they fill out which tells me which family they would like included in family formal photos.  From there I make a list, and on the day of, once everyone is gathered I call out names of family members.  We typically start with the largest group and work our way down until its just couple with parents, and do the same for the other side of the family.  Plan around 2-3 minutes per grouping, and 5 minutes for large extended family (it can be difficult if there are a lot of wanderers or chatters in the group 😉 ). But I usually plan 15 minutes for a list with parents, grandparents, siblings and nieces or nephews.

4:45-5:00- Full wedding party photos

5:00-5:30- Couple’s portraits

5:40- Announcements / first dances

5:50- (From here on out your venue coordinator will let you know the order of events.) But there would be dinner, and then possibly:

6:30- Parent dances

7:30- Cake cutting, bouquet/ garter toss if doing

9:00- I end coverage.  Again, it’s important to communicate with the dj what time you have your photographer until so they know if they need to get everything in by a certain time. But woo-hoo I get to stay later with the typical 8 hour package!  Maybe we get to get outside for some sunset shots or night time photos??

So there you have a typical version of your wedding day timeline.

Factors that would change the way that looked would be: if you had added on the second photographer option, if you are having a church wedding (which are usually an hour and sometimes have to be held very early in the day which also could mean a couple of hours in between when the ceremony ends and cocktail hour begins).  Also transition time from/to getting ready, ceremony and reception sites.

Feel free to reach out with any other questions about wedding day planning, I’m here to help!!

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