Over the past five years, I’ve been to so many wedding celebrations that I have a good idea of what works well for a timeline. I’m definitely not an expert on planning a wedding, but I thought it would be helpful to share what works well for a timeline from a photographer’s point of view. I love to help brides out with their timeline because, in my experience, everyone benefits… With a good timeline, the day will run smoothly and the bride and groom will enjoy their special day.
First of all, I would always recommend hiring a wedding planner to help you with planning your wedding day timeline. Wedding planners are really the true experts in planning out your day. Their expertise will take a lot of the stress out of the wedding planning process and ensure that your day runs smoothly.
Thing to Consider
My example timeline is intended to be a general guideline. There are so many variables that make each wedding unique so there’s no simple answer that will work for all weddings. Some things that you should take into consideration when developing your timeline include: sunset time, location/weather, the amount of time your photographer requires for bridal party and bride and groom portraits, the amount of time required for family portraits, ceremony length, transportation time, the type of reception you want and any cultural traditions or entertainment that makes your wedding special. Any of these elements could be unique in your wedding and would require adjustments to the timeline below.
My timeline is built around a sunset time of 6pm. I also assumes that the bride and groom have decided to see each other before the ceremony for portraits (often called a “first look”). I really believe that having a first look is a great idea on your wedding for numerous reasons. One reason is that doing a first look frees up time after the ceremony so that you won’t be as rushed with completing portraits at the end of the day. The first look can also help to reduce stress and anxiety before the ceremony, since seeing your significant other before the ceremony will help to put you at ease.
So, here is the wedding day timeline that I would consider ideal (based on a sunset time of 6pm):
1:30-2:30 – Getting ready photos
2:30 – Bride & groom’s first look/ portraits
3:30 – Bridal party portraits
4:00 – Family portraits
4:30 – Completely done with portraits – bridal party freshens up while guests arrive
5:00 – Ceremony (perfect light for an outdoor ceremony is one hour before sunset)
5:30 – Cocktail hour (If you do your portraits before the ceremony you can enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests or take a few more portraits. It’s up to you!)
6:30 – Dinner reception
Receptions can have a lot of different variables to them, but here’s a good starting point for a timeline:
6:45 – Grand entrance/ first dance/ blessing
7:00 – Dinner (allow guests to eat without interruption for 45 minutes)
7:45 – Toasts/ special dances
8:00 – Open dancing
8:30/9 – Cake cutting/ more open dancing
All together this example would include 8 hours of photography coverage (from 1:30-9:30), which is generally a good amount of coverage for a wedding. This would ensure that I would capture everything from the getting ready portion of the day until the beginning of the dancing. Of course, I offer all kinds to packages to suit various needs, however I do find that 8 hours of coverage is usually a good starting point.
When you are planning your photographer’s start time, count backwards from the first look to arrive at the getting ready start time. Make sure to include enough time for transportation, as well as: makeup, hair, time to get into your dress, and relaxation time. A general rule of thumb is that it’s always better to plan in more time than not enough. It’s wise to add a buffer of time in various areas of the day to leave room for the unexpected. So make sure you start early, to avoid any unnecessary stress!
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