When it comes to planning the perfect wedding day timeline, there really is no one size fits all formula. With each wedding day being so unique to each couple, and the goals of each couple being so different from wedding to wedding, every timeline is a little bit different from the next. There do tend to be some consistencies though which we will go over today, and lucky for you there is a formula to help you put together the perfect wedding day timeline for you.
The wedding day timeline is the timeline you, your wedding vendors, and your wedding party all reference when you’re moving through your wedding day! Having a wedding day timeline is SUPER important as there will be a lot of people and moving parts that go into your wedding day. The wedding day timeline will make all of those parts and people move cohesively throughout your day and also answer a lot of questions for friends and family so that they don’t have to keep referring to you!
When making your wedding day timeline, there are a few steps I go through with each of my clients to create a seamless timeline. The first is, gathering the non-negotiables and priorities, then building the actual timeline, then last but not least, spreading the word!
With every wedding day there are going to be some things that each couple HAS to have as a part of their wedding day that often times cannot be adjusted. These are things like ceremony start time, sunset, travel time, think things that are a part of your wedding day that cannot be changed or altered. When you begin the process of planning and creating your wedding day timeline, you will want to ask yourself and your vendors these questions so that you can gather your non-negotiables:
-What are the addresses of each of the following locations?: Getting ready space, ceremony space, where you want to take portraits, and reception space
-How much time does it take to get from each of your locations to the other?
-Does your ceremony need to start at a certain time?
-What time is sunset?
-Does your venue need to serve dinner at a certain time?
-Does your party need to end by a certain time?
When planning your wedding day timeline you will want to build off of your non-negotiables using the rough time references I have listed below.
Along with these timeline logistics/non-negotiables listed above, there will also be details that you and your partner will have that will be high on your priority list as well. For some couples this might be family photos at your church, for others, a priority might be sneaking out for sunset photos. For some couples, this could be the first look with a parent or extra time set aside for just the two of you. Here are some common priorities that many of my couples end up having one or two of.
What sort of photos do you want with your family on your wedding day? Are there certain family members that you need photos with, or do you want to spend more time mingling with your guests and end up with more candid photos? There is no wrong answer, but when planning out your wedding timeline you’ll need to plan in and set aside time for family photos if you want them. The same goes for your wedding party if you’re having one. Keep in mind that the more photos you want with your families and your wedding parties means more time away from the rest of your wedding day festivities. Prioritize the photos and experience you care about for your wedding day so that you spend your time celebrating your wedding how you want to!
Do you want to have a first look prior to your ceremony? Will it be just between you and your partner or will you have one with your parent(s), wedding party, and grandparent(s)? There’s no wrong answer here, and you can skip the first look entirely if you want to wait until your ceremony for everyone to see you in your dress. It’s crucial you plan out if you do plan on having any first looks though so that you can build them into your wedding timeline. Usually, for my couples that do the first look we will have the first look and then take some couples portraits together and maybe even sneak in some wedding party photos before the ceremony. This depends on things like travel time though and how much time we have allotted in your timeline.
If you do want to be able to make it to your cocktail hour, you will want to check with your photographer to see what the best setup is to do that. This could mean you need to have a first look on your wedding day, this could mean you need your ceremony start time to be moved up if it is flexible, or this could mean your portrait session might need to be broken up into a few shorter stints in order to ensure you are able to make it to your cocktail hour.
Some couples dream of having a wedding exit on their wedding day surrounded by sparklers or bubbles. If this is a priority of yours you will want to make sure to plan a hard end time for your wedding day. Ending your wedding day at 10:30 pm or 11 pm will make sure that your guests keep the hype and see you out in style surrounding you with ribbons, bubbles, sparklers or other props for your wedding ex
Next, you will want to check with your experts. Whether that is your photographer, your wedding planner, your day of coordinator, your hair and makeup artists, your DJ, or your venue, they will know what will and won’t work for a timeline. Talk with your DJ, Hair and Makeup artists, and food vendors to figure out how much time they need to do their work or how much set up time they require. For vendors that are with you the whole day or are there to help you plan such as your photographer, wedding planner, and day of coordinator communicate with them about your plans for your wedding day timeline. They’re the ones that have experience in the industry and with how weddings typically run so they’ll be able to tell you what will and won’t work on your timeline so you can adjust as needed.
You hired your wedding photographer because of the way their photos look and because of the way their subjects look in their photos. In order to create the work they are best at, they may have certain needs in order to be sure you get the outcome you want on your wedding day. For example, some photographers only like to use 20 minutes for wedding portraits, some like to have an hour and a half for wedding portraits. I personally like to have between 40 minutes to an hour to take portraits of my couples on their wedding day. It creates a block of time to enjoy each other’s company and allows us to slow down and really get creative on their wedding day.
15-20 minutes right when I arrive the morning of (if you have all of your details collected and waiting for me this will take less time!) Check out my blog with a list of ALL the wedding details to include on your wedding day here!
I will typically spend 45 minutes to an hour or so with each of you on the morning of your wedding. If you are getting ready in two different locations then you’ll want to make sure you hire a second photographer for your wedding day. If you can have your getting-ready spaces in close proximity to one another, I highly recommend it! It makes for a great experience for you and your partner and your wedding party and allows you both to see me on the morning of your wedding.
We will spend some time taking wedding party photos after you’re ready for your day, then after you and your soon to be spouse have seen one another you will be able to take your group photos. These photos will take around 30 minutes for each side of your wedding party TOTAL. Typically about 10 minutes after getting ready, 10 minutes getting group photos and solo photos of you with each member of your wedding party and 10-20 minutes of your wedding party as one big group. The larger the wedding party, the more time it typically takes to take these photos.
I love to have anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour total on your wedding day. Some couples like to escape for a whole 40 minutes on their wedding day to have some time alone. Others like to split up these portraits into a few smaller chunks. If you did want to split your portraits I would recommend one longer session (20-30 minutes) after your first look or after your ceremony. Then 10 minutes or so around sunset, and then another 10 minutes or so right Depending on the layout of your wedding day we could also split this into a few smaller chunks so we can get a larger portraits session and then a shorter session during sunset or towards the end of your night.
Plan for your vendors to eat at the same time as you, so when you get served your vendors will too. That way about 30-40 minutes after you are served your dinner, your vendors will be done eating and you can begin your speeches and toasts for the evening.
First dances will take about 10 minutes or so, and then once the dance floor opens you will really only need your photographer for at most an hour and a half. Plan to do any wedding day traditions like a garter toss, or a bouquet toss around 90 minutes into the dance floor being open so that you can hype up the crowd and your photographer can get those images before they head out for the night.
12:00pm- Photographer arrives and documents details
12:30pm- Partner A getting ready photos
1:00pm- Partner B getting ready photos
1:30pm- Putting on the final details (dress, ties, boutennieres, etc)
2:00pm- First Look
2:10pm- Couples Portraits
2:45pm- Wedding Party Photos
3:15pm- Leave for Ceremony
5:00pm- Family Photos
5:00pm- Cocktail Hour Begins
6:00pm- Guests are asked to be seated
6:10pm- The Grand March
6:30pm- Dinner is Served
7:30pm- First Dances
7:45pm- Dance Floor Opens
Start with the times that can’t be changed: Ceremony start time, dinner serving time, then plan your wedding timeline around those. When putting together your wedding day timeline, be sure to reference my rough times listed above for each wedding day activity and fill in the time gaps with other events you hope to have on your wedding day. Be sure to note that if you have a first look, the majority of your photos will more than likely take place before the ceremony. If you opt to not have a first look, the majority of your photos will occur after the ceremony.
Last but not least, when creating your physical wedding day timeline, it is also helpful to list all of the wedding day addresses and important points of contact at the top of the page. This will make things easy for your vendors, as well as your family and wedding party to contact you, your venue, or your fellow vendors on the day of your wedding!
The week before your wedding you will want to touch base with your wedding vendors and be sure that you are all on the same page regarding the details of your wedding. Send out an email with your final wedding day timeline, or have your wedding planner set it out. Be sure to have a timeline specifically for you and your wedding party as well. If you have a lot of moving parts on your wedding day, ask your family and MOH or best man to save the timeline with all of the details to their phones so they can be points of contact on your wedding day as well. As soon as the timeline is finalized and distributed you’re good to go!
There are a LOT of moving parts to plan for in a wedding day timeline so be sure to work with your vendors when creating your timeline. Remember, your vendors are here to help YOU! And they are a part of SO many weddings each year truly making them experts at creating wedding day timelines. I’d be happy to help create your wedding timeline with you if you’re in need of a photographer still. If that’s the case head to my contact page and we can get to planning!