If you’re in the thick of wedding planning then you know that there is a LOT that goes into your wedding day timeline, and if you’re just starting your planning now you know! With just how overwhelming creating a wedding timeline can be I figured now would be the perfect time to go over how to create the perfect one for your wedding! Typically when planning your timeline you will want to know your ceremony start time, dinner start time, and sunset. From there you can begin to piece the day together and create a wedding day timeline that will keep your Chicago wedding running on time and smoothly!
This will vary from wedding to wedding as they are ALL so different from one another. We can take a look at a standard wedding’s time frame to get an idea as to how you should structure your wedding timeline for your celebration in Chicago:
Again this is more of a general run through of how long different portions of a wedding day typically take. Every wedding day is
So when should your photographer arrive for your wedding day? While it varies from photographer to photographer, for my weddings I will arrive shortly before everyone in your wedding party is done with hair and makeup and about 30-40 minutes before you’re set to put on your wedding attire. Once I arrive I will document your hair and makeup artist doing touch ups, and then take the detail photos either in a separate room or in your reception space.
For more information on wedding day details check out my What to Include in Your Wedding Day Flat Lay blog!
Once everyone is done with hair and makeup we will take any group photos that we have planned for in robes or PJ’s and then your wedding party will get ready! Once your wedding party is ready we will get you dressed and put on your finishing touches with the help of close family members and your wedding party.
The next part of the wedding day tends to vary depending on two things, whether or not you and your partner have decided you want to have a first look or not, and what time your ceremony and reception begins. Let’s look at how they affect your Chicago wedding timeline and the overall flow of your wedding day!
If you have a first look you will be able to have the majority of your wedding portraits taken before your wedding ceremony. Doing these photos before your ceremony gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your guests and ultimately more freedom and flexibility later in the day. This can be huge for a ton of couples as the later you get into your wedding day the more you want to hang out and enjoy yourselves with your friends and family.
If you opt to not have a first look, you will want to make sure to take note of how much time you will have between your ceremony and your reception, as well as how much time you will have between the end of your ceremony and sunset. Fall and winter weddings I almost always suggest having a first look as without one you have very limited time for wedding day portraits and get almost no time alone together as a couple. If you’re planning a summer or late spring wedding you will have significantly more flexibility without a first look.
If you plan to have a first look, you can plan for the first look itself to only take about 20 minutes max. Traditionally we will place one person in the first look location, get them set up and then go grab the second partner to bring them to the location. I always want to prioritize your time alone together on your wedding day, so after capturing the initial excitement from the first look I will give you some space to exist with one another and get excited for your wedding day! Afterwards we might take a handful of portraits before meeting back up with your wedding party.
If you plan to have a first look on your wedding day I will typically take all of your wedding party photos at once. I will take photos of each partner with their respective wedding parties and then after we will take full group photos.
If you do not plan to have a first look, I will either take wedding party photos later in the day like I mentioned above, time permitting, or I will take photos of each partner with their respective wedding parties prior to the ceremony, and then we will only have to the group photos left for after the ceremony.
When taking wedding portraits of you and your partner, there are a couple of things to consider when deciding how much time these will take. If you and your partner decide to go to more than one location throughout Chicago for your portraits, we are going to want to plan in more time for the two of you to take the portraits into your timeline. We’ll also need to plan in the travel time of getting to and from each location and then back to the wedding venue.
If you are planning to travel to some of the amazing locations that make up downtown Chicago for your wedding day here are a handful of things to consider when planning out your wedding day timeline.
If you want to travel around the city for portraits, you will want to have at LEAST 90 minutes set aside for portraits, though this can go upwards of 2 hours in most cases. Between wrangling your wedding party onto the bus, driving through traffic to your locations and waiting your turn to take photos, for more popular locations, you will want a lot of time to be safe.
I do highly recommend having a bus available for your wedding party to take around the city. Not only are they highly experienced in navigating the city, but you also won’t have to worry about parking for your wedding party, or people getting lost during portraits. You’ll also want to take road closures, construction, and events such as Lollapalooza taking place. All of these are going to add to your travel time!
Many popular Chicago locations require permits, though there are some that don’t. For instance Lurie Garden and Millennium Park itself each have a $250 permit for photos to be taken on site there. When it comes to permits for your wedding day you’ll end up booking them, but I will help guide you through the process of whether or not your location needs a permit and how to purchase one if it does. For many locations you do have to give them a heads up ahead of time with a rough time frame of when you will be taking photos there. Your photographer (me!), will also help you with this!
Your ceremony time can vary quite a bit, so it’s important when planning out the timeline for your wedding in Chicago you plan ahead! Typically church ceremonies are the longest, so if you are having your ceremony in a church plan for things to be on the longer side to be safe. If you do have your ceremony at a different space such as your reception space be sure to let them know to keep the space set up immediately following the ceremony if possible. You’ll want the ceremony space still intact for the portraits that follow!
Ceremony exits such as bubble exits or just your guests cheering for you as you exit the building can be a fun addition to the wedding day! If you plan to have a bubble exit or something similar after the ceremony, taking your family photos before the ceremony can make things much easier! If this is not an option, be sure to plan for about 15-20 minutes for everyone to exit the ceremony space, get ready for your exit before you head back in for your family photos.
Typically these happen following the ceremony, but as of the past year there has been a growing trend of having your family photos taken before the ceremony, which is a great option! This is only possible if you have a first look though. While a little trickier to pull off by having to make sure that everyone is there, it does make the rest of your day after your wedding ceremony SO much easier!
If your ceremony is in a church, be sure to ask them if you have to be out by a certain time. This will let you know the portrait time you have to work with, or if those need to be done at another location.
Pro tip: If you are having your ceremony at the church opt to have your family photos outside of the church rather than on the altar. More often than not the lighting within the church is not ideal for family photos post ceremony!
If you decide not to have a first look on your wedding day, this is around when you will have your wedding party photos and couples portraits done. As soon as your family photos are done we will head out to the portrait location to take large group wedding party photos and all newly wed portraits for your wedding day. If you did have a first look though we likely already did these! So unless you really wanted to head to another location for more wedding party photos you and your wedding party can either head to cocktail hour or the reception depending on timing!
I LOVE sunset photos for my couples as it gives them an opportunity to catch their breath on their wedding day, as well as take a look at their wedding happening from an outside point of view. They are able to see all of their family and friends having the best time celebrating all together and you are able to really be present with one another for a few minutes. Not to mention, the lighting is GORGEOUS at this time! It makes for such a beautiful backdrop for the last of your wedding day portraits. This will likely take place during your reception time, which can vary though depending on the time of year as well as when your reception itself is taking place.
When it comes to planning your cocktail hour and reception, you’re going to want to lean on your DJ and your venue for guidance on what works best in their space and with how they lead a reception. During this time as your wedding photographer, I will often be taking some photos of you before heading to cocktail hour, and then will document any speeches that occur before sitting down to eat while you’re eating. After dinner I will document first dances and then spend about 30 minutes or so documenting the party before heading out for the evening!
Creating a wedding day timeline for your Chicago wedding is NO simple task, but trust me the work you put into it is SO worth it! For more wedding day planning tips be sure to check out some of my other blogs here. Ready to book me as your photographer for your wedding day? I can’t wait! Head to my contact page to send me an inquiry so we can start planning today!