How to Plan a Wedding Day Timeline

How to plan a wedding day timeline

Planning a wedding is stressful. Most couples are not sure how to plan a wedding day timeline. If couples had the option to skip the whole planning process, and could just “show up” to their wedding, I think they would. Luckily, hiring experienced professionals will make your lives so much easier. They’ve worked hundreds of weddings and have nailed down what makes the best “flow” for a wedding timeline.

Of course, every wedding is different. There is no ‘cookie cutter’ timeline that is right for everyone. Some weddings will have small guest counts, some will have large bridal parties. Some weddings will have a 2pm ceremony, and some will have ceremony at sunset. Some weddings will have sunset late in the day during the summer months, while some will have an early sunset time in the winter months. All of these variables will play a part in determining your wedding day timeline. If you are trying to figure out how to plan your wedding day timeline, hopefully these tips will help you out!

That being said, it’s good to know how much time you need for certain parts of the day. As a wedding photographer, I’ve really nailed down determining how much time I (personally) need for specific photos. Of course, some photographers may require more or less time for these parts of the day, but, this is just what I have found works best!

how much time for getting ready photos

Importance of Factoring in “Cushion Time” when Planning a Wedding Day Timeline;

As I mentioned before, weddings can be stressful! The goal for planning your wedding day timeline is to make a seamless transition from getting ready, to the first look, to walking you down the aisle. It is also important to cushion these times, because there is ALWAYS something unexpected that comes up on wedding days. Don’t leave 5 minutes between getting the dress on and setting up the first look. The bride will want to go to the bathroom one more time, do a lipstick check, drink water, make sure she has everything in her purse, etc.

It’s also important to factor in driving and parking times to timelines. If the ceremony is a different location from the reception, and the reception is located in a city downtown, you may need to circle a few parking spots before you find one! And that is not including loading and unloading your gear in your car!

How to plan a wedding day timeline

Information to Give to Your Wedding Photographer to Help Plan Your Timeline;

First, the way that I book my weddings is on a hour coverage basis. I have couples book me for 7, 8, 9, or 10 hours of coverage. I then ask my couples about a few details their day that play a part in figuring out the schedule. These details would be;

  • If they are having bridesmaids or groomsmen (and how many)
  • If they wish to do a First Look or not
  • How large their family is (and how many of those they would like photos with)
  • What time their ceremony starts, and if it is a 30 minute ceremony or a hour long ceremony
  • The location of where they will be getting ready, the ceremony, and the reception
  • What the parking situation is at the ceremony and reception
  • If they are doing a send off

With this information, (as well as looking up when the sun sets that day), I can start to form a wedding day timeline for them.

How much time does wedding photography take

Who Plans the Wedding Day Timeline; the Photographer or the Planner?

The answer to this is actually; both! Your wedding planner will know more about the happenings of your wedding day, but a photographer will require specific time constraints for each part of the day. It is important that they work together. (And if you are curious, I have a specific Vendor Guide of my favorite Colorado Wedding Planners to work with here!) What I find that happens a lot, is that I (as a wedding photographer) will gather information from the couple as mentioned above, and create a timeline “draft”. My couples then send this draft to the coordinator (or I do). From there the coordinator will make their input and send it back to me. I’ll let them know what may not work on my end (for timing for photos) and let them know where I may need some adjusting. Planners will be very considerate of this, knowing that photos are important and that every photographer works differently! But it is also important to not “hog” the couple, and that they will need to be available to mingle with guests and certain times too.

The other vendors that will have a heavy say on timeline needs will be the caterer and the DJ. Caterers need to orchestrate a dinner service, and may need to plan out the courses accordingly. How many courses and when they come out will also determine the rest of the “flow” of the reception, which the DJ and planner can help coordinate. They will know when is the best time to do the first dance and speeches. I found this article on Minted very helpful in figuring out how to plan your wedding reception timeline.

How to plan a wedding reception timeline

How long do wedding photos take?

Below is a general idea of how much time each part of the wedding take *typically* takes.

Getting Ready Photos– 1.5-2 hours

First Look– 30 mins

Bridal Party– 30 mins

Ceremony– 30 mins

(don’t forget to add on a 30 min ‘hideaway’ time pre-ceremony. While the couple hides away, guests will arrive and the photographer can photography the ceremony arch and other details)

Family Formals– 30 mins

Sunset portraits– 30 mins

Reception– A general rule of thumb for the amount of time a photographer should be photographing the reception is 3 hours. This can usually cover the grand entrance, the first dance, parent dances, speeches, dinner, cake cutting, and open dancing. More time may be needed if the couple wants to do a Grand Exit

How to plan a wedding day timeline

The Ultimate Wedding Day Timeline Template

If you are looking for a good template or starter “draft”, then hopefully the following wedding day timeline will be a great base! I’ve made the following template based on a fictional wedding that met this criteria;

An 8 hour wedding photography timeline with a first look, a medium sized bridal party, driving to the ceremony location, a 3:00 ceremony time, and no grand exit. If your wedding is a bit different than that, you could adjust it based on the info given above! Hopefully this helps you!

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607.382.8351
shellbell.anderson@gmail.com
@shellbellanderson
based in Denver, Colorado. 
available for travel worldwide
The Knot

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