A Guide To Creating The PERFECT Wedding Day Timeline

I spend A LOT of time with my brides going over timelines trying to get everything just right!  I cannot stress enough how important a well designed timeline is to help the day flow smoothly and productively.  A wedding planner is a huge help in this area, but if you can't afford one, this might help.  Below are a few pointers to keep in mind when trying to plan your wedding day timeline.  

Ceremony- First, what time is your ceremony?  I know that some venues have specific times allotted that are non-negotiable. So find out what the guidelines are for your particular ceremony and reception venues.  Also remember YOU are the PAYING customer.  With a little buttering up and a pitter patter of eyelashes, you might be able to pull some strings to get what you want if you need things changed around a bit.  Oh and make sure you are talking to the person that actually has the power to make those decisions. The timing of your ceremony is quite important as it determines the flow for the rest of the day. If you choose to have your ceremony later in the evening, then that makes picture taking in-between a little more compressed, and you might want to think about having pictures done before the ceremony. However, having it later ceremony is nice for your guests so they aren't waiting around all mid afternoon wondering what to do with themselves while you have pictures done,

Photographer timeline- If you care about pictures (and you obviously do or you wouldn't be reading this) then you need to also have the photographer in mind as you plan your timeline.  Do you only have them for a certain amount of hours?  Are there two of them so they can be in two different locations?  Can the photographer get pictures of the venue untouched before the guests mess with it?  Personally, I need at least an hour and a half for pre-wedding images.  In that time, I capture the building, shoes, dress, invitation, the bride getting ready, the bouquet, the bridesmaids getting ready and tons of other little details.  I also can get the boys in if they are in the same location.  After the ceremony, I need a half hour for the family photos and another hour and fifteen minutes to capture the bridal party and portraits of the bride and groom.  This does not include travel!!!

Travel time between locations- Don't forget about adding travel into your timeline. It may not seem like much but it needs to be accounted for and it can add up. 

First Look- What is a first look?  It is when the bride and groom see each other before the wedding.  AHHH, but what about tradition you scream?  Well read on and then decide. The first look works well for people who have ceremonies that are scheduled later in the day, and they don't have a lot of time between the ceremony and the reception for pictures. It takes a good photographer at least 1-2 full hours to get all the necessary portriats done so keep that in mind.  A first look is also a tubular idea if you want to be at cocktail hour instead of being stuck taking pictures with me! Not that we won't have a jolly good time together, but I am no replacement for cocktail hour.  But the main reason I really like doing the first look is, they can be so romantic!  It is the ONLY time when you will be alone together!  He can twirl you around and kiss you and whisper sweet nothings into your ear.  And all the while I can take pictures of it.  It also works well if you have a wedding that is later in the fall and it is getting dark earlier.  Light is the number one most important ingredient for capturing beautiful images.  So think about it.  You might find the idea suits you.

Family pictures- I find that having the family pictures done at the ceremony location directly following the ceremony is the best way to go.  That way we aren't waiting for Uncle Andre who was having a smoke or calling Cousin Bob who went to have a nap at the hotel.  When you push it later into the reception, people get lost, jackets get removed and people get drunk.  You decide.

What will your guests do after the ceremony- If your ceremony ends at 3 and the cocktail hour starts at 6, what are your guests going to do for three hours?  No seriously?  What? I don't know what the answer is.  I just wanted you to keep that in mind as you plan the day.  

Cutting the cake- If you are cutting your cake I recommend doing that right after your DJ introduces you into the reception hall for the first time.  All eyes are already on you.  You aren't interrupting people while they enjoy dinner, and everyone will get to see it! It really works well with the flow of things.  

Dinner Time-  What time will they start serving dinner?  Serving and eating dinner can take more time than you think.  Ask your caterer for their timeline so you can sync it with your schedule. 

The Toast- Before dinner, after dinner?  During dinner.  Brides are changing things up these days. So don't feel you have to do it like every other wedding you've been to.  Feel free to give your longwinded best man specifications on the length of his speech.  

Sunset Pictures-  The caterer will serve the bride and groom dinner first, depending on how many people you invited to your wedding, you may have some time to kill after you eat and while you are waiting for your guests to finish. This can work out perfect if you want to schedule some time to go shoot some sunset pictures!!!  These are ALWAYS the best ones of the day.  You are both relaxed, you've had a drink or two, the pressure is off and the two of you can just relax and be alone together.  I HIGHLY recommend it.  This also helps if you didn't have enough time after the wedding before the reception to get couple portraits done.  Double check when the sunsets online to make sure you will be shooting at least fifteen minute before the sun goes down. 

Lighting- Lighting is the number one most important thing when taking good pictures.  So think about that as you are scheduling your photography time.  Don't schedule your portrait session part of the day after the wedding if it's going to be dark outside unless you love flash photography.  Talk to your photographer about the best time of day to do capture those important images.  


Try to get your timeline to your photographer asap.  The sooner they get their hands on it, the more likely you will be able to make adjustments if needed.  Wow that was a lot of information!   Please feel free to email me your timelines if you need a little assistance.  I would love to help.