Planning your ultimate wedding timeline

November 24, 2020

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Hi guys, 

I have a super exciting and helpful blog for you today. If you are planning your wedding, this is one blog you don’t want to skip! One of the things that will help your wedding day run smoothly, let all of your friends and family know where to be and when, and let vendors know when they need to arrive is a wedding timeline. For many people, figuring out a wedding timeline can seem overwhelming, especially if you have no idea how much time it takes for photos or a ceremony. Luckily, I have attended more weddings than the average person so I am here to help! 

How I thought this blog could serve you best is to break down many of the popular things that happen on a wedding day, let you know how much time on average they take, and then give you a sample 8 hour timeline. But you can certainly take my list and create your own ultimate wedding timeline. I also encourage you to talk with your photographer who should also work with you to create a timeline that is specific to your wedding day! 

One thing to always keep in mind is that a first look vs a traditional look will change the flow of your wedding day. A first look means that you will see your partner before the ceremony and can take most photos beforehand. A traditional look means that you won’t see each other until the ceremony and therefore most photos will take place afterwards. Once you decide that, you can plan your timeline!

1. Getting ready and detail shots for bride

  • Average time for photographer: 1 hour 
  • Average time for you: 3-4 hours depending on how many girls 

The thing to know about getting ready photos, is that you and your girls will spend much more time getting ready than I will spend taking photos. You’ll want to plan to arrive earlier than I do, so that when I show up to photograph getting ready photos, you are almost ready! I’ll spend time taking detail photos of the dress, rings, etc and then those fun shots of you and your girls in your robes or matching pajamas.

2. Getting ready and detail shots for groom

  • Average time for photographer: 30 minutes 
  • Average time for you: 1 hour 

With grooms, they typically take less time to get ready because there isn’t as much hair and makeup involved! When considering your timeline for the photographer, you don’t need to add as much time for the groom getting ready photos as the bride.


3. A first look

  • Average time: 10 minutes

First looks come in many shapes and sizes! You can do a first look with your girls, a father or grandpa, and most often, your partner. First looks don’t take too much time in your timeline but are so worth putting into the day as they are special moments you’ll want to remember!

4. Bridal party photos

  • Average time with a first look: 1 hour
  • Average time with a traditional look: 1 hour before the ceremony, 30 minutes after the ceremony

Depending how large your bridal party is will dictate how long you’ll need for these photos. We will get photos of the bride and bridesmaids, groom and groomsmen, usher, personal attendants, flower girls, and ring bearers during this time! We’ll also get the full group shots together. If you have a first look we can do all of this together before the ceremony. If you have a traditional look, we will typically do the bridesmaid and groomsmen photos before the ceremony and the full bridal party photos after the ceremony

5. Bridal portraits

  • Average time: 15 minutes-1 hour
  • My suggestion: 45 minutes

Ok, I know I just gave you a large average time, but hear me out! Bridal portraits can truly take up as much or as little time as you are willing to give me. 15 minutes is on the shorter end and 1 hour is on the longer end. I would say 1 hours applies if your timeline allows for us to take more photos and 15 minutes would be if we had a very tight timeline with limited time. I would say a great amount of time to land on though is 30-45 minutes.


6. Family photos

  • Average time: 1 hour

Family photo time will depend on how many photo groupings you would like to have. Plan on an average of 3-5 minutes per photo grouping. We want to make sure everyone is smiling with their eyes open and will be arranging the photo, so it takes a bit of time. I suggest keeping your total list of photo groupings to 10 or so and really focusing on immediate family. If you have some other photos you’d like with aunts, uncles, cousins, etc I suggest doing those during the reception!

7. Ceremony time

  • Average time: 30 minutes 

I would say that for most weddings, ceremonies last about 30 minutes! Of course if you are having a longer church wedding or mass included you’ll want to to factor that time in.

8. Reception time

  • Average time for photographer: 1.5-2 hours 

As with getting ready, the reception time is typically shorter for the photographer! But when planning how long to have your photographer at the wedding, you’ll want to factor in reception time. This typically includes dinner, the first dance and formal dances, and cutting the cake. If you want more party photos in your gallery you may consider adding on more time to your package to make sure you get those shots! 


Bonus: Drive time 

One thing to keep in mind when planning your timeline, is if you have drive time to and from ceremony, reception, or photo locations. For example, if you have getting ready photos 30 minutes from your ceremony location you will want to factor that into your package time.

Bonus: Sunset time 

This is a HUGE thing you will want to keep in mind! We will want to have all formal photos, that aren’t reception photos, done before the sun sets. So if you had a wedding in November and did not want a first look, that is something you’ll want to take into account because you will need to have a much earlier ceremony time so that we have sunlight to do all of your photos afterwards! 

Bonus: Faux exits

We all know and love the sparkler exits right? However, oftentimes my couples will actually do a faux exit so that we can capture those photos before my time is up. What we will do is stage the exit for the photos and then you can head right back to your reception. This is going to be the very last thing that I will photograph for you! We will typically have the DJ make an announcement that it is a faux exit just for photos and that people can head back in to party after the photos. This is also a great time for any older or younger guests to wish you well and head out if they are ready to retire for the night. 


Example timeline for an 8 hour photography package with a first look

10:45-11:45 am Getting ready photos with bride/detail photos 

11:45 am-12:15 pm Getting ready photos of groom 

12:15-12:40 pm Drive time to ceremony location

12:40-12:50 pm First look with dad 

12:50-1 pm First look with groom

1-1:30 pm Bridal portraits 

1:30-2:30 pm Bridal party photos 

2:30-3:30 pm Family photos

3:30-4 pm Relax before ceremony, grab a snack, etc

4-4:30 pm Ceremony 

4:30pm-4:45pm final family photos (any that might have been missed or needed to be moved back from earlier)

4:45-4:50 pm Grand entrance to reception 

4:50-5:50 pm Dinner 

6 pm Cake cutting 

6:15 pm First dance 

6:20-6:30 pm Formal dances

6:30-6:45 pm Faux exit

Now that you’ve read all of my tips, I know that this can be a lot of information at once! Don’t hesitate to reach out to me for timeline help! Any of my couples are able to get 1:1 timeline advice and creation with me so that we can ensure the most important parts of the day are captured.



Your future family heirlooms await.