Your Wedding Day Timeline For Your Photographer

The Day goes by so fast!

Your wedding day is one of the most memorable days of your life, and it feels like it goes by in a blink!  Once the day starts, it really is a whirlwind, and all of the weeks and months of dreaming and planning are distilled into 24 short hours of bliss.  This is exactly why it’s important to have a good wedding day timeline planned in advance.  In the frenzy and emotion of the day, that schedule will keep it all on track (barely, usually!) and will help to make sure that all of the really important things get done.

Wedding sites online have great resources to help you build a timeline for your day – at Every Last Detail, at Brides, and at Southern Weddings, to name a few.  This post is a little more focused, and maybe a little selfish, with some tips to make a wedding day plan that works for your photographer and for you.

The First Big Thing – The Ceremony   Your ceremony location is the first big thing to decide – whether a family church, a formal hall, or a Caribbean beach, this is the place where the commitment happens.  Once you’ve confirmed availability and agreed on the time, then most of the other events in the day can be filled in around it.

  • Find out how early before the ceremony you can arrive, and plan to get there 15-30 minutes before the start time of the wedding.  That allows you time to perform last-minute makeup fixes (and those last getting-ready pictures!), to get those last few sips of water (funny how dry your throat can get, waiting for those doors to open!), and to use the restroom (trust me, you’ll want to get this handled).
  • Arriving early also lets me get those last few anxious, excited pictures of you as you get ready to say I Do!
  • And maybe most importantly, this gives you one or two quiet moments with your parents or your bridesmaids or just by yourself.  This day is all about the you after all, and it’s a shame to get so busy that you don’t get the chance to appreciate the occasion.

The Other First Big Thing – The Reception   Your reception location is just as important as your ceremony location – it’s the place where the celebration will happen.  It’s also the place where a lot of your vendors will all come together to create their magic, and they’ll need your guidance.

  • Most venues will have set time frames, with a defined curfew for the end of the evening.
  • Keep that ending time in mind as you plan the events of the reception like the toasts, your first dance with your groom, dances with parents, the bouquet toss, and cutting the cake.
  • Making sure your special moments are done soon after (or sometimes, even before!) dinner gives everyone time later in the evening to relax and have fun.
  • The best natural light of your day will happen in the hour around sunset, so talk with your photographer about when sunset will occur and if/how you want to use that time for gorgeous outdoor images and silhouettes.

The Time In Between – Family & Friends  Once the two “anchor points” are in your schedule, the events in between them start falling into place.  Those start at the ceremony location, where family and friends usually gather for formal portraits.  Depending on the sizes of the families, those can take 30 – 45 minutes, so make sure the venue allows for that time after the ceremony.  After your family has finished, then pictures of the bridal party and of you and your groom as a couple can be done, and the length of time needed for those depends on how many locations you prefer, and the distances between the locations.  These can take 30 minutes, or 2 hours – it’s all up to you, your vision for your day, and having enough time to get it done.

  • Don’t forget travel time, because it’s not always simple wrangling everyone into the limousine again, not to mention traffic that always pops up at the worst times.

The Time Beforehand – Getting Ready   These pictures are the most fun, because they capture the anticipation and pure honest emotion of preparation – the Big Day is finally here!  Plan to start your morning early – and then start it 30 minutes earlier than that.  It takes time for everyone to get ready, and planning for bad hair days or late arrivals never hurts.  I’ll also capture your wedding details while you’re finishing up, so make sure that your dress, your shoes, the rings, your invitation, and any other cherished items are accessible.  Decide where you will finally put on your dress, so that those beautiful candid moments of your mom or your bridesmaids helping you can be captured, too.  If you choose to have a First Look with your groom (or even a First Look with your Dad!), this is the perfect time.

  • Don’t forget travel time here, either, if your prep location and the ceremony are some distance apart.

Final Thoughts

  • The best way to think of your timeline, even after all your meticulous planning, is as a guideline.
  • Things can happen, and things will happen, and that’s OK.
  • Go with the flow of the day when it’s necessary, and trust that friends and family and professional vendors are there to remedy the situation!

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Karen & Adam