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Planning Your Wedding Timeline

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One of the most frequently asked questions that I get is, how much time do I really need on my wedding day? It’s hard to figure out your timeline when you aren’t planning a wedding every year (hopefully not!) or when you have lots of moving parts and logistics that are still 10-12+ months away. Fortunately, I have quite a bit of experience in putting together a wedding day timeline and I’m here to help! I’m sharing some of my top tips for planning your wedding day timeline!

The first question you’ll need to answer is, are you doing a first look? Very few of my couples do a first look because they prefer to keep things more traditional and see each other as they walks down the aisle. As a photographer, I love having as much time as we can for your portraits, but as a bride, I completely understand the desire to keep your wedding day traditional. I don’t have a preference one way or another, but it does impact your timeline, so I do recommend making that decision as early as you can.

For the sake of keeping things traditional, let’s talk about a timeline without a first look, assuming you’ve booked a photographer for 8 hours. I recommend having me start about two hours prior to your ceremony. In this time I work on capturing details, bride getting ready, groom getting ready, the venue, the reception area and if time allows, the bridesmaids and/or groomsmen.

Regardless of whether or not you choose to do a first look, the one thing I always emphasize, and a good planner/coordinator should as well, is building in extra time to your timeline. I always help my couples build in about 30-45 minutes of extra time throughout their day because things will run behind. It’s okay that things run behind, and I do help keep things moving, but by giving yourself that extra time, you aren’t having to sacrifice elements of your day that might be important to you.

Take a look below at a sample timeline for an 8 hour wedding day with no first look.

  • 2 pm- Shannon arrives at venue
  • 2:10-2:35- Details (dress, rings, flowers, venue, reception)
  • 2:40-3:10- Bride gets dressed, finishing up getting ready
  • 3:15-3:35- Groom gets dressed, finishing up getting ready
  • 4:00-4:30- Ceremony
  • 4:40-5:00- Family Portraits (recommended to be immediate family only, extended family during reception)
  • 5:00-5:30- Bridal Party/Bride-Groom Portraits
  • 5:35- Reception Introductions
  • 6:00-7:00- Dinner
  • 7:00-9:30- Dancing/Cake-cutting
  • 9:30- Bride/Groom prepare to leave
  • 9:45- Sparkler exit

Of course, if your day isn’t traditional and you have a different vision for your timeline, that’s okay! The key to successfully creating your wedding day timeline is to give yourself more time than you think you need. If in doubt, ask your vendors for their advice and help. Most vendors should be experienced enough to provide you insight into how much time you’ll really need for the different elements of your wedding day.

Was this helpful? Let me know what you think!