Planning The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

A well-planned wedding day timeline is the key to eliminating unnecessary stress and having as smooth a wedding day as possible. Having photographed many weddings—both First Look and Traditional—we feel as though we have some excellent insight to offer you for nailing down your wedding day timeline.

We may be a little biased, but if you think about it, the photographs and videography are a vital part of your wedding day because after all is said and done, the footage and photos are all that remain to spark your memories for years to come. It makes sense, then, that planning the day around the time needed to capture amazing, lifelong memories through photography and videography, is the best way to ensure epic captures and keep things flowing easily.

The wedding day timeline is the single most important aspect of creating a stress-free wedding day.

bride carrying a white bouquet and groom wearing a burgundy tux laugh while walking hand in hand through the forest on their wedding day in New Orleans. PHotos by Erin & Geoffrey Photography.

Before we get into our suggested wedding day timeline practices, we have to point out why we feel it’s essential to plan this part as perfectly as possible.  

Wedding days literally BUZZ with excitement that seeps into everybody and sends all of our vibes up, up, up. If a wedding day isn’t planned well, that good adrenaline that everybody is feeling can morph into heightened stress (from rushing to get places or waiting for people) that can take away from the magic of the day. If you plan it properly, the vibes stay high and it makes it more enjoyable for everyone! Good vibes equal a relaxed bride and groom and that equals amazing photos and video!

bride gets zipped into her dress by her Maid of Honor on her wedding day in a circular room full of large windows while she looks in the mirror

The more time you allow for everybody to get to where they need to be and for us work with you, the more relaxed you will be and the better memories we can create for you. True story!

Planning a Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

The expression good things come to those who wait can easily be changed to great wedding photos come to those who allow enough time for them. Allowing enough time for each photo/video segment of a wedding day is where a practical and seamless wedding day timeline begins.

Whether a couple chooses a First Look or Traditional wedding, the way you set up your timeline is dependent on which aspects of the wedding are most important to you. Once you figure out what matters most, you can delegate enough time for your photographers and videographers to capture all your moments.

Although it will look a little different for everybody, here is a breakdown of a typical amount of time to allot for the creative aspects of your wedding day:

  • Getting Ready: at least 30 minutes to shoot the bride and groom, separately, while they get ready for the day (including the time it takes to get the bride into her dress);
  • First Look: at least 20-30 minutes to shoot the Bride & Groom (before the ceremony) and another 10-15 minutes to shoot them just before sunset during the golden hour;
  • Wedding Party: at least 30-45 minutes (larger wedding parties can take up to 60 minutes);
  • Family: at least 30 minutes (large families may take up to 45 minutes);
  • Ceremony: add ceremony time plus at least 15 minutes on either side of the ceremony to account for any delays that may arise;
  • Reception: at least 10 minutes per special event at the reception (to allow for set up and shooting). So, if you plan to have a grand entrance, first dance, cake cutting, and garter/bouquet toss, add in 50 minutes of shooting time, just to be safe.
gorgeous sunset shot of a bride in New Orleans standing on a grassy lawn with a pond behind her and the sun filtering through the leaves of the trees beside her

Here are other time aspects to also consider while planning:

  • Distance between venues: if your getting ready location is driving distance from your First Look or ceremony location, or if your photos location is driving distance from your ceremony location, etc. it is very important to add travel time to the timeline. Forgetting to add travel time can cause everyone to rush to get through photos or wedding day events while trying to keep to the schedule. 
  • Venue: a reception or ceremony venue always look nicest in detail shots if there aren’t people in the background. So, if possible, try to schedule 15 minutes at each empty venue where your creative pros can send one of their team to go in and grab details!
  • Family: If you have a large family and want photos with all of them, it’s a really great idea to make a list of photos you want with what family and then designate someone (usually your MOH or Best Man) to call out the people needed for each photo. This helps you feel relaxed because you’re not rounding up family members and it helps the photographers and videographers to work through the group quickly, freeing you all up for more fun.

Now that you have an idea of how much time your photographers and videographers will need, let’s look at two typical wedding day timelines, the First Look and The Traditional.

First Look Timeline

Early in the day: Couple gets ready 
Mid-morning: Couple does their First Look & some portraits
Immediately after: Wedding Party photos
Early to later afternoon: Ceremony
Immediately after: Family Photos & Group Photo 
Then onto the Reception

a bride and groom share a First Look beside a lake in a beautiful forest, smiling as they see each other for the first time.

Traditional Timeline

Mid-morning: Couple gets ready
Early afternoon: Ceremony
Immediately after Ceremony: Family Portraits
Immediately after Family Portraits: Wedding Party leaves for portraits and couple portraits (usually 2-3 hours)
Then onto the Reception

bride and groom meet at the alter for a traditional wedding where they see each other as she walks down the aisle

Reception Timeline

This is nearly as important as the rest of the timeline, but it’s definitely personal preference. We like to recommend launching right into the traditional aspects of the reception—Grand entrance, dances, cake cutting, speeches & games, garter & bouquet toss—right away because it frees up the couple to relax and enjoy themselves from dinner onward, without having any agenda to follow. Whichever way you decide to go, please remember to allow your creative staff enough time to set up and capture the important moments of the reception (and to make sure someone gives them a heads up so they don’t accidentally miss anything)!

bride and groom are hoisted in the air on chairs for a traditional jewish wedding reception
bride and groom kiss during their first dance on a wooden dancefloor under a tent with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling with their wedding party and guests watching
bride and groom share a first dance at the beginning of a wedding reception while the guests find their seats and watch the couple

If you follow these simple suggestions while you’re planning your wedding day, we guarantee the entire day will flow with ease and keep you stress free and smiling all day long. 

If your upcoming wedding is booked with us and you need help with your timeline, let’s chat! If you’re getting married and would love to do a consult with us, we’d also love to hear from you!

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