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Wedding Day & Photo Timeline Sample Template

One of the most common questions we get from our brides is “How do I create a good wedding day timeline?” Working out the general flow of your wedding day early in the planning process will make the entire wedding planning process easier. When hiring you’re wedding photographer, it will give you a better idea on how much coverage you’ll need get in your package. Further down the road you’ll be able to look at it to tell the florist when you want your flowers delivered and when your caterer should start dinner. Because having a really good timeline is so important, we decided to create this page to give you some sample timelines and tips to make your day run smoothly. We also created a wedding day timeline template for download that you can easily customize to your own event.

As you start to plan your wedding day, begin by jotting down the times for the events you know won’t change [Example:If you are getting married at a church, the ceremony time will be predetermined.] then start from the end of your reception and work backwards. Consider travel times between locations [Example: Time it takes to get to the church from the hotel you are getting ready in.] and be prepared for things to take longer than expected. Determine when sunset falls on your wedding day because you’ll need to complete your posed portraits before the sun goes down for best results. Remember, weddings are organic and even with best of planning, it’s likely that something won’t got exactly as planned. Below are general time tables for basic wedding events.

 

 

DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY OF OUR WEDDING DAY/ WEDDING PHOTO TIME LINE TEMPLATE

2-3 hrs: Bride & Bridesmaids hair & make-up.
15-30 mins: Bride getting into dress.
30 mins: Groom & Groomsmen getting dressed.
1-2 hrs: Bridal party & bride/groom portraits.
30-45 mins:Family formal portraits (allow 2-3 minutes per grouping plus photographer set up time).
30-45 mins: Ceremony
30-45 mins:Receiving line.
45min-1hr: Cocktail Hour
1hr-2hrs: Dinner & Toasts (Buffet dinners tend to take much longer).
2-4hrs: Dancing

 

There are two wedding day time line options:

Traditional Timeline: The bride & groom do not see each other until the ceremony.
Modern Timeline: The bride & groom have a “first look” before the ceremony.
While we tend to prefer the modern timeline, there are advantages to both options. It will be up to you to decide what best fits you’re expectations of your wedding day. Here are some time line samples of both options.

Traditional Timeline (bride & groom don’t see each other until ceremony):

Disadvantages: Because half of your wedding day is spent apart you will have fewer photos of you and your spouse together. You will also have to take most of your family portraits and bridal party photos after the ceremony which will likely mean you’ll miss your cocktail hour and won’t have time for a receiving line.
Benefits: Typically the lighting conditions are less harsh later in the day which may make your photos come out better. 1-2hrs before sunset is the ideal time for outdoor photos.

9am: Wake/Shower and eat a light breakfast.
10am: Bridesmaids arrive to bridal suite.
10am: Hair & Make-up begins for Bridesmaids.
11:30am: Lunch delivered to room.
12pm: Bride’s hair & make-up begins.
12:30pm: Photographers arrive.
12:45pm: Florist delivers bouquets and corsages.
1pm: Groomsmen arrive to Groom’s suite.
1:15pm: 2nd Photographer begins photographing Groom getting ready.
1:30pm: Bride gets dressed.
1:45: Groom-Groomsmen portraits begin with 2nd Photographer.
2:00pm: Bride-Bridesmaids portraits begin with Primary Photographer.
2:45pm: Groom departs for ceremony.
3:00pm: Bride departs for ceremony.
3:30pm: Bride & Groom hide away separately while guests arrive.
4:00pm: Ceremony starts.
4:45pm: Family portraits.
5:00pm: Cocktail hour begins.
5:15pm: Bridal Party & Bride/Groom portraits.
6:00pm: Guests begin to take their seats for dinner/ Bridal Party meets for introductions.
6:15pm: Introductions.
6:20pm: Bride & Groom cut cake.
6:25pm: Prayer/ Welcome by Father of Bride.
6:30pm: First course served.
6:40 pm: Toasts- Best Man & Maid of Honor.
6:55pm: Main course served- Bride & Groom visit tables.
7:45pm: Cake served.
8:00pm: First dance.
8:05pm: Father-Daughter dance.
8:10pm: Mother-Son dance.
8:15pm: Bridal Party/Family dance or anniversary dance.
8:20pm: Open dance floor.
8:50pm: Bride & Groom take a few final photos at night or sunset.
9:15pm: Bouquet/ Garter toss.
10:00pm: Late night snack served.
11:00pm: Last dance; Bride & Groom send off.

“First Look” Modern Timeline:

Benefits:  Frees up the wedding day because the Bride & Groom can complete all their bridal party & family photos before the ceremony allowing them time for a receiving line and attending their cocktail hour. First looks maybe essential in Fall/Winter weddings where the sun goes down much earlier.  Again, you’ll want all your posed photos completed before sunset.
Disadvantages:  Often times the photos are taken near high-noon when the sun is it’s most harsh causing shadows and squinting.
9am: Wake/Shower and eat a light breakfast.
10am: Bridesmaids arrive to bridal suite.
10am: Hair & make-up begins for Bridesmaids.
11:30am: Lunch delivered to room.
12pm: Bride’s hair & make-up begins.
12:30pm: Photographers arrive.
12:45pm: Florist delivers bouquets and corsages.
1pm: Groomsmen arrive to Groom’s suite.
1:15pm: 2nd Photographer begins photographing Groom getting ready.
1:30pm: Bride gets dressed.
1:45pm: First look.
2:00pm: Bridal Party photos.
3:00pm: Bridal Party departs for ceremony together.
3:30pm: Family portraits.
4:00pm: Bridal Party hides while guest arrive.
4:30pm: Ceremony
5:00pm: Cocktail hour begins/ Optional receiving line or more Bride & Groom portraits.
6:00pm: Guests begin to take their seats for dinner/ Bridal Party meets for introductions.
6:15pm: Introductions.
6:20pm: Bride & Groom cut cake.
6:25pm: Prayer/ Welcome by Father of Bride.
6:30pm: First course served.
6:40 pm: Toasts- Best Man & Maid of Honor.
6:55pm: Main course served- Bride & Groom visit tables.
7:45pm: Cake served.
8:00pm: First dance.
8:05pm: Father-Daughter dance.
8:10pm: Mother-Son dance.
8:15pm: Bridal Party/Family dance or Anniversary dance.
8:20pm: Open dance floor.
8:50pm: Bride & Groom take a few final photos at night or sunset.
9:15pm: Bouquet/ Garter toss.
10:00pm: Late night snack served.
11:00pm: Last dance; bride & groom send off.

Obviously, the times are estimations and will vary depending on your wedding day events but this should give you the general idea. A time line should be as detailed as possible to keep the day running smoothly. Ask for guidance from your  wedding photographer or wedding consultant to get it perfect. Once you have it completed, we suggest sharing it with your bridal party, immediate family, and your vendors a couple of weeks before the wedding so everyone is on the same page.

DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY OF OUR WEDDING DAY/ WEDDING PHOTO TIME LINE TEMPLATE

Tips:

Here are a few time line tips we’ve complied from years of attending weddings.

  • Both the bride and groom should spend the night and get ready in a hotel near the place where you want to have your photos taken. Having everyone in the same place will relieve stress and make it easy for everyone to meet in a central location.
  • Have house-keeping come into the room before everyone arrives to make the bed and clean up the room so it looks pretty for photos.
  • Have the wedding dress, shoes, accessories, and an invitation ready in one place for the photographer.
  • Have your hair stylist and make-up artist come to you on the wedding day rather than going to a salon. You’ll be more comfortable in the bridal suite and it will free up some time.
  • Arrange to have sandwiches or some sort of lunch delivered to the hotel rooms and do your best to take time to eat. Dinner is usually several hours away and you don’t want anyone  to feel lightheaded. Also have a cooler prepared with bottle water for your bridal party and vendors.
  • Have your florist deliver the bouquets and corsages to the hotel before photos. You’ll want them available for your bridal party portraits.
  • Avoid having an entourage of people in the bridal suite with you. Usually just bridesmaids are enough. The more people surrounding you, the more questions you’ll be asked and more potential stress you’ll have.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you and your bridal party consumes until the reception. It’s wise to cut out hard liquor completely until the reception. The more sober your bridal party is the better they’ll listen to directions and be where they need to be on time.
  • Factor in travel time from photo locations to the ceremony and reception, etc. Give yourself a buffer in the case of traffic. You may want to do a little research to see if there are any festivals or events happening near any of your planned locations so you can be prepared for the congestion.
  • Family formals can be stressful because there are a lot of people involved and it requires the Bride and Groom to stand for long periods of time in the same place smiling. To make this time go by quickly and smoothly, compose a family formal shot list in advance and limit the amount of combinations to just the essentials. Allow 2-3 minutes per group.
  • All posed family formal and group guest shots should be complete before sunset. It’s nearly impossible to get all the faces in large group photos in focus at night. Venues typically dim the lights which makes it especially difficult with out setting up portrait lights.
  • Plan toasts for either the beginning of dinner or the end of dinner rather than spreading them out amongst courses. This will give your vendors and opportunity to take a break uninterrupted as well as give you the opportunity to visit your guest’s tables should you choose to.
  • Consider feeding your vendors first so they can finish their meals and return to providing their services as quickly as possible.
  • If you are not having a first look, we advise against having a receiving line after your ceremony. You’ll need this time for family photos and Bride & Groom portraits.
  • In this modern age first looks are becoming the new norm. They allow you to complete all your portraits before the ceremony so you’ll have more time to enjoy your reception and spend time with your guests. As photographers, we try to make first looks as intimate and special as possible so you still have that moment to reflect back on.
  • The lighting conditions at sunset are the best for portraits. We like to take advantage of this time for a few Bride & Groom photos if possible.

DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY OF OUR WEDDING DAY/ WEDDING PHOTO TIME LINE TEMPLATE

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