The Ultimate Wedding Timeline Guide

We will go through your dreamy wedding timeline together. Remember though: this is only a general guideline to help you plan your special day. But it’s your wedding, your rules – and you can always change anything to have the wedding of your dreams.

Ah, wedding planning…

…it’s like navigating a maze while blindfolded, hopping on one foot, and holding your breath.

A piece of (wedding) cake, right?

Okay, maybe not…

But don’t worry. Planning your wedding, setting up your schedule, and making sure that everything is timed perfectly on your special day doesn’t have to turn into a huge hassle.

As your – hopefully by now: favorite – wedding photographer, I’m here to guide you through the nitty-gritty of coming up with a timeline for the wedding of your dreams, and give you something you can refer back to anytime you feel confused about how to plan your wedding.

So, grab a glass of bubbly (you’ll be doing a lot more of that soon), and let’s dive into this beautiful mess called wedding planning.

1. Preparations: When Getting Ready is Half the Battle

Estimated Time: 2 hours (after showering, hair, and make-up)

First thing’s first – let’s get you ready to look fabulous on your wedding day.

And, obviously, to nail your close-ups like the king & queen the two of you are.

For grooms, we’re looking at a breezy 45-60 minutes of primping & preening.

A little hair gel here, a tie adjustment there, and voilà! You’re basically good to go.

Now brides, we all know you’ve been dreaming of this day since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. So take all the time you need to feel the most beautiful you’ve ever felt. In my experience, an hour to an hour and a half should do the trick after your make-up & hair. From adding those finishing touches to lacing up that gorgeous gown (slow motion movie montage), it’s all about feeling like royalty today.

And the best part? I’ll be there to capture it all for the both of you! Please try to shower and have your hair & make-up ready by the time I get there, to make sure you love the way you look from your very first photo – all the way to your last one.

But once I’m there, think spontaneous shots of your once-in-a-lifetime moments filled with your anticipation & excitement. Imagine beautiful memories that would be impossible to stage, fake, or even repeat. That’s what your getting ready photos are all about…

2. First Look: Look Who’s Here – Oh Wow…

Estimated Time: 1 hour

You only get one first look – and you might want to turn it into a surprise for the both of you.

But even if you choose to get ready together, you still might want to do a first look. You know, when you’re all ready, and you take a moment to realize: “Oh my god, this is really happening!”

Now, your first look session is completely optional. I’ve had some couples who decided to merge their first look session with their portrait session to save a bit of time.

But keep in mind that first looks are almost always more meaningful and emotional than seeing each other down the aisle. So, if you’re afraid you’ll miss that epic moment later on, I’d honestly recommend you do a first look.

So, if you do want me to capture the first time you see each other on your big day, get ready for me to freeze your most authentic, heartfelt moments for eternity. I’m talking genuine surprise, laughs, tears, and smiles – your uncontrollable emotions as seen through my lens.

We can choose to have your first look session where you’ve gotten ready, at the place of your ceremony, or a completely different location too. But no matter where you want to see each other for the first time, I’d recommend you travel there separately, and that you make sure the groom gets there at least 5 minutes before the bride.

3. Ceremony: Seal the Deal with Style

Estimated Time: 1 hour

Whether you’re opting for a civil ceremony or something more spiritual, keep in mind that it’ll generally take about 30-35 minutes to say those magical words “I do.” Followed by your moment of joyful celebration under a shower of confetti.

You can obviously choose to go for a shorter – or longer – ceremony if you want. It’s completely up to you, and I’m not going to be the one to tell you how you should plan your ceremony (in fact, don’t let anyone tell you how to do things on your wedding day).

Still, I’ve found that 30-35 minutes is usually the sweet spot for most of my couples. It’s definitely not so long that you risk exhausting yourselves – or your guests – too soon. But it’s still enough time for you to lose yourselves in the magic of the moment, for me to snap some adorable pics of one of the most intimate & special moments of your lives, and for your guests to shed a few tears too.

Oh, and speaking of waterworks…Don’t forget to budget an extra 10-20 minutes for hugs and kisses galore once you’ve officially tied the knot. Trust me: no one wants Aunt Edna feeling left out.

4. Portraits: Capturing Everything that Makes You, You

Estimated Time: 1-1.5 hours

Alrighty then – time for this picture-perfect party to really get started!

If possible, plan at least 10-15 extra minutes per set as a buffer in case anything runs overtime. After all, you definitely don’t want to rush through your day, constantly feeling that you’re late to somewhere. Give yourselves some extra time, let go, and just focus on enjoying the experience. 

Family Portraits – 3 minutes/set

First up are family portraits (min. 30 minutes), where you’ll want to capture those special memories with your loved ones. Allow about 3 minutes per set, and be prepared for some herding of cats – er, I mean relatives – which I’ll be glad to coordinate for you on the spot.

I’ll even email you a “Family Photo List” questionnaire a month before your wedding to make sure I have everything to bring your vision to life as smoothly & seamlessly as humanly possible.

Bridal Party Portraits – 30 minutes

Next, it’s time for the bridal party to shine (another 20-40 minutes). Consider this your opportunity to unleash your inner supermodel with your besties by your side. And don’t worry: no one will judge you if you’re all practicing your “Blue Steel” faces together.

Your Portraits – 30 minutes

Finally, make sure to carve out at least 30 minutes for just the two of you.

After all, today is all about celebrating your love, your story, your fairytale. So, these Instagram-worthy dreamy shots of your most romantic moments will undoubtedly warm your hearts for years to come.

5. Reception: Let the Good Times Roll

Estimated Time: 5+ hours

Ah, at last, the moment we’ve all been waiting for (you know, besides that whole getting-married thing). It’s finally reception time!

Pop some champagne, leave about 30 minutes for your romantic sunset photos (either before or during your reception, depending on, you know, when the sun will set), and let’s dive into the festivities.

While your entire reception is bound to be a treasured memory that you’d love to replay again-and-again, a few key moments will inevitably rise above all other moments. 

My job as your wedding photographer will be to make sure I capture those key moments to help you relive them whenever you want…

Entrance – 20 minutes

It’s time for you to make an entrance with style! Leave yourselves 20 minutes to make a grand entrance at your wedding (and get a few incredible shots while you’re at it).

Remember: it’s all about choosing the perfect soundtrack and combining it with some smooth – or even not-so-smooth – dance moves. And don’t be afraid to get creative here – after all: subtlety is so overrated.

Your wedding guests will talk about this entrance for years to come… or at least until they leave the reception.

Speeches – 5 minutes/person

When your friends & family express their feelings, their happiness, and their special memories of you – now that’s something truly special.

Some speeches will be funny, some will be interesting, others might be heartwarming, emotional, or touching. But all of them will be cherished memories that you’ll be glad someone captured for you.

Sit-Down Meal – 45 minutes

It’s time to take a quick break, replenish your energy stores, and delight your taste buds – all at once. You’ve all had a beautifully exhausting day, and it’s not over just yet. In fact, some of the best parts are yet to come!

So, take some time to enjoy a meal with your guests. This is the perfect chance for some light-hearted conversations, and to take some rest. Trust me, you’ll thank yourselves later!

Cake or Champagne Tower – 10 minutes

After your meal, cutting your cake (after dinner) or drinking champagne from your champagne tower (right after your entrance) is another one of those epic highlights of your wedding day.

10 extraordinary minutes that you’ll love going back to again-and-again. So, cut (or drink) that beautiful creation like there’s no tomorrow, and don’t worry: I’ll be documenting every moment of it for you.

Dancing – 2-3 hours

Okay, the food is gone, the cake is cut – now what?

Well, I think you already know…

You’ve practiced your first dance countless times in your living room – now it’s time for you to show off those killer moves with grace and confidence!

After your first dance, you might want a father-daughter dance which accounts for another 5 minutes. But then, it’s only fair if you invite all of your guests to join in on the fun and hit the dancefloor with you for 1-2 hours – or however long you want the party to keep on going!

Sparkler Exit – 30 minutes

A sparkler exit is like the grand finale of a fireworks display, but you get to be the center of attention. As you and your partner walk through that tunnel of dazzling lights, the vibrant energy from family and friends waving those twinkling wands just elevates the moment into pure magic.

Last Dance – 10 minutes

Your day is over – well, almost. It’s time for one final dance under the fairy lights. It’s just the two of you, with nobody watching (okay, I’ll be watching – but only through my lens, I promise)

One last romantic song, one long embrace, and one final sigh of pure bliss. You’ve done it. You’re finally married. And you’ve celebrated your love with a bang.

Final Tips

Finally, as a quick note, I just want to share a few more things that you might want to keep in mind when planning your wedding day.

First, make sure you factor your travel times into your schedule. Getting from one place to another is dependent on so many things, like distance, your means of transportation, and the traffic. Just try to account for that in advance to make sure you have one less thing to worry about on your big day.

Also, I usually recommend that my couples hire a wedding planner (IF your venue doesn’t provide one already). Sure, as your wedding photographer, I’m glad to help you with anything I can – and even more.

But my primary focus will always be on documenting your special day, your beautiful moments, and your favorite memories. Having someone tasked with planning & managing your special day will help make it a more stress-free and laid-back experience for everyone.

And just like that, we’ve floated through our dreamy wedding timeline together. Remember though: this is only a general guideline to help you plan your special day. But it’s your wedding, your rules – and you can always change anything to have the wedding of your dreams.

At the end of it all, what truly matters is the love you share with one another. So embrace every moment, because this is a day you’ll never forget.

If you’re still looking for the perfect wedding photographer to capture your perfect day, look no further. Get in touch to see if I’m still available for your date – and to discuss how I can help you bring your vision to life.