Weddings are stressful, and having a plan is a non-negotiable aspect of the biggest day of your life. It doesn’t matter how you’re getting married — from an adventure elopement to a big white wedding, a wedding day timeline is essential.
A wedding day timeline is just a way of keeping the festivities going, making sure you have time to hit everything you want to do on the day. A good wedding timeline means you can relax on the day itself and focus on being in the moment. This article will break down how you can create a wedding day timeline, so you’re never left scrambling on the big day!
Creating a Wedding Day Timeline in 5 Easy Steps
Here are the 5 easy steps you need to follow to create the perfect wedding day timeline:
Step 1: Rough Outlines & Brainstorming
In the early stages, you’re going to need to roughly outline the plan. By now, you’ve found the venue, vendors, dresses, suits, and all the bells and whistles that go into a wedding. With your wedding planner, if you have one, start crafting a general idea of how your day is going to look.
It’s important to remember that everybody is different. This means that somebody else’s plan might not work for you. Therefore, you need to identify your wedding day needs and schedule accordingly.
Here are some general things to keep in mind:
3. Photos with friends and family
4. Photos with just the Couple
6. Speeches and special dances/traditions
If you’re dealing with multiple locations, be sure to factor in travel times for you and your guests into the wedding day timeline. You want to provide ample time for you to all get there and settled before continuing.
Step 2: Vendors
An essential step in creating a wedding day timeline is being on the same page as your chosen vendors. There’s limited time, so it needs to be well thought-out and planned to the last minute.
Coordinate with your vendors about when they plan on arriving, how much time they’ll need for set up, and the time they need for extras. For example, photographers are everywhere on the wedding day. They’re snapping pictures of you getting ready, the ceremony, the family photos, the couple photos, and the reception. There’s a lot to get done, and they need some time carved out for them to be able to do their job. I always discuss my needs as a photographer during our first meeting and create a photography timeline with you.
Usually, your photographer will communicate with you what they need. Together, you’ll come up with a plan that works for everyone. Discuss what you’re expecting from certain parts of the wedding, like the getting ready part. Do you want detailed pictures of dresses, suits, the moments with friends and family? Or, when it comes to the venue, do you want shots of everything before anyone arrives, like the place cards, cutlery, and flowers? These are things to discuss in-depth.
The first look is another big deal because this is where you’ll take some posed photos of the happy couple. Again, this is a great way to break free of the chaos and capture some stunning couple photos. Here’s an article on what you need to know about first look photoshoots.
When it comes to family photos, well, that can take forever. However, there’s a way to streamline the process. I talk about it all in my blog post about streamlining family photos.
Step 3: Bookends
With a lot of the pre-planning, guesswork, and grunt work out of the way, it’s time to solidify the wedding day timeline. You know what time the ceremony is, and now it’s time to work out the schedule based on the time of the ceremony.
It’s basically starting at the ceremony and working outwards. The moments before the wedding will be easier to figure out as they’ll be shorter. The more challenging part comes afterward.
Step 4: Fill In The Blanks
Run through your plan and think of all the possible things you missed. You want to consider every little aspect of your wedding to make sure your wedding day timeline makes sense and that it works.
Go over the timeline with a few friends, your wedding planner, your partner, and your photographer. Have some people around to help you determine if you’ve actually thought of everything necessary to get the plan right. While sometimes things don’t go 100% to plan on the day, a timeline means that you can still get back on track!
Step 5: Review and Confirm
Finally, you’ve come to the last part of crafting your wedding day timeline, the review process. Your plan needs to account not just for you and your guests but also for the vendors. You want them to have enough time to do what they need to do to make your special day, special.
So confirm one last time with everyone, and provide them with the wedding day timeline, so they know where they sit on the list. It’s important to give your vendors enough time to ensure they’re ready to do their part. From the catering to the DJ, everyone needs to know what’s going on at all times. Of course, on the day, someone will be communicating with them about everything. However, it’s still important they’ve got the brief to refer to as they make their own preparations!
Example of Wedding Day Timeline
This is an example of a wedding timeline I might use to photograph a wedding where the ceremony was in the afternoon. Feel free to take it as a rough guide and edit it according to your own day!
11:00 – Arrival with the bride: Detail shots of dress, shoes, invitation, etc., and a few quick hair/makeup pics
11:45 – Photos of guys getting ready
12:30 – Back to the girls: photo in robes, popping champagne
12:40 – Opening gift while the bridesmaids get dressed
1:00 – Bride gets dressed
1:30 – First look
1:45 – Bride, Groom, and wedding party photos
3:20 – Photograph the decor
4:00 – Ceremony
4:30 – Family photos
5:00 – Extra time for photos we missed earlier, time to relax, or join cocktail hour
5:30 – Guests seated
5:45 – Entrances, toasts, cake cutting
6:15 – Dinner service begins
7:15 – Sunset photos
7:30 – Dances
8:30 – Exit
General Ideas For Time For a Wedding Day Timeline
Girls getting ready: 1.5-2 hours
Guys getting ready: 30-45 minutes
First look: 15 minutes
Bride and Groom Portraits: 45 – 60 minutes
Wedding Party Portraits: 30 – 45 minutes
Ceremony and Reception Decor Photos: 30 minutes
Ceremony: 30min-1 hour
Family photos: 30 minutes
Cocktail hour: 1 hour
Reception entrances, toasts, cake cutting: 30 minutes
Dinner Service: 1 hour (ask venue)
Sunset photos: 15 minutes
Dancing: 1 hour
A wedding day timeline is just what a well-run wedding day needs. If you need a photographer who cares, then you need me. Hey! I’m Holly Kattlegreen, and I’m a Michigan-based photographer ready to capture your wedding memories as no other photographer can. I will work with you to craft a well-thought-out photo schedule, and we’ll make sure everything runs smoothly on your big day. So take a look at my portfolio, and let’s chat about your wedding photos.