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Wedding Day Timelines ~ Yes You Need One!


You’re getting married….and it’s so exciting…you have been planning this day in your mind for years probably since you were a young girl.  You scour bride magazines, blogs and Pinterist to get ideas for your perfect day. You book your venue, you hire your photographer and other venders to make your day perfect and you think that’s all you need right? NOPE. You need to start your first planning with your timeline! I like to give my brides a timeline guide shortly after booking me for their wedding, it’s never to early to really look at the day as a whole before all of the plans are set in stone.

 It’s imperative if your day is going to flow without any (or should I say many) glitches.   Timelines are guides not written in stone (unless you are an A Type personality and then it’s gospel), things will happen throughout the day to either put you ahead or behind schedule but your time line will help keep everyone on the same page as to when things need to be happening.  They are super important too if photography is important to you.  You have to plan and be on time with your photo opportunities if you want a well told story.  We are masters with our camera, but we can’t control time or the lack there of to get the images you have dreamed about.  It’s just a fact.  Most of the beautiful photos you see on Pinterist, and on blogs etc…are either styled sessions where they have time to capture those beautiful images because that’s all they are there for….or they are well planned out timelines to capture those photos either with a first look before the ceremony or plenty of time built in during the day before the ceremony and and again before the reception for the photographer to capture what is desired.

It is so important to trust your photographer when it comes to the timeline, you hired them to be the expert where photography is concerned… so trust that they also know what works and what doesn’t.  They are not trying to run your day, they just want to ensure that you understand the importance of necessary time for photos on your big day.  If this is your first time getting married, you can really be misled that those pretty photos you see on the blogs you see them and swoon over them and think they  “just happen” in 5-10 min.  True some may and do…but more times than not they are the result of a well planned out and well executed timeline…giving you time to relax and create beautiful images.

From my experience these are four things that will cause delays on the wedding day resulting in loss of time for photos… and where staying on schedule are imperative.

1. Hair and makeup does not start early enough or runs late, cutting into or totally eliminating photography time with the girls. Except for the candid getting ready photos. Make sure your stylist knows you need to be done by the allotted time. Make sure your girls are all on board with this and are on time for their appointed styling session.

2. Guys being guys, and having fun are not always on time and where they need to be so it slows down their getting ready and groomsmen photography time.

3. Family formals take longer than expected because of having to chase down all family members who need to be in the desired photos or having to many groupings taking longer than expected. Typically it takes between 3 to 4 min per photo grouping, to get everyone in position and situated and everyone looking at the photographer or not blinking 😉

4.  Travel and set up time, if the ceremony and reception are in different places, you must think about the travel time including possible traffic congestion from one location to the other and time for the photographer to get their equipment transported from their vehicles and ready to shoot.


So here are a few suggestions to consider when working on your wedding day timeline with your photographer or wedding planner to help things run as smoothly as possible.

1.  Hair and makeup – The bride and bridesmaids hair and makeup (including moms) need to be finished and ready before the bride is ready to get into her dress no less than 2 hours before the ceremony time if the bride and groom are not doing a first look.  3 hours if a first look is scheduled.  Me personally I like them both a little sooner if possible just to give us some breathing room. But 2 to 3 hours is the minimum.

I like to have both the bride and groom back in their area of waiting about 30 to 45 minutes before the ceremony start time so they can freshen up and relax and just chill.

2.  Let your venders in on the timeline – If you don’t have a wedding planner helping you be sure to send your timeline to all of your venders so they know ahead of time when and where they need to be and what time they need to be ready.

I generally hand out timelines at the rehearsal to the bridal party and family members.  But they know well before the rehearsal about the timeline.

3.  Give your Maid of Honor and Best Man Day Of Responsibilities– Have your Maid of Honor and Best Man, be in charge of making sure their group is on time so you don’t have to be worried about it. Have them gather up of the details that you want photographed prior to the photographer arriving. including  your wedding rings and a full set of your invitation suite.  Unless I am contracted for an all day wedding, my photographers and I generally arrive about one and half hours before everyone is scheduled to be finished getting ready to get some candid shots and photograph the details. Dress, Suits, shoes, jewelry, and any special details you have and want photographed.

4.  Flowers for Photos– Make sure you have your flowers delivered or on hand for the photos,   the earlier the better if they can be kept in a cool environment until needed for photos.

5. Enlist family to help with family photo time –  Have someone from BOTH sides of the family ready with a list of names of important family members to gather the up for family formals. There is no way a photographer can know everyone and gather them and take the photos and stay on time.  Keep the list as short as possible.  I typically like to keep it to immediate family only.  Mom’s, Dads. Grandparents and siblings from both sides. Heres a biggie NO OTHER CAMERAS Allowed!!! Because family photos can be a challenge to get everyone there and to keep their focus on my camera.  I don’t allow any other cameras (not even iPhones or God forbid iPads) during this time so everyone is looking at me and not every other camera in the room.  Family photos / Bridal party photos generally take between 20 to 30 min depending on the size of the family groupings.

6. Travel time is needed– Time machines don’t really exist :)…so build in travel time from one location to another, including time for the photographer to get all of their gear out of their vehicles and ready to shoot at every location.

8. Build in time for your private portraits session as husband and wife  – You will want anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour depending on where you want them taken. (not including travel time). This is the part of the day where you get to relax with each other, either during the first look where you get to see each other for the first time with out 150+ people staring at you and you can tell each other just how beautiful and handsome you look and hug and cry and all those emotions….in a semi private situation and get some awesome portraits. OR after the family / bridal party photos. Where you can breath a sigh of relief and say “We are Married!” and you get to bask in the excitement of your new life starting with photos.   Whichever way you decide to go you will want enough time where you won’t feel rushed or pressured because it will show in your photos if it’s to rushed.

Trust me…make the time for these and stick to it, even if other things are delayed to get them.  Because after the cake is gone, and the flowers have dried up…you will likely never wear your dress again…so all you will have left at the end of the day are your photos. Your guests will wait, and your food won’t go bad so don’t worry and don’t cut yourself short you can’t redo this day.

This sounds like a lot but trust me and any past brides who have been through planning a wedding day,  a detailed timeline is needed to assist in a smooth relaxed flowing day.

Here are some quotes from my past on the importance of timelines.

“Having a well planned out timeline allows the bride and groom to breathe and focus on what is important to them. The vendors will know where to be and when to be there. Your photographer will use this to capture all of those important moments that, trust me, will mean the world to you.” Michelle and Jared

“I am so thankful that I had Melody and her crew to capture every moment of that special day. With the guidance of a wedding day timeline we were able to not only stay on track with time but also had the luxury to capture all those important details and specific shots we wanted.”  Kensie and Ricky

So lets make magic happen with your photos…have a generous photography time…you won’t regret it.

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