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Kayla Bouren



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How to create a perfect wedding day timeline

April 7, 2020

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wedding day timeline, ceremony time

When working with my clients, almost all of them ask for my opinion on how to create a perfect wedding day timeline. Now, I am no expert by any means, however, photographing weddings for a living has helped me realize which timelines work and which do not work. There are many different scenarios that occur during a wedding day, but building off of a few main goals will point you in the right direction.

Goal One: What time will your wedding ceremony be?

Figuring out what time you plan on having your wedding ceremony will give you a great place to start. I encourage you to pick your ceremony time first and work everything else around that time frame. Typically I recommend that you plan your ceremony 1-2 hours prior to sunset if you have an outdoor wedding. This will give you the best light for your wedding photos and video. Once you decide on your ceremony time and how long it will take, filling in the rest is actually quite easy.

wedding timeline, first look on wedding day

Goal Two: First Look or Traditional Aisle Look?

Deciding on a first look versus a traditional aisle look before planning out the rest of your wedding day is very important! This will determine if your photographer will be able to get wedding party photos and family photos out of the way prior to your ceremony. Both options are completely fine, however, having a first look opens up a lot of your day to get the most out of your wedding photographer and wedding photos.

Goal Three: What are the most important photos that you will want to be captured?

Each couple is different when it comes to the style of photography and what they would like captured for their day. This is essential to nail down so that you can decide when you would like the majority of your photography coverage to happen. Some couples value the getting ready process and some value the party with their friends and family. Depending on which part of the day you value more will determine where to frontload or backload your coverage time.

perfect wedding timeline, grand exit

Your perfect wedding day timeline

Now that you have decided on your goals, I can help you with how to create a perfect wedding timeline for your day. If you ever feel like you are struggling with your wedding day timeline creation, always reach out to your wedding planner and or wedding photographer. They will be more than happy to help you with your timeline. Especially if it means making sure everything runs smoothly for your wedding day! I have created a sample wedding timeline for an outdoor wedding. The sun will set at 6 pm, the couple would like to have a first look, and getting ready photos are more important to them then open dancing photos.

1:00 pm: Getting Ready Photos

2:30 pm: bride and groom first look & portraits

3:30 pm: Wedding Party Portraits

4:00 pm: Family Portraits

4:30 pm: Completely done with portraits, wedding party freshen up before the ceremony

5:00 pm: Ceremony (the perfect light occurs 1 hour before sunset)

5:30 pm: Cocktail hour (this time can be used for golden hour portraits or time to spend with your guests before dinner)

6:30 pm: Dinner Reception

6:45 pm: Grand Entrance/Cake Cutting/Blessing

7:00 pm: Dinner (allow guests 45 min of uninterrupted time to eat)

7:45 pm: Toasts/First Dances

8:15 pm: Open Dancing/Garter Toss/Bouquet Toss

9:00 pm: Photographer Departs (my team and I always check in with each couple before we take off to make sure we did not miss anything!)

wedding day timeline, golden hour photos

This timeline is based on an 8-hour coverage package, however, if you book more time with your photographer you can choose where to fill in that additional time! This is a great base to understand how long certain parts of the day may take and how many hours you may need for your wedding day. If you are in need of additional wedding planning tips click to download our free wedding planning checklist and timeline to help you have a stress free planning process. I hope this article helps guide you on how to create the perfect wedding timeline for your day!

Additional client resources that we’ve created for you!

  1. Becy says:

    This is so helpful for couples planning their wedding!! Amazing post! Also – I absolutely LOVE first looks!

  2. Carissa says:

    This is so informative and helpful for planning out a wedding timeline!! I love how you included an example timeline.

  3. Henry Tieu says:

    Not only your photos are GORGEOUS, the info you share with your couples is amazing. Thank you

  4. Magdalena says:

    I just appreciate so much this kind of knowledge resources in the web. Thanks for your insights.

  5. Olivia says:

    Planning out a wedding day timeline can be so stressful- so this is an AMAZING resource! It takes away the panicked thoughts of “where do I even begin!?” Thanks so much for putting this together for couples!

  6. Love the care and attention you give to your clients by providing resources like this timeline planning guide!

  7. […] How to Create a Perfect Wedding Day Timeline […]

  8. Teresa says:

    This is an incredibly helpful post! I always feel like timelines are tough but this makes it easy! Thanks for sharing!

  9. […] How to create the perfect wedding day timeline […]

  10. […] How to Create the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline […]

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