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Wedding Day Timeline Tips

Mar 3, 2021

Your wedding day is quickly approaching! Things are all coming together, and final details are being decided on, but have you thought about the actual wedding day? The order of things and how long each of those things will take? It can definitely be a task in-and-of-itself! Hopefully your wedding photographer or wedding planner will help you create your wedding day timeline, but if not, here are a few of my top wedding day timeline tips! Plus at the end, I will share example timelines for you to use as a starting price.

Bridal Party Cheering as husband and wife kiss

You worked so hard planning the day, you deserve a stress-free celebration!

So, where to begin? First, you need to check when the sunset is for your wedding day. This is so important because the photographer will need to get all the photos finished prior to this time, if you want them to be outdoors with natural light. It seems like such an obvious thing, but so many times, I see couples plan their ceremony 30-minutes before sunset time, so there is no time after the ceremony to do any photos outside. This forces the couple to do a first look so that they can get all their photos finished prior to the ceremony.

In addition, knowing the sunset time allows you to plan out when sunset photos will be. Most photographers and couples absolutely LOVE sunset photos. It is the most gorgeous lighting during the day and allows you to step away from the craziness of the day and just have some time with your new husband. On the wedding day, photographers typically try to take their couple outside for those photos about 30-60 minutes prior to the sunset.

That is the sweet spot for golden hour light.

beautiful outdoor reception area with manicured lawn and mature trees at The Barn at Silverstone

If you plan it out perfectly, try to have your guests eating during that time. First, no one wants photos of themselves when they are stuffing food in their mouths, and second, people are so busy eating that they won’t even notice you stepped away for a little bit. It is a perfect time for you two sneak out and grab those gorgeous photos of just the two of you without making the guests feel like they are sitting around, waiting for the next thing to happen. If you have a later sunset time, you could also plan it that the DJ opens up the dance floor when you two sneak out, so people can start dancing. Either way, you are creating a great experience for your guests while allowing you to maximize your day in terms of photos.

It’s a win-win!

The second thing you need to nail down is your ceremony time. Now that you know the sunset time, you can figure out how far in advance you should schedule the ceremony. A few things can play into this decision. First, are you planning to do a first look or not? If yes, you can push your ceremony time a little closer to the sunset time because you could potentially do all of your photos prior to the ceremony except for the sunset photos. Now keep in mind, you will still want to provide time for cocktail hour. Then you could go straight into reception and dinner depending when the sunset is; however, that means you need more time prior to the ceremony to get everything done, including the first look.

Yes please, to instant celebration after the ceremony!

If you don’t want to do a first look, you will at minimum need to leave time for family formals, full wedding party photos, and bride and groom pictures. Yes, this can all happen during the cocktail hour, but that means you will be missing that time with your guests. Potentially, you could knock out bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s photos separately prior to, but the whole group together will still need to happen after. There are so many different variations you can do, but you have to figure out which parts are most important to you as you lay things out.

That is my biggest wedding day timeline tip!

You and your soon-to-be spouse need to lay out which things are most important to you on the wedding day. Is it being with your guests? Is it keeping with tradition? Are your photos the most important part? Depending on that, you can then lay out the timeline, making sure you are keeping those important aspects untouched on the day.

What is the most important parts to you on the wedding day?

Finally, take into account travel time. If you and your spouse are getting together in two different places, don’t only keep in mind your travel time to the venue but also your photographers travel time back and forth for photos. It adds more time at the beginning of the day, so the photographer can photograph both of you getting ready. If you have a second photographer, that will help slim that down, but depending on what all needs to be captured early in the day, it can affect who needs to be where and when.

In addition, if your ceremony location and reception location are at two different venues, that is more time added to the day for travel. So, thinking about photography, it may bump your hours of coverage from eight to nine hours due to the time needed to get from place-to-place and still be able to document all the major parts of the day.

bride and groom kissing in back seat of old buick convertible

Remember the little aspects early on so it is taken into account time-wise.

Once you have these times se, and decisions made for the important aspects of the day, work with your vendors to make sure everything can run as smoothly as possible for you. They may be able to give you tips to save time or bring up any issues that may affect another vendor. Doing this will allow you to have a stress-free wedding day, so you can fully be focused on marrying your soon-to-be husband and celebrating with all of your friends and family.

I know this all can feel overwhelming, so here are two base timelines that you can use to get you started. One features a first look option, while the other does not.

I hope they can be a stepping stone as you start planning your wedding day timeline!

XOXO ~ Heather Marie


First Look Timeline (8 hours)

12:30pm Bridal Details

1:00pm Bride Getting into Dress (Second Photographer with Guys Getting Ready)

1:30pm Walk to First Look

1:45pm First Look

2:00pm Bride and Groom Portraits

2:30pm Bridal Portraits and Individuals

2:45pm Bridesmaids

3:00pm Groomsmen

3:15pm Wedding Party

3:30pm Family Formals

4:00pm Ceremony

4:30 Cocktail Hour

5:30pm Guests Seated and Grand Entrances

6:30/7:00pm Sunset Photos

7:30pm Sunset

8:30 Photographers Head Out

No First Look Timeline (8 hours)

1:30pm Bridal Details

2:15pm Bride Getting into Dress

2:45pm Bridal Portraits

3:00pm Bridesmaids

3:15pm Guys Getting Ready

3:30pm Groomsmen and Groom Portraits

4:00pm Ceremony

4:30pm Family Formals

5:00pm Wedding Party

5:15pm Bride and Groom Pictures

5:45pm Guests Seated and Grand Entrances

6:30/7:00pm Sunset Photos

7:30pm Sunset

9:30 Photographers Head Out

grooms reaction at first look


More wedding blog posts:

Top 5 Barn Venues in Central Pennsylvania

Best of 2020 Weddings

Tips for my Brides

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Photographer, go-getter, and ice cream lover
Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania