I think one of the trickiest parts of planning a wedding day is trying to fit in all the moving parts of the wedding day timeline. Because my main concern is always to have a stress free day filled with joy and love I like to really help my clients to build a wedding day timeline that will work best for their day as well as have plenty of time to capture the gorgeous details and portraits that they will have forever to remember their day by.
When I write a wedding day timeline the biggest questions I am thinking about are; Will the couple have a first look? and What are the logistics of getting to the ceremony?
A first look is when the bride and groom set aside a special time to see each other before the wedding. I like for this to be done in private so that I really get to capture the special moment for the couple together and get some gorgeous candids of them seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day. The reason this makes a big difference when building their wedding day timeline is that it gives us the opportunity to get most of the bridal party and couples portraits competed before the ceremony so that we have a bit more of a cushion between the ceremony and reception to get family portraits and just not be quite so rushed!
Sample Timeline WITH a first look:
1:30pm Bridal details: This includes the dress, shoes, invitation suite, jewelry, florals etc. This also includes the grooms details such as shoes tie watch etc. The couples should have these items available at the site where the couple will be getting ready. We will also be shooting some bridal getting ready shots at this time
2:15: Bride into gown. All bridesmaids to be dressed and ready by 2:00
2:30: Bride and Father first look (This can occur at this time or just prior to the ceremony)
2:30: Groomsmen getting ready shots, toast to the groom etc. Groom dressed by 2:45
2:45: Bride and Groom First look
3:00-3:30: Bridal party portraits
3:30: Bride and Groom wedding day portraits
4:00: Bridal party tucked away. Photographers capture guests arrival and ceremony details
5:15-5:30: Family Portraits at Ceremony Site
5:30: Just Married Portraits of the bride and Groom
6:00: Couple to cocktail hour or to refresh and get ready for reception announcements
6:00: Reception begins with First Dance.
6:15: Dinner is Served (Photographers eat while the couple eats so that they will be available to capture events of reception)
7:15: Dance with Mother and Father
7:30: Cake cutting
8:30: Photographer steals couple for sunset shots
9:30: Photographer checks out for the evening. (Staged Sparkler exit occurs at this time with bridal party)
Sample Timeline WITHOUT first look
1:30pm: Bridal details
2:15: bride into gown. All bridesmaids to be dressed and ready by 2:00
2:30-3:00: bridesmaids and bridal portraits (bride then tucked away)
3:00: groom getting ready
3:15-3:45: groomsmen portraits
4:00-4:30: ceremony (We highly recommend if you are not having a first look to not have a receiving line as this adds a lot of time between the ceremony and reception that we will need for bridal party photographs)
4:30-5:00: Family photos at the ceremony site. Please have someone that knows the family to assist the photographer in calling out groupings.
5:00: bridal party portraits and just married portraits.
6:15: reception announcement
6:15: Bride and Groom first dance
6:30: Dinner served
7:15: Mother and Father Dances
7:30 Cake cutting
8:00: Photographer will steal bride and groom for sunset shots. These photos should take 15 minutes.
9:30: Photographer checks out for the evening. Staged sparkler exit with the bridal party occurs.
So some of the differences here would be that with a first look the only thing we have to “do” after the wedding is the family portraits (even some of these can occur before the wedding if the family is available) and I always like to grab a few more couple portraits as they are truly just married! This could include a bubble exit or exit in a car etc. It is typical for us to be able to have the couple ready for reception announcement within one hour of the ceremony when we do a first look.
Without a first look we can still be speedy about trying to get the couple to the reception for announcement but it is more typical for the time needed for family portraits, couple portraits, and bridal party portraits to be an hour and a half to two hours.
These prior two timelines are written with the assumption that the wedding ceremony and reception all occur at one location. This brings me to my other important topic to consider when writing a timeline.
Logistics of Wedding Day
If the ceremony and reception are at different locations we will need to take into account the drive time it would take to get from one to the other. We would also want to account for drive time if the couple is getting ready at a different location that the ceremony site. Here is a sample timeline that includes drive time logistics. Of note this is 9 hours of photographer coverage.
12:30: Bridal details at brides childhood home. Gown and shoes and invitation suite should be laid out for photographers to document.
1:00-1:15: Bridesmaids getting ready. Bridesmaids into gowns at 1:15
1:30: Bride into gown.
1:45-2:15: Bridesmaids and bride portraits
2:15-2:30: Photographers drive to hotel to capture groom getting ready
2:30: Groom getting ready shots
2:45-3:15: Groomsmen and Groom portraits
3:15-3:30: Drive to ceremony site
4:45: Family portraits at ceremony site
5:30: drive to bridal party portrait location
5:45-6:45: bridal party portraits and couple portraits
6:45-7:00: drive to reception
7:00: reception announcement
7:15: dinner served
8:15: first dance, mother father dances
8:30: cake cutting
9:30: photographer checks out