Wondering what the perfect wedding day timeline looks like? You’re in luck – I’ve had the honour of photographing so many beautiful weddings, and out of all that experience, I’ve crafted a great wedding day timeline to help couples plan their day. Read on for a full wedding day timeline, along with some great advice on different moments in the day!
Sample Wedding Day Timeline
This sample wedding day timeline is based on the classic afternoon ceremony and sit-down dinner reception. If you’re planning something different, you can easily tweak this wedding day timeline to accommodate different elements.
The important thing is that this shows you the overall sequence and flow of the day, and it gives you some idea of how long different elements take!
12-noon Photos of groom & groomsmen getting ready
1.15 pm Photos of the bride getting ready with bridesmaids
1.45 pm Bride gets into the dress
2 pm First look with bridesmaids & family
2.15 pm Photos of fine details & portraits
2.30 pm Guests arrive at the ceremony
3 pm Ceremony begins
3.30 pm Ceremony ends & greeting guests
3.45 pm Cocktail hour & family photos
4 pm Wedding party & couple photos
5.45 pm Guest begin seating for dinner
6.15 pm Couple’s grand entrance
6.30 pm Dinner served
7.15 pm Photographer steals the couple away for sunset portraits (sunset timing dependent!)
8.30 pm Speeches begin
9 pm Cake cutting
9.05 pm First dances
9.10 pm Dance floor opens
9.50 pm Photographer steals the couple away for night portraits
11 pm Couple exit
A Closer Look at the Wedding Day Timeline
Now that you have the overview, there are a few different moments during your wedding day timeline that I’d like to hone in on. I find that while most couples have the big moments of the day scheduled out really well, there are a few smaller but no less important parts that need their own attention, especially when it comes to taking photos. After all, the last thing you want to feel on your wedding day is rushed! It’s so important to build enough time into the wedding day timeline for everything to run smoothly. Let’s take a look at some specific moments in your wedding day:
The Groomsmen Getting Ready
It might feel a little counterintuitive to photograph the groom and groomsmen before the bride – she’s probably going to start getting ready before he is, and take longer, too – but actually, planning to have the groom and groomsmen showered and getting ready at least half an hour before the bride makes a lot of sense. Your photographer is going to spend most of their pre-ceremony time in the bridal suite, leading into the first look, leading into the ceremony. Getting shots of the groom and his groomsmen before that means they can fully focus on the bride.
If you’re planning to exchange gifts or letters during this time, or if there are any special moments in the getting ready process that you want your photographer to catch, make sure to communicate it! Giving your photographer a detailed wedding day timeline
After the Bride is Ready
You’ll notice that my suggested wedding day timeline has over an hour between the bride being fully ready and the actual start of the ceremony. This assumes that the getting-ready and the ceremony are in the same place – if you have to travel to your ceremony location, build in more time.
The reason for this is a) you never know what kind of crazy things can happen before the ceremony. Leave a bit of buffer zone! And b) besides first looks, this is a great opportunity for quick snaps of the bride with her bridesmaids and family. I’d highly suggest that you give yourself enough time to really savour the reality that it’s your wedding day before you get into all the busyness of the rest of the schedule – it’s such a special time.
Mingling After the Ceremony
Make sure that you leave enough time after the ceremony to greet your guests and mingle with them. I recommend at least 90 minutes of time dedicated to photography between the ceremony and the reception to get family and wedding party photos. You don’t want to have to rush away from talking to your guests (or, worse, get pulled away by a stressed photographer), so it’s important to schedule enough mingling time post-ceremony before you head into photos.
The wedding day timeline I set out here is based on the assumption that sunset is around 8.00 pm. That would mean you sneak out just after eating dinner to get that gorgeous golden-hour light as the sun goes down – just the best. But if you’re getting married in winter, you might need to edit this wedding day timeline and talk with your photographer about when the best time to get those dreamy couple photos will be.
A Note on Travel Time
This wedding day timeline is based on a wedding where the getting-ready suites are on the same site as the ceremony, and that the reception venue is either on the same property or very close by. In other words, there isn’t a lot of time for traveling around in this timeline.
If you have to travel for any distance on your wedding day, make sure you factor this into your wedding day timeline. It might even be worth looking up traffic times and parking ahead of time so that you can rest easy on the day itself.
Creating Your Own Wedding Day Timeline
I hope this wedding day timeline is helpful for you as you plan your wedding day! Spending that little bit of extra effort before your wedding to really plan out the timeline and get every element on paper – and then to communicate your timeline with your photographer – does make all the difference to your peace of mind. When you have a great timeline, you free yourself up to simply live in the moment and enjoy the magic of your wedding day.
Want to explore working with me to photograph your wedding? Get in touch!
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