Creating Your Ideal Wedding Day Timeline

When it comes to planning the wedding day, it can be a little bit daunting. After all, how much time does it really take to do family photos? And if you want images of all those little details (rings, flowers, invitations), where does your photographer fit it in to get all that done? Further, what do you do if things run behind? And oh yeah! You’re getting married!!! When should the ceremony start?

Thankfully, all these questions are actually very answerable, and today I want to offer my insight into how I schedule each of my couple’s wedding days! But before we dive into the actual schedules, there are a few things you should realize up front when it comes to creating your ideal schedule:


1. When putting things together, to get images with creamy, gorgeous skin tones, you want to make sure there is time for portraits around an hour before the sunset. Meaning, since the sunset is the one thing that you cannot change, everything else should be scheduled around this.

2. There are few things more commonly stressful than a tight schedule. So, it is always better to have too much time in your timeline than to end up with too little.

3. In terms of when you should start getting ready, it’s recommended that for the girls, for each bridesmaid that needs to have makeup and hair done, you should allot 30-45 minutes, and for the bride 45-60 minutes. Meaning, if you have 5 bridesmaids and only one person doing hair/makeup, you should plan to start getting ready 3.25 to 4.75 hours before you’re pre-dress photos are taken. As for guys, I always recommend them being fully dressed by the time the girls are. That way if someone forgets their socks (which happens), there’s still plenty of time to fix the issue.

4. Realize from the outset that things are likely to get behind and decide now to be okay with it. =D

And with that out of the way, here goes! Below I have two different generic plans, the first including a first look and the second without! (Side note, for those who don’t know what a first look is, it’s where a couple sees each and takes a good portion of their wedding day couple portraits before the ceremony occurs.)


WITH A FIRST LOOK (8 Hours of Coverage)

12:45 Details

1:45 Getting Ready photos

2:00 Pre-dress photos

2:15 Bride puts on dress

2:30 Individual portraits

2:45 Bridesmaid first look

3:00 Father first look

3:15 First look with groom & portraits

4:00 Wedding party (girls, guys, and together)

4:45 Family

5:15 Hide

5:45 Ceremony

6:25 Sunset portraits

6;50 Enter reception – Announcement – Eat

7:00 Sunset

7:00 Cake cutting – First dances – Toasts

7:35 DANCE

8:30 Bouquet toss

8:45 Exit


What if we don’t want to do a first look?

If you’re not doing a first look, download this PDF to see why I recommend it to every couple I work with! ;D In summary though, there are two main things that happen when couples don’t do a first look. First, in terms of portraits of the couple themselves, they only have around 20 total minutes compared to the 70 minutes you’d have if you did the first look. Inevitably, this of course leads to a very reduced number of images of just them together. Secondly, as you’ll see on the timeline below, a large junk of the morning images have to be pushed to the post-ceremony, meaning that guests are now waiting around 2 hours at the reception before the bride and groom even show up! With the first timeline, guests barely wait 30 minutes before couples get to their reception. It’s just better all around! And, I have NEVER had a couple tell me they regret doing the first look. In fact, a few have even told me it was the best decision they made!


WITHOUT THE FIRST LOOK (8 Hours of Coverage)

12:30 Details

1:30 Getting Ready photos

1:45 Pre-dress photos

2:00 Bride puts on dress

2:15 Portraits

2:30 Girls first look

2:45 Father first look

3:00 First Look

3:15 Wedding Party (guys)

3:45 Wedding Party (girls)

4:15 Hide

4:45 Ceremony

5:25 Family

5:55 Wedding Party (together)

6:10 Sunset Portraits

6:30 Enter reception – Eat

7:00 Sunset

7:00 Cake cutting – First dances – Toasts – DANCE

8:15 Bouquet toss

8:30 Exit


Want to see a wedding a wedding that followed the first timeline? Check out Merry + Nick’s wedding in Auburn, AL.

To God be the glory,

daniel jackson

Leave a Reply