As a bride planning her own wedding, I paid particular attention to the events of the day–the schedule.  I called it the itinerary.  My groom’s parents made fun of me for it; they’d never really had a traditional American wedding for any of their children so they didn’t know how important it was to get all the deets in order. It is, obviously, very important. As a wedding photographer, I spend a great deal of time working on the wedding day timeline for each of my brides.  A good timeline helps get you to everything on time and helps ensure you get the photographs and moments that you want to get on this all-important day.

Wedding Day Timeline

Creating a great wedding day timeline is truly an art form.  I’ve honed the process over the years; with each bride, I’ve improved the process a bit.  Or a lot.  Wedding photographers have a varying level of involvement in creating the wedding day timeline.  I pretty much told my wedding photographer what was happening and when.  It worked out just fine.  For my brides, I gather as much detail as possible from the bride and groom, run it through a magic information decipherer, and then put together an amazing spreadsheet rough draft for the bride to review and approve.

Questions to ask when creating your wedding day timeline

Do we want to see one another for the first time before the ceremony or during the ceremony?

This is the first big question that defines the schedule of your big day.  And this decision is really personal and depends on who the two of you are as individuals and as a couple.  Are you two distracted by or intimidated by being in front of others? Do you find it difficult to express moments during important moments?  If your answer to either of these questions is “yes,” then you might opt for a first look.

On the other hand: Is tradition important to you? Do you prefer to keep special moments in their traditional place? If so, you might opt for a ceremony first look.

How many pictures do you anticipate wanting?

If mass pictures your goal on your wedding day–plenty of family groupings, tons of wedding party hangout time, and lots of party pics–you might want to be sure to space out your events accordingly.  For instance, plan for your guests to have snacks to munch on while you gather your groups together for the appropriate time.  We’ve all been to weddings where we waited for what seemed like forever for the bride and groom to show up to the reception.  When we had food, the impatience was assuaged–music and food made the wait even easier!

I tell my brides to expect each family gathering to expect at least 3 minutes for each family gathering.  And more time with bridal parties equates to more images delivered of the bridal party.  When putting together the wedding  day timeline, keep this timing in mind so that you can set realistic expectations for your photographer, yourself, and your wedding party.

How far apart are your desired photography locations from your venue(s)?

Some brides have an all-in-one venues, complete with scenic backdrops for photography, a ceremony location, and a party room.  These brides don’t have to plan much more than a flight of stairs between events on the wedding day.

If you are traveling between the ceremony location and the reception venue, be sure to allow time for that in your timeline.  If you want to go to a specific location for your bridal party pictures or your bride and groom pictures, make sure you have ample time–with a little cushion in case there’s traffic.  I’ve even had a bride use Uber to commute from a getting ready location to the ceremony reception.

Do you want getting ready pictures taken? Which getting-ready images do you want?

If you’re looking for the iconic hairspray pictures, you’ll want to be sure you’ve contracted enough hours for your photographer to capture that moment.  When will it happen? Ask your hair stylist.  Will your make-up be done within the hours you’ve contracted your photographer? Double-check with both.

If you’re not interested in too many getting-ready pictures, you might consider having your photographer capture the final details of getting ready: your mother lacing up the dress, attaching your “something old” earrings, grandma putting on your “something borrowed” bracelet, your sister carefully placing your tiara.  This can usually take 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

This is one of the big things to bring up to your photographer during the initial contact or a month or two before your wedding day.

What reception events do you care about?

When planning your reception, keep in mind when your photographer’s coverage ends.  The best idea is to front-load your events: cake cutting, dinner prayer, first dances, etc.  Obviously, dinner is in there; but you’ll get far more events covered if they are front-loaded.  And, honestly, after a while, dance party pictures all look the same.  Keep this in mind when planning your wedding day timeline.

How long is your ceremony?

Most of my brides have Protestant ceremonies, which last about a half hour or so.  But if your wedding is a Catholic wedding, the ceremony may last significantly longer. Personally, I pause photography coverage about 45 minutes before the ceremony; this chunk of time is important for transitioning, last-minute detail shots, and for a little padding in case Mom is running late or you hit traffic.

How important is it that you have detail shots of your wedding day?

I love detail shots!  They really do convey your personalities and the atmosphere of the day.  If you love detail shots as much as I do, you should be sure to allow for that in your schedule.  For instance, if you want pictures of your dress, be sure to allow time for the photographer to snag your dress before you dress; the more detail shots you want, the more loosely you’ll want to set up your wedding day timeline.