The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

July 13, 2016

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the perfect wedding day timelineSince becoming a wedding photographer I have a lot of “if I could do my wedding over again, I’d do X, Y, and Z” moments. Wedding trends change all the time and at this point I’ve been married for 6 years, which means I planned my wedding 7 years ago. Before Pinterest was a real big thing. Who knew mason jars would become so trendy?!

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is about timelines. I would definitely change the wedding day timeline to feel less rushed, have the best photo opportunities and build in time to really enjoy my wedding and take it in. You’ve probably heard people say that their wedding went by so fast – like a blur. It does. When you’re rushing around from one photo op to the next it just seems like you’re just doing the thing everyone does instead of truly enjoying your day and focusing on actually making memories.

The biggest complaint? The person you see the least of on your wedding day is your new spouse! So this is the perfect timeline for me. If I did it all over again, this is how the day would flow.

Disclaimer: I like to shoot couple’s photos near sunset so the time of day everything happens may adjust by 1 or 2 hours depending on what time of year you get married and when the sun sets. If I got married in June when the sun sets around 8:30 this would be how I roll. Basically I’d build this timeline around whenever sunset was.

10am – Wakeup: No morning weddings around here. Sleep in!

11am – Brunch: Maybe with my bridesmaids?

1pm – Arrive at Venue: This is probably the time that the hair and makeup would need to show up. If you need to be ready for photos by 4:30, they’re going to need some time.

2:30-4:30pm – Preparations: This is the point when I’d have the photographer arrive. I’d do a couple hours of preparation photos. Hopefully the hair and makeup would be mostly done at this point. I love it when preparation photos are just everyone hanging out because we’re taking the timeline of the day really easy. Maybe everyone is having champagne and there are a few casual little toasts. Maybe you’re still working out those last minute vows. I love those kinds of candids.

4:30-5pm – Bridesmaids/Attendants: If the bridesmaids/attendants of one of the couple are ready by 4:30 we can go out and do photos of the them and get them out of the way at this time. Then they can go in and hide while the next group takes their turn and guests start arriving.

5-5:30pm – Groomsmen/Attendants: Time for photos of the groomsmen/attendants of the other person in the couple. Doing these photos and the ones of the bridesmaids/attendants beforehand can really help cut down on group photo time afterward. We still have to get the entire wedding party together after, but it only takes a few minutes instead of a huge chunk of time.

5:30-6pm – Downtime: This downtime is built in before the ceremony so there’s a potty break, a makeup fixing break, or just some time to sit down and take in your day. There’s nothing worse than rushing through photos so you can start the ceremony on time, or delaying the ceremony to finish photos. This gives you time to get a little adorably nervous before the ceremony. Then I can capture some genuine emotional moments.

6-6:30pm – Ceremony: Ceremonies can be quicker than this, but it leaves some time for those guests who always show up late.

6:30-7pm – Receiving Line: People don’t love receiving lines these days, but I’m a big fan. While it takes a bit of time out of your day, it ensures you are able to greet each of your guests and thank them for coming. Plus it gives your photographer an opportunity to get some photos of all your guests greeting you, rather than trying to photograph them hiding in the back corner of the reception at their table. It also saves you from having to rush through eating dinner so you can greet guests while they eat theirs.

7-7:30pm – Group Photos/Cocktail Hour: After the receiving line some cocktails and snacks could be served while we finish up a few family photos with immediate family only. We’d also do the entire wedding party (bridesmaids/groomsmen). These may go quicker than the time limit depending on how many people you have in your groups. If you want a lot of family photographed, plan on longer, but if you’re okay with simple basics we can keep it pretty short. Plus anyone you want a photo with we can also grab at the reception later.

7:30-8:30pm – Couple’s Photos/Dinner: This time would ideally be during sunset. The longer I have to take photos of the couple the better the results. I’ve also found that most couples don’t regret having a bit of alone time or quieter time during the chaos of the wedding day. While we’re off photographing, your guests can eat dinner.

8:30-9pm – Toasts/Dinner: Have your caterers set aside a bit of dinner just for you and when you enter after photos you can sit down and start eating just as toasts begin. Stat we’ll be done with couple’s photos sooner than the timeline, so you should have some extra time to eat in there.

9-9:30pm – Dances/Cake: Toasts followed by first dances and the cake cutting!

9:30-11:00pm – Dancing: PARTY time. I limit this time to keep it short. I’ve found that most clients don’t really need more than this to get the feel of their reception in the evening. You definitely don’t need hours and hours of drunk dancing.

Now this would definitely be my ideal timeline as a bride and as a photographer. One that gives you enough room to relax and thoroughly enjoy the day without feeling rushed through everything. It also gives you ample time for some creative shots as a couple as well. Not every photographer would love this timeline, but I would!

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