How Should I Plan My Wedding Day Timeline?

Hi Kayla!
I'm so excited for my wedding day and can't wait to see the gorgeous photos ... however, I have no idea how long I should allot for each event to ensure it is captured beautifully.  Can you guide me in how I should lay out my wedding day timeline?
Lost with the Clock

Dear Lost with the Clock,

Let me first say - you rock!  I love that you're thinking ahead and trying to cover all your bases to make sure your day is captured in it's entirety.  I'd also like to say that each photographer is different, and may require/request a different amount of time that what is listed below.  However, below you'll find the timeline that I suggest to my couples.  I have found that generally the time blocks listed are the perfect amount of time for me to capture what I need to give you a gorgeous and complete wedding day collection.  Of course, all wedding days are different, so keep that in mind as well!  And remember, communication is key!!  Make sure you chat with your photographer about your timeline to ensure that you're both on the same page and that you both know where to be and when!

Wedding Day Sample Timeline

  • Morning // 6 Hours before Sunset
    Every couple loves having beautiful shots of all the little details that make your wedding day one of a kind!  It’s an important part of the story and it’s so much fun to capture the dress, shoes, cuff links, invitation, etc!  While you’re getting ready, your photographer can capture all these special details, as well as some photos of you laughing with your wedding party!  Gather together all the special items you want the photographer to capture the night before. This way, you’ll be able to hand them off stress-free, without hunting for things in the midst of having mascara applied!  You will have so much fun that morning, relaxing with your besties!
  • Reception Details // 6 Hours before Sunset
    If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony and the venue allows everything to be setup early, your wedding professionals will ensure decor is set in time for your photographer to capture the details before the ceremony.  If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, we recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area, if possible, so that your photographer can grab some great shots of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats! 

  • Bridal Prep // 4 Hours before Sunset
    After the details have been photographed, and your hair and makeup are done, it’s time to get in your dress!  This is a big moment!  The bridesmaids and or mothers should already be dressed and ready.  All dolled up, they will present nicely in photographs as they assist you.  All your accessories go on after your dress.  Some brides like doing this themselves, and some like to have a helping hand from a loved one.

  • First Look // 3.5 Hours before Sunset
    Every wedding pro will tell you that the first look is a game changer!  This intimate moment is often the only time you two get to be alone, pause your nerves, and cherish each other.  I highly recommend it!  

  • Portraits // 3 Hours before Sunset
    After you take your time to enjoy the first look (if you opt for one), take a few moments for romantic portraits.  At this point, you’re excited, freshly dressed, and everything is perfect.  Before your wedding party makes their way to you, enjoy this time with your soon-to-be spouse and trust the photographer to capture your love and laughter!

  • Bridal Party Portraits // 2.5 Hours before Sunset
    Now it’s time for everyone to gather!  Your day-of coordinator will most likely be handing out and pinning on flowers with the wedding party while you’re doing the first look.  This will ensure that they arrive to the designated location on time and ready to smile!  P.s. Most often, children in the wedding party are not part of this photo time.  They tire easily and can be captured post-ceremony!

  • Tuck Bride Away // 2 Hours before Sunset
    At least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony, guests will begin to arrive and you’ll want to hide away and prevent a hug attack!  This will allow time for you to freshen up, allow the groom to greet guests, and ushers to begin their duties!

  • Ceremony // 1.5 Hours before Sunset
    It’s finally here!  This is the big moment!  Your day-of coordinator will line you up and tell you when guests have arrived so you can start your next chapter: married life!  Most ceremonies are about 20 - 30 minutes long.  Cherish these moments and try to be FULLY present.  It will pass by in a flash, and before you know it, you’ll be headed back up the aisle as an officially married couple!

  • Family Portraits // 1 Hour before Sunset
    Family formals usually take place immediately following the ceremony.  It’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time.  Typically, 30 mintues is needed for family formals.  If you schedule an hour for cocktails, family will still get time to enjoy a signature drink before they are directed to find their dinner seat.

  • Sunset Portraits // 30 Minutes before Sunset
    The best time for the stunning golden hour light is the 30 minutes right before sunset.  Who doesn’t want a dreamy shot under a New Mexican sky?  This is the best time to capture unforgettable “just married” images!

  • Reception Begins // 15 Minutes after Sunset
    Once guests have their cocktails and take a seat for dinner, you will enter and be cheered into the room during your “grand entrance.”  Some couples are announced alone, some are led by the whole wedding party.  You can either get the party started by having your first dance begin immediately after your entrance, or you can head straight to your seat and be served dinner!

  • Dance & Exit // 3 Hours after Sunset
    After dinner, the timeline typically continues.  Completing toasts, cake cutting, and formal dances will allow you to enjoy dancing the night away with family and friends!  If you want a grand exit, this can be arranged with the photographer too!  A faux exit works well, with the help of the wedding party and a few guests, or you can add time and ask them to stay until the very end!


Now you have a starting place & I hope it helps give you an idea of how long each event usually takes.  But remember - chat with your photographer so you guys are ready to rock out the day and capture every moment as it unfolds!  Lastly, hang in there!  With a little prep, good communication, and a lot of love and excitement - your day will be absolutely perfect! 

Sending you all my love while you plan your special day!