Building a proper wedding day timeline can SAVE your wedding day. It is a vital part of making your day run smoothly. You probably are hiring a ton of vendors from your photographer and videographer, to the DJ and florist, as well as everyone involved at the venue. But, if everyone has their own timeline and no one knows what is truly happening when on your wedding day, it could become a disaster. You also want to make sure your guests are happy and not waiting around for hours not knowing what is going on.
So, you’re probably wondering “How the heck am I supposed to figure all of this out?? HELP!!” You’ve come to the right place. On this Wedding Wednesday, we are here to help you break down the key pieces of the photography side of your wedding day timeline and how to make everyone happy. Once you have your photography in place, everyone else fills in around that! Creating a custom wedding day timeline is part of our wedding experience for our couples!
The first thing we ask our clients when building their timeline is when the sunset is on their wedding day. If you are looking for those gorgeous photos you see in wedding magazines and on Pinterest, this is a key point to remember! We always suggest starting your ceremony 2 hours before sunset if you are sharing a first look. If you decide against a first look (more on this later), we suggest 3 hours before sunset. Having beautiful lighting at the ceremony will ensure that you are not squinting during your vows or have harsh lighting on your faces. Planning an indoor ceremony? Same rules apply as we want to make sure you have gorgeous photographs afterwards outside!
Family formals typically take about 30 minutes (or up to 45 if you have a ton of combinations and a ginormous family). These take place immediately after the ceremony so everyone is in the same place! Make sure you send your photographer your formal portrait list so they can get all of your shots in a quick and efficient manner. Family formals are best taken outdoors to give you a natural family portrait feel, and ensure they are not too dark.
The reception timeline falls primarily on the DJ, but here are a few tips to help make sure you have everything covered! We always suggested having enough photography coverage for the main events of the wedding reception. This includes the first dances, toasts, garter and bouquet tosses, and the cake cutting. Now you’re probably wondering, “What about the exit??”
If you are not looking to have two hours worth of photos of your friends who have been drinking, we would suggest doing a controlled exit. This means gathering your wedding party and doing a smaller exit so you have the photos of the event. With the controlled exit, we suggest getting all of your main events done within the first two hours of your reception. If you’re all about those drinking photos, hire your photographers to the end of the wedding day! Your DJ can help plan the events out throughout the reception.
Now that you have the end of your day filled in, you can adjust your wedding day timeline around that and work backwards. The next thing to decide is whether or not you want to do a first look. A first look is when you meet your spouse-to-be before the ceremony. This allows for a more intimate setting when you first see each other, 40% more portraits, and a relaxed setting for the entire wedding day. Most of your photos are complete before the ceremony and you won’t feel rushed on your day!
If you opt not to do a first look, you will need to fit family formals, wedding party portraits, and any bride and groom/groom and groom/bride and bride portraits in whatever remaining time you have before the reception begins. At the end of this blog, we will show you two sample timelines for with and without a first look so you can see the difference! But, we are going to move forward with planning your wedding day timeline as if you were saying yes to your first look.
First looks take place 2 hours before the ceremony is set to begin. We like to give 30-40 minutes just to the first look in order to capture your reactions as well as some formal (and fun!!!) portraits of the two of you. The first 15 minutes are you seeing each other, and the rest goes to portraits. We also schedule 15-20 minutes at sunset for some “Just Married” portraits!
Okay, so now we have your portrait time, ceremony, and family formals scheduled. What goes in between all of that? Your wonderful wedding party! Wedding party portraits also take between 30-40 minutes (shorter if everyone is ready to get the party started!!). In order to stay on schedule, Jack (or your second photographer) makes sure that the guys have their boutonnières on BEFORE arriving for portraits. We will do a few group shots with the entire party, and then we split off into two parties to cover more ground.
Jack typically takes the men and I take the bridal party. We will both grab the bridesmaids/groomsmen photos at this time and individuals with the bride and groom as well. After the wedding party photos are complete, we send the bride and groom into hiding to rest and retouch before the ceremony. We don’t want the guests to get a sneak peek!!
The start of your day is here! I know, I know. You would think we’d start here first. But, this is the last thing to plan for your day because you want to make sure you have the proper coverage time purchased for the rest of the day. As of now, you have at least 5-6 hours of your coverage time used just for portraits, ceremony, reception, and family formals. We always suggest to get at least an hour and a half of getting ready time covered by photography. This is the time where we photograph your details, final touches, and getting dressed for the day.
So, when do you need to start getting ready on your wedding day? Well, here’s the hard truth. We adore our hair and makeup teams. We work with some of the best in the business. But, the #1 reason weddings run late is due to hair and makeup running over time. Consider how long your trial takes when planning your final timeline. Brides typically need 2 hours for their hair and makeup and bridesmaids usually need about an hour and a half. If you have a large wedding party and your ceremony starts at 4pm, you are going to have a very early morning.
There are a few things you may not think about when trying to plan your wedding day timeline. Here are a few bonus tips for your timeline planning:
The time is here! Here are two examples of wedding day timelines we typically follow.
First Look with an 8PM Sunset (Hello, Summer weddings!)
No First Look with an 8PM Sunset
Need some more wedding day advice? Check out our series: Advice from the Inside