From the first pre-ceremony Bellinis with bridesmaids, to the last traditional event you’d like photographed, the wedding timeline can fill up quickly! So how do you fit in all of the memorable activities you will want to look back on, and ensure you have photographic coverage? We are here to help!
A very general timeline may look like the following (of course every wedding is different):
- 3:00pm-3:45pm: We arrive onsite to photograph final getting ready shots. Bride should be 90% ready, with exception of dress being put on. Bridesmaids should be 100% ready.
- 3:45-4:15: Photograph bridesmaids
- 4:15-4:45: Photograph groomsmen
- 5:00-5:30 Photograph ceremony
- 5:30-6:30: Capture Cocktail hour (one photographer will head to cocktail hour, and the other will photograph the room details)
- 5:30-6:00: Photograph family. This is one of the most important parts of the day! During this time, it is vital that all family know where to be, and are present. If we are chasing after an uncle that went to cocktail hour by accident, there is a domino effect and it takes time away from the couple’s photos. After the pics, the family heads to cocktail hour.
- 6:00-6:15: Photograph bridal party. To get everyone quickly and efficiently, the bridal party needs to stick around, and not head to cocktail hour until after the pictures.
- 6:15-6:35: Pictures of the wedding couple. If more time is needed or requested, we will pull you out during salads, and get a few more portraits
- 6:35-10:00: Photograph dances and traditional reception events
To ensure the most success with your wedding timeline, it is beneficial to remember that all the little in-between times (getting to and from) really add up, and need to be cushioned. If you create a “perfect” timeline, then you have to be totally perfect, down to the second. That can be a bit stressful with all the moving parts of the wedding day. Let’s make a “not perfect” timeline, and allow windows of time to get from point a to b ;)
Here is a breakdown of each event paired, with the typical amount of time it takes for each activity. This will help you visualize the time the in-between moments can take up, so you can successfully plan your day.
Hair and make-up for brides and bridesmaids can take 1.5 to two hours per person. For bigger bridal parties, multiple artists/stylists make this time more efficient. If 1:45 is the goal for being done with hair and make-up, we suggest telling the beauty team that they need to be done 20 minutes before the actual cutoff. Also, bridesmaids need to arrive and be ready for hair and make-up early (for example by 8:40 rather than 9), and to be ready for portraits by 1:30. This way, they are dressed and ready to help you with your getting ready shots.
As bridesmaids are and heading towards the next destination, it can take 5-10 minutes to leave the “getting ready” area. This is true whether the bridal party pictures on site, or everyone is piling into a limo. This time buffer should be accounted for, and built in, so you have the full amount of planned time at the next event.
Clearing out the ceremony area and gathering family for portraits can take about 10 minutes. So, if the ceremony ends promptly at 5:30pm, family portraits are likely to have an actual start time more like 5:45. A piece of expert advice is to have someone assigned to help move the guests towards the cocktail hour. Likewise, if there is any other activity after the ceremony, it will take time to gather guests and make sure they know the plan.
When planning a wedding that requires any travel time, leave room in the schedule so that people can find parking and settle in. For example, if your ceremony is in a different spot than your “getting ready” location, and ten minute cushion to get settled should suffice. If you leave for portraits after the ceremony, and then travel back to the reception venue, the same buffer will be needed. The same is true when walking is involved from one place to another, like at a large hotel property. Whenever walking is involved, always plan for more time than you think you will use!
According to our sample timeline, the cake cutting would be at 6:55pm, so having it announced at 6:50 covers the 5 minutes it takes to gather people to watch.The actual cutting of the cake itself lasts around 5-7 minutes with photos and guest interactions factored in.
Similarly, the 7:30pm bouquet toss, which is likely to be followed by a garter toss, can use a five minute pre-event announcement.
No two weddings are exactly alike, so consider any factors relevant to your specific plans. For example, at a beach wedding, walking through the sand will slow people down. Ultimately, the day doesn’t have to be perfect to reduce stress, it just needs some room for time flexibility!