Whew, okay! Buckle up because this is a topic and a half, but I’m here to break it down for ya! I know it’s beyond overwhelming to be asked 87 questions from every direction about when you want your ceremony to start, exactly how long you want food served during cocktail hour, what time hair and makeup should be finished, and so on…

HOLD UP?! How the heck should you know? You’ve never done this before!

I’ve got you.

This is going to be a lengthy post, so bear with me! Creating your wedding day timeline sounds super stressful when you don’t have much direction, which is why I want you to be prepped with all of the factors and variables that go into it before getting your timeline started!

I’ve had SO many brides tell them that seeing the final timeline has made them cry because it helped it all feel so much more real!

That was NEVER something I expected, but it is so exciting getting to help you create the perfect timeline for your day, whether you want a super relaxed and loose timeline that allows for time to hang out and relax or a very structured timeline to make sure everyone knows the minute-by-minute schedule!

If I can give any advice, it is to say, please work hard on this timeline. It is going to allow you two, your guests, and your vendors SO much ease on your day and will help everyone have a seamless and stress-free wedding day. I want to ensure that you have plenty of time for all of the photos you want and have hired me for, but also lots of time to just relax and enjoy the day!

My biggest tip in all of this: trust my experience!

I will explain more as I go, but if I factor in ‘x’ amount of time to do something, it’s because I’ve seen it quiiiiiite a few times before. I know when and where things have the potential to get off track, I know where to add buffer time, and I know how to keep the day rolling. Don’t worry, I’ve done this once or twice. 😉

What to consider first:

Sunset time!

So many of the events during a wedding day revolve around your ceremony time and the sunset! You can easily Google “sunset time, {Wedding Venue Zip Code}, {Wedding Date}” (EX: sunset time, 07821, 7/21/20)  to find out when the sun will set on your wedding day. This will help you determine when you should schedule your ceremony start and end time, especially if it’s going to be outdoors! I would recommend planning your ceremony to be about 45-60 minutes before sunset time depending on how long of a ceremony you are planning! Typically, outdoor ceremonies around anywhere from 15-30 minutes, so I would add some buffer time and go with 45 minutes before sunset time to be safe. Then, you can still get a few extra minutes right after the ceremony for some #marriedaf sunset portraits!

Portrait Time

The BIGGEST and most common timeline stressor I run into is not having enough time for all of the portraits that need to get done when there is no first look! If you’re not doing a first look (especially if your ceremony and reception are at the same venue) you will likely need to factor in a minimum of 1.5 hours and ideally 2 hours to complete Family Formal Portraits, Bridal Party Portraits, and Bride and Groom Portraits before heading to the reception. This means you will have to chat with your venue about doing an extended cocktail hour for your guests. I’ll list out exactly how this timing works a little later in the post!

  • Side note: I’ve had couples in the past who have everything at one venue, no first look, and no extended cocktail hour. What happens then is that if family or bridal party portraits run over time for any reason (trust me, it happens! Grandma is in the bathroom, your brother is at the bar, weather isn’t cooperating, etc…), it is YOUR bride and groom portrait time that gets cut short Those photos are pretty freaking important, and I always want to make sure you have PLENTY of beautiful images of you two from your big day. It is so important to give enough time to get everything done, so that we’re not scrambling to squeeze in only 5-10 minutes of portraits when we ideally want 30-45 minutes!

If you are doing a first look (#blessed), you will be able to get all of your formal photos done before the ceremony starts! At the very least (which is still AMAZING), you can get all of your bride and groom portraits and bridal party photos done and only have to do family afterward (this is usually the case if certain family members can’t make it to the venue before the ceremony)! This means that you actually get to go to your cocktail hour (aka best food and drinks, am I right?!) and spend time with your guests. Again, it is ideal to have about 2 hours dedicated to your photos in order to capture everyone who means so much to you! These 2 hours are for the Bride and Groom portraits (30-45 min), Family portraits (30 min), and Bridal Party photos (45 min)!

Hair & Makeup

From my experience, you should schedule your hair and makeup to start about 2 hours earlier than you think you should, especially if you have a larger bridal party! It’s also a really good idea to have more than one hair and makeup artist working on the party! Although your hair and makeup stylists are the experts at this part of the day, I’ve seen plenty of unexpected changes come up during this time that can delay hair and makeup and push the timeline off schedule. Totally not your hair and makeup artists faults, there are just little things that you can’t always plan for like random hairs not staying in place, bobby pins falling out, maid of honor not loving her eyeshadow, fake lashes not staying on, deodorant on dresses, and so on! The reason why I say add WAAAY extra time is so everyone can take care of anything going on and not have to add any stress to the morning! If there is any extra time, that just means more time to drink champagne, pop confetti, and dance with your girls!! More pictures, too 😉


Although I’ll remind you probably a million times, please make sure to keep all of your details in a bag or box ready to go before I arrive! I will provide you with a list of details to prepare that I’ll want to photograph, but feel free to add anything extra and meaningful that you want documented. Prepping the details before will save a ton of time in the morning so you or your Maid of Honor don’t have to run around looking for your heels or invitation suite! It’ll all be ready to go!

  • Pro Tip: if you’ve hired a videographer, chat with me about when they should arrive and chat with them about how they like to document the details. Some videographers really focus on details while others don’t! I’ve had videographers use up half or more of the detail time I’ve planned for myself by taking the details from me, so I can’t really do my full thaaaang! Major bummer! Let’s plan together the best times we should both arrive so we can stagger and not be in the other’s way or taking time from the other!


Make sure to keep in mind how much time it takes to travel between each location (getting ready location, ceremony, and reception venue)! This drive time is a part of your hourly coverage and will factor into the timing of the day! Unfortunately, we can’t just poof from place to place and traffic doesn’t disappear on your wedding day L! Make sure to check drive times at the times you think you’ll be driving to get an accurate idea of how much time it could take with the MOST traffic! Always better to add more time than get stuck in traffic and be late! If you end up having an hour of travel time, you may consider adding an extra hour of coverage to your package to account for lost time!

  • Side note – some couples have already decided on their locations before they book me while others are still choosing. I will gladly help give you my opinion based on your ceremony and reception locations, but I alwaaays recommend the least amount of driving possible. You get ONE wedding day, you don’t want to spend it stuck in a car for multiple hours or risk anything going wrong like a popped tire, forgetting something at home, etc. Locations that are short distances from each other are idea (under 15 mins each). I will help you with suggestions on what you can do if you’re unsure! <3

Ceremony & Reception Details

You work SO hard on putting all of the details of your day together, so I want to make sure I have enough time to capture the ceremony and reception details untouched by guests! If you’re not doing a first look and your portraits are during cocktail hour (which is usually when I would capture reception details), we will need to make sure there is extra time allotted for me to get into the reception space before your guests do (extended cocktail hour) to photograph every little detail and get my equipment set up for the celebration

How much reception coverage?

I always recommend making sure there is at least 2 hours of reception coverage! This allows for all of the main events to be documented and a good chunk of dancing! If you want more coverage, you’re always welcome to add more time, but less than 2 hours may mean there will be some photos missed!

Prepping for your wedding day:

I have two jam-packed posts all about prepping for your wedding day for brides and grooms, but as a reminder – make sure your entire bridal party steams their dresses and suits BEFORE the day of the wedding or early in the morning and keep them hung up until they get dressed. This is a huge time saver!

Hire a Planner

If this is all a lot to take in, it is a great idea to hire a wedding planner or a day-of wedding coordinator to help ensure the day runs smoothly. Wedding coordinators are game-changers when it comes to limiting stress and keeping everyone on track! They take care of every little thing behind the scenes, so if anything goes awry, you probably won’t even know much about it!

Planners are just superheroes with headsets and clipboards, and they know how to get stuff DONE from fixing any bouquet mishaps to getting you plenty of your signature drinks. I’ve become the coordinator when one isn’t hired because I am usually most aware of the minute-by-minute of the day! This can definitely cut into picture time if I’m helping put out fires! It’s nice when this doesn’t have to fall on your bridal party or family members and everyone (including YOU!) can just relax and know that everything is taken care of!

If you don’t have a planner, though, no worries – I’ve got it covered 😉 I come stacked with an emergency kit FULL of supplies and I know how to keep the day running. I’ve literally photographed AND guided the bridal party on when to walk down the aisle during the ceremony before. I’ve got this ;)!

Main Reception Events

Make sure special reception events (first dances, toasts, garter & bouquet toss, cake cutting, etc.) fall in the same timeframe as your photo and video coverage. If your videographers are scheduled to leave at 8 pm, but photo coverage ends at 10 pm, you may have planned for cake cutting to be at 9:30 pm before your photographer leaves, but then it won’t be caught on video! I will help arrange the timing, so neither one misses anything!

If you’ve received a timeline from other vendors:

I will work with you early on to create your perfect wedding day timeline. I craft it for you based on so many factors, so you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. With that said, if you receive any timelines from other vendors throughout the process that don’t match up to the one we’ve created, I need to know about it! If the videographer thinks first look is at 4 pm when it’s really at 2 pm, we might have a problem. If the venue or DJ doesn’t know you want to go out for sunset portraits and plan to do parent dances at that time, we might not be able to make it all happen! So, let me know what other vendors have communicated with you! We have to make sure every vendor is all on the same page!

Breathe – it’s going to all work out perfectly!

This is your day and it’s going to be perfect even if little details go a little differently than we planned. It’s our job to know how to reroute when things change. The most important part in all of this is your marriage that will last far beyond your wedding day. Your vendors are here for you to make everything run smoothly. Trust our expertise and let us help you plan a beautiful day that you can sit back and enjoy!

Ready to get to planning?! Let’s start the adventure!

Planning the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

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