Wedding Timeline 101

Most people have no idea how long it should (or does) take to get professional hair/makeup done for 4 people. Or how much time a photographer needs in the reception room, alone, to get details before the guests come and put down jackets, dirty napkins, etc. Or how long group shots take. Or the fact that they should have a 30 minute ‘cool down’ time before their ceremony, so they can soak it all in.

Wedding timelines are super important and yet, at the same time, overwhelming and daunting because no one taught us in grade school that your flowers should arrive before you even put on your wedding attire so I can get good detail shots of them. And I still don’t know all the state capitals. Ya, what happened there.

And yes- there are a million ways to do your wedding day. You can have your ceremony after dinner. You can have brunch instead of a afternoon wedding. You can get ready together. So yes, these things WILL change your timeline. But there are a lot of basic things that stay the same.

I’m NOT a wedding planner. Nope. But I want to share what I have found works, things to think about, and tips to make things go a little bit easier. Your timeline is what will keep all your vendors on track, you wedding flowing, and deserves some special attention and energy. Create and give all your wedding vendors a timeline. Give your attendants/close family that need to show up for special things a timeline customized for them.

Start your timeline from your wedding ceremony time and work back. Then work from the ceremony on. Remember, photography is all about the light. Timing for photos is very individual based on time of year.

So let’s start: For this example wedding timeline, let’s say the wedding ceremony starts at 5pm. This is the first 1/2 of the wedding timeline.

  • 4:30- Block off 30 minutes before your ceremony to chill, hide from early guests, and soak it all up. The ceremony site should be 100% setup as I’m taking detail shots at this point.
  • 3:40- I need at least 45 minutes to do couple shots. If you would like to go to multiple locations or stray away from the venue, add an extra 30 minutes to an hour. I love love love going to multiple locations for couple shots. Talk to me about the time of year your wedding is so we can plan on shooting during the most beautiful light.
  • 3:10- Tell all your family to arrive 10 minutes before to ensure everyone is there. Tell them they have to be on time because we have no wiggle room. They should have their jackets, shoes, everything on and ready to take photos. Purses, glasses, cameras and other things should be already put down and away. In 30 minutes, we can shoot around 12 different groupings of people. Give everyone involved a copy of the group shot list so they know how many photos will be taken and in what order. This *really* helps.
  • 3:00- First look. Some of my favorite photos. About 95% of my couples do a first look before the ceremony so we have plenty of time for couple shots and I can capture the look of you two seeing each other for the first time waaaay better than I ever could at the ceremony. It’s priceless. The first look should be wherever we are going to do couple’s portraits so build in travel time if you’re not getting ready at the venue.
  • 2:30 – If you’re wearing one, start putting on the dress. 30 minutes allows you to zip up the dress, put on shoes, jewelry, etc. Suit-wearers usually need about 15-20 minutes. If you have a lace up/corset back, you need at least 45 minutes *just to put the dress on* and then 15 minutes for shoes and accessories.
  • 2:15- All attendants should be completely dressed and ready to help put on the dress/suit.
  • 1:30- If you have them, flowers arrive. I need detail shots of any flowers for the couple.
  • 1:00-1:45- I’m getting detail shots of the dress/suit/wedding attire, shoes, veil, etc
  • 1:00- Start hair and makeup for the bride, if there is one. All attendants should have their hair/makeup done before the bride if done professionally. If there are two brides, talk to your hair/makeup person about if they feel they need more than one person doing hair/makeup. Hair and makeup takes at least 45 minutes each per person (meaning 90 minutes per person to get their hair/makeup both done). I cannot emphasize enough allotting enough time for this – a good hair and makeup person needs this amount of time. If you have more than 4 people who want their hair and makeup done, you should 100% hire a separate hair and makeup person. For grooms, allot 30 minutes for taking a shower, washing your face with anti-oil wash (I have products I love that really help make dudes shine free for the day), do your hair, put on chapstick (who wants dry/cracked lips in their pics?), and dust on some loose powder on your T zone.

Next week? The second half of the general timeline!


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