FAQ: Creating a Wedding TimelineAugust 8, 2012

One of the hardest things we had to do when planning our wedding was to figure out the flow of the day. And I had worked with a wedding photographer for two years! I can’t imagine trying to tackle the schedule with no idea where to start.

While often times planners and even caterers help with the day’s flow, my couples don’t always have planners, and even if they do, I am more than happy to give my insight into the schedule, especially as it relates to photography. I never strive to be the sole schedule-maker, but I have found that brides (much like myself almost one year ago) have no idea what to expect and want assistance, even if it’s just to point them in the right direction.

About a month and a half before a wedding, I e-mail my couples the following things:

  • A must-take shots list
  • A vendors list
  • My “Get to Know You” form (which helps me fill in the details on their wedding blog post)
  • A request for a rough draft of their schedule or the pieces that need to be placed into a schedule

(More on those top three bullets later.) Once I receive a rough draft schedule or, more likely, questions about the schedule, I give suggestions on time frames, help pad times, and/or give the couple an idea of where things should fit into the day.

Here are two sample schedules that have worked well for 1) couples who choose to see each other before the ceremony (otherwise known as a first look) and 2) couples who choose to wait until the ceremony to see each other. These options look very different photography-wise because, obviously, portrait time is affected by when the couple will see each other. Let’s say the ceremony time is set for 4:30 p.m. (you can adjust based on your set times):

First Look Timeline

Noon—Getting ready photos + detail shots
1:15 p.m.—Bride gets the dress on
2 p.m.—First look; bride and groom portraits
3 p.m.—Wedding party photos*
3:30 p.m.—Family photos*
4 p.m.—Photos finished; bride and groom relax in respective rooms at ceremony location
4:30 p.m.—Ceremony
5 p.m.—Cocktail hour and/or reception (this is when I get reception detail shots)
5:30 p.m.(ish)—Wedding party announced into reception
5:45 p.m.—First dance(s)
6 p.m.—Dinner
6:15 p.m.—Toasts (usually during salad course)
7 p.m.—Cake cutting and/or dancing begins
8 p.m.—Maaaybe sneak a couple more photos of bride and groom!
Shoot candids and dancing!

Traditional Timeline
2 p.m.— Getting ready photos + detail shots
3:15 p.m.—Bride gets the dress on
4 p.m.—Bride and groom relax in respective rooms at ceremony location
4:30 p.m.—Ceremony
5 p.m.—Family photos
5:30 p.m.—Bride and groom portraits and wedding party photos
6:45 p.m.—Wedding party announced into reception (if at all possible, I try to sneak in first for detail shots)
7 p.m.—First dance(s)
7:15 p.m.—Dinner
7:30 p.m.—Toasts (usually during salad course)
8:15 p.m.—Cake cutting and/or dancing begins
9 p.m.—Maaaybe sneak a couple more photos of bride and groom!
Shoot candids and dancing!

*I usually suggest that the wedding party and family members are told to arrive 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time. Traffic happens, wardrobe malfunctions happen … it’s always best to give yourself a few extra minutes so you can roll with the punches.

I’m all about being creative with your timeline too! But I hope this helps you soon-to-be-brides get started.

Creating a Wedding Timeline

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