The Ultimate Wedding Day Timeline

Planning your wedding day timeline may be the most important thing you can do to minimize stress throughout your special day. Having a clear wedding day timeline will help to eliminate any confusion and scheduling conflicts, and it’ll keep everyone on the same page. The more detailed you can make your timeline, the better!

I am a wedding photographer myself, and if you are one of my amazing couples, I help you curate the perfect timeline for your special day so you don’t have to! However, if you are a bride/couple stumbling across this blog post for the very first time and you don’t know where to start, I am here to help. Whether you’re working with a planner, a day-of coordinator, or you have an amazing photographer helping you with your timeline, first familiarize yourself with how long each wedding activity generally takes. To help with this, I’ve outlined wedding day timeline blocks to help you get started. Then, you’ll be ready to create a wedding itinerary specific to your needs. Keep in mind, a wedding day timeline is NOT a “one size fits all”. So, I definitely recommend having a coordinator, planner, your photographer, your mom, etc. help you finalize your timeline details!

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Creating Your Timeline

Before creating your wedding day timeline, familiarize yourself with the general time it takes for each activity. Keep in mind that each time block can be altered to fit YOUR wedding day — this will simply help you figure out how long everything should take. Below, I have outlined an 8-hour wedding day timeline WITH a first look. If you are planning to not do a first look, your timeline will look quite a bit different. I absolutely love the idea of couples doing a first look. It allows for so much freedom within your wedding day timeline!

Photographer Arrives: 2:00pm

I recommend allotting 2-3 hours for you and your bridesmaids to get ready before the photographer arrives. The wedding photographer should arrive approximately 45 minutes prior to the bride being fully ready. This will allow some time for the photographer to capture all of your wedding details, such as your invitation suite, rings, dress, shoes, any heirloom items, etc.

Robe/PJ Shots: 2:40 – 2:50pm

These are always super fun! Right before getting into your dress, definitely take a few minutes to get some shots with your girls in your robes/pj’s. This is always such a special moment and one my couples love!

Bride Gets Dressed: 2:50 – 3:10pm

Typically, it doesn’t take but 10 minutes for you (the bride) to get into your dress. By this time, you and your bridesmaids should be ready to go, and your photographer will either photograph a first look with you and your girls, or they will capture them helping you button up your dress and putting on your shoes. This makes for some amazing getting ready shots!

Groom Gets Dressed: 2:50 – 3:10pm

If you purchased a wedding photography package that includes a second photographer, more than likely the second photographer will be photographing the groom and his groomsmen while your main photographer is photographing you and your bridesmaids getting ready. Having a second photographer is an absolute blessing on wedding days, so I highly recommend making sure a second photographer is included.

First Look With Dad: 3:15 – 3:30pm

As a daddy’s girl myself, this is always one of my favorite moments during wedding days. However, a first look can be with anyone you’d like. I do recommend having a first look with someone super close and special to you, such as dad, grandpa, mom, brother, best friend, etc. This always adds that extra element of surprise to your wedding gallery.

First Look With Spouse: 3:30 – 3:45pm

As previously mentioned, I LOVE when my couples do a first look. It adds so much freedom and flexibility to your timeline. One of the main reasons I love first looks is it really allows for that moment to be shared between just you and your spouse. You are able to soak up every minute of that moment with no one else around, just you and your spouse. Also, from a photographer’s standpoint, having a first look allows us more time to photograph that moment between you both. It allows so much more creative freedom from our side when photographing this moment as well. We are able to have control over lighting and location when choosing where to do the first look, thus producing beautiful and consistent images for this moment.

Bride & Groom Portraits: 3:45 – 4:30pm

I love to take my time with my couples during their bride and groom portraits. Having at least 30 minutes for these portraits will give ample time for your photographer to capture a myriad of beautiful photos of you both. After bride and groom portraits, I usually take a few moments to capture some portraits of just the groom and of just the bride!

Wedding Party Portraits: 4:30 – 5:00pm

This is also another time block where a second photographer comes in handy! For the first 15 minutes, this is when the main photographer will capture the bride with her bridesmaids and the second photographer will capture the groom with his groomsmen. Once those portraits are done, the main photographer will utilize the remaining 15 minutes for full wedding party portraits.

Bride + Groom are Hidden: 5:00 – 5:30pm

About 30 minutes prior to the ceremony start time, all bride and groom portraits and wedding party portraits are already taken care of. This allows for the bride and groom to rest before the ceremony begins. During this time, both the main photographer and second photographer will photograph the ceremony space and all of your reception details. Also, if you are running a little bit behind, it’s always a great idea to have a “buffer” in your timeline, just in case.

Ceremony: 5:30 – 6:00pm

This is the time block that varies the most for a wedding day timeline. The ceremony time slot really depends on the type of ceremony you’re having. Typically, non-religious ceremonies last around 20 minutes, while religious-based ceremonies can last up to an hour. Also, I recommend your ceremony start time be 5:30pm for a spring/fall wedding, 6:00pm or 6:30pm for a summer wedding, and 4:30pm for a winter wedding.

Family Formals: 6:00 – 6:20pm

Family formals typically follow the ceremony. Here’s a huge tip – make a list of all family members that will be participating in family formals. As your photographer, I send out a Final Details Questionnaire that asks for all family members, by name, that will be photographed following the ceremony (example: Bride + Groom with Bride’s parents, Joe and Sarah). It not only helps family formals go so much quicker, but it allows for organization to take place when dealing with a lot of family members.

Grand Entrance & First Dance: 6:30 – 6:50pm

By this time, all of your guests should be seated at their table waiting to welcome you and your new spouse! Typically, couples like to go right in to their first dance with each other as well as the father/daughter and mother/son dances.

Dinner Is Served & Reception Begins: 6:50 – 7:00pm

Depending on the length of the first dances, dinner is served around 7:00pm. I recommend allotting 30-40 minutes for your guests to eat comfortably before dancing begins.

Open Dance Floor: Starting at 7:45pm

Open dance floor begins and your guests are free to mingle!

Cake Cutting, Toasts, Games, Bouquet Toss, Garter Toss: 8:45 – 9:15pm

This allows for a full hour of open dance floor to let your guests become acclimated to the reception vibes. Depending on the traditions you are observing, you may need more/less time for this time block.

Final Dances of the Night: 9:15 – 9:45pm

Having about 30 minutes towards the end of the night for final dances allows for a little bit more time for you and your guests to enjoy any last minute festivities.

Private Last Dance: 9:45 – 9:50pm

This is the perfect opportunity to have one last final dance with your new spouse before embarking into married life. During your final dance, your guests will be directed outside for a sparkler grand exit.

Sparkler Grand Exit: 9:55pm

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Your guests will be lined up on either side waiting to congratulate you with sparklers as you embark on this new journey!! You are off to your happily ever after!

Photographers Leave: 10:00pm

Every timeline will NOT look the same. It can definitely vary drastically depending on the traditions observed. However, I cannot stress enough how important it is to create a timeline that is specific to your wedding day needs. This brings so much organization to your wedding day, and it also helps all of your participating vendors stay on the same page!

It doesn’t have to end here…check out more of this Dallas Wedding Photographer’s work by clicking over to our portfolio, or visit our Instagram page here. You’ve seen it all and want to reach out to contact us for your own portrait session, wedding or event? You can do that by contacting us through our contact form!

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