Creating a Wedding Day Timeline | For Brides Mini Series | Putting it All Together

We are finally at the last post in the four-part mini series for brides! How exciting?!? If you've been following along with the series, you know that I've covered several different topics, as well as provided numerous tips & tricks to maximize your wedding photography experience. As a bride, you've spend countless hours nailing down all of your details for your big day and now it's time to put it all together and create an ideal wedding day timeline that flows seamlessly from event to event. While your timeline will be unique to you, there are certain aspects that are very important to take into consideration, and as your photographer, I will work closely with you to create a timeline that will ensure your day will flow smoothly from beginning to end! First, I want to share five things to consider when creating your wedding day timeline...

Allow time for what's important to you. I always ask couples during the planning process to really think about what's most important to them and what their wishes are for their photography experience. In the wedding questionnaire that I send to all of my clients before the big day, I ask them what the five most important shots of the day are. Obviously moments like the First Kiss or the First Dance are always my top priorities, but it's important for me to know what else is important to you. Maybe getting ready pictures with your sisters and bridesmaids is a really special time for you. Or perhaps you would like to spend more time on bride & groom portraits and less time on wedding party portraits. Or maybe you really want a lot of candids from the dance to reflect what a blast your guests had at your party. Either way, it's crucial for you to think about this before the big day arrives and to communicate your wishes with your photographer so that he/she can be best prepared to deliver a collection of images that are truly special to you. By communicating what's most important to you, your photographer can adjust the timeline to best reflect your wishes.

Plan buffer time. Rarely do wedding timelines run on time. And that's ok because they are simply meant to be a guide of the events of the day. However, it's really important to plan buffer time in the timeline to accommodate for delays. One thing that is frequently overlooked is travel time in between portrait locations. Let's say you want to do portraits at the State Capitol, Monona Terrace, and the Memorial Union. You must consider factors such as traffic, parking, mode of transportation, construction, and other events that are going on in the area that day. Often these things are beyond our control and can really throw a wrench in the timeline. Another thing that I educate my clients on is the receiving line. Depending on the number of guests present, a receiving line can last 15-30 minutes, and I've seen them as long as 45 minutes. This is something to consider as it takes away from portrait time. Adding buffer time in your timeline creates a cushion so that if things start to run behind, you're not scrambling to catch up or even worse, sacrificing things that are important to you. Because let me tell you, doing wedding party portraits in 10 minutes is not ideal! 

Consider the time of year. The time of year of your wedding dictates one of the most important aspects of! So as a photographer, I am always thinking about this! A timeline for a wedding in June can look very different than a wedding in late October. For example, if you are planning an outdoor ceremony in June at 4:00pm, the sun will still be high in sky. However, it late October, the sun will already be setting by 4:00pm. This is completely fine if you want a sunset ceremony. You may just want to consider doing most, if not all, of your portraits before the ceremony when the lighting is best. This is also important to note with sunset portraits. Most of my clients opt to do sunset portraits because it allows more alone time for the bride & groom with some of the best light of the day...golden hour. However, planning for sunset portraits can be a little tricky later in the year as it often coincides with dinner and/or speeches. Lucky for me, I have an app on my phone that tells me the exact time of sunset, down to the minute, based on my location. Therefore, I can always sneak the bride & groom away at some point, even if it's just for a few minutes. 

Trust your vendors. As a very type A person, I know how hard it can be to relinquish control on your big day. However, if you've spent time curating your wedding day dream team, odds are everything will run just as planned. You can't enjoy your day if you're constantly worrying about how the centerpieces look, if the cupcakes on the dessert stand are positioned properly, or if the dinner slideshow is set up right. If you have communicated openly with your vendors about your wishes for your big day, then trust that they will do their job to the best of their abilities. If you are still worried about everything coming together on your big day, consider hiring a day-of coordinator to help. 

Relax & enjoy your day. This goes without saying, right?!? The last thing you should be thinking about on your wedding day is your timeline. That's why it's so important to meet & talk with your photographer beforehand to really smooth out any little wrinkles and make sure that you are all on the same page. Once you've made clear your wishes and created a timeline, your photographer can take care of the rest. Your job is to relax, enjoy your day, and be fully present in each and every fleeting moment!

As a little bonus, I've put together two sample wedding day timelines based on eight hours of coverage:

With a First Look:
12:30 - Photographer arrives (about 30 minutes prior to the start of contracted start time to greet bride & groom and scope out portrait locations)
1:00 - Detail shots (dress/veil, shoes, rings, invitation suite, bouquets, ceremony space, etc.)
1:30 - Bride gets into her dress/getting ready pictures
1:45 - First Look/Bride & Groom portraits
2:30 - Combined Wedding Party portraits
3:30 - Done with portraits, guests arrive
4:00 - Ceremony
4:30 - Family Formals
5:00 - Cocktail Hour (candids during this time)
6:00 - Grand Entrance
6:15 - Dinner
7:30 - Sunset Portraits with Bride & Groom
8:15 - First Dances
8:30 - Open Dancing Begins
9:00 - Photographer departs

Without a First Look:
12:30 - Photographer arrives
1:00 - Detail Shots
1:30 - Bride gets into her dress/getting ready pictures
1:45 - Separate Wedding Party portraits (Bride & Bridesmaids, Groom & Groomsmen)
2:30 - Done with portraits, guests arrive
3:00 - Ceremony
3:30 - Family Formals
4:00 - Combined Wedding Party portraits
4:45 - Bride & Groom portraits
5:30 - Cocktail Hour
6:15 - Grand Entrance
6:30 - Dinner
7:30 - Sunset Portraits
8:00 - First Dances
8:15 - Open Dancing Begins
9:00 - Photographer departs

There you have it! My hope is that you have found some of these tips helpful & can use them as you start the wedding planning process. If you'd like to learn more tips or missed the last posts in the "For Brides" series, you can check them out here! If you have any questions or want to reach out about working together, I've love to hear from you!