Planning A Wedding Timeline

Wedding Program, Favor, and Veil lying on pink cloth.

Happy Valentine’s Day! For all of those brides to be, I am answering a serious question today: How do I start planning a wedding timeline!?

Planning the Wedding Day timeline might be one of the most challenging parts of the planning process. All of the small details you meticulously picked are colliding into a 6-12+ hour event. As a photographer, I frequently help brides plan their wedding day timelines, and here are a few things that I have learned along the way.

BIG CONSIDERATIONS when planning a wedding timeline:

There a few big events that will ultimately help you finalize your wedding day timeline.


The start time of your ceremony will help you determine when to start your wedding day festivities. If you have a 10am ceremony time, you will need to have a condensed pre-ceremony timeline, but you are open to a flexible post-ceremony timeline. If your ceremony starts at 7pm, you will need to plan more things throughout the day leading up to the ceremony.


The first look is a huge decision when discussing a wedding day timeline. It is one of the first decisions you need to make in order to accurately plan your timeline. Your wedding day timeline can look completely different based on if you include a first look.

Still on the fence about the first look? Check out our post about it! The First Look: Pros,Cons, & Flowcharts


This is also based on your personal preference.

  • Situation 1: You may want the wedding day to be relaxing and filled with down time that you can spend with your family and close friends. In this case, you should plan a timeline that schedules events farther apart.
  • Situation 2: You could be the type of person that would like to have an orderly and upbeat schedule (or you want to sleep as long as possible), so all of your events are close together and start/end promptly.
  • Situation 3: You would like your wedding day to be somewhere in between Situation 1 & 2

In the first situation, you would want to start the wedding day earlier. If you like the second situation, you can either start your day later in the day or take more time for each event. If you agree with situation 3, your schedule might have times of constant movement and then times set aside to relax.


This section is devoted to how much time each event in your wedding day will take, so you can accurate plan your big day!

***You may be thinking, Surely, it does not take that long to take pictures! You must realize that the allotted 1 hour is not continuous photography. You must add in extra time to gather/find those who will be in the pictures, pose each group or individual, change poses, convince any children to smile, and possibly change locations for each group/individual. If you have a wedding party of 15 people, the time will add up quickly.***

1. GETTING READY – WOMEN (1-2+ hours)

Hair. Make-up. Dress. Accessories. Usually, hair and make-up take about 0.5-1 hour each. Putting on the dress and accessories could take 5-30 minutes (someone has to fasten all of those buttons….). Add in the time it takes to drive where you need to go, and you are looking at an hour or two at least.

2. GETTING READY MEN (0.5-1 hour)

(Believe it or not) Men usually take much less time getting ready. They may need to bathe, shave, and put on their wedding attire.

3.THE FIRST LOOK (15 minutes)

The first look is usually quick and leads directly into portraits of the bride and groom.

4. BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS (~0.5 hour)

This section really depends on your preference. If you are not keen to have fanciful shots of you and your new spouse, it could take 20 minutes. If you would like many different poses and locations, it could easily take an hour.


The size of your bridal party will greatly affect the amount of time you need for portraits before the ceremony. If you have 2 bridesmaids and groomsmen each, the wedding party section of the portraits might only take ~30 minutes. If you have 10 bridesmaids and groomsmen each, the time greatly increases to accommodate the large number of people to be photographed.

6. FAMILY PORTRAITS (~0.5 hour)

This section is very similar to the bridal party section. There are two good questions to ask: “How big are our families?” and “Who do I want pictures with?” If you have extremely large families and you would like pictures with everyone individually, in small groups, and all together, it will take an hour or two. If you do not have many relatives or pick which relative you must have pictures with, it could take 30 minutes. All in all, it is best to decide if you need a pre-ceremony portrait or a reception picture with your great aunts second cousin.

7. DETAILS (all day)

The photographer will usually take numerous pictures of the details for your ceremony. These are usually not during a certain time block but are completed throughout the day as the photographer has time and things are ready. However, the photographer will probably ask for your dress, rings, bouquets, invitations, etc.

8. TRAVEL TIME (0-1 hour)

Are you traveling to different locations during the wedding day? Make sure to include those times into your timeline!

9. ARRIVAL OF GUESTS (30 min before ceremony)

Guests will start arriving about 30 minutes before the ceremony begins. So you will need to make sure that you and your bridal party are hidden away!

10. THE CEREMONY (~30 minutes)

Yay!!! You are getting married!!!!

11. SOCIAL HOUR (1-1.5 hours)

If you choose to do pictures after the ceremony, you will need to fit them in between the ceremony and the reception.

12. THE RECEPTION (~2-6+ hours)

Receptions times vary greatly depending on the events you have planned. Here are some common reception events and times:

  • Bridal Party Entrance (10 minutes)
  • Dinner or Hors d’oeuvres (1-1.5 hours)
  • Toasts (15-30 minutes during dinner)
  • First Dances (15 minutes)
  • Cutting the Cake (10 minutes)
  • Bouquet Toss (10 minutes)
  • Garter Toss (10 minutes)
  • Dancing (???)

So, how do you put this altogether? I have included four model timelines to help you figure that out! Keep in mind, your timeline will probably look different than this, and that is okay!

  1. First Look Timeline
  2. Traditional Timeline

Wedding Timeline with first look
Traditional wedding timeline


Ready for More Resources Like Planning A Wedding Timeline?

Check out my “For Brides” Category for all of my wedding tips!



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