Creating the Ideal Wedding Day Timeline

From the Experts

The timeline for your wedding day is one of the most overwhelming things to sort out. Your hair and makeup team are asking one set of questions, while your catering team is asking for entirely different detailsand yet, somehow, those two things (and much, much more) have to synchronize their timing so that you arrive on time to your ceremony and dinner starts when it’s supposed to. How can you manage all of that? Well, the easiest answer would be to hire a wedding planner. But if that’s not the answer you were hoping for, I find starting with the photography schedule most helpful. 

You might think I’m completely bias, but your photographer is one of the few vendors you are coordinating with that is with you throughout the entire day, intersecting with the schedules of both hair and makeup teams, along with catering. In my opinion, the ideal wedding day timeline is a delicate balance between efficient formal photos (let’s be honest: no one is that excited about having their photo taken!) and flexibility to allow for life’s unexpected moments. No where else is Murphy’s Law truer than on a wedding day (you’ll need an extra 15 minutes when your trolley gets stuck in traffic or one elevator ride isn’t enough for your bridal party). As someone who has spent a decade managing complex wedding timelines (have you ever been to a multi-day Hindu wedding?!), I know where to pad the schedule for extra time and when to hustle so you don’t keep anyone anxiously waiting. 

Here are my secrets to a perfect wedding day photo itinerary as a framework for a day full of making memories, not worrying about people being in the right place at the right time.

Getting Ready: Minimium 1.5 hours
Typically, my second photographer starts with me in the morning to document candids of ladies getting ready while I begin capturing the delicate detailsrings, dress, invitation, perfume, jewelry, purses, shoes, etc. But it really depends on how many details you incorporate into your day. For example, if you have a particularly large invitation suite, we often prefer coordinating with your planner to shoot many of the details the day prior. You’d be surprised how long it takes to style everything just perfectly! In documenting the details separately, we can arrive focused on documenting all the fun with your friends hanging out and getting ready in the morning.

First Look: 30 minutes
I use this time loosely because, ultimately, I will let the two of you take as much time as you need for a moment alone together. This is too important a moment to be rushed. If I need to adjust my timing for other formal photos after, I’ll make it happen. While we’re on the subject: Are you still on the fence about a First Look? Check out this post. 

Wedding Party: 45 minutes
This timing is highly dependent upon the size of your wedding party. For anything between a group of 6-10, this will work great. If your wedding party has more than five people on either side, then we may need to discuss extending this a bit. 

Immediate Family Photos: 45 minutes
Again, this estimate is dependent upon the size of your immediate family, but both the timing for family photos as well as wedding party tries to ensure a buffer in the event that things run a little behind. At the same time, I don’t plan in so much extra time that we lose everyone’s attention. 

Extended Family Photos: 30 minutes
For this portion of the day I’m assuming we are only taking large extended family groups. I.e. Everyone on your mom’s side of the family, all together (as opposed to each individual aunt and uncle’s family). You can safely assume about 10-15 minutes per group larger than 10 people. 

Ok, so the above sounds great, but how does all of this play out in a “real” timeline? Check out my sample timeline below. Remember it does not account for any additional travel needs. If you are getting ready at a different location than you are taking photos or need to travel to a church for your ceremony, you need to factor in that transportation time (and don’t forget, large group transportation vehicles like trolleys and buses do not drive as fast as the average commuter!). 


Example Wedding Day Timeline

11:00 – Photography begins
12:00/Noon – Dress on (Trust me, it will take longer than you think)
12:30 – First Look
1:00 – Wedding party photos
1:45 – Immediate family photos
2:30 – Stop all photos
(you want time to freshen up, take a breath and hide as guests begin to arrive before your ceremony!)
3:00 – Ceremony

From here on out, we typically roll with the timeline as dictated by the catering needs and fall deeply into the role of documentarian, photographing the night’s events as they happen. While we can’t control every element of your timeline, I hope this helps structure a reasonable run of show to guarantee a stress-free wedding day. If you are looking for more wedding planning, tips be sure to follow us on Instagram! I mix in random tips and thoughts amidst our real-life RMP couples featured.


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