Wedding Day Timeline Example

Wedding Planning

When our clients first book us as their photographer, one of the first things we begin to tackle is the wedding day timeline! We get asked a lot of questions about timelines. Some people ask why we really need 8 hours of shooting. Wedding photography has changed A LOT even in the last 5-10 years. That means a lot of people don’t know what to expect! And some people ask us if 8 hours will really be enough because they think their day will be longer! While it’s true that some couples don’t need a full 8 hours, and some people do end up booking 10 hours, 8 hours is pretty typical, so we are going to walk you guys through a standard 8-hour wedding timeline! Be sure to also check out our other post on timelines: Tips for Building the Perfect Wedding Timeline

Wedding Day Timeline Logistics

Detail Shots: 45 mins

We start the day shooting detail shots! We absolutely LOVE detail shots!! This is at the beginning of the day so we can get our creative juices flowing early. Also, doing it early ensures we have lots of time to capture them without rushing or when guests start arriving! Detail shots includes the dress, rings, invitations, programs, the bride’s shoes and jewelry, her perfume, and any heirlooms or keepsakes like something old or something blue! Maybe even her bouquet too! We spend about 45 minutes shooting details. The dress definitely takes the longest because we have to find a great place to photograph the dress. Plus, we’re extra careful when transporting the dress because we don’t want it wrinkling or getting dirty! We shoot details where the bride is getting ready so we can capture some getting ready shots of her and her girls.

If the guys are close by, one of us will go hang out with them while the other is shooting the details. We can then photographs them hanging out together and getting on their coats and ties. If there are any groom details, we’ll photograph that too! Groom details can include his shoes, tie, cuff links, watch, cologne, and anything else! We usually grab some casual group shots of the guys as well before we meet back up for the first look!

Wedding Timeline Logistics

Bridal Prep: 30-45 mins

Next is where it all starts to get real! After the detail shots, the bride can get into her dress. After she’s slipped it on, I take the girls and the bride’s mom to a space with some great natural light and we do some bridal prep shots! I’ll have the bride put on her shoes, jewelry, and perfume. I’ll also get a shot of her mom or maid of honor zipping her in her dress. My favorite shot to get is the bridal “primping” shot! That’s where I get all the girls together to play with different parts of the bride’s dress. These are where the girls get to have fun together! Last but not least, I get some indoor bridal portraits of the bride by herself! I like to allow a lot of time for this so we aren’t rushed!

First Look: 15-30 mins

Ahhhh the moment you’ve been waiting for!! The moment the groom gets to see his bride for the first time!! This is my FAVORITE part of the day!! The nerves start to melt away once you see each other! Plus, the groom is able to enjoy seeing his bride without a hundred set of eyes on him. Some couples only want 5 mins for their first look before we go into couple portraits, but some couples like to plan a lot of alone time together. This is the ONLY alone time for the bride and groom on their entire wedding day! So I like to make sure they have enough time to talk and enjoy being together!

Couple Portraits: 30-45 mins

I like to have at least 30 minutes of the wedding timeline dedicated to just the bride and groom for their couple portraits! This ensures that we’ll have the standard, must-have shots, but we also have time for some more creative and fun shots!! These are the images you’ll frame in your house and put in your albums. You’ll be showing these to your grandkids one day! Sometimes I only get 10 minutes with my couple if we are running behind, but I like to plan as much time as possible!

Bridal Party Portraits: 30 mins

Now the fun beings! Having your closest friends together to celebrate is a blast! I spend about 10 minutes with the full bridal party, and then my second shooter and I split up and I take the girls while she takes the guys! We spend about 20 minutes with each group capturing shots together as well as individual shots of the bride or groom with each of their bridal party members. If we have more time, I’ll even snap some individual shots of each bridesmaid or groomsman alone! You probably spent a lot of money on your dress or suit, so it’s nice to have a portrait for yourself!

Bride Hidden Away: 45 mins

I’ve seen some guests arrive as early as 45 minutes before the ceremony before! So I like to make sure the bride gets back into the bride’s room 45 mins before the ceremony. We don’t want to spoil the surprise for the guests! During this time my second and shooter and I are probably capturing the ceremony detail shots, reception detail shots if it’s in the same venue, and candids of the guests arriving and bridal party and family interacting!!

Ceremony: 40 mins

It’s time to get married!! Typical ceremonies usually take about 30 minutes, but some take longer! This all depends on the individual wedding. If your ceremony lasts 30 mins, I like to add 10 minutes of time for hugging your friends and family and celebrating with your new SPOUSE! This also allows time for the guests to exit to the reception while my second shooter and I prep for the family photos.

Family Portraits: 30 mins

Some couples choose to do the family portraits before the ceremony. This works great because then they can just go straight to the reception after the wedding and their guests don’t have to be kept waiting! But most of the time we do the family portraits afterwards when all the family members are there. I plan 30 minutes for the family photos because no matter how small your family is, there are a lot of groupings of photos to take! I am often able to get it done quicker, but we build 30 minutes into the wedding timeline so everyone knows what to expect!

Reception: 2-4 hours

Now it’s time to party!! Each reception is different and unique to the couple. Some people have a short and sweet reception, and others party all night long! If there will be a lot of dancing and you don’t want to cut the party short you don’t have to! I often stay for about an hour of dancing and then do a “fake” exit for photos! I’ll take the couple and the bridal party and family outside for getaway shots. This works great, because you can go right back and party as long as you want! Most guests won’t even know you’re gone! Most of the time I am able to stay for the entire reception, and I love that too!

Sunset Portraits: 10 mins

If the sun will set during the reception, I always suggest going out for a few minutes during dinner or dancing to do some sunset portraits!! Right before sunset is when the light is golden and the most flattering. It’s GORGEOUS! I usually take the couple out for just a few minutes, and most guests don’t even know they are gone!! These often end up being some of my favorite shots of the day!

Cushion Time: 30 mins

It’s also important to build in some cushion time into the timeline! This is time that we can use to take water breaks or snack breaks. But most often, people are running late, or something comes up and we use the cushion time at some point during the day! Maybe the guys forgot to pin on their boutonnieres so we have to spend a few minutes doing that, or maybe we have to drive to where the guys are getting ready to pickup the groom’s ring for photos, or maybe someone gets a stain on their dress and we need to use the tide to go pen for a few mins!! You won’t regret building in cushion time, but you will regret not having enough time!!

Wedding Day Timeline Example

Altogether, here is what a timeline for a 5PM wedding might look like! Here we have some cushion time built into the bridal prep time and the bridal party portraits.

1:00PM – Details/Getting Ready Shots
1:45PM – Bride Gets into Dress
2:00PM – Bridal “Primping” Shots
2:15PM – Indoor Bridal Portraits
2:30PM – First Look
2:45PM – Couple Portraits
3:30PM – Bridal Party
4:15PM – Bride Hidden Away
5:00PM – Ceremony
5:40PM – Family Portraits
6:10PM – Reception
7:30PM – 10-Minute Sunset Portraits
9:00PM – Getaway

There you have it! That’s the wedding timeline basics. You can see how it starts to add up and we really can use the whole 8 hours! If you want help building your own wedding timeline, feel free to contact us! We’d love to hear from you!

Happy Planning!

– Stephanie and Christi

This post was originally posted on Christi’s website:

Don’t forget to Pin this to Pinterest!

Stephanie & Christi


  1. […] to have a timeline (and to leave yourself a little breathing room in case things fall behind)! Here’s an example of a wedding day timeline. Hopefully your wedding photographer has created or helped to […]

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