Building the PERFECT Wedding Timeline

Wedding Planning

Let’s face it, creating a wedding timeline is not the most fun part of wedding planning. We want to think about the dress, the florals, the cake, and all of that fun, pretty stuff!! Creating a timeline can be STRESSFUL. Especially when you realize how much you want to do and how much time all of that takes. After all, you’ve probably been dreaming about this day your whole life.

Christi, here. I loved my wedding. It was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Not everything went perfectly, and that’s okay! My husband and I were married and had our closest friends there, and that’s all we really wanted! If I were to go back and change one thing, it’s not the colors, or the food, or the flowers, or anything like that. It’s not even be the stressful night before when we couldn’t get into our venue until 2 hours after we were supposed to to set up. Nope, it’s none of that. If there is anything I would change, it’s that I would have added MORE TIME in our wedding timeline.

Stephanie & I have both photographed a lot of weddings, and we’ve always known the importance of having a solid timeline, but there are some things that I just didn’t know until I lived through a wedding myself. So today I want to offer up my advice on having a perfect wedding timeline!

Building the Perfect Wedding Timeline

As photographers, we’re always thinking about light. There are certain times of day that the light is more flattering, and there are certain indoor locations that have better light than others. As a bride, you may not think about this! But that’s why we’re here! One of the main things to consider when building your wedding timeline is lighting!!

Consider the Lighting

If you aren’t planning a first look, but you want to have a candlelit wedding, that means all your images will be after dark!! While definitely possible, you’ll be limited to artificial light, not natural light. Let’s say you are planning a 2PM wedding with a first look. Odds are most of your portraits will be done in the middle of the day. If it’s a really hot day, you’ll want to plan extra time for breaks from the heat. If you’re at a venue with no available shade, then you might want to consider traveling to a different location for portraits and including that time in your timeline. Lighting plays a huge factor the timelines I create for my brides!!

(P.S. On the fence about a first look? Check out my posts on why I love first looks and how to have the best portraits when you don’t do a first look!)

Being Realistic About the Coverage Needed

We get a lot of questions about people wanting to book just a few hours of coverage. We get it! Wedding photography is expensive!! Some people expect to only need a couple of hours to capture all of the photos. Then they just add a little bit for the ceremony and reception. The truth is that weddings aren’t normal days!! They are full of nerves, excitement, and IMPORTANCE. If someone is running late, we can’t just forget about it and move on. We have to get the shots! So we have to consider that when we plan.

Also, taking group photos simply takes time! It takes time to locate and organize everyone and get them listening to the directions of the photographer. This takes A LOT more time than you would think! Especially because people want to be talking to you and celebrating and not having their photos taken. 🙂

Another question we get a lot is about doing all the photos between the ceremony and the reception. They say “we don’t want a first look, but we do want to take the majority of the photos before the ceremony.” What most people don’t realize is just how many photos need to be taken after the ceremony if there is no first look!! We have all of the family portraits, all of the full bridal party portraits, and all of the couple portraits!! Think about every family grouping that you want and how long it will take to get all your siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles ready for a photo. That’s why I always tell my couples who plan their portraits between the ceremony and reception to plan on it taking one hour. Realistically that is how long it takes! And we will be RUSHING to do that in one hour.

Consider Modern Photography Standards

Most often, we get questions about why we plan so much time for photography from mothers-of-the-bride. That’s because traditionally, couples snapped a few photos of their family, bridal party, and the two of them and then they were on their way to the reception. They simply didn’t need a lot of time for photos. Film was expensive, so most people our parents age just have a few photos from their wedding.

But with the advent of modern photography, we have the freedom to take more photographs and be more creative with our lighting, posing, and locations to make the portraits feel more natural. If you want gorgeous portraits of the two of you like the ones you see on Pinterest, you will need more than 5 minutes. We pride ourselves on working fast and efficiently on wedding days. But these things take time!

Build a Cushion

The truth about weddings is that inevitably, something will go wrong. Maybe your dress takes longer to get into than you were expecting. Maybe a groomsman gets stuck in traffic and arrives late. Things like that always happen! That’s why creating a cushion in your wedding timeline is SO IMPORTANT. Rarely do we finish wedding days where everything went exactly as planned and every aspect of the day was on time. Real life is always different than we plan on paper! The important thing to do is to be READY for these things to happen. Adding 10 minutes here and there during your timeline will save you a whole lot of nerves!!!

Savoring the Moment

Finally, it’s important that you build enough time into your wedding timeline to SAVOR THE MOMENT. After all, you are getting MARRIED and you won’t get to relive the day once it’s over!! Remember how I said that I wish I had more time at my wedding? I was thinking about saving money on the venue, the photography, and quite frankly, getting to my honeymoon as quickly as possible. I had a shorter timeline, and the truth is, it wasn’t enough!!

My wedding was a morning wedding, and I only had a small amount of time planned for the portraits with my bridesmaids. I didn’t want to ask them to get up any earlier than I already had, and I was sure that the time I allotted would be enough. Well, we ended up behind schedule and we FLEW through the bridesmaids portraits. I didn’t get to stop and savor the moment of having all of my friends in one place!! Also, when we got to our reception, we barely had time to breathe before it was time to leave!!

The best piece of advice we can give to you as you plan the wedding of your dreams is to take it slow!! Make sure there is time to stop and savor the moment!! No matter how long you have for your timeline, your wedding day will fly by. You’ll get to the end and think, “wow, it’s already over?! I’ve been planning this forever and now that’s it!” But you will feel so much better afterwards if you weren’t rushing all day and feeling stressed that you weren’t going to make it to the ceremony on time!!

We absolutely love helping our brides come up with the perfect wedding timeline. If you’ve got the timeline woes, let’s chat! We’d love to help!!! You can contact us today!

Happy Planning,

– Stephanie & Christi

This post was originally published on Christi’s website.

Don’t forget to Pin to Pinterest!

Stephanie & Christi


  1. […] 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 […]

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We firmly believe that getting to know our couples is the BEST way to ensure they have an amazing experience. Our process is designed to put your worries at ease. With over 20 years of combined experience, the beauty of working with us is that we are both there for you 100% on your wedding day. We're more than a photographer and an assistant. We're partners who trust each other fiercely and you can trust us too!

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