6 Things to Consider for Your Wedding Day Timeline

I’ll be honest, when I first started shooting weddings I didn’t realize how much the timeline truly meant on the wedding day. I wasn’t married at the time and have only been in a handful a weddings so my personal experience was limited.

But as I continued to book weddings myself and second shoot for other very talented photographers I quickly realized how a well-thought-out timeline is key for a stress-free wedding day that will allow you to actually enjoy it!

Before I get into my tips, I think it is important to know WHY it is so important:

It literally maps out your day. From getting ready to your ceremony start time to your grand exit. Without it, you're lost and so are your vendors.

 So here are 6 great things to consider when thinking about your timeline:

1.     Getting Ready – Let me be real - this will take longer than you think. I mean yes, I can do my makeup in 10 min flat, but your wedding day makeup and hair styling will take a while – Its your wedding day and it has to be PERFECT. Therefore, it will take as long (if not longer) than what your makeup and stylist say. Also, if you are having your photographer capture you getting ready, make SURE to plan extra time for this. He/She will want to spend time with your details (shoes, jewelry, stationary suite, veil, dress) EVEN before you get into it. So factor in time for that along with extra time actually getting into your dress because the photographer and/or videographer may want you in certain light, near the window, or they may even want to move some stuff around to make sure they get that amazing moment for you. Also, many brides and grooms exchange gifts to each other and want that captured on film. This again takes minutes, but it adds up.

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2.     Transportation – This is a biggie. If your day will unfold at a number of locations you NEED to factor in travel time. And be realistic  - if your getting married on the Cape or in Boston, there will be traffic. The best suggestion I have is to try and get everything done as close as possible. Because if you fall behind on schedule you CANNOT make up for it with travel. So being close to your venue will help lessen time slippage.

3.     First Looks – This is a very personal decision between the bride and groom but if you decide to do a first look, you will need to front-load your schedule. Which means less time needed for photos later, but you will need to think about a few things.

  • You will need to make sure there is a good meeting place for the two of you within reason (see transportation above)

  • Factor at least 30 minutes just for the two of you alone

  • If you plan on doing wedding party and family photos after, this means they will have to get ready earlier in the day too – so just keep that in mind. Also, if you are planning to do these photos after the first look, plan on an hour with the wedding party and family.

  • Lighting – many times the first looks will happen more in the midday, meaning harsher light, especially in the summer months, not to mention it can be super hot. I recommend pre-selecting a first look location that provides shade and a place for reprieve as needed but keep in mind travel time (see transportation above)

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4.     Receiving Lines – Again, this is a personal decision whether to have/not have a receiving line after your ceremony. But still, many couples forget to account for this time. Receiving lines can go as long as 30 minutes. So if you plan on doing the majority of your photos after the ceremony, make sure to factor this into your timeline.


5.     Sunset Photos – Do you envision photos at sunset? Okay, grab your phone and download one of the many sunset apps to find out the exact time the sun will set on your wedding day. Depending on what time that is, you may or may not need to adjust some of your reception highlights to allow for the two of you to sneak away for some shots at sunset. Also, in the late summer months the sun sets close to 9PM. Make sure you have enough coverage with your photographer to account for this time!

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6.     Toasts – Oh boy. This is a tricky one, but I’d like to address it. Let me first say I LOVE the toasts. I literally cry almost every time. Or laugh hysterically like a dying hyena. But I have photographed some weddings where the toasts have taken 30+ minutes. If you are running behind, this can easily add time slippage. The issue is you may soon run out of time with your contracted photographer. If he/she is only paid until 9PM and toasts are still going on at 8:30PM and you haven’t cut the cake or done first dances this can easily start to cause undue stress on your wedding day. So I recommend you factor in at least 30 minutes for toasts.

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Hopefully those 6 tips will help you as you start to plan your wedding day timeline. Of course each day is different so as long as you take some time to map out your day in detail, you will have no problem nailing your wedding day timeline!

Recently engaged? Looking for a wedding photographer? Jessie Wyman has been shooting couples and weddings since 2013 and has worked at a variety of venues. Want to know more? Check out her blog or portfolio page for more information or contact her directly at jessiewymanphotos@gmail.com