There are so many things that go into planning a wedding, from the obvious florals, dress, venue, guest list and some that might not be so obvious until they are discussed. The big detail I am referring to in particular is the wedding day timeline. Im going to get into the nitty gritty here so hang with me. Your wedding timeline is going to be the most important thing you prepare for you wedding day. I will argue if you think otherwise! The timeline is the key to making sure your day runs smoothly, at least of course for the things you can control. It allows you to plan out every minute of your day so that you know what’s happening when and where. Another reason why the timeline is important is that it gives vendors like myself and especially hair and make up a way to stay on track for the day. I am going to list some of the things that make the timeline important below and discuss in depth why its important as well as give some tips and pointers to those that might not understand why things are important. If its your first wedding of course you might not know most of these things. That is why I’m creating this, so that my brides and brides alike will have it when it comes time to do your timeline. I work on timelines with all of my brides. I make it a priority in my process so that I am helping my clients with this magic timeline that will create organized chaos the day of their wedding.

  1. The first step in creating your timeline is setting the time of your ceremony. If those dreamy golden hour, sunset natural light portraits are important to you, setting your ceremony time so that you have time to be outdoors for your portraits is key. Check when golden hour is on the day of your wedding (check date and location) that is the best time for portraits and if it is important to you then setting your ceremony time before golden hour with enough time set aside for potential delays is something you should consider. We can only work with what we have so if ceremony is set for 5 and golden hour is 5:45 we will lose light and have to resort to indoors and flash to capture your portraits.

    If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, you should schedule your ceremony start time to be anywhere from 30-60 minutes before sunset time for optimal lighting conditions during the ceremony. If you’re doing an indoor ceremony and NOT doing a first look, make sure you give your photographer 2 hours to complete Couples Portraits, Family Formals, and Wedding Party Formals before heading to the reception. ***Do not schedule your ceremony 30-60 minutes before golden hour if you will be doing ALL portraits (couples,family, bridal party) after the ceremony, (if no first look is taking place) you’d then want to schedule your ceremony 3.5-4 hours before sunset to allow for enough time for ceremony to take pace and then 2 hours for portraits.

  2. First looks. You would be surprised how much a first look can impact your day and your timeline, as you saw above, if you do not do a first look ALL portraits have to take place AFTER the ceremony. So the ceremony would have to be early enough in the day so that there is enough outdoor light for portraits. I love first looks because its a moment between the bride and groom intimately shared before they say their vows and become one. Its a way to have that special time together and allows for couples portraits and bridal party photos to be taken BEFORE the ceremony, which means… you get to enjoy cocktail hour! By having a first look you are able to have a later ceremony if wanted or needed, and then you get to go right to your cocktail hour after family formals which don’t take too long and enjoy your food and mingle with your guests before reception starts. You should allow for 2 hours, 2.5 for large bridal parties, total for ALL portraits. That allows for enough time to enjoy the portraits and there is no rushing around.

  3. The next important thing to consider is hair and make up. It is IMPERATIVE that you give yourself more than enough time for hair and make up. Starting early in the morning and giving yourselves 2 hours minimum would be ideal. For large parties consider hiring 2 hair and make up artists. ALSO I always recommend sharing the timeline with hair and make up so they are aware of their time expectations. If you finish early it just means there is more time for FUN and nothing is rushed transitioning into other parts of the day. If they are running behind or you are not organized for this part of your day it can throw the whole timeline off. You can organize your timeline as follows

    8:00am-alyssa starts hair

    8:00am-susan starts make up

    8:50-alyssa starts make up


    bride should have her hair set in curlers or curled first then have make up done second to last and hair done last so she is fresh and ready to go. also allowing time for photographers to have details photographed and for them to make sure they capture bride getting ready. also allows for us to start closer to when everyone is done instead of 8:00 am if you only have a 6 or 8 hour coverage

  4. TRAVEL !!! The time it takes to get between all your venues (Getting Ready, Ceremony, Reception) and account for this in your timeline and your hourly coverage. If you have an hour of travel, ask about adding an hour to your contract to account for missed photo time. Also by adding your travel time into your timeline we can all make sure we are leaving each location at the right time to get to the next by the time we all need to be there

  5. Make sure there is time for my team and I to get into the reception space BEFORE your guests so we can capture details before they are moved around and so that we can get our lighting set up and tested before the reception starts. you took time to plan your center pieces and all the special pieces that make your wedding unique so we definitely want time to capture them.

  6. A good tip to make sure everything runs smoothly is to have EVERYTHING ready the night before so that when I arrive all details you want photographed are together. We will chat about what those things are ahead of time so you know what to have prepared. Make sure all dresses are hung up and steamed the night before so that nothing has to be done in the morning. Anything extra that could have been done ahead of time will help prevent time being taken away from important things the day of.

  7. last but not least, If you hire your photographer for a 6 hour or 8-10 hour day, make sure you plan all formalities to take place (cake cutting, first dances, anything special you have planned for your day) during that time Frame. Once our time is up we leave and if you have a social speeches prepared for after our time line it wont get documented. So make sure you discuss those events with your DJ or whoever will be orchestrating the events day of.

I know this can all be overwhelming but I am hoping that some of these tips can help you to organize your timeline and help you plan your day so you get the photos you want and that there is a schedule. If you are a bride of mine we will get together to discuss your timeline but a month before your wedding to finalize details. We will be in touch of course through out the whole process and I am always here to help you make decisions about times and locations if need be prior to your finalizations.

Happy planning!