Creating your Wedding-Day Timeline
What's the secret to a stress-free wedding day? Scheduling enough time!
Here, get a full breakdown of what to plan for on your wedding day.
Let's get this started!
Hair & Make-up: When your hairstylist arrives, have her start on your bridesmaids first. The bride should go last so that when your photographer arrives, they catch those last-minute 'getting ready' shots, and the bride looks the freshest.
When should the photographer arrive?
One hour before the bride is ready to go. Generally, it's best to arrive during the bride's hair and makeup. The latter portion of the hair and makeup styling, when the bride is closer to being finished, makes for more flattering photos. This also gives your photographer plenty of time to capture the details - gown, shoes, jewelry, etc.
Put on your veil after the dress. Consider asking your stylist to stick around until then to make sure your veil is secure. Once your vail is in place, this is a great time to take a few bridal portraits - bride alone in room by window and/or throughout the hotel.
First look: 20-30 minutes.
What is a first look and is it necessary? A first look is a moment set up by your photographer for the bride and groom to see each other before the ceremony and take portraits. Normally, this would be away from family and friends to give you privacy and to make that moment just for you.
The decision of having a first look is solely up to the couple. As tradition goes, the groom is to see the bride for the first time, coming down the isle. Todays modern brides are taking advantage of this non-traditional event to allow for more photo time! We do highly recommend a first look for weddings taking place later in the day in order to capture day-lit portraits.
Pre-ceremony photos after first look: Bride and groom with their close family and bridal party: Two to three minutes per shot; more if the groups are very large, and less if they are very small. Also consider how punctual the groups tend to be and possibly cushion the schedule to allow for unexpected delays. Creating a shot-list of these groups will insure the best organization of this time and help your photographer gather the right people.
Photographers Arrival to the ceremony: At least 30 minutes before the ceremony start time. Allow time for your photographer to set up at the church and capture the ceremony location, guests arriving and other details. If you are having videography, this time is especially important in order to prepare the groom and officiant with sound devices.
Ideal ceremony length: 30 minutes - enough time to have meaningful readings, vows and music to make your ceremony unique and memorable. Consider writing your own vows for a one-of-a-kind ceremony!
Tip: The best way to save time taking photos is by being prepared. Compile a list of all the necessary shots (as we mentioned earlier) and who is in each one. This ensures you and your family have all your needs met, while saving a lot of time and confusion while shooting. It also allows your photographer to politely manage family members who ask for additional shots during the session. We will simply tell them we are covering the list first and, if there is time at the end, we'd be happy to add any additional shots they'd like.
Also, think about where exactly you'll want to take your photos. Let your photographer know in advance so he/she can help you plan for the best location.
Family photos: Two to three minutes per shot - if your family is properly organized!
Bridal party: Two to three minutes per shot. Keep these simple, as everyone is always eager to make it to cocktail.
Didn't have a first look? Allow 30 minutes post-ceremony for photos of you and your groom. If you did have a first look, you'll still want 15-20 minutes post-ceremony for just the two of you.
Save photos of very large groups (like classmates, coworkers, and large extended family groups) for the reception. You can visit each table with/or without your photographer or have your your DJ can make an announcement to gather everyone to the dance floor. You'll be able to take the photos much faster than trying to track down 50 people during the cocktail hour.
Reception Ideal length: 5-6 hours. An hour for cocktails and four to five hours for dinner and dancing.
Traditional Order of Events:
First dance: The most common timing is immediately after the bride and groom enter the reception, but you can also do your first dance following the conclusion of dinner or right after dessert.
Father/daughter dance: Immediately following the first dance.
Mother/son dance: Immediately following the father/daughter dance. Or, sometimes, this dance is shared with the father/daughter dance.
Welcome toast: Given by the father of the bride or by the bride and groom.
Toasts: Ladies first! Start with the maid of honor, followed by the best man.
Main course served
Toasts: The bride and groom can give a toast here, if desired.
Guests invited to dance: Open up the dance floor, and get the party started!
Beak-Away Portraits: 15 minutes. Just before the heavy dancing starts, is a great time for a quick night portrait session with your photographer. Some of our brides favorite photos come from this mini-session! Be sure to let your DJ know you are stepping away, so no events happen before you return.
Cake cutting: Two hours before the reception ends. Some couples opt to cut the cake earlier in the night, like following their introduction or the toasts, leaving them fewer obligations throughout the night.
Bouquet and garter tosses: Right after the cake cutting, or about two hours before the end of the reception.
Farewell: If you're doing a sparkler farewell, for example, have guests start lining up about 10 minutes before you plan to exit. If doing a sparkler exit, remember to have the long sticks!
Sample Wedding Day Timeline
Example based on a single location.
Actual timelines will very depending on number of locations,
distance and other variables.
2:00PM - Photographer begins capturing getting ready at bridal suite. If Groom is in same hotel, photographer will visit him for 15-20 mins.
3:00PM - First look with Bride and Groom. Bride/Groom portraits (if applicable.)
3:30PM - Pre-ceremony bridal party and close family portraits.
4:00PM - Photographer finishes portraits and begins set-up for ceremony location.
4:30PM - Ceremony starts
5:00PM - Ceremony ends and cocktail begins. Additional family and bride/groom portraits.
Photographer breaks-away to capture reception room details.
6:00PM - Cocktail hour ends and guests enter reception room.
6:30PM - Grand entrance, first dances and toasts.
7:30PM - Dinner served.
8:00PM - Dancing starts.
Bride and Groom have mini 15 minute break-away session.
9:00PM - Cake Cut. Bouquet and garter toss.
10:00PM - Farewell exit.