The Perfect Wedding Photography Schedule

Who doesn't want a stress free wedding day? If you ever have or are currently planning a wedding then you know creating a timeline is nothing short of challenging. There is a million things to consider, people to please, including what you want, and only one day to do it all. As a photographer, I can help lead you on your way to the perfect wedding day timeline.


You can begin working on your timeline as soon as you know what time your ceremony will be. Your ceremony is usually the first set time you will know about your wedding day. The time of your ceremony also dictates the timing of pretty much everything else on your wedding day.

Another big part of creating your wedding day timeline is deciding if you want to do a first look or not. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, the first look is a photographed moment where the bride and groom see each other in a semi-private setting before the ceremony. The benefits range from feeling less stressed to being able to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests after your ceremony. Deciding whether or not to have a first look determines if family formals and wedding party portraits take place before or after the ceremony.


Below I've created two timelines both with the ceremony starting at 4pm, one has a first look and the other does not:

With First Look: 

10:30am Hair and make up

12:00pm Groom + Groomsmen get dressed

12:30pm Bride + Bridesmaids get dressed

1:15pm First Look + Bride and Groom portraits

1:45pm Wedding party formals

3:00pm Family formals

3:45pm Touch Up

4:00pm Ceremony

5:00pm Cocktail Hour/Photos

6:00pm Reception Begins

6:30pm Toasts

7:00pm Dinner

7:30pm Optional sunset photos with Bride and Groom

7:45pm Cake cutting

8:00pm First dances



Without First Look:

11:30am Hair and make up

1:30pm Bride + Bridesmaids get dressed

2:00pm Groom + Groomsmen get dressed

2:30pm Bridesmaids formal photos

3:00pm Groomsmen formal photos

3:30pm Touch up

4:00pm Ceremony

4:30pm Family formals

5:15pm Bridal Party Portraits

6:00pm Bride and groom portraits

6:00pm Cocktail Hour beings

7:00pm Reception Begins

7:30pm Toasts

8:00pm Dinner

8:30pm Optional sunset photos with Bride and Groom

8:45pm Cake cutting

9:00pm First dances

There is only an hour difference in the start time, but as you can see the whole day is flipped around between doing most of the photos before or after the ceremony.

The main thing left is deciding what time your reception ends. Usually your venue will decide this for you, based on what time your rental ends for the night. If this isn’t an issue, consider the six hour rule. The six hour rule is the principle that the length of time between the start of your ceremony and end of your reception is six hours. It's basically the length of time you can hold most of your guests’ attention. Another thing to consider is if your venue requires you to clean up before the rental is over, plan accordingly for this with your timeline.


Here are some things to consider when customizing your timeline:

Include extra buffer time for everything on your timeline. Especially for time-eating activities such as traveling, getting ready, getting dressed, family photos and receiving lines.

If you are planning a special exit at the end of the night make sure you communicate the time and location to your guests. Make it early enough in the night that a number of your guests will still be present. A great way to inform your guests is either on your invitations, or with a sign at the enterance of the reception space.

Finalize your timeline one to two months before your wedding, and make sure to distribute it to your wedding party, family and especially your vendors. If any changes do occur within the two month period, make sure changes are noted and new updated timelines are sent to vendors.

Be sure to customize your wedding day timeline to fit you and your fiance. Your timeline is a fantastic way to lay out your priorities on your wedding day, whether they are family photos or couples portraits. Having a well thought out timeline will take the stress off everyone who is a part of your day, while also helping the day flow smoothly.