How To Create Your Wedding Timeline

Hey, I totally get it — you just got engaged and you’re SUPER excited to say “I do,” but you did NOT expect all the logistical details that come with planning a wedding. Not exactly what you thought it would be, amirite? Timelines can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If only you had someone to guide you through the boring parts so you can get to the really good parts.

Aaaand that’s where I step in. I’m Kate, your resident not-so-much-Type-A-but-loves-a-good-timeline-and-stacks-of-to-do-lists wedding expert at your service. I don’t just survive, I thrive on handwritten to-do lists, stacks of planners (each with their own specific purpose, obvi), and an absurd amount of time management knowledge. Look, I know what you’re thinking — “WHYYY would anyone love to do this logistical nonsense?!” It sounds nuts, I know… but it’s the truth. I love it, so here we are!

I’m here to tell you that once this is done, you’ve set yourself up for a stress-free wedding day experience, and believe me, it’s worth its weight in gold. When you know you not only have enough time for each and every event of your wedding day but also some wiggle room in case of missing bridesmaids and a cranky ring bearer and it all flows in the most efficient way possible, you can worry less and enjoy more. Ready to get started? That’s where I hoped you’d be. Let’s work together to get you through the tough stuff and give you a decade’s worth of knowledge so you have the best day ever and get the most out of your photography investment. Follow the instructions and you’ll be on your way! You’ve totally got this!

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Start here with the following questions:

Do you want a first look?

Is there travel time between venues?

What time is the ceremony scheduled for?

How long will the ceremony take?

What time is sunset?

>>> PRO TIP: When planning the time of your ceremony, keep in mind what time sunset is. You’ll likely want sunset portraits, so if your ceremony starts right around sunset, that may not work. Also, if your ceremony is too early in the day, you will need to make sure you have enough hours of wedding day photography coverage to span from before the ceremony until sunset.



Start with your ceremony time. Subtract 30 minutes. This is when you’ll need to be done with formal family portraits.

From the formal portrait end time, subtract 30 minutes. This is when you’ll want to start family formal portraits.

>>> PRO TIP: You may need to add more time for formal family portraits if you have a large immediate family, have a lot of children in your immediate family, or have blended families. Keep in mind, this works best to keep formal family portraits to IMMEDIATE family only. This includes your grandparents, your parents, you and your soon-to-be-spouse, your siblings, and your siblings’ kids. Aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. are included in your extended family. I recommend taking extended family portraits at the reception in a more informal setting.

From the formal portrait start time, subtract 20 minutes. This will be your formal wedding party portrait start time.

From your wedding party portrait start time, subtract 30 minutes. This will be when you’ll start your first look and have some of your own portraits.

>>> PRO TIP: If you have more than 6 bridesmaids and groomsmen each, I recommend adding an additional 10 minutes to wedding party formal portraits.


Start with your first look time. Subtract 30 minutes. This is when the bride needs to get into her dress and the groom should be in his suit, ready to go.

From the “bride gets dressed” time, subtract 15 minutes. This is when the groom has his “getting ready” images taken. Grooms aren’t typically super big fans of a ton of candid images before the big moment, so I keep dudes getting ready pretty minimal. I’m able to whip out some awesome shots of him getting his tie tied, his jacket on, shoes laced, and his wedding ring on in about 10-15 minutes, minimizing the amount of time I take for him.

From the groom getting ready, subtract 1-1.5 hours (depending on the total number of hours you have for photography coverage) for detail photographs. This is also the time your photographer will arrive.

>>> PRO TIP: Be sure to give your photographer a decent amount of time to photograph your details. I know, I know, it seems frivolous and why the heck do you want images of your shoes. Haven’t you ever started a novel on chapter 3? Yeah, me neither. Starting your wedding photography with images of the details you spent countless hours curating for your day sets the entire tone and vibe of your wedding day. When you go to put your images into an album, starting with details lets the viewer know what to expect. Did you plan a black tie event with stunning black and white details? Or, did you opt for a laid back, boho infused day with tons of neutral florals? The details set the stage for the day. Trust me, you won’t want to miss them.


Start with your ceremony time. Add the length of your ceremony. If you plan to have a receiving line, start at this time. If you are not having a receiving line, start your couple/wedding party informal portraits and cocktail hour at this time.

If you are having a receiving line, add at least 30 seconds per guest. For example: 200 guests x approx. 30 seconds each = 1.5 hours.

>>> PRO TIP: I KNOW THIS SEEMS LIKE A LOT AND YOU THINK IT WILL GO FASTER. It will not. Guests love to share their fave memory of you with you in the line and your mom is def going to catch up with their old neighbor. I’m all for receiving lines, but make sure you have the time to fit it in. They’re much more doable with smaller affairs, but with a larger wedding celebration, I’d suggest putting in extra time between when dinner is served and when the speeches are started so you can go by each table and thank each guest personally. This puts less pressure on you to interact with those you don’t really know (hello old college roommate of your father’s he just couldn’t not invite), but you can take the time to reminisce with the guests you are super eager to spend some actual time with.

Plan at least 30 minutes for some more relaxed couple’s portraits after the wedding. Include an hour if you want to hit up a different location (spoiler alert: I super super recommend this for variety!). I suggest this time because no matter how ready you are to get married, you will likely be anxious before you have to go in front of a crowd to promise your life to someone all while not tripping over your dress nor your words. After, you can have a couple dranky-dranks and just relax in the happiness. You can also bring along your wedding party to spray some champagne and have a more relaxed and fun portrait experience.

After your portraits between the ceremony and reception, this is when you’ll do your reception entrances.

For the rest of the reception, you can definitely have a rough timeline for when you think things should happen, but this part will vary widely from couple to couple, venue to venue, season to season. Events to plan for as they fit your day are when dinner is served, speeches, cake cutting, first dances, and a grand exit (think sparklers, confetti, etc.). Put those in as you see fit. An experienced DJ can also help move the reception along. Do not underestimate the power of an experienced DJ. I’ve added some tips to think about when scheduling the remainder of your reception:

  • Dinner and Cake Cutting — I recommend cutting your cake as soon as the last guest has been served or gone through the buffet line. This signals to your guests that they can head over for some dessert. From the cake cutting, you can go right into speeches. As guests quiet down again to eat their dessert, they have something to munch on while they listen to your best man tell the best story ever about the groom.

  • First Dances — Depending on how many you have, this will take about 15 minutes. Also, make sure you don’t have to move tables in order to have room to dance. If you need to break down tables to start your dance, keep that in mind as you schedule that time.

  • Don’t forget about sunset portraits! Believe me when I say these are 9 times of out 10 my clients’ fave images from the whole day. Dreamy light and all the stress of the day behind you? Perfect combo for some romantic portraits. You’ll thank me later. Also, you’ll want to schedule those 30-40 minutes before actual sunset. The sunset time listed online is the time the sun actually sinks below the horizon. Make it even a little earlier if you’re downtown or in the mountains and have something in the way of the actual horizon.


See? I told you it wasn’t too hard. The good news is, timelines are made to be adjusted and tweaked as the day gets closer. But a solid timeline is crucial to make sure all vendors and guests feel like they have the time they need and expect.

Still feeling like you don’t want to go it alone? Lucky for you, I can help you! Send your more logistically-complicated situation to me via email and I’ll help you come up with a solution.