October 10, 2020

Wedding Timeline Planning: How to Create an Ideal Photography Timeline for Your Wedding

Have you ever heard other former brides and grooms talk about how fast their wedding day went by? They aren’t exaggerating, for many loving couples the day they say “I do” is a total blur. To be able to avoid the stress and rushed feelings it’s important to do a little work before you say “I do”. We want to make sure that every bride and groom has, not only, gorgeous photos to remember their day but also time to enjoy it all as it will go by fast. The ultimate goal is to create a stress-free day for you to enjoy.

So many couples have enough planning to do, so it’s easy to see why so many may prefer to leave the photography timeline planning to their photographer (we’re here to help you so that’s totally fine!). It is important for your photographer to be involved in the planning process, but you and your partner should take a very active role in deciding the overall flow of your day and timeline – at the end of it all – it’s your wedding.

Let us help you get started:

How To Make A Stellar Timeline For Photography 

Like we said before, it’s important to work together with your photographer about the timeline for the day. Most people have never been married before so this can all be very confusing and overwhelming. Combining your expectations with their expertise can ensure that your timeline works for everyone involved including your guests and other vendors.

When you’re discussing the timeline of the day with your soon to be spouse and photography team, make sure you remember to follow these important tips:

  1. Section your day – Think About What you want to be captured 

Obviously every day and every couple is different. Some brides and grooms know exactly what kinds of pictures they want during their wedding and others don’t have much of a plan. Regardless of how you feel about the flow and the photography on your big day, you need to let your photographer know what pictures will matter the most to you and plan accordingly.

On a “normal” wedding or elopement day photographers will usually photograph the following:

Details and Getting Ready

This is where we will focus in on all your details such as rings, dress/attire, stationery, and anything else that is meaningful to you on your day.
We will also capture you as you’re getting ready (hair&makeup and getting dressed for your day).

    • This usually takes: 1.5 – 2 hour

First Look(s)

This is where you will see each other for the first time in your wedding attire. There are so many reasons why everyone should have a first look on their day. You can read some of them here: Why a First Look is Important on Your Wedding Day

    • This usually takes: 30 min

Bridal Party Formals

During this part, we will get your bridal party together (big or small) and get both fun and candid photos of you and your friends as well as the traditional group photos. This is also a great time to get a one-on-one photo with your besties.

    • This usually takes: 30 – 60 min

Family/Group Formals

Once the bridal party is done with their photos we like to photograph the formal family photos.

    • This usually takes: 30 – 60 min


Obviously, we’ll capture your actual wedding ceremony. Usually, they are about 15 – 30 minutes. Some can last over an hour. This is something important to take note of while planning your day – how long will your ceremony be?

    • This usually takes: 30 min

Cocktail Hour

If you have done a first look and we’re done with all the group/family formals you can actually enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests. This is then your chance to mingle and enjoy your people. During this time we’ll get plenty of great candids of everyone. If not – we will be doing your formal group and family photos during this time.

    • This usually takes: 60 min

Sunset Portraits

Sunset Portraits are always worth stepping aside for. It is always nice to step away and look at your wedding from the sideline for a second to soak it all in with your honey. Not to mention – this is where we’ll most likely capture the pictures you’ll end up framing.

    • This usually takes: 30 min

Reception (inc. Introductions, dinner, toasts, cake cutting, games & dancing)

This part will vary a lot. Depending on your day we will capture all the little events and games you have planned. Toasts, dinner, dances (first dance & parent dancing) dessert, bouquet toss etc. This is where you will let loose and enjoy everyone and everything you have planned for your day.

    • This usually takes: 3 hours (usually 30-60 min dinner included)

Grand exit

Are you doing a sparkler or another fun exit? We usually fake this part before the night is actually over to better control the situation

    • This usually takes: 15 min

A “typical” full wedding day (including all these sections) usually
requires 8-10 hours of coverage.

2. Use a sample timeline as a Wedding Timeline Planning TEMPLATE

Overall – a full wedding day usually requires 8-10 hours of coverage however – every day is different. If you don’t have a bridal party – then you can skip that section. If you don’t want the reception captured – you can skip that. And, if you decide you want to go on a boat or do something unique as a part of your day – you totally can. Just add that to your coverage. Once you add different sections to your day you will have a better understanding of the natural flow.

The most common things to base your timeline on are:

  • When are you allowed onto the property/venue? If you have one.

  • What time does your ceremony start? Some venues have set times the ceremony should start.

  • When does the sunset?

  • How late do you want to eat dinner and how long do you want to sit down while eating (remember, you have to eat on your wedding day)?

  • What time do you have to end it all? Is there a curfew?

Below are some sample timelines with different sections added to help you get started.
TIP: Keep in mind that the sunset times will vary depending on the season. Sometimes we have to plan for sunset portraits before starting the dinner.

Sample 4-hour timeline

2:30pm – We arrive – Details & Getting ready
3:30pm – First look
4:00pm – Leave for Ceremony site
4:30pm – Ceremony
5:00pm – Group/Family Photos
5:30pm – Champagne Pop/Toast/First Dance
6:00pm – Sunset portraits
6:30pm – We leave

Sample 6-hour timeline

1:30pm – Details & Getting ready
2:30pm – First look
3:00pm – Family photos
3:30pm – Ceremony
4:00pm – Cocktail hour (enjoy w. guests)
4:45pm – Intro & Welcome toast
5:00pm – Dinner
6:00pm – Speeches
6:30pm – Cake cutting & Special Dances
7:00pm – Sunset Photos
7:30pm – We leave

Sample 8-hour timeline

1:00pm – We arrive – Details & Getting ready
2:30pm – First look
3:00pm – Family photos
4:00pm – Get Ready for Ceremony (line up/buffer time)
4:30pm – Ceremony
5:00pm – Cocktail hour (enjoy w. guests)
5:45pm – Intro & Welcome toast
6:00pm – Dinner
7:00pm – Speeches
7:30pm – Cake cutting & Special Dances
8:00pm – Sunset Portraits
8:30pm – Open dance floor
9:00pm – We leave

Sample 10-hour timeline

12:00pm – We arrive – Details & Getting ready
2:00pm – First look & Portraits
3:00pm – Family photos
4:00pm – Get Ready for Ceremony (line up/buffer time)
4:30pm – Ceremony
5:00pm – Cocktail hour (enjoy w. guests)
6:00pm – Intro & Welcome toast
6:15pm – Dinner
7:15pm – Speeches
7:50pm – Cake cutting
8:00pm – Sunset Photos
8:30pm – Special Dances
9:00pm – Open dance floor & Games
10:00pm – We leave

3. Schedule Time Wisely 

Because the day goes by so quickly – it’s important to use the time wisely.

If you’re going to a salon with 5 bridal party members, sisters, and moms, having a photographer there for the entire time your party is getting ready may not make sense. Instead of having your photographer there for hours, have them come for an hour in the middle or end of your batch of appointments to take shots. Most people prefer to have photos of them closer to when they are ready vs. in the beginning of the getting-ready-process.

If you and your partner are getting ready at two different locations we may or may not travel between them. If we do we may choose to start photographing the furthest one away at first and then work our way closer to the ceremony site.

Also, keep in mind that there are a few shots we can get without involving you or the members of your party. Setting aside time to get pictures of the venue and wedding details like outfits, invites, and jewelry when you’re busy getting ready can help save time and help us work more efficiently.

4. Time Your Trips in your Wedding Timeline Planning

It’s rare for wedding photos to all happen in one place. Many brides and grooms will have photographers capturing moments at salons and hotel rooms along with traditional shots at the venue/ceremony site. Maybe you want to go somewhere more scenic for your sunset portraits?

Taking travel time into account during your big day is absolutely crucial for creating a timeline for photography. Knowing that you may be in transit for 15 minutes or 1 hour will make all of the difference when you’re planning the flow of your day.

This is especially important for couples that aren’t familiar with the area. If you aren’t intimately familiar with the area, you may not know about traffic patterns or distances between key places. Tahoe specifically is known to have two seasons “Ski-season” and ‘Construction-season”.

Use an app like Google Maps to estimate your travel time to each location and make sure your plan is realistic. We always say “things take longer than they should so plan for an additional 15 min just because”.

5. Be Flexible with Wedding Timeline Planning

When you’ve spent months planning the perfect wedding photography timeline it can be difficult to imagine deviating from your plan.
You may have taken nearly every precaution you can think of, however, unexpected things can (and most likely will) still happen.

Wedding party members can get caught in traffic, caterers may be running late, and the salon visit may take more time than you thought. That’s why it’s important to naturally weave a little flexibility into your timeline.

Giving yourself some wiggle room will make your day and photography much less stressful. Plan to give yourself a little more time than you think you’d need to move through your day and to get certain shots. That way if something is off schedule it won’t affect the rest of the day too much.  If you’re running early – the worst case that will happen is that you will have some extra time to relax, chat with your friends/family and enjoy your day.

Start Planning Your Dream day  

Wedding timeline planning for photography can help ensure that you capture every beautiful moment on your wedding day. If you follow our simple and effective tips when you’re working with your photographer, you’ll be sure to create a timeline that works for everyone.

Having a solid timeline for photography is important, but finding a great team to take pictures is even more crucial. Whether you’re planning an intimate elopement or a big ceremony, we’re ready to photograph the most beautiful day of your life.