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A Perfect Wedding Timeline


August 1, 2018


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Weddings have been part of my life since I photographed my very first one in 2007. Since then I’ve helped over 100 brides plan their perfect day. I would always recommend hiring a wedding planner, but when it comes to putting together a timeline, I can tell you exactly what will work well on your wedding day. It’s become a formula I use at every wedding I shoot and it hasn’t failed me yet! 

Things to consider: 

Getting Ready:

If you want to maximize your photographer’s time I would recommend having them get there after your hair is done, and makeup is pretty much done too. I know how different I look with and without makeup, and my guess is you’ll like the photos “with” makeup better than without. 

First look:

I used to think it was almost necessary to see each other before the ceremony for photos, but it will really depend on what time your ceremony is, and what gap you’ll have between the ceremony and the reception. So, if you don’t want to see each other before, make sure there’s enough time for bride and groom photos, family photos AND bridal party photos in between (usually 2.5-3hours). 

Sunset time:

If you’re getting married in the winter, and the sun sets around 5pm, and you love outside, soft photos, you want to make sure all photos (bride and groom, family and wedding party) are done by 5, leaving only the reception for later. The best light is also shortly before sunset, so you can plan a few more Bride and Groom photos around then! 

Family Photos:

You really should keep this to immediate family only. Think parents, siblings, grandparents, and maybe one “big family with everybody” shot. I like to keep family formals to 30 minutes only and trust me when I tell you that even that will seem like too long to hold your smile. Also, family photos should be done last (before the ceremony) so family members don’t have to be there as early and wait around; or, they should be done immediately after the ceremony. That way family members can leave right after to the cocktail hour/reception. You should ALWAYS make a list ahead of time with all the family groupings you want photographed and send it to your photographer (this is one of my requirements!) so your photographer can move down the list and stay on track. 

Receiving Line:

Having a receiving line after your wedding can take as long as one hour! When it comes to photos if you’re having a receiving line make sure to leave time for that. Also know that pictures of a receiving line are usually awkward (in my opinion). Simply put, it’s just not the best photo opportunity. One way around it is to greet your guests table to table during the reception. 

Cocktail Hour:

If you’re doing photos after the ceremony you will most likely miss some or all of your cocktail hour. This happens a lot as sometimes the wedding party likes to drive around and have drinks in the limo, make stops for additional photos, etc. 

First Dance:

If your collection doesn’t allow for your photographer to stay the whole night, or long enough for the dances to happen, one very popular option is to have your first dance immediately after the grand entrance! All your guests will be seated for dinner so it’s a perfect moment to make and entrance and dance for the first time as husband and wife! 

With all that said, here’s a typical 8 hour wedding timeline (assuming B&G are seeing other before the ceremony): 

12:00pm: Getting ready shots (dress, shoes, jewelry, invites, details, bride getting into dress, etc)

1:00pm: First look and B&G alone photos

2:00pm: B&G and wedding party

2:30pm: Family Formals (with list)

3:00pm: Photos stop, wedding party hides so arriving guests don’t see them

3:30pm: Ceremony

4:00pm: Ceremony done

4:15pm: Bridal party leaves in limo/party bus

5:00pm: Cocktail Hour

6:00pm: Guests are seated

6:15pm: Grand entrance followed by First Dance, cut cake and sit at head table

6:30pm: Dinner is served (Parents toast during salad, wedding party toasts after all tables are served, newlywed thank you at the end of dinner

7:45pm: Bride and groom sneak out for a few photos at sunset

8:00pm: Photos done

Just make sure you hire a good wedding planner and a photographer who can keep you on track! Voila! 


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I'm Poly and I'm so happy you're here. This blog is a journal about photography, life, my travels, fashion, and style. Stay a while and say hello!

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