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Wedding Day Timelines: Where to Begin?

Jul 30

One of my favorite things about being a wedding photographer is getting to build real relationships with my couples over the span of a year (or more) as we plan their wedding together.

And during this year, the questions I get asked the most are always about the wedding day timeline.

What time should my ceremony start?
How long will family portraits take?
How are we supposed to fit all of these things into this amount of time??

These are all great questions! Planning a wedding is hard, and fitting all of your planned events and activities into one day can also be hard. But just know that asking your coordinator, photographer, and venue these questions ahead of time is all you have to do!

The stress of timing out each of your events, and the fear of having to squeeze forgotten events into a packed day, can make it hard to even get started. So I’ve broken the timeline down into 3 sections, to make it easier to tackle and a little less intimidating.

I’ve also explained which vendors are the experts at each section, so you know who to ask first.

Ok, let’s dig right in.

Getting Ready



Different times of the day require different vendors to take the lead, and usually the photographer gets to lead first.

From a photographer’s perspective, the “getting ready” time before the ceremony can be the most important. During this time, I’ll photograph hair and makeup, individual portraits of the bride & groom, wedding party group photos, the First Look (if you choose to do one), most of the venue details and decorations, and all of the candid moments that happen before you walk down the aisle. That’s a lot!

Before the guests even arrive, a lot has already happened, and you’re likely several hours into your photography coverage. Because so much of this time is centered around photography, it’s best to ask your photographer how much time to allow for each of the main events.


I recommend this order of events:

  • Hair and makeup is finished
  • Photos of the girls together before getting in their dresses
  • Bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride put on their dresses
  • Bride puts on her dress
  • A First Look with a family member (if you want to)

(If you are NOT doing a First Look)

  • Groomsmen + Groom portraits
  • Bridesmaids + Bride portraits

(If you ARE doing a First Look)

  • First Look
  • Bride & Groom Portraits
  • Full Wedding Party Portraits
  • Bridesmaids + Bride portraits
  • Groomsmen + Groom portraits
  • 45 minutes to 1 hour before the ceremony, guests may start to arrive, so its best if we are finished with photos by then


Extra Tip: Have the bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride get dressed before the bride, so they can look great standing around the bride as she gets ready.


Ceremony + Cocktail Hour


If you’re having trouble deciding what time your Ceremony should start, stop right there and read THIS BLOG POST!

Ok, are you back? Let’s continue…

During the Ceremony, it’s up to YOU to decide the order of the events. There’s no rule book, so be creative and don’t feel like you need to stick to any traditions that don’t feel right.

After the Ceremony, it’s best to head straight into family portraits. I always ask for a list of family group combinations, so I can simply call out the first names of the people in each group. It works like a charm!


I recommend this order of events after the Ceremony:

  • Ceremony ends
  • Immediate family members stay for family photos

(If you DIDN’T do a First Look)

  • Full Wedding Party Portraits
  • Any other wedding party combinations
  • Bride & Groom Portraits

(If you DID do a First Look)

  • You’re done! Go on to the Reception or Cocktail hour

Extra Tip: Make sure to tell all family members when and where they need to be for portraits. Dedicate one family member on each side to gather everyone who you can’t find.



Much like the Ceremony, the order of events here is completely up to you! Your DJ, band, or whoever has a microphone will be in charge of directing guests and keeping everyone on schedule.

Make sure to communicate with your DJ ahead of time to create a detailed timeline of reception events. That way, you won’t have to worry about a thing during the party. If things fall a little behind schedule during the Reception, that’s no problem!

Depending on the type of food served, your caterer may have certain needs when it comes to space and time. Connecting your caterer to your coordinator and venue can let them work the details out together.


To sum it all up…

Work with your photographer, venue, and coordinator to plan your timeline sooner rather than later. Make sure everyone stays in the loop, and get your final timeline nailed down a couple of weeks before your wedding to avoid any last minute issues.

Make sure all of the key people (including parents and wedding party) have a copy of the timeline.

If you follow these easy tips and think ahead, you’ll never have to work about staying on schedule!


If you want to keep reading…

Sample Wedding Day Timelines

What Time Should We Start Our Ceremony?

3 Tips for the Morning of Your Wedding Day

Wedding Photography: The Do’s and Don’ts





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austin, Texas + ready to travel anywhere