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Wedding Day Timeline – A guide to help you build your perfect day! Part 1

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If you’re wondering how to build the perfect wedding day timeline – this is for you!!! While I highly recommend having a planner or coordinator assist you with creating the timeline, I wanted to share some step by step tips on how to think about it!!! 

So let’s start with the main events you should think about!!

getting ready – if doing hair & makeup

Bride/groom should be close to done for hair and makeup photos about when the photographer is scheduled to arrive.

Have all of your details (invitations, florals, wedding rings, etc.) organized in a box before the photographer arrives so they can take photos while your hair & makeup is getting the final touches. This will save a ton of time!

Allow enough time for your photographer to get photos of you and all your girls/guys (robes, champagne, letter opening if applicable, getting into your dress, etc.)

If you’re getting ready space has a pretty outside area, consider scheduling enough time to get some bridal party photos fully dressed. This can save you some time later in the day. 

Generally the photographer will need to be there for at least 1.5 hours! 

getting ready – not doing hair & makeup

If not doing traditional getting ready photos, the photos of the groom/bride will only be taken when the group is fully dressed. As such, there is less time needed for photos. You’ll need to factor in time if he’s giving gifts or reading a letter from the bride. 

It’s also a good idea to account for some group photos being taken of the groomsmen/bridesmaids to save time later. 

travel time

It’s super important to determine how far of a drive are you from the ceremony spot. You want to arrive at least 15 minutes before your guests are scheduled to arrive so that no one sees you before!! Plan to leave a little earlier than is needed justttt to ensure you’re still okay on time if you’re running a bit behind.

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first look 

I’ll walk you through the pros & cons here and share more detailed information in my wedding guide. From a timeline and overall experience perspective, I generally think first looks are the way to go!!!

Here are some benefits:

1. This is one of the only times you’ll have just for the two of you! 

2. It’s a great way to have a few more portraits together. 

3. The biggest timeline benefit though is that after the first look you can have family photos or wedding party photos!! 

Family or wedding party photos 

Depending on the size of each group, this can take 1- 2 hours total. 30-60 minutes for family photos and another 30-60 minutes for wedding party photos. 

The best time for these photos is generally right after the first look or right after the ceremony. This just depends on if you are doing a first look.  


This is all dependent on what type of ceremony you’re having!! Think about how much time it’ll take for everyone to walk down the aisle and all the way back.

travel time

Is your ceremony where your reception is? If not, you’ll need to account for travel time.


After the ceremony, schedule in some time for portrait photos and family/friend photos as needed.

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cocktail hour

If time allows and you want to be able to join at the end, I recommend making cocktail hour 1.5 hours!! 

grand entrance

Think about if you plan to have all of the wedding party be announced, if you just want you two, or if you don’t want an announcement at all. 


Once everyone has their food and has a moment to eat a bit, I recommend starting speeches! Usually this is about 30 minutes after the first plate is served or the first table is excused for food. 


You know your friends and family best!! You may want to kindly ask them to keep it to under 5 minutes each! But in general, allow for 15-20 minutes here. 

cake cutting 

This should only take about 5 minutes and can be omitted if you’re just doing a dessert bar!

first dances 

Allow 15-20 minutes if you’re doing them with your parents as well. 

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dance floor opens!!!

The amount of time you want on the dancefloor is totally up to you!!!

sunset photos 

I recommend having 30 minutes for sunset photos if possible! Trust me, you will be SO thankful you did. This is usually best sometime between dinner and the dance floor opening, but it just depends on the sunset time and overall schedule!


So the exit is where it gets interesting!!! If you want this covered by your photographer, you will either need to extend their coverage until the very end or get creative by adding a type of exit in earlier. If you’re booking your wedding with me, I can help you get super creative here!!!

Hope this helps build your dream day!! If you want an example of how to schedule your timeline, click here (or search for “Wedding Day Timeline – An example to help you build your perfect day! Part 2”)!!

Wedding Day Timeline Photos by Rachel Christopherson Photography, LLC