August 6, 2011

How to Set Up the Best Wedding Day Timeline

As photographers we so commonly get asked how the day should be scheduled.  This makes a lot of sense since more often than not we are there the whole day for weddings so we have seen many things work and many things not work in scheduling.  Each wedding is of course unique and I will photograph your day however you choose to lay it out for me.  That said, here are my recommendations.

Scenerio 1:

The first shedule is one where you see each other before the wedding.  I know you think you don’t want to do this but listen to the reasons we recomend this….

1.  The first look setting is controlled and completely intimate.  The images reflect the true emotion being felt when you see each other for the first time because you aren’t trying to look through and around other people.  You can enjoy each others company as long as you need instead of being rushed into the ceremony.

2.  The background and lighting are recommended by the photographer so you’re sure to get the most beautiful images of the two of you seeing each other for the first time on your special day.

3.  All the brides and grooms we have done the first look with have said it really allowed them to enjoy their day more because the stress was lifted.

4.  You get to attend all the parts of your wedding and you do not keep your guests waiting at all. Huge benefit to attending cocktail hour is you get a lot of social time with guests which means you will actually get to eat and enjoy your dinner!

5.  You are in less of a hurry for the pictures because no one is waiting for you.  You can get all of the family photos and the bridal party photos accomplished and it allows for the photographer to have more time to achieve the best most creative shots he or she can 🙂

6.  You are well nourished, your hair and makeup are still perfect, and you haven’t just been standing in the ceremony for 30-60 minutes.

So the day begins with the bridal party hair and makeup.  This should start between 9am-10am depending on the amount of people, the number of stylists, and of course when your wedding ceremony is scheduled to start.  If you are getting married in the summer, we encourage you to allow your ceremony and or reception to be as late as possible.  People tend to have more fun as it begins to get dark and the parties tend to last much longer.  Also if you are having an outside ceremony is allows for the light to be less harsh.  When the light begins to dip to the side it helps to reduce the raccoon eye effects, and gives excellent hair light. (which is photographers paradise)   It is important to plan lots of extra time this way you aren’t stressed and don’t forget to eat!

So hair and makeup finish around noon and you get some lunch.  Meanwhile the men have been golfing and are beginning to get their suits on at 12:30pm.  At 1pm you get on all the dresses and do some bridal portraits.  At 2pm you see your husband for the first time!  We photograph the two of you.  At 2:30-3pm the family and bridal party meet you in the location of choice.  We photograph the family first from 3-3:30 ish and then the women, men, and bridal party.  This wraps up at 4:30-5pm and we go to the ceremony.  After the ceremony you attend the cocktail hour with your guests, and we can take photos of you and all of your closest friends.  You are introduced at 6-6:30pm do your first dance and then dinner is served at 7pm.  The toasts and the cake follow at around 8pm.  Dance floor opens right after.  The garter and bouquet are at 9pm and you party late into the night 🙂

Scenario 2:

The more traditional church wedding timeline….Catholic mass generally begins at 3-4pm.  So usually weddings are set for 1-2pm.  If you are getting married at 1pm your hair and makeup for your bridal party should begin no later than 9am.  Please have the details (rings, invitations, dress, shoes, flowers) all ready to photograph while you are getting ready.  It is much better to have time after your hair and makeup are finished to get dressed and eat something than to be rushing straight to the ceremony.  It is highly recommended that you do a run through of the bridal hair and makeup not only so you know that you love it, but also because it will make it run much more efficiently on your special day 🙂  Hair and makeup ideally would wrap up around 11am depending on the amount of women, and how many stylists are working.  This is the perfect point to have something to eat.  At 11:30am you should be arriving to the location you will be getting your dress on at.  The bridesmaids should get dressed (including mothers) and then at noon you should be getting your dress on.  This is the best time for us to take bridal portraits.  At 12:30 or so you begin to travel to the church.

Meanwhile the men are getting ready.  Generally they only take about an hour or so of preparation, but are usually required to be at the church an hour before the wedding is set to begin.  This means they should all be in the same spot getting ready at 11-12pm.  Arriving at the church at 12-1pm depending on the ceremony time.

After the ceremony at 2-3pm depending on when your wedding was the immediate family should be gathered.  (parents, grandparents, siblings, bridal party, and any cousins or aunts and uncles you are particularly close too)  The family formals will take between 15-30 minutes depending on how large the groupings are.  We use 1-2 lights and begin with the largest group first…working my way down to the very smallest groupings the pictures of you and your parents.  At about 2:30-3:00 pm from the ceremony location the bridal party will travel to  the chosen fun picture location generally within 10-15 minutes of the reception location.  We will take pictures of the men, women, bridal party, bride, groom, and bride and groom at this time.  The more time provided for this the more creative and well lit the photos will be.  2 hours is recommended.  That means we leave for the reception location at around 5pm.  Putting you walking into your reception at 5:3o pm.

At this time the band or DJ generally takes over the timeline.  What I will say is that people pay more attention to the intimate dances if they are right off.  It is also nice to finish any and all formalities like cake, dances, garter, bouquet, etc earlier so that everyone is in attendance and to be honest people are still relatively sober.  If dinner was from 6-7 begin speeches at around 7pm.  Then I would say cut the cake.  Open the dance floor, and an hour or so later around 8-9pm do the garter and bouquet toss.

So an overview looks like this:

hair and makeup 7am-11am

lunch 11-12

dresses/men & suits 12-1


first look 2-3

photos 3-5

ceremony 5pm or 2pm if youre in a church

photos 3-5pm (church wedding)

cocktail hour 5-6

introduction 5:30-6pm

first dance 6pm

dinner 7pm

toasts/cake 8pm

garter/ bouquet 9pm


It is suppose to be a stress free awesome and fun day!  I do my best to make it that way and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.  Capturing all the emotion, fun, and moments in the day 🙂

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