Planning the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

AH, the wedding day timeline. So how are you supposed to know how much time this stuff takes when you’ve never done this before from the bride perspective?!?!

As someone who has done this dozens of times, I’m here to tell you what an optimal timeline looks like.

Peep the sample wedding day timeline below! This is based on 8 hours of wedding day photography coverage. I’ve laid out a full wedding day just for reference:

9:00 – bridesmaid hair + makeup begin

12:00 – bride hair + makeup begin

2:00 – groom begins getting ready

2:30 – *photographer arrives* dress and details photographed (rings, invites, flowers, shoes, perfume, etc.)

3:00 – ceremony/venue details photographed

3:30 – getting ready photos of bride and groom begin

4:00 – first look with bridesmaids and/or dad

4:15 – first look for bride + groom 

4:30 – bride + groom photos and bridal party photos

5:30 – ceremony

6:00 – family + group photos

6:30 – couples portraits

7:00 – grand entrance into reception + first dance + bride/father + groom/mother dance

7:15 – dinner

7:45 – toasts

8:00 – dancing and reception events

10:30 – sparkler exit

Note this is just one sample wedding day timeline and each timeline will vary. You may want more time to account for the ceremony and reception being at separate locations or if you want to ensure you have a leisurely day with wiggle room for whatever may occur.

When given multiple options and dealing with a wedding budget, it may be tempting to choose the cheapest option and without having experienced the wedding day experience before, many brides and grooms believe that 6 hours will be enough for a wedding day. However, if you want to get pictures of you getting ready AND dancing/exit pictures, 8 to 10 hours tends to be the sweet spot for photography coverage.

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Of course, each wedding is different, and I’m not saying you can’t get all the photos you desire in a 6 hour time period. It may require passing on the getting ready photos or not capturing the exit at the end of the night, but it’s totally up to you how which photos matter most at the end of the day.

See my ultimate BRIDE GUIDE for my wedding day tips or check out my wedding portfolio to see more real weddings.