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A detailed guide for creating your wedding day timelines from a Wedding Photographer

Getting married and not sure where to start on the wedding day timelines? You are in the right place.

Creating a timeline for your wedding day helps you stay organized and keep track of wedding planning. It also is different for every wedding. It depends on what type of wedding and when you want to have the ceremony. The timelines mentioned in this article are from our experience photographing weddings. Feel free to modify it based on your needs.

In this article, we will discuss how to create a wedding day timeline—the timelines are different for every couple. You don’t need to include everything mentioned here. Delete the ones that are not needed and create your version of our wedding day timeline.

How do you create your wedding day timeline?

The first step in creating your wedding day timelines is to decide when you want to have your ceremony. One other tip is always to include some buffer time. It ensures that you meet the timelines even when an event gets delayed. Based on it, you can create your entire timeline. Before you go ahead and create a timeline, here are a few things you need to know.

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What are some common mistakes couples make when planning their wedding day timeline?

Plan your wedding day as you both want it to be. You don’t need to do everything just because it is a regular wedding timeline. Make your wedding unique to you both. Take time to slow down and create memories with friends and family. And remember,

  • You both can do whatever you want on your wedding day.
  • You can do a first look.
  • You can plan to spend time with just the two of you.
  • You can do a brunch reception.
  • You can have a shorter ceremony.
  • You can join the cocktail hour.
  • You can dance all night.

What is the recommended time to allocate for hair and make-up on the wedding day?

Your hair and make-up schedule is crucial. It will set precedence for the rest of the day. One of the mistakes we see most couples make is not giving enough time for hair and make-up. Talk to your hair & make-up artists about the time they will need. Also, leave some buffer time. For example, if your hair and make-up finish at 10.30, don’t schedule your photographer till 11.00. It will give you time if there is a delay. Furthermore, if you are including your bridesmaids in the getting-ready photos, remember they should have hair & make-up done by the time your photographer arrives.

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Allow for enough Travel Time, so you are not rushed

Another crucial component not to forget is travel time. Walking to the elevator, getting into the car, and driving to the location, takes time. Each time you get into the car, add 15 mins. This is in addition to the time it takes for you to get from point A to point B. Wedding days are a bit different than any other day. It’s better to have enough time planned than to be rushed.

How much time to allocate for each event in your Wedding day Timeline?

Wedding day getting ready photos

Getting-ready Photos: 2-3 Hours

When planning your wedding day, it’s recommended that you allocate at least 2-3 hours for getting ready photos. This will allow for enough time for your photographer to capture all the special moments of the getting-ready process, such as hair and makeup, putting on the dress and suit, and exchanging gifts. However, it’s important to note that the amount of time needed may vary depending on your photographer’s specific requirements and style. Therefore, it’s best to check with your photographer ahead of time to discuss their preferences and ensure that you have enough time set aside for this important part of your wedding day.

First look: 15 minutes

This one is optional. The first look is a special moment where you and your partner see each other privately for the first time on your Wedding day instead of during the ceremony. We have seen couples do it with their parents too, as it is a special moment. Allocate 15 mins for each first look you are planning on having. If you are going to a specific location, don’t forget to include travel time.

Corpus Christi Edmonton church Wedding Venue

Wedding Ceremony: 10 minutes- 2 hours

Your wedding ceremony time varies based on your culture, traditions or what you have planned. Leave time 15 minutes before the ceremony starts for yourself to gather your thoughts instead of rushing into it. And 15 minutes after so you both can get all the hugs from friends and family.

Group Photos (family & friends): 30 minutes- 1 hour

We recommend taking group photos immediately after the ceremony so that guests can spend the rest of the day enjoying themselves rather than waiting around for photos to be taken. Generally, 30 – 45 minutes is sufficient time to take group photos for up to 100-150 guests. However, it’s best to consult with your photographer to determine the exact amount of time needed for group photos.

Wedding Websites and RSVPs

Wedding Party photos: 30-45 minutes

Allocate some time for some fun photos with your wedding party and most importantly your ring bearer and your flower girls. We also recommend taking individual photos with each member of your wedding party. You print these photos after the wedding and give them a nice gift/wedding favour.

Wedding day Photos – 1 hour

After the wedding Party Photos, it’s time for your wedding photos. It is highly recommended that only the couple and the photographer are present during this time. This will allow you to concentrate, be fully present and not feel self-conscious. If you feel like you need some assistance, you can ask one of your bridesmaids to join you.

Wedding day portrait in wedding day timelines

Cocktail hour: 1-1.5 Hours

 If your wedding reception is at the same venue as the ceremony, the cocktail hour will begin immediately following the ceremony. However, if your reception is at a different location, the cocktail hour may start about 30 minutes to 1 hour later. The exact time may also depend on the driving distance between the two locations.

Cocktail hour is a great way to keep your guests entertained while you’re busy taking wedding photos. It also marks the start of your wedding reception, with many couples choosing to make a grand entrance during this time.

For our couples, we recommend spending at least 30 minutes with your guests during the cocktail hour, before the reception begins. This gives you a chance to mingle and socialize with your guests. You can have your MC introduce you to the guests to officially start the reception.

Grand Entrance wedding day timeline

Grand Entrance: 5-10 minutes

The newlyweds and the wedding party are formally introduced to wedding guests during the grand entrance. It can happen either during cocktail hour or at the reception. If you do it during cocktail hour, you can mingle with the guests right after and then ease into the reception.

Dinner – 45 mins – 1 Hour

Typically dinner lasts around 45 minutes- 1 hour depending on the dinner service you choose.

Wedding Speeches photos - Timeless Tales Creatives

Speeches: 15 – 30 minutes

When it comes to wedding speeches, it’s always best to have a plan. If you have multiple speakers, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or someone from the wedding party, make sure to allocate 5 minutes for each person. This way, you can get an idea of the total time needed and ensure everyone has a chance to share their thoughts and stories.

Cake cutting: 15 minutes

Schedule the cake cutting after the speeches. This will give the caterers enough time to prepare for it after the dinner service.

Cake Cutting at Chinese Wedding at Grand Imperial Banquet Edmonton

Bouquet And Garter Toss: 15 minutes

We understand not everyone wants to do a bouquet and garter toss. If you want to do either one you can either have them before or after the first dance. It usually takes about 15 minutes.

First Dance & Other Dances – 15 minutes

The last event on your wedding day timeline before the big party will be your first dance. You can dance to the whole song or ask your DJ to fade it after a few minutes. Following your first dance, you can have your parents’ dances or money dances. At this point,, your guests will want to get on the dance floor. Discuss with your DJ and schedule dance sets to set the mood for the night.

First Dance photos - Wedding day

Grand Exit – 15 minutes

If you’re planning to do a grand exit at your wedding reception, it’s important to schedule it ahead of time, before the dance floor opens to guests. Furthermore, this will ensure that you can have your special moment without any interruptions or distractions. My recommendation is to do it before the first dance. The first dance will help guests to come back to the reception hall and it doesn’t break the dance floor

Sunset Photos – 15-30 minutes

Depending on the time of the year you are getting married, you have the option to do sunset wedding photos. The golden hour right before the sun goes down creates a warm and romantic atmosphere which is perfect for wedding photography. Trust me, the results will be stunning!

Sparkler exit - Calgary Weddings

Sample Wedding day Timeline

The information provided above should have given you an idea of how much time you should allocate for each event on your wedding day. Below, you will find a sample timeline for your wedding day, assuming that your ceremony will begin at 1:30 PM, you have 250 guests and a wedding party of 12 (including the couple). You can modify this timeline according to your ceremony time and create your own wedding day schedule.

10-00-11.00 AM – Partner A getting ready
11.00 AM-11.30 AM – Travel time for photographers from Partner A’s Place to Partner B
11.30-1.00 PM- Partner B getting ready
1.00-1.15 PM – Travel time
1.15-1.30 PM – Couples prepare for the ceremony. Photographers take detailed photos of the location & set up
1.30-2.30 PM – Ceremony
2.30-3.30 PM – Group Photos ( Family & Friends)
3.30-4.00 PM – Wedding Party Photos
4.00-5.00 PM – Wedding Portraits of the couple
4.00-6.00 PM – Cocktail hour
5.00-5.30 PM – Alone time for the couple + Photographers get photos of the reception set-up
5.30 PM – Bridal Party grand entrance
5.30-6.00 PM – The couple will mingle with the guests
6.00 PM – Reception starts
6.15-7.15 PM – Dinner
7.15 – 7.45 PM – Speeches
7.45- 8.00 PM – Cake Cutting
8.00 – 8.15 PM – First Dance + Other dances
8.15 PM – 8.30 PM – Grand Exit
8.30 PM – Party Begins

Here are a few other articles we think will help you with your wedding planning and photography.

If you are planning a Punjabi/sikh/ Indian wedding here is the timeline. Punjabi/Sikh Indian Wedding Timelines

If you are planning a Chinese or Vietnamese wedding. Chinese Wedding Timeline with a Tea Ceremony

Other topics that will help you

5 tips to look best in your wedding photographs

How to plan a wedding once engaged

Do you need engagement or save the date photos

5 tips on how to find a wedding photographer

Would you like to add any details, offer wedding day tips to couples, or ask questions? Feel free to comment below.


Looking for a Wedding Photographer? Fill our Contact Form & Let's Chat. Based in Edmonton, Alberta and we travel.

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