All our Secrets for Stress-Free (ish) Wedding Days
Wedding Timeline Help
After spending so much time helping folks with their wedding timelines, here’s all the best info on everything from getting ready to the grand exit. We’ve included some sample timelines, along with general tips for each part of the day. Get ready to dive on in!
If you’ve been wedding planning for a while, you’re probably in the midst of making that head-ache inducing, master document: the wedding day-of schedule. It can be kind of a long & overwhelming process, yeah? Unless you’re around weddings all the time, it can be tough to know how long everything will take (lucky for you, we’ve been to a lot of weddings!)
We’ve optimized these tips & timelines for our 8hr packages, but you can always customize them for a longer or shorter wedding day. If you’ve booked an Adventure Wedding with us, then you’ll probably need less Bride & Groom portrait time than is listed on here!
Always give yourself more time to get ready than you think you’ll need! For a sure-fire formula, ask your hair and makeup artist for a generous time estimate of how long their work will take them, and then add on an extra 30 minutes for actually getting everyone into their clothes & out the door.
In general, most ceremonies take about 30 minutes. If you’re having a traditional religious service, you’ll probably want to give yourself a bit more time. Also, be sure set aside about 15 minutes after your ceremony to breathe, sign your marriage license, hug your new spouse, all that good stuff.
This is the most frequent mistake we see folks making on their timelines! We’ll often get timelines with 6 hr receptions, which squeezes our coverage time really tight in the first half of the day. While we know you love to party, and your friends most definitely want to hang out with you: most receptions honestly last around 4 hours. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If you have a larger wedding (over 200 guests), you can safely bet on your reception going a bit longer, maybe 5 or so hours.
If you want to have sunset photos taken (yay!), we will generally just steal you away for a few moments sometime during your reception, usually for no longer than 10 or 15 minutes. There’s no real need to schedule it, but you can put it into your timeline if you want!
If you have a grand exit and want to make sure we’re there to capture it (hell yea!) but aren’t sure when your reception will be ending, you can always do your exit at 4 hour reception mark to make sure we’re there to capture it, and then return to partying. If you don’t have any definite grand exit plans and would like to leave your reception time open-ended, a safe bet is to have us end our coverage after about an hour of dancing.
We often get folks wondering if 8 hours will be enough time for everything. While it’s totally normal to get stressed about fitting everything in: we can assure you, it works pretty flawlessly for *almost* everybody. If you are having a very large wedding, or have an unusually long day planned, contact us and we’ll go through it with you to figure out together!
Sample Timeline No. 1
Who It’s For: Couples who are seeing each other before the ceremony (i.e. doing a first look or a private vow reading beforehand)
-Getting Ready -First Look (30 minutes with portraits of bride & groom directly after) -Bridal Party Photos (20 minutes) -Family Photos (30 minutes) -Breathing room (15 mins) -Ceremony! -License Signing (15 mins) -Sunset Photos with Bride & Groom (15 mins) -Bride & Groom Head to Reception
Grand Total Posed Portrait Time: 2.5hrs of photo time before the ceremony
When It Happens: All before the reception!
Pros: We can get all the stressful, posed pictures out of the way before the ceremony, and you’ll be able to go directly to your reception & enjoy cocktail hour with your guests. Additionally, all the family & bridal party are free to mingle after the ceremony, so no herding cats for photos afterwards!
Cons: We’ll be perfectly honest, we like this timeline the best! But if your family is chronically late, you may want to move family photos after the ceremony. And, of course, if you don’t wish to see each other before the ceremony, this is not the timeline for you!
If you’re getting married in the summer, when the days are ridiculously long, we are often shooting in pretty unflattering high-noon sunlight for portraits of your bridal party & family. An easy fix to this problem is to keep the first look portrait time from the timeline above, but move photos of the bridal party & family to after the ceremony. This will extend your cocktail hour by a bit, but you’ll have much nicer lighting.
Sample Timeline No. 2
Who It’s For: Couples who are not doing a first look (i.e. you see each other for the first time when walking down the aisle)
-Getting Ready -Photos of Bride’s Family (30 mins) -Photos of Bridesmaids w/Bride (15 mins) -Photos of Groom’s Family (30 mins) -Photos of Groomsmen w/ Groom (15 mins) -Ceremony! -License Signing (15 mins) -Photos of bridal party all together (10 mins) -Photos of Family w/ Bride & Groom (25 minutes) -Photos of Bride & Groom together (30-45 mins)
Grand Total Posed Portrait Time: 1.5 hour of photo time before the ceremony 1 hour of photo time after the ceremony
When It Happens: Before the Ceremony & During Cocktail Hour
Pros: By doing as many photos as we can before the ceremony, you won’t be missing from your reception for ages taking photos when you could be hanging out with your guests. Also, doing photos later in the day usually means nicer light for portraits!
Cons: Everybody who has to be in posed photos misses out on cocktail hour, and there’s more herding for family members and bridal party required after the ceremony. In general, we have to run a tighter schedule with less room for error, and you are still away from your reception for a while after the ceremony, so it’s imperative that you have things for your guests to do or snacks for them to eat in the mean time!
Keep In Mind
The sample times listed on these timelines are for average sized groups. If you have a larger bridal party (over 10 people), then give yourself a few extra minutes of time for those photos to account for the extra people.
The same follows for family photos. In general, each family photo that has 2-6 people in it takes about a minute. If you have larger groupings than that, give yourself 3-5 minutes per grouping. If you’re looking for more info and advice on how to plan for family photos, we got you covered. Take a look at our family photo guide!
If you have any questions, confusions, concerns, or simply want to have us sit down with you over some coffee for more wedding timeline help, feel free to message us anytime.
Laura & Devon
Chasing sunshine & good stories to tell
Wedding Photographers with a heart for the outdoors and a passion for honest, thoughtful imagery. Based in Seattle, Washington, the PNW, and beyond.