From a photographer: Wedding Timeline Advice

Wedding planning can be pretty stressful and confusing for most couples, especially if you haven’t been involved in a wedding before. How long will this take? What order do we do things in? When should we start this? Figuring out the timeline for the day can be hard. I will try to answer most of these questions below and give some helpful advice.

My name is Trisha and I have been working weddings for over eight years and have worked over 100 weddings has a photographer. I have seen almost everything. I have come up with a good collections of questions couples have asked about the wedding day timeline and also just helpful tips that most couples don’t think about. Let’s begin!

First Look:

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This first thing you need to think about for your wedding day, is if you’re going to do a first look or not. It might not seems like a big deal, but it can change the whole structure of the day.

To those you don’t know what a first look is, it’s when a couple sees each other for the first time before the ceremony. Some couples want to stick to tradition and see each other for the first time during the ceremony. When you wait to see each other during the ceremony, you then have to wait to do most of the photos till after the ceremony. This means you need to allocate more time between the ceremony and reception. If you want a short happy hour, this may not be the route for you.

Now if you do a first look before the ceremony, this opens up the whole day and you can take all the photos whenever you want. Most couples take all theirs and the wedding party photos before the ceremony. So then all you have to worry about is family photos afterward. I always suggest couples do a first look unless they really want to stick to tradition.


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One thing that you would think is easy to account for but not thought about, is travel time. Travel time to the salon, the getting ready location, the ceremony location, all photo locations and to the reception. If you have to go to several different locations during the day, that travel time can really add up.

You really need to pay attention to this when it comes to all the photo locations you want. I have had several instances of where the couple had dedicated over an hour for photos but ended up with only like 20 minutes to fit everything in because of all the travel they had to do. If you have to drive to your photo locations, I would suggest no more then two. Not only do you have to worry about the time it takes to drive there but all the extra stuff. This includes getting in and out of the cars/bus, walking to photo spots and just gathering your whole group up. It takes more time then you think, specially with a huge party.

If you don’t want to worry about travel, then get a wedding venue where you can do everything there. Not only will it be so much easier on you but all your guests and vendors as well.

How long things take:

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There are several major events you are going to have to calculate out to make sure you have enough time for everything. Hair and make up, getting dressed, photos/videos, ceremony length, dinner service and formal dances/reception games. All vendors are different so make sure to ask them about times, but here is a breakdown of those.

Hair and Makeup is one of the most common things I have seen go long and push back everything. Have your stylist give you a quote on how long it should take and then add a 1/2 hour as a buffer. On this same subject, you also need to think about how long it will take everyone to get dressed. It’s amazing how much longer this takes then you think. Some of the major things to think about is if your girls are wearing dresses that require boob tape or anything of that matter. I have seen a bride take a hour trying to figure it out. When it comes to guys, if they are tying their own tie or bowtie. A lot of guys need help here, especially if it is a bowtie. Bowties can easily take 30 mins to figure out.

How long it takes for each group of photos really depends on the photographer, but here is an average for how long it takes me. I allot 30-45 minutes for detail photos (dress, rings, shoes, etc.), 30-40 mins for getting reading (getting dressed), 15 mins for a first look, 20-40 for bride and groom photos, 30-45 mins for all the wedding party photos (bridesmaid, groomsmen and all together), 20 mins for family photos, 20 mins for decoration and venue photos and then around 20 mins for sunset photos if you want to do that. None of this includes travel time. And if you also have a videographer, you need to consider the extra time they will need. Most photos and videos can be taken at the same time, but a lot of videographers will want solo time.

Now for the reception. Dinner service is a huge chunk of time, that changes based on the style and how many guests. Most dinner time lasts around one hour. Buffet style usually takes longer. You can shorten this though by having two stations and have them double sided. Once everyone has their food, this is a great time to do speeches. When it comes to formal dances and other things like garter/bouquet toss, shoe game, ect, you will need to think about when your photographer/videographer will be leaving for the night. If you have the night packed with events, you will need those vendors to stay later to cover everything.

Sunset time:

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The one thing I have seen couples not even think about is what time the sunsets. This can be extremely important if your wedding is early or later in the year. The sun sets a lot earlier those months. I had a couple miss the time change by one day and if they had their wedding one day earlier, their whole timeline could have been messed up from the sun setting an hour earlier. Most photographers/videographers work with natural light and need to sun to do their job properly. So you are going to have to pay attention to when the sun is setting to make sure there is enough time to get in all your photos.

I hope this has helped some of you guys figure out your wedding day timeline! If you have any questions, or want me to go into more detail on something, leave a comment.

Happy planning!!

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