A good timeline can make or break a wedding day. A wedding day is stressful and full of tasks. But, it shouldn't be, it should be a day full of so. much. joy. That is why it is important to work with your planner and photographer to make sure your day is organized and scheduled to promote the maximum amount of time where you are simply enjoying *your* day.
Note, these times are how *I* prefer to run a wedding day. This will vary amongst different photographers. Also, different key factors can effect times: first look, driving to locations (getting ready, ceremony and reception), and how many people are in your wedding party.
Getting Ready (2 to 6 hours)
I always aim for 1 hour for hair and 1 hour for makeup for the bride. If your bridesmaids are getting their hair and makeup professionally done, don't forget to include roughly the same amount of time for each of them. It is recommended to have multiple hair dressers and make-up artists to make sure nothing gets behind (and so it doesn't take 8 hours to get ready!!).
It is also helpful for no one to be interrupted while getting their hair/makeup done. Every time you (or a bridesmaid) has to answer a question or get up to grab something for someone, those 5-10 minutes are wasted. Have someone in charge that can answer all questions. Give your phone to someone else. Focus on hanging out with your girls and getting pampered, not worrying where the flowers are.
It always takes longer to get into your dress than anticipated. I prefer to allot 30 minutes for getting into your dress, putting on your shoes/jewelry, for any final touch ups, and for a first look with your girls (if wanted!).
For the guys, they don't need as much time. They typically only need an hour, but it might be best to have them arrive earlier if you worry someone might not arrive on time.
Other fun facts: Getting ready photos aren't always the prettiest photos from a day. But, it doesn't have to be that way! When planning on where to get ready, choose a room or location with lots of natural light. It is also an added bonus if there is a lot of white (walls, furniture, etc). Many times, brides will rent out a fun, local AirB&B to provide a beautiful space for getting ready. It is also important to keep the space clean. Ask you girls to keep their stuff together and in a bag. Find a location or closest to put everyone's bags. It takes time from the schedule to move items around, or many times, the mess ends up in the background.
First Look (2 to 3 hours)
First look and your portraits will take ~ 1 hour. We will then move into the rest of the photos which will take 1.5 to 2 hours
You don't have to do a first look. This is completely your decision. Do what *you* want for *your* day. If you decide to have a first look, you will be able to spend more time together throughout the day. You will also receive more photos of just the two of you. With a first look, you can get every photo taken care of before the ceremony. With all photos done, you can jump right into the party after you are married. We recommend beginning photos 2 to 3 hours before the ceremony. During this time we will complete your portraits, all photos with your wedding party, and all family photos.
Pre-Ceremony Photos (1.5 hours)
This is for weddings with no first look.
If you are choosing to have a first look, ignore this paragraph.
To use our time wisely, we will complete as many photos as possible before the ceremony. This way, after the ceremony, we can focus more on your photos with your groom and get you to your reception as fast as possible! I recommend 1.5 hours before the ceremony to complete all photos of you, you with your girls, you with your family, him, him with his groomsmen, and him with his family.
We will wrap all photos 30 minutes before the ceremony. During this time, you can sit, freshen up, and go to the bathroom.
During this down time, we will focus on getting detail photos and capturing your guests.
Ceremony (30 minutes)
When planning your ceremony, remember to check the sunset times beforehand. It would be bad to get married in the dark or in the heat of the day. Also, consider any photos that need to happen after the ceremony (especially if you do not do a first look). If the sun is setting during the ceremony, we would not have enough day light for your photos! Yikes!
Your ceremony can be as long as you want. Choose to have special singers or ceremonies. Or, keep it short and simple. Whatever you choose, it doesn't affect us, so do what you need.
If photos will take place following the ceremony, it is crucial that someone is in charge of wrangling all family members and wedding party. To keep things timely, it is a must that family remain present for photos and don't begin to mingle with guests.
Photos Post Ceremony (30-60 minutes)
These 30-60 minutes will only be needed if you did not have a first look.
If you do not have a first look, we will begin with taking photos of family. It is helpful to keep this to immediate family and to provide us with a shot list of family combinations.
After family photos, we will take photos with the entire wedding party. And then, photos of you both! This is my favorite time of a wedding day. Post ceremony photos can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. It is crucial that all family members are present and listen to ensure we have enough time for your portraits.
Reception (3 to 6 hours)
For the reception, depending of the type of atmosphere you have, they can last from three to five hours. If you have a sit down meal that is served, add more time. If it is a buffet, subtract time. If you have alcohol, add time. If you don't have alcohol, subtract time. If you have a dj, add time. If you will not have dancing, subtract time.
Sunset Photos (15 minutes)
Many times, the best light takes place during your reception. If so, we would love to sneak you away for a few minutes for some yummy, golden light photos. It may be time for a break from the hugs, introductions, and dancing too!
Exit (20 minutes)
We love photographing exits! If you are wanting to party into the night, we recommend a fake send off. This allows family and friends that are older or that have kids to participate before they have to leave. It also allows us to shoot in a shorter time frame if you are trying to keep us during a certain amount of time.
If you are using sparklers, make sure you get the extra large ones (don't get the small ones!)! It is also important for someone to be in charge of lighting and handing them out.
All of these times depend on the type of day you have, how large your wedding is, or if you have to travel between locations. But, this is generally how I organize a wedding day.
So, make sure you understand everything you want for your day. Let your planner and photographer know. Let them create you a timeline that works, that allows you the freedom to be the bride, and that allows for maximum photo opportunities for your day.
Below are two sample timelines from real weddings. This can help you visualize the time needed for all parts of a wedding day.
Comment with any questions!