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You have planned your whole wedding; flowers, favors, even the guest signs for the bathroom but did you know that it’s crucial to have a wedding timeline?

A wedding timeline will help keep your wedding day running smooth. The day can get away from you if you don’t have specific times and deadlines for the next “event”.

That’s where I come in! I can help you make the perfect wedding timeline.

You may also have a wedding coordinator make this timeline for you but they should get in touch with the photographer to make sure they are leaving the right amount of time to take photos.

In my experience, I have had coordinators create a timeline, and 99% of the time, it needed to be changed. The only person who knows how much time the photographer needs – is the photographer. All photographers and weddings are different; so a one size fits all wedding timeline won’t cut it.

Here are a few things to consider when making your wedding timeline with your photographer and/or coordinator.

Drive Time

This is the most important that often gets overlooked. You may want to analyze your wedding with these questions; is your wedding in the country or the big city? What season is my wedding and will the roads be bad? Are we getting ready at the venue? Give yourself enough time to travel, plan for unexpected travel delays, and delays made by the bridal party while trying to leave. The more drive time you have, the less time you have for other important things, like portraits! Getting ready at the venue is the most ideal option (if they have a bridal suite) or you can find a nearby hotel.


If you chose a natural light – lifestyle photographer, like myself, then photos won’t take very long. If your photographer uses a lot of artificial light (off-camera lights on stands, usually) then they may need more time to get their specific posed photos. It usually takes me 30 minutes for each “event” or less. We can talk about what “events” mean at the end of this post.

Ceremony Length

As I know, the length of your ceremony usually depends on your beliefs. Catholic Wedding Masses usually take an hour but may also take only 30 minutes if they don’t include communion. If your wedding timeline needs some work to save time you may want to look at your ceremony length but please don’t stray from your roots just to save us vendors time. We will work with you and want to keep your wedding as sentimental as possible.

Receiving Line

This is a detail that means a lot to my brides and grooms but often it does take up a good chunk of your day – 30 minutes or more to be exact! This usually takes place after the ceremony so your family and friends can congratulate you. Or (the option I like best) if you have a first look you can attend your cocktail hour and greet your guests there! Lastly, a receiving line/greet may take place during dinner. Dinner is the photographers’ downtime or time for detail shots so it works perfectly to add this event during dinner to save everyone time since it is rarely photographed unless asked for.

Day Light Savings Time

I ran into this issue the first year I photographed a wedding. It was early winter and I didn’t think that the sun going down at 4:30 PM would affect the wedding so much. A rookie mistake but it is one I will never forget. Maybe that’s why I stick to a timeline now (wink wink). If you are having a wedding later in the year with a later ceremony time you will most definitely need a first look!! Notice, I said NEED. You will need to have a first look so you can get portraits while there is still sun remaining. So if you are superstitious you will need to talk this one out and change your whole wedding accordingly. The way to get around a first look in the winter is to have an early ceremony start time to accommodate the sunlight that’s remaining in the day.

Reception Events

You will want to think about which events need to be photographed during your reception. I have had a mix of brides that wanted the entire reception captured from the entrance to sparkler exit and some that only wanted the important dances captured. If you won’t be needing full reception coverage I recommend having those photographable moments first. There is no wrong way to go here it is all personal preference. What’s important to you is important to me!

To Exit or not Exit?

The Epic Sparkler Exit is really popular right now with all wedding types. Did you know that some (if not all) of these are “fake” exits just for a photo op? YUP! Most couples are not really leaving right after their exit or ending their reception party. You can add this exit anywhere in your wedding timeline for more epic photos! I personally love them because it gets your guests up out of their chairs and they get to be apart of your bridal portraits. You can also have this “staged” sparkler exit with just your bridal party and that will add to your aesthetic because they already match your wedding, unlike cousin Jessica in a bright orange mini dress.

Now, let’s take a look at what an ideal timeline looks like for me; with a first look and without. Feel free to download these and share them with whoever is creating your timeline to have a solid start.

First, a real timeline used just last November 2020

Real Wedding Cincinnati

Next, a timeline with a first look.

Wedding Timeline

And, a timeline without the first look. Notice how this drastically changes the ceremony time from 6 PM to 4:30 PM. Having an earlier wedding ceremony also leaves questionable time for your guests before the reception. They have 2 hours of nothing to do. It’s best to add in a cocktail hour or adjust your ceremony time to keep things rolling for them.

Wedding Timeline

I hope this helps you with your wedding timeline. If you ever need guidance I know your photographer and wedding coordinator will gladly help you!

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