If you're in the midst of planning your wedding, I'm confident that you've been asked multiple times now for your wedding day timeline. Most couples have never planned a wedding before, so how are they to know how much time is needed for each portion of a wedding day?! That is where I step in. I have created this guide to help you put together your perfect and personalized timeline for your wedding day.

Included is a breakdown of wedding day events, time needed to complete each portion and a timeline example.

STEP 1: key event times

Start by determining your event times that have the least flexibility to move. This can include your ceremony start and end times as well as your reception entrance. These are big moments of the day that you likely already have scheduled. From here we can figure out other important moments to schedule around those already set times.



A typical length for ceremonies is roughly 30 minutes. Check in with your officiant to confirm how long your specific ceremony will take.


A reception entrance typically falls 15-30 minutes before dinner is served. Let your photographer know when all the important reception events, such as speeches, are happening so they know when to steal you away for some sunset shots.

STEP 2: Photography Coverage

Now it is time to think about the moments of your wedding day that are most important for you to have captured.



Once you know what time your ceremony is, you will be able to work backwards to figure out how much time you will have to get ready. I will arrive to the bride's location 30 minutes before she is scheduled to put her dress on. This leaves room for introductions, wedding dress and accessory details and capturing the last of makeup/hair.

Here are some moments you can schedule to capture during your getting ready:

  • Dress and accessory stationary details
  • Bride and bridesmaid candids (before dresses are on)
  • Bride looking at her dress hung in a doorway or window
  • Bride's daughter in bridal gown (if applicable)
  • Bride having mom/sister/bridesmaid button up her dress
  • Bride putting on earrings, shoes, jewellery, etc..
  • Bride and bridesmaid formal portraits

If you have booked two photographers, our second will be with the groom while he gets ready. If you only have one photographer, you will need to take into consideration the amount of time I will need to travel between both getting ready locations. In this case, I will arrive at the groom's location first, then finish at the bride's.



Don't sleep on your details! You take so much time and effort into picking wedding day decorations and vendors to make your vision come to life. You may think you will remember them all, but pictures ensure you will remember it forever. Ensure you give your photographer time to get to the ceremony and reception early to capture photos of your decorations BEFORE your guests arrive.

Here are a few details photos you may want captured:

  • Stationary/Invitations
  • Wedding Rings
  • Bouquets
  • Dress hanging up
  • Jewelry/cuff links
  • Ceremony arch
  • Table settings
  • Venue landscapes



First looks are becoming the best addition to a wedding day schedule! This is perfect for couple's who want to have a moment with just the two of them before they walk down the aisle. A first look is also beneficial for those who want to have the majority of their portraits taken BEFORE the ceremony. You can ask your family and wedding party to arrive early so you're able to get these portraits done, then after your ceremony you have more time for mingling with your guests.

Your first look doesn't need to take long. You can rely on your photographer to find the perfect location away from guests and family, and help you set the scene! Normally the groom is brought to the location first and faced in the opposite direction of the bride's arrival. When the bride approaches, I will guide you both to turn towards the direction I am standing so I can capture those first look feels! After, the magic unfolds and it's just the two of you! If you're feeling stiff, I will step in and help guide you with fun actions such as giving the bride a twirl.



Now comes the moment you've been waiting for, your wedding ceremony.

What time your ceremony takes place at is ultimately up to you and your officiant's schedule. The closer to the evening the better, in my opinion. If you have an outdoor ceremony in the middle of the day, the light is going to be harsh and you could potentially be standing in direct sunlight. The best solution is visiting your ceremony location at the exact time of your ceremony. This will show you how the light will fall and will help you determine if there will be enough shade for you to stand in.

PRO TIP: Make sure you go on a sunny day! You don't want the clouds to be blocking the sun and tricking you into thinking you will be standing in the shade.



The best part about having a wedding party, is that they're with you all day long! These photos can be the most flexible with timing and can even be split up throughout your wedding day. You can schedule them after getting ready to take some photos with your girls/guys, then this leaves more time after your ceremony to mingle with your guests and gives you one less thing to worry about fitting in before your reception. We can then squeeze in 5 minutes after the ceremony to finish the wedding party photos with everyone.

Having a first look can really determine when you should take your wedding party photos. If you have a first look the wedding party photos will take place BEFORE your ceremony, if you do not have a first look, the wedding party photos will be AFTER family photos following the ceremony.

You will get a good combination of photos with your wedding party, such as:

  • bride + all bridesmaids
  • bride + individual bridesmaids
  • groom + all groomsmen
  • groom + individual groomsmen
  • bride + groom + full wedding party
  • bride + all groomsmen
  • groom + all bridesmaids
  • additional requests such as: bride with high school bridesmaids (specific groups).



Now here comes the magic! Bride and groom portraits, in reality, take place all throughout the day.

Here are some moments you'll want to make sure to take time for:

  • first look portraits
  • kiss at the end of aisle portraits
  • reg. portraits away from guests (most likely following your ceremony/before reception)
  • sunset portraits

It is best to talk with your photographer to find out what time of the day works best for their style. For myself, sunsets! But I understand you want to be able to eat, drink and party with the rest of your guests, so sunset may be too late and you don't want to look tired! So we will most likely schedule your portraits right before your reception entrance, then I will steal you away once more for 15 minutes around sunset to capture the last moments of light on your wedding day.

family formals


Family formals are the hardest photos to coordinate, yet the easiest photos to schedule. Typically these photos are taken right after the ceremony while everyone is present and ready. The time for these photos really varies based on the size of your family and the different family combinations you are wanting. I send out a questionnaire a couple weeks before your wedding date to organize these photo combinations and create the perfect list so we don't miss any important moments/people.



This hour is easy to put into your wedding schedule. Following your ceremony, your guest will be able to enjoy appetizers and cocktails while I steal you away for portraits. Sometimes this is longer than an hour depending on what portraits we have scheduled. If you're wanting photography coverage of your guests during cocktail hour, please talk to your photographer about having a second shooter present on your wedding day.



Your reception is where the fun begins! It is the part of the day that you can completely customize!

You will start by scheduling your entrance into the reception hall or tent. Afterwards the possibilities are endless with the traditions or games you can add in to this part of your day.

Here are a few you may not want to miss out on:

  • First dance
  • Parental dance
  • Anniversary dance (ask your dj)
  • Cake cutting
  • Speeches
  • Sparkler exit

Most wedding days I will leave shortly after the dance floor opens. About an hour after your guests start partying I will sneak out (after saying some goodbyes) and leave you all to dance the night away!



Don't forget to leave some room in your schedule to sneak away from the dinner for 15 minutes to catch a moment alone with your new wife/husband! We will find the perfect sunset spot not too far from your reception location so you two can get a second to capture those just married feelings before heading back to the party.


Now that we've made it through all those choices, it is time to sit down with your fiance and discuss what parts of the wedding day are most important for you. When you get a general idea laid out, use this guide to determine how much time you will need to schedule your photographer for.

Below you will find a sample timeline. Most of my wedding days are 6-8 hours coverage, which is perfect for those smaller, more laid back and intimate settings. If you're not wanting to have getting ready shots captured, you're most likely looking at 6 hours coverage. But don't forget about travelling times! If your photographer is needed to travel between getting ready locations, first look location, ceremony location, reception location, and portrait locations, then we may need to discuss how much travelling is needed to get to each on time.

step 4: relax!

And... that’s about it! Once your questionnaire has been completed, everything else lies on me. I will thoroughly go through your schedule and put it together into a personalized wedding day timeline. It will be emailed to you one last time for approval or changes.

If you have any questions or need help with this part of your wedding day, feel free to reach out!

Happy planning!

-Kansas Thurlby Photography