An easy to follow guide to help create a timeline for your wedding day. Made by a former event planner turned photographer!

So your getting married, CONGRATULATIONS! Welcome to everyone expecting you to know how to plan and execute a wedding. I know, I know, its crazy, you do this once (maybe twice…) in your life, and you are expected to know everything. And a big thing that throws every couple through a twist, is the timeline!! All vendors expect one from you, and you’re probably sitting there like… um… how long does it take for photos? How long is my ceremony? First look? Don’t worry! I got you!

As a former event planner turned photographer, I’ve seen and constructed hundreds of timelines. So the biggest thing I need to say up front, NOT EVERY ONE IS THE SAME, AND THATS PERFECTLY OK!!!!

Alright, let’s get to the good stuff! Lets break it down as simple as possible!

Getting Ready/Pre Ceremony (Remember some of these can and will overlap)

  • Bride 1.5-2.5 Hours
  • Bridesmaids 45 min -1 Hour each
  • Groom and Groomsmen 30 min – 1 Hour
  • Putting on dress/veil/jewelry 10-30 minutes (Typically you will want photos during this time, with mom/loved ones)
  • Detail Shots, This will probably be the first thing your photographer does when they arrive. And will most definitely overlap with getting ready.
  • People arriving late (PRO TIP! Put on your invite that the ceremony will start 10-15 minutes earlier than expected, this way most people running late, will be there on time! (example, ceremony starts at 5:30, Put on Invite 5:15)

First Looks

  • Plan for 15-30 minutes EACH (no, you do not have to do all of them, you don’t even have to do any. Its completely up to you!) See Why First Looks Help Your Timeline for more info about first looks.
    • Partner
    • Bridal Party
    • Grandparents
    • Parents
    • Etc.


  • Plan for 2-3 minutes per gathering (could be more depending on mobility, size of gathering, etc.)
    • Mom/Dad (3min)
    • Siblings (3min)
    • Grandparents (3min)
    • Bridesmaids, Example: 4 Bridesmaids individual with bride AND group (15min)
    • Uncle Mike (3 min)Total 27 minutes


  • Average 30 minutes unless you have a lot of things going on (Readings, sand ceremony, tying a knot ceremony, add 3-5 minutes per additional ceremony/reading)
  • If you are having a religious ceremony, that’s a whole other ball game. A Catholic wedding mass is typically 45 minutes to an hour. But some ceremonies could be all day events.


  • If your wedding is going to be all in one spot, you can basically by pass this section, just remember, people still have to walk from place to place. If you have a grandparent that has a harder time moving around, keep them in mind as well.
  • Have to get the guests from ceremony to reception? Take out your google maps! If its a Saturday at 3, and your guests will be leaving the ceremony location at 4, AT 4 O’CLOCK ON A SATURDAY, see how long it takes! If you are having a weekday wedding this is vital! Rush hour traffic! Once you have that number, add 5- 10 minutes. This would be the time you would want your cocktail hour to begin at the venue. Give people time to get there and then feed and water your humans!

Cocktail Hour

  • This one is simple, Its 1 hour

Couple Portraits

  • 30 minutes MINIMUM! Really allow yourself to have this time together. Keeping in mind, if you don’t want to be rushing around after the ceremony to get these, a first look is the way to go!
  • Sunset Photos, If you want to get those pretty and glowy sunset photos, COMMUNICATE THIS WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER! They may need to get specific gear ready for this depending on their photo style, and ADD IT TO YOUR TIMELINE! Sunset may be when you are eating dinner, and you have to go run to the location. Find when sunset will be on your wedding day HERE. Simply put in your city and state to find the time! Keeping in mind, that the time of “sunset” is when the sun has left the horizon. Plan for 15-20 minutes before the date given for your photos. As well as keeping in mind any time it may take to get to the photo location for this!


  • Plan for 1-2 hour, this will very depending on what type of service you opt for, buffet, sit down meal, number of guests, if you salad is pre plated at the table, etc. Get with your caterer to get a more exact number.


  • 5 minutes each! Let your people know they have 5 minutes each. Dad, MOH, Best Man, etc.


  • 3 minutes Each! Some dances will be the ones to open the dance floor, Father/Daughter, Mother/Son, Etc.
  • PRO TIP! Have your first dance be right after your entrance! You could also follow this with all the Special moment Dances. Why? Everyone will be in the room at that point, people probably won’t be walking around or in the bathroom after dinner. You don’t want mom or grandma to miss you first dance or your Father/Daughter Dance. This will ensure that all those special moments a shared!

With all this in mind, remember not to keep a crazy tight timeline! You don’t want to be rushing on your big day. Give yourself grace and time to relax and enjoy every moment.



Wedding Planning

August 10, 2023

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