Creating A Wedding Timeline | Emma Christine Photography

Creating A Wedding Timeline

November 23, 2018

Creating A Wedding Timeline | South Dakota

The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself First:

Creating your wedding timeline can be stressful, but hopefully I can help ease that concern for you! Before you create a wedding timeline, you need to ask yourself these three questions first: “When will I have my wedding ceremony?”, “Will I have a first look?”, and “How should I pace my wedding day?”. These 3 questions set the structure for your whole day and need to be answered before you can plan the rest of the day.

When will I have my wedding ceremony?

The timing of your ceremony sets the schedule for your entire wedding day. If your venue requires an early ceremony, at 11am, this means that you have to limit what you do in the morning or start earlier to get everything done in time. If you have a 5pm ceremony, this gives you more time to do things before your wedding ceremony. This completely changes from wedding to wedding, but you will want to know it before you sit down to plan your day.

Will I have a first look?

While the wedding ceremony timing is critical, having a first look can have an even bigger impact on your wedding day. If you are going to have a first look, the day is then structured around that first. Personally, both Jon and I believe that you want a first look. Photographing the first look is honestly our favorite part of the day and it was also our favorite part of our own wedding! We also wrote an article about the first look, that you can look at CLICK HERE.

How should I pace my wedding day?

The pace of your day is entirely up to you but should be something that you think about before you plan it out. Do you want everyone to be more relaxed on your wedding day? If so, you may want to plan a more flexible timeline that starts later in the morning, that allows you the ability to enjoy your day at your pace. Otherwise, if structure is you, you may want to start earlier and have a detailed timeline, so that you know where you need to be at any time of the day.


Creating a wedding timeline

The purpose of your timeline is to be able to run on schedule all day, and be able to confidently tell your wedding vendors (catering, hair and makeup) what time they should be there! You may think that it doesn’t take that long to take pictures, but we want to capture you in the moment. Sometimes that means that you need 5-10 minutes of alone time with your bridal party, have to find your bridesmaid that ran off so that you can take one more cute picture, or even travel to the next place to take pictures. Here are roughly the parts of your day that you want to set times for:

1. Getting Ready – Bride and Bridesmaids (1 – 2+ hours)

Hair, makeup, accessories, and dress. Usually it takes about 30 minutes for each person to get done with hair and makeup. When it comes to accessories, this usually takes between 5-10 minutes. Putting on the dress typically takes 15-20 minutes. If you need to travel anywhere to get ready, you need to add this time in as well.

2. Getting Ready – Groom and Groomsmen (30 minutes – 1 hour)

This may come as a surprise, but men usually don’t take as long to get ready. Typically they can bathe, shave, and put on their wedding apparel in this time.

3. The First Look (thirty minutes)

The first look is typically very quick but there are other variables in here, like getting everyone in place for the first look, maybe you want to write one another a letter to read at the first look… which we totally recommend! Thirty minutes is what we recommend for the first look, followed by bride and groom portraits.

4. Bride and Groom Portraits (thirty minutes)

If you want to have more pictures of just the two of you, this is your time. The time that this takes is affected most by how many pictures you want and how many locations would you like to go to.

5. Bridal Party Portraits (forty five minutes)

We like to start with the ladies, and we will take group shots and individuals of just the bride and each bridesmaid, flower girl, etc. Then, the gentlemen show up, and we do full group wedding party pictures. The flower girl, ring-bearer and ushers are also welcome to come at this time. Finally, we finish it up with group pictures of the guys and individuals of the groom and groomsmen.

6. Immediate Family Portraits (thirty minutes)

We recommend going over this in detail with your spouse to make sure you have pictures with everyone important to you and your spouse. Write each combination out on a list for your photographer so that no combination is missed. This ensures that everything goes smoothly and that your photographer gets all of the combinations you are desiring!

7. Detail Portraits (All day)

This typically does not need a specific time, as your photographer will take pictures throughout the day of your wedding details. We do recommend however, that you have your rings, dress, bouquets, invitations, heirlooms, and any other important items ready for your photographer at the start of the day. We typically shoot details at the same time as getting ready photos!

8. Travel Time

There really isn’t a set amount of time for this, but you want to consider each location throughout your wedding day and how long it will take to get back and forth. Is your reception a fifteen minute drive? Plug this into your timeline! We have photographed wedding receptions that were a good half hour from where their ceremony was.

9. Time to Hide! (30 minutes before the ceremony)

As the bride and groom, you will want to hide 30 minutes before guests start arriving at the ceremony. This is typically done right after immediate family photos. Your photographers may grab shots of guests arriving, and photograph ceremony decor at this time too.

10. The Ceremony (30 minutes)

The time that you have waited for your whole life!  You are getting married!!!!

11. Social Hour (1 – 1.5 hours)

Keep in mind, if the timing of your ceremony forces you to take portraits after your ceremony, you will need this time to take pictures.

12. Wedding Reception (2+ hours)

This really depends on what you want to do during your wedding reception and what you would like your photographer to capture. Here is a list of the different things that you can do and the time that it takes:

  • Grand Entrance (10 minutes)
  • Dinner (30 minutes to 1 hour)
  • Toasts (10 to 30 minutes)
  • First Dances (10 minutes)
  • Cutting the cake (10 minutes)
  • Bouquet toss (10 minutes)
  • Anniversary Dance (10 minutes)
  • Dancing (Until the party ends!)


It’s important to keep in mind that these are just rough estimates, and truthfully, when it all comes down to it, your photographer should know how much time he or she will need to photograph each part of your wedding day. And if you’d just rather have a photographer that will create the perfect custom timeline for you…. you can contact me HERE 🙂


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