Top Tips to Creating Your Wedding Day Timeline

So here we are, towards the end of the wedding planning journey. It’s close to the big wedding day, so trust me when I say, it’s so important to have a good and almost perfect wedding timeline so that you, your groom and guests enjoy all the hard work you put into your wedding day.

I created this blog post with my top tips for creating a wedding timeline. Remember, if you have a wedding planner, make sure to lean on them to help you with this timeline, and lean on your photographer for the photography wedding timeline.

Wedding Day Timeline Tips

Getting Ready Photos – about 90 minutes for the bride

It takes about 90 minutes for hair and make up, so schedule them to arrive early. Account for the bridal party to also get their hair and makeup done.

First Look – 1 hour

Plan to block off about 1 hour for the first look and the bride and groom portraits.

Cocktail Hour – 1 hour

Cocktail hour is the time for the guests to mingle right after the ceremony while formal photos are being taken. If formal photos are done before the ceremony, this is still a great time to take some bride and groom portraits during golden hour.

First Dance

First dance is done usually after the grand entrance. The dances for bride and groom with their parents should be about 5 minutes.

Toasts -5 minutes each

Bride and groom can take this time to thank their guests for attending their wedding. We all have short attention spans, so ensure that anyone else making a speech keep it short and sweet. I would dedicate about 5 minutes per speech.

Dinner – 45 minutes

You should carve out about 45 minutes for dinner. Keep in mind, this is the time the vendors, including your photographer, have their dinner. It’s important that nothing is planned during dinner such as games, dances, etc., to ensure your videographer and photographer do not miss out on these special moments.

Cake Cutting – 10 minutes

Remember when we were kids and we knew once the birthday girl cut her cake it was game over? Same for weddings! Make sure to schedule cake cutting a little further our in your wedding timeline, a time that you are ok with people beginning their exit. Now, this doesn’t mean do cake cutting at 10pm when the wedding ends at 11. Make cake cutting about an hour after the scheduled dinner.

Last Dance – 5 minutes

The last dance signals to the guests that the end of the wedding is drawing near. It also signals to the guests that the grand exit is next, so make sure to have the DJ or MC make this announcement and inform the guests of where the grand exit is taking place.

Grand Exit – 5 to 10 minutes

Plan about 5 to 10 minutes for the grand exit.

Add buffer times to the timeline

It’s inevitable that there will be some bumps on your wedding day, which can definitely cause a little disturbance in your wedding day timeline. One way to help this is by creating a few minute buffers for traveling, ceremony time and formal photos.

Schedule time to eat…YES, EAT!

It’s so important to eat breakfast and schedule a lunch for you, your groom and wedding party.

Create a Group Shot List

A group shot list is just the family photos done during cocktail hour (or before the ceremony if you do a first look). This is a list that you create to give to your photographer to ensure that you get the family photos you absolutely want, so be sure your list is short, concise and only list very important people.

Plan your formals and bride/groom portraits when there is still light out. This is very important. As your wedding photographer, I will ensure that I go over the group shot list you provide and ensure that what you are asking is doable within the wedding timeline we create.

Here is an example of how I like my brides to group their shot list (this is an example, not exhaustive):

  • Couples – As the wedding photographer, I like to photograph the couples and their family first. Make sure to communicate to your families that they need to stick around after the ceremony.
    • Bride + Groom
    • Bride + Groom + Bride’s parents (name the parents here – Blake and Ryan)
    • Bride + Bride’s parents
    • Bride + Bride’s mom (Blake)
    • Bride + Groom + Blake
    • Bride + Groom + Ryan
    • Bride + Groom + Groom’s parents (name the groom’s parents here- Angelina + Brad)
    • Bride + Groom + Angelina
    • Bride + Groom + Brad
    • Bride + Groom + flower girls
  • Couple + Wedding Party – It’s important that you tell your wedding party to stick around after cocktail hour. Many times the wedding party will attend cocktail hour and put us behind on the timeline because we have to send people to gather the party.
    • Couple + Bridal party (how many in the bridal party?)
    • Couple + Groom + Bridal party
    • Bride + Amy (make sure to list off the bridesmaids)
    • Couple + Groom’s Party

Pro-tip 1: Pro-tip: Include elderly and any handicapped people first.

Pro-tip 2: Designate a sibling or your maid of honor to help with the formal photos. After all, they are most familiar with the families and wedding parties. My goal is to make this part of the day fast and efficient.

I know this list seems daunting and long, however, it’s so important to have a clear list to help your photographer capture these precious formal photos.

Create a weather backup wedding timeline

Living in Florida you know that Florida weather can be quite unpredictable, so it’s best to create a backup wedding timeline. Here are some things you should consider when creating a backup wedding timeline:

  • Is the ceremony space outside? If it is, where around the venue can the ceremony be held inside. Most vendors have a vendor coordinator, so be sure to ask them what their weather backup plan is.
  • Where will the bride and groom portraits take place? As your wedding photographer, I arrive to the venue early to scope out the venue. I do a venue walkthrough to scope out lighting and potential areas to do bride and groom portraits especially if it rains.
  • Buy 2 clear umbrellas just in case!

Other things to consider while creating your wedding timeline

  • Include buffer times if there is transportation to the ceremony site and from the ceremony site to the reception site. If Google Maps states that going from point A to point B takes 20 minutes, make sure to include buffer time for parking, walking, traffic, etc.
  • Consider the type of wedding ceremony you are having. Catholic ceremonies are about 45 minutes, so make sure to factor that in to the timeline.
  • Factor in other traditions like the garter toss, flower bouquet toss, and other wedding games.
  • Consider the wedding timeline if you plan to have a first look with your dad.
  • Pay attention to the time of day that you are scheduling your ceremony. You want to schedule this when there is still sun out. For example, a November wedding ceremony should be scheduled around 4pm, while a May wedding ceremony should be scheduled around 5pm.
  • Schedule sunset bride and groom portraits for after the ceremony, so keep the sunset time in mind. For example, if you have a November wedding, you can schedule the bride and groom portraits for 4:30pm. If you have having a May wedding, you can schedule the bride and groom portraits for 5:30.

Talk to the wedding planning experts about your wedding timeline

Lean on the experts to help you create a smooth wedding timeline. Wedding planners are experienced in creating a smooth wedding timeline for you. Lean on your wedding photographer to help you create a photography timeline. Lean on their advice and experience so that you have a smooth wedding!

I hope this “Top Tips to Create a Perfect Wedding Timeline” has helped you. If you have any additional tips or questions, please leave a comment below! This blog post is subject to changes.

So you already to say “I said yes” to your partner, now it’s time to say “I said yes” to your wedding photographer. I am a South Florida wedding photographer who is up to the task of taking some beautiful imagery of your wedding day. If you love my work so far, then let’s say “I do” to a wedding consult here. Not quite ready to start planning, then let’s stay friends on Instagram. And wherever you are at in your wedding planning journey, I wish you the utmost best!

May 6, 2023

  1. Liz Romo says:

    Wish I saw this before my wedding! Soooo helpful!

  2. Lee Hardy says:

    Love your content! Low key jealous that you weren’t doing this a decade ago, but so happy we have you as our family photographer! 🙂

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This is such a great blog, so informative!
    It reminds the reader what they still might have to do. Can’t wait to see more wedding sneaks posted on your page!

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