Time of Our Lives: 6 Tips for Creating a Wedding Timeline that Works

Posted by on Apr 16, 2014 in Photography | Comments


As a wedding photographer, I have come to realize that my job is more than just taking beautiful photos. A big part of the photographer’s job is making sure the couple’s timeline allows for the beautiful photos they want to have to actually be captured. Creating a wedding timeline is a balancing act of allowing enough time for you to get the shots you need and making sure the couple has time to enjoy their day.

Essentially, the timeline is your master wedding plan to ensure you have the time you need to take those must capture wedding moments!

Bride and Groom Leaving Ceremony

Here are 6 key tips for making a wedding photography timeline.

1. Know when key events will happen.

I like to send out a questionnaire to couples about 6 weeks prior to the wedding. Some of the things I want to know are times and locations for:

  • Hair/makeup
  • Bride getting dressed
  • Groom getting dressed
  • Leaving for ceremony site
  • First look
  • Ceremony
  • Family portraits
  • Portraits of bridal party
  • Portraits of bride & groom
  • Cocktail hour
  • Dinner

 2. Plan for when the couple will first see each other

During our meeting prior to the wedding, I talk through the benefits of having a first look.  Many couples want to save the moment they see each other for the first time for when the bride walks down the aisle, but having a “first look” moment, where the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony, can make for a beautiful and intimate wedding portrait.

Talking through both options, whether the couple initially wants a first look or not. But, in the end, always listen to what your clients truly want and respect their decision.

Bride and Groom Walkin and Sharing a Special Moment

3. Get familiar with the size of both the wedding party and family.

Find out from the couple how many family wedding portraits they want and how many people are involved. The more people involved, the longer this portion of the day will take, so you need to adjust the timeline accordingly.

I find the best and most efficient time to take these photos is immediately following the ceremony, when everyone is contained in the same place.

Note that wedding party photos can take place before or after the ceremony, depending on if the couple wants to see each other prior to the ceremony.

Be sure to check out Wedding Photography: Posing the Family for techniques and tips on wedding group photography.

4. Plan for the sun set and other lighting cues.

I always research what time the sun sets on the wedding day because it affects when we can do daylight photos. This is especially important for winter weddings, when the sun sets much sooner than in the summer.

If the couple doesn’t want to see each other before the wedding, and the sun will set before the ceremony is over, it is important to communicate with them that they won’t have any natural light photos of the two of them together. Sometimes this is fine with the couple and other times, they will want to modify their timeline.

Additionally, you will want to try and take advantage of the “golden hour.” This is the moment about an hour before sunset when the light is absolutely perfect. I like to figure out what will be happening at that time during the wedding to make sure I can pull the couple away for a few magical portraits.

Bride and Groom Leaving Reception With Sparklers

5. Account for the travel time between locations.

One of the reasons I ask for the time and location of events prior to the wedding is because it allows me to calculate the travel time. Sometimes everything takes place in the same location. Other times, the getting ready location is on the other side of town from the ceremony location, requiring time for traffic and other unexpected delays.

6. Always plan based on what’s most important to the couple.

The most important piece to remember when creating a wedding timeline is to make sure there is time for the photos that are most important to the bride and groom.

If they really want a photo of themselves with their dog, make sure that you make space for that photo to happen. If the centerpieces that the bride handmade prior to the wedding are a priority, work with the wedding coordinator to find a time before the reception to capture these special moments.

Bride and Groom With Their Dog

What do you think should always be included in a wedding timeline?