Wedding Tips: Planning Your Wedding Day Timeline | Baltimore Wedding Photographer | Katherine Elizab


One of the most important aspects to planning your day is having a good timeline in place. A good timeline lets everyone know where to be, when to be there, and helps to ensure that enough time is given to each activity. Now, there will be things that happen that you have to deal with on the fly or choose to let this or that go. But as the quote goes “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”.

Having a great wedding planner to help you craft the perfect timeline is so helpful for this! Often various vendors have different schedules and perspectives and its important (though overwhelming) to take this all into consideration. I’m coming from the perspective of a photographer (and as a past bride) and will walk you through an example timeline to leverage the light, capture all of your special moments and to help you be able to relax and enjoy your day.

Are you currently figuring out your own wedding day timeline? I’ve created a free Wedding Day Timeline Template for you! Just CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page to get your free template to use while I walk you through the steps to figuring out your timeline!

Also, if you are one my wedding couples, feel free to email me directly with any questions so that we can work through the timeline together!

Let's Get This Party Started!

First, let’s take a look at the whole timeline and then walk you through crafting a similar timeline to fit your day!

Sample Wedding Timeline:

2:00 PM – Photographer arrives, getting ready and detail photos

3:00 PM - Bride gets into Wedding Gown

3:30 PM – First look photos

4:00 PM – Wedding party photos

4:30 PM – Immediate family photos

5:00 PM – Head inside - Photographer captures Ceremony/Reception details/Prep for Ceremony

5:30 PM - Ceremony Begins

6:00 PM – Ceremony Ends. Photograph any extended family photos, cocktail hour begins

6:35 PM – 5-10 minutes of sunset portraits with couple

7:00 PM – Reception begins

(I recommend going straight into your first dance and toasts after your entrance, especially if you have fewer hours booked for your day)

TBD – Photographer leaves after dinner, all reception events, and 45+ minutes of free dancing, usually between 10-11 pm

Time to break this down:

When building a wedding timeline, I recommend starting from the middle (at sunset), working backwards, and then looping back around. Confused yet? Let me explain.

Two things that I look at when building a timeline - what time is the ceremony and what time is sunset on your date. Ceremony time is typically set between you and the venue far in advance but if its not already scheduled, let’s begin with sunset and go from there. I’m going to use October 3rd (my anniversary) as our example date. Sunset in Maryland on October 3rd is at 6:45 pm. I’m going to estimate that your ceremony will be 30 minutes and would recommend setting the ceremony start time for 5:30 pm.

5:30 PM – Ceremony

6:00 PM - Ceremony Ends/Cocktail Hour Begins

On your wedding day, everyone is excited to see you, take a selfie with you, and give their congratulations! This is a wonderful thing, but this should be handled strategically, so I always recommend that the couple gets hidden away 30 minutes before the ceremony time (5pm) when guests start arriving. During this time, I grab a few photos of the ceremony/reception details and get set up for your wedding!

5:00 PM – Head inside before the ceremony!

5:30 PM – Ceremony

6:00 PM - Ceremony Ends/Cocktail Hour Begins

First Look:

In many cases, I do recommend doing a first look before the ceremony. Two of the reasons why I recommend a first look is that you have a chance to experience this intimate moment with just the two of you, without the eyes of dozens (or hundreds) of people surrounding you. I was married before I knew about First Looks (and before Pinterest) otherwise, I totally would have done this! For afternoon/evening weddings during Fall and Winter when the sun sets really early, this is also VERY beneficial, Another good reason is that this allows for extra time with just the two of you, is less stressful, and can give you a little bit of a break after the ceremony to enjoy some cocktails! It’s always a very personal decision, and either way, I’ll be there to capture the special moments!

I generally recommend 30 minutes for immediate family portraits (2-4 minutes per grouping), 30 minutes for bridal party, and 30 minutes for first look and Bride/Groom Portraits. As we are working backwards in our timeline, that would look like this:

3:30 PM – First look photos

4:00 PM – Wedding party photos

4:30 PM – Immediate family photos

5:00 PM – Head inside before the ceremony!

5:30 PM – Ceremony

6:00 PM - Ceremony Ends/Cocktail Hour

Almost Done!

We are doing pretty good so far! 60-90 minutes is what I recommend to capture the wedding details and getting ready candids of the bride. If getting ready at a different location, it's important to add in travel time as well. In this scenario that would be starting at 2:00.

2:00 PM – Photographer arrives, getting ready and detail photos

3:00 PM - Bride gets into Wedding Gown

3:30 PM – First look photos

4:00 PM – Wedding party photos

4:30 PM – Immediate family photos

5:00 PM – Head inside before the ceremony!

5:30 PM – Ceremony

6:00 PM - Ceremony Ends/Cocktail Hour

And that wraps up a big chunk of the timeline! During cocktail hour, its a great time to mingle with guests or if needed, grab any extended family photos (right after the ceremony). I also love to build in 15-20 minutes for romantic sunset portraits when the light is deliciously dreamy. This gives you the added bonus of having a few minutes (mostly) alone with your new spouse to soak in the fact that YOU JUST GOT MARRIED! Whoop Whoop!

2:00 PM – Photographer arrives, getting ready and detail photos

3:00 PM - Bride gets into Wedding Gown

3:30 PM – First look photos

4:00 PM – Wedding party photos

4:30 PM – Immediate family photos

5:00 PM – Head inside before the ceremony!

5:30 PM – Ceremony

6:00 PM - Ceremony Ends/Cocktail Hour

6:05 PM - Extended Family Portraits

6:35 PM - Sunset Portraits

7:00 PM - Reception Begins

I recommend going straight into your first dance and toasts after your entrance, especially if you have fewer hours booked for your day as things can often get delayed. This timeline also positions a good amount of time for you to feel relaxed as you get ready and not quite as much time for dancing as usually 30-45 minutes allows me to sufficiently capture the vibe of the dance party!

If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to send me an email or write a comment below and don't forget to grab your free Wedding Day Timeline PDF Template below!

Katherine is a coffee loving, dog snuggling Annapolis and Baltimore Maryland Wedding Photographer who captures the raw and real moments, happy tears, and beautiful laughter surrounding this crazy thing we call life.


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