The Best Cheat-Sheet For Creating Your Wedding Timeline

The date is set, you’ve booked your venue and your dress. The flowers are ordered and the DJ is ready to rock your marriage into tomorrow. It’s all smooth sailing from here, right? Right! If you have a plan. Taking the time to create the timeline for your wedding will help the day run smoothly and allow everyone to know where they have to be and when they have to be there. Couples tell us that this is a big stress point for them, but it doesn’t have to be. Creating your wedding timeline comes down to making sure you remember to add everything in, give yourself more time than you need, and communicate the plan to everyone who needs to know it.

Bride and groom relax and have a beer.

As wedding photographers, and the only vendor who will be with you all day, the timeline is our blueprint for the day, so we work closely with you, and your planner if you have one, to ensure there is time for the fantastic party you have planned for your guests, as well as the fantastic photos that we have planned for you.

Bride and groom in an intimate kiss

Start with what you can’t change

To have an effective plan, you need to start with the ceremony, and work backwards and forwards from there. Because the ceremony is one of the most non-negotiable time sensitive items, you should start your timeline there and work everything else around it. It is also the first point of contact with your guests, so it’s kind of a turning point in the day because the party usually falls into place at that point. From there, we like to work backwards, starting with where you will be immediately before the ceremony begins. Which brings us to THE biggest question affecting the timeline: are you doing a First Look.

First look for bride and groom

Are you doing a first look?

There are a lot of opinions regarding whether or not you should do a first look, and quite frankly, we could write a whole blog post on that subject alone, but for the sake of this piece, we simply want you to know that a timeline is easily planned with or without the first look, and we’ll show you a sample of each.

Where are you getting ready?

Still working backwards, we need to look at where the couple will be getting ready. It is usually in separate locations with each of the couple surrounded by friends, family and members of the wedding party all getting ready together. This is when you need to take into consideration things like hair and makeup appointments and flower delivery. It’s a good idea to get an early start, especially if you have several people getting hair and makeup professionally done. There should also be time set aside for photos with the wedding party and family before leaving for the first look or ceremony.   

Don’t forget to plan for travelling to different venues

A big area that gets forgotten when creating a wedding timeline is the time it will take for travel between the different locations. Make sure you allow more than enough time for traffic congestion, and keep in mind that if you are travelling by limousine, that these luxury vehicles, do not move well through traffic, may have difficulty getting into certain areas, and are not very easy to park. When travelling for photos, be mindful of people not travelling in the limousine who will need time to find parking and get to the location. In short, it’s definitely better to err on the side of running a bit early than running late.

How much time should you plan for photos?

Based on our years as wedding photographers, we feel confidant estimating how much time we’ll need for different aspects of the day, and we use this as a guideline to help you with your timeline. Here is a breakdown:
60 minutes – Bride/Groom prep
30 minutes – Wedding Party photos
30 minutes – Bride + Groom photos
30 minutes – family photos (if you have large, extended families, it may take longer)
15 minutes – Reception Decor photos
10 minutes – Ceremony Decor photos

Sample Timelines

Here is a sample of a timeline for a 4:00pm ceremony:

7:00-10:00 – Bride, bridesmaids, maid of honour, mother of the bride – Makeup
10:00 – 1:00 – Bride, bridesmaids, maid of honour, mother of the bride – Hair
11:00 – Flowers arrive
1:00 – 1:45 – Photographers at the Groom’s location
2:15 – Photographers arrive at Bride’s location
2:15 – 2:30 – Put dress on
2:30 – 3:45 – Detail photos, Bridal Party, Photos with family
3:45 – 4:00 – Travel to ceremony (ETA – 5 minutes from Bride’s location)
4:00 – 4:30 – Ceremony
4:30 – 5:00 – Group photo and Family photos at ceremony location
5:00 – 5:15 – travel to location for Bridal portraits
5:15 – 5:45 – Wedding Party photos
5:45 – 6:30 – Bride + Groom photos
6:30 – 6:45 – Travel to Venue
6:45 – 7:00 – Introductions and grand entrance
7:00 – 8:00 – Supper
7:30 – Bride and Groom sneak out between courses for a few sunset photos
8:00 – 9:00 – Speeches / Games
8:30 – Cake Cutting
9:00 – Photo Booth opens
9:30 – First Dance – Father/Daughter dance – Mother/Son dance
10:00 – Bouquet Toss
10:30 – Garter Toss
11:00 – Photo Booth closes – Late Supper
1:00 – Venue Closes

Here is the same timeline moved up for a First Look

7:00-10:00 – Bride, bridesmaids, maid of honour, mother of the bride – Makeup
10:00 – 1:00 – Bride, bridesmaids, maid of honour, mother of the bride – Hair
11:00 – Flowers arrive
12:00 – 12:30 – Photographers at the Groom’s location
12:30 – 12:45 – Travel
12:45 -1:00 – Put dress on
1:00 – 1:45 – Detail photos, Bridal Party, Photos with family
1:45 – 2:00 – Travel to location for Bridal portraits
2:00 – 2:15 – First Look
2:15 – 2:45 – Wedding Party Photos
2:45 – 3:30 – Bride + Groom Photos
3:30 – 3:45 – Wedding Party travels to ceremony location
3:45 – 4:00 – Groom and groomsmen take their positions
4:00 – 4:30 – Ceremony
4:30 – 5:00 – Group photo and Family photos at ceremony location
5:00 – 5:30 – travel to Venue
5:30 – 5:45 – Introductions and grand entrance
5:45 – 7:00 – Supper
6:15 – 6:30 – Sunset Photos
7:00 – 8:00 – Speeches / Games
7:30 – Cake Cutting
8:00 – Photo Booth opens
8:30 – First Dance – Father/Daughter dance – Mother/Son dance
9:00 – Bouquet Toss
9:30 – Garter Toss
10:00 – Photo Booth closes
11:00 – Late Supper
1:00 – Venue Closes

Details from a wedding, bride's dress, champagne, thank you favour

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and micro-mange every minute of the day, and it’s impossible to foresee everything that could push you off schedule (yes, we have seen a 20 minute speech from grandma while waiting for the main course). You have to find a balance. You will be off schedule at some point – it’s inevitable. The trick is to not panic and let the stress ruin your day. Have your team get you back on track. Use the people in your wedding party, your planner, your photographer and venue coordinator to help you get things back in line.

Bride tossing a wedding bouquet

Because this is such an important part of your day, this is an area that we spend a lot of time on with you. If you have any questions regarding your timeline, you can book a consultation with us. We would be happy to help you!

Help us create our wedding timeline

Guylaine and Gord
Avalon Wedding Photography

July 12, 2021

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