Tips for Writing Your Wedding Timeline

Journal and Imagery by Florida Wedding Photographers Popping Champaign Photography.

The best way to ensure that your wedding day runs smoothly is to create a detailed wedding timeline. A wedding timeline is a schedule of events that outlines what will happen throughout the day, from the hair and makeup appointments to the last dance of the night. Let's discuss how to create the best wedding timeline for you, so that your special day runs as smoothly as a freshly popped bottle of champagne!

1. Start with the ceremony time

The first step in creating a wedding timeline is to determine the ceremony time. This will be the anchor point for the rest of the day's events. Once you have the ceremony time set, you can work backward to determine when you need to start getting ready, when your vendors need to arrive, and when the first guests should start to arrive.

2. Consider the time of day

One of the most important things to consider when crafting your timeline is the time of day. This is the most important when it comes to your wedding photography! Traditionally, the hour after your ceremony is reserved for all of your family, wedding party, and couples portraits, so if your ceremony is within 2 hours of sunset, then you may want to consider doing a first look. If your ceremony is significantly earlier than sunset, then you may want to add in additional time during your reception to go back out for more images during golden hour, so you can have some wedding images with the most beautiful golden hues.

3. List all of your events

Make a list of all the events you want to include in your wedding day. This may include getting ready, the first look, the ceremony, the reception, and any other special events you have planned, such as cake cutting bouquet tosses, or the shoe game.

4. Assign a time to each event

Once you have a list of all the events, it's time to assign a time to each one. Be sure to factor in any travel time, setup and breakdown time, and any other delays that may occur. It's also a good idea to build in some extra time for unexpected events or delays. Here are some of the general timeframes that you will want to consider for your wedding photography:

The length of time needed for wedding photos varies depending on a few factors, such as the size of your wedding party, the number of locations you'll be taking photos, and the type of photos you want. Below is a rough estimate of how long to allocate for photos during different events on your wedding day:

  1. Flat Lays & Details: Flat lays and detail photos typically take up to 30 minutes and include photographing all of the nearlywed's details. The most common items are all three rings, the invitation suite, all jewelry, family heirlooms, and any other important details. During this time, we also take close ups of the bouquet and hanging dress images.
  2. Getting Ready Photos: Getting ready photos usually take between 1-2 hours. This includes capturing the details of the bride and groom's preparations, such as the bride's hair and makeup being done, the bride putting on her wedding dress and veil, the groom putting on his suit, and other details. During this time, we often take photographs of the bride and groom with their wedding parties enjoying their final moments with the couple walks down the aisle.
  3. First Look: First look photos typically take up to 15 minutes, depending on the location and the desired shots. The first look is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time in their wedding attire before the ceremony, and it's a beautiful moment to capture. Other alternatives would be a bride or groom sharing a first look with a family member instead of their spouse if they still want to wait to see each other for the first time when walking down the aisle.
  4. Ceremony: Ceremonies generally take between 30 minutes-one hour, depending on the details of the ceremony. If you are having a religious ceremony, they are often closer to one hour. If having a religious ceremony, it's important to check with your photographers to ensure that we are aware of any possible restrictions, such as no flash photography.
  5. Family Formals: Family photos typically take between 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of your family and the number of different family groupings you want to capture. For this to be as efficient as possible, we recommend creating a family formals list by starting with the large groups and pictures with family that cannot stand long at the top of your list, so they can go to cocktail hour quickly. Please also notify all guests that will be in your family formals to stay back after the ceremony for photos. Otherwise, you may have to have someone wrangle your guests from cocktail hour back to the portrait site and this can take additional time!
  6. Wedding Party Images: Wedding party photos can take up to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the party and the number of locations you want to photograph at. If you have a large bridal party, it's a good idea to allocate more time for group photos.
  7. Couples Portraits: Couples portraits typically take up to 30 minutes, but can be longer if the family formals and wedding party images can be efficient! These are always done last, right before the reception, so all other guests can enjoy cocktail hour while our couples spend some intimate time together. If you are wanting to have images at many different locations, you may want to add additional time into your cocktail hour for this! Another thing to consider is adding additional time during sunset or golden hour for couple's portraits if the couples portraits do not already align with this time due to the beautiful lighting.
  8. Grand Entrance: This typically takes up to 15 minutes since there needs to be time for you and your wedding party to line up!
  9. Reception Dances: I recommend allocating 5-10 minutes a piece for all dances. This includes First Dances, Bride and Father Dances, Groom and Mother Dances, and Last Dances.
  10. Other Traditional Reception Items: We recommend allocating 15 minutes for all other reception items, such as Cake Cutting, Bouquet Toss, Garter Toss, the Shoe Game, or reception send offs. For Toasts, I recommend setting aside 5 minutes per person speaking and would not typically recommend having more than 4 people speaking in order to retain your guests' attention.

(Remember, these are just rough estimates, and the actual time needed for photos may vary based on your specific wedding day timeline and the type of photos you want. It's important to work with your wedding photographers to create a detailed timeline that takes into account all of the events and photos you want to capture to ensure that your wedding day runs smoothly and you get the beautiful photos you've always dreamed of.)

5. Consult with your vendors

After you have a rough timeline in place, it's a good idea to consult with your vendors to make sure everything will run smoothly. Talk to your caterer, DJ, photographers, and anyone else involved in your wedding to make sure they have enough time for setup and breakdown and that they are on the same page with the timeline.

6. Communicate the timeline to everyone

Once you have a finalized timeline, be sure to communicate it to everyone involved in your wedding, including the wedding party, family members, and vendors. You can create a detailed timeline document to distribute to everyone or use a wedding planning app to share the timeline with everyone involved.


Finally, remember always have buffers in place on your wedding day. Despite all your planning, unexpected events may occur, and you may need to make adjustments to your timeline. Be prepared to go with the flow and enjoy your special day, no matter what happens!

Creating a wedding timeline is essential to ensure that your wedding day runs smoothly. By following these steps, you can create a detailed timeline that includes all the events you want and ensures that everyone involved knows what to expect. With a well-planned timeline, you can relax and enjoy your special day, knowing that everything is taken care of.

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