Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Wedding Timeline

Plus, two wedding timeline examples you can steal! 

Benefits of Preparing a Clear Wedding Timeline for Photography

  • Planning a detailed timeline may be the most important thing you can do to minimize stress on your wedding day. 
  • A clear wedding timeline will eliminate confusion and scheduling conflicts, and it’ll keep everyone on the same page, from your bridal party to your professional wedding photographer to your caterers. 
  • Breaking down every moment you’ll be photographing will keep your day on time as much as possible —from the start time for getting ready to the cake cutting the reception—and will also be helpful when planning vendor deliveries (think florist and table settings), as well as setup and breakdown times. 
  • Finalize your wedding day timeline about a month before the date. This will give you enough time to share the details with all of your professional wedding vendors —then, confirm the timing again about a week out from your wedding day. 

Let’s get started…

Start With Times that Won't Change

Planning out your wedding timeline can seem confusing. It’s best to work around times of your day that can’t change or adjust ie; your start ceremony, reception dinner start time. In other words start with your ceremony time and work backwards. 

  • Determine the exact time your ceremony will start. Whatever time the ceremony starts, your pre-ceremony photography should be completed 30 minutes prior to that. Why? The bride needs time to get herself in a secure location and the groomsmen and ushers will need to start greeting and seating guests. 
  • If you’re doing a first look or family portraits prior to the ceremony allow for 1 hour of photography time. PRO TIP: If you’re getting married during winter months or have a late ceremony – consider doing a ‘first look’ to make the most of your photography time.
  • So, when should your wedding photography and videographer start their coverage? Photography an videography should be begin when the brides hair and makeup is nearly complete. Our professional photographers recommend that the bride starts getting her hair and makeup done first, then once she is complete they have time to take solo photos of the bride getting dressed with the bridesmaids are finishing up. 
  • If you’re working with one wedding photographer, leave enough time for them to capture the grooms detail shots – at least 30 minutes. If you’re working with two wedding photographers, they will be able to work with the bride and the groom at the same time while at different locations. 
bride pre ceremony 1 2
things groom can plan for wedding

Ceremony Time Breakdown

  • It’s important to allow travel time from your prep location to your ceremony location and know what time you need to arrive. Our professional photographers recommend adding an extra 10 minutes of  travel time to allow some breathing room, 15 minutes if the bridal party is very large.
  • After the license is signed – which typically takes 15 minutes – you’ll move on to the formal portraits. Most church’s allow 30 minutes for formal family wedding photos following your ceremony. PRO TIP: Tell everyone you want included in family formals prior to your wedding you’re not wasting time looking for them after the ceremony ends.


  • The time between your family formals and grand entrance at your reception is the time you have allotted me for your romantics session with your wedding photographer. Of course, allow for travel time and traffic. If you did a first look earlier in the day you would move into the cocktail hour of your reception.
wedding ceremony inn at st johns

Reception Time Breakdown

  • Our pros recommend one to two hours for the romantic portraits. PRO TIP: You should consider a First Look if you don’t have enough time between the Ceremony and Grand Entrance.
  • Most people need 15 minutes for a Grand Entrance then 15 min for two toasts.  Dinner generally takes one hour.
  • Unless you have a specific requirement for the reception that needs more coverage like a late sparkler exit, once dances start we recommend allowing 1 to 1.5 hours of photography coverage. This will generally cover all of your first dances, the open dance floor and a sunset or night shot.
  • If you’re interested in sunset wedding photography – discuss this with your photographer prior to your wedding day to coordinate with your professional wedding DJ. You want to take these photos when your done with dinner but before the dancing begins. Nothing kills a dance floor like a missing bride and groom. 

bride and groom fun grand entrance st johns

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