August 28, 2020

Wedding Timeline Tips | How Much Time For What

Putting Together Your Wedding Timeline – How Much Time Do You Need For…?

Looking for wedding timeline tips? Starting to freak out juuuuust a tiny bit, here in the home stretch of wedding planning?

No worries, fam. I know how stressful those last few weeks before your big day can be. Your mind is stuffed FULL of details, and now you’re feeling the pressure of making it all come together…and trying not to obsess about everything that *could* go wrong.

Wedding day timelines can be a big help in helping all of those moving pieces to work together smoothly.

But…what makes a good wedding day timeline? What should you put on it–do you need to micromanage every minute of the day?

We’re gonna talk about what a good timeline needs–and what you can safely leave off.

AND, ‘cuz you’re cool and I like you…I’m including a DOWNLOADABLE TEMPLATE for you!

Boom. Wedding day = managed. You’re welcome. 😉


So…What IS a wedding day timeline?

Back to basics, here. A wedding day timeline can be as simple or as detailed as you need it to be! Essentially, it’s a list of:

  1. Important times to be at certain locations (think: CEREMONY! OPEN BAR!)
  2. Starting/ending times for earlier parts of the day (so you know you’ll be on time for the big stuff!)
  3. A family/wedding party photo list, so the cheese-and-snap part of the day goes as quickly and efficiently as possible
  4. A checklist of any other *really* important things to do or photograph

If you’re using a wedding planner, or a photographer who offers this service (AHEM), they’ll work with you to put a solid timeline together. If you’re flying solo, though–you can totally knock this one out yourself!


The most important part

DON’T freak out about this, friend. I’m not a huge believer in living and dying by your wedding timeline! Things are going to happen–and all of those “things” are part of your story. The best thing you can do to set yourself up for success while building your timeline…is to not sweat the timeline!

Building in cushion time is your friend, here. That way, when you run late at hair and makeup, because that one bridesmaid’s hair fell or her lashes came unglued…no biggie! You’re still gonna make it down the aisle on time.


Speaking of timing…

How do you know how much time to allow for things? Are your photos with your bridesmaids going to take ten minutes, or an hour? The hair and makeup people need to know what time they should be finished by…and what are you going to tell them?!

I’ve been a part of a LOT of weddings in my career–so I’ve picked up a general rhythm for the whole timing thing. So, here are some handy guidelines!

  • Hair and Makeup: According to my girl over at Ivory Rose Beauty Co, who knows all things beauty, allow roughly 45 minutes per person. The bride will need an hour, to get her look *just right*. Some people are going to take less time, and others more–but the leftover time will allow for touch-ups. Since you typically take your wedding party photos right after you’re finished up with hair, makeup and dress-donning–ask your team to be done about an hour before your photo-time begins.

Image of bride getting hair and makeup done


  • Family Formal Photos (usually done immediately after the ceremony). I usually recommend allowing five minutes per “grouping”, when it comes to your family photos. This will be too much time for smaller groups, but not enough time for bigger/more complicated groups. It’ll all shake out, this way! Make sure to list everyone you really know you’ll want photos with–and then let them know, so they don’t run off! Things will go much more quickly if you don’t have to chase down Uncle Johnny at the bar.
Image of bride with family at wedding

© Bayou Rose Photography 2019


  • Wedding Party Photos (usually done right after you’re done getting-ready): You don’t have as many big groups here, so 20-30 minutes or so is usually sufficient! Just make sure everyone’s got their bouquets/boutonnieres and knows the drill, so you can move quickly! Allow enough time to get one big photo with each side as a group, and individual photos of each attendant with the bride/groom.

Bride with bridesmaids at wedding


  • First Look (if you’re doing one): If you’ve decided that you’d like to see each other before the ceremony, and get some more of your photos knocked out before you say I-Do…this can be a great way to manage a tight timeline on your wedding day. You want to allow enough time to see each other (ooh! ahh! *sob*), and then get photos of just the two of you, and with your entire wedding party. I usually allow about 30 minutes for this part of the day–but you’ll need a little longer if you have a particularly large wedding party! (PS – Having a second photographer can be a huge time-saver, here, since both sides can be getting their photos done at the same time, here.)

Same sex couple first look on bridge


  • Travel Time: Don’t forget to factor this in! When you are determining what time to tell the limo driver to pick you up, be sure to account for potential traffic conditions. You want to get to the ceremony site 30 minutes early! Those 30 minutes can be a lifesaver – it’ll allow you time to get hidden from your honey if you’re not seeing each other before the ceremony, and take some deep breaths to settle your nerves before making that aisle-walk. OR, if you are running late…it’ll give you that cushion time you didn’t think you’d need!

Bride getting into transportation on wedding day


  • Ceremony Events: The exact timing of your reception activities doesn’t matter much, really. This is the part of the day that you’ll want to relax and enjoy time with your loved ones, and not stress so much about timing! To that end, I usually recommend getting the “key” events knocked out right after you arrive…and then you can just mingle and get your party on! Some tips, though:
    • Schedule time to eat! Ideally, before you’re announced in and swamped by well-meaning guests. Ask your coordinator to fix you a plate and set it aside!
    • If you’re doing a bouquet/garter toss, and you’re concerned with having “enough” single participants–do it before the cake-cutting! Once the cake is cut, a portion of the guests will take that as their cue to call it a night.
    • Guests should line up for any formal exit you have planned about ten minutes before the end of the night. Have your DJ or emcee announce the last song in time for everyone to grab their bubbles/sparklers/etc and line on up for you!

Bride and groom exiting reception with guests waving streamers

I hope these tips helped you, oh Wedding-Planner-Extraordinaire! If you’d like to see more wedding planning tips, check out a few more resources that I’ve put together, HERE!

AND, if you’re looking for a wedding photographer, HOLLA AT YA GIRL, and let’s chat!


Wedding Day Timeline Download


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