How to Build Your Wedding Timeline

How to Build a Wedding Day Timeline

I have worked a lot of weddings and have picked up some tips along the way. Please just use this as a starting point and feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions or would like a planner.


# 1

Should I do a first look?

The first question you will need to ask is, should I do a first look? as this will dictate the rest of your timeline. You also may be asking yourself what is a first look?

A first look is an intimate moment shared between the you and your partner before the ceremony. Generally one person will walk up and tap the other on the shoulder or give the other a big hug. Whatever your style, I do not pose during this time and usually have a zoom on so you can have the moment all to yourself. 


  1. Have a private moment to yourself before you are surrounded by friends and family. Yes, tears are common.

  2. Get almost all your photos done before your ceremony. That's right, after your ceremony you will not need to round up family members, run around with your wedding party, and potentially miss cocktail hour to take photos. Just have a drink and celebrate!

While I love first looks and they certainly make the day easier, I would never pressure anyone into doing this if it is not what they wanted for their day. This is a very personal choice and you should be excited about whatever option you choose! 

Should I do a first look?

# 2 

BuIld Backwards

Ok, now that you have figured that out, you can start building your timeline. I suggest building backward from your ceremony time

Here are a few general time tables I like to stick with - 

  • Bridal getting ready 1-1.5hrs

  • Groom getting ready: 30mins - 1hr

  • First look: 30mins

  • Bridal Party Photos + Portraits: 1 hour per location

  • Family Photos: 20-30mins, depending on the shot list

  • [Time] Ceremony - Start from here and build up!

~ Check out the example template at the bottom ~

Tip: Pad your schedule and account for travel. When you are creating your timeline actually create a line item for “travel time”, and make sure that time includes lovely traffic! 

Also if you want to shoot at locations outside of your ceremony or reception space, make sure you stick to 1-2 locations and…yes…you guessed it…pad for travel time between each :)


when should the photographer arrive?

Or, also a common question, when should hair and makeup be done?

  • Makeup should be done about 1-1.5hrs before we leave for the first look or ceremony

  • I generally like to get there just before hair and makeup is done

Tip: If your makeup artist does not already tell you this, you should be one of the last people to have your makeup done. This way once you are finished you can do a few group photos if time allows for it. 


Check the sunset time:

I've actually had people ask me if I have a "glowing" filter that I put on photos. The answer is no! :) We just shoot at the optimal time of day...sunset. 

  • If possible, we will want to pop out and shoot any where from 1hr-30mins before sunset.

  • Generally we can take these pretty quickly, in roughly 15-20mins.

Sunset times vary depending on the time of year (later in the summer, earlier in the fall). With that said, sunset may happen during your reception. If this is the case, I will just tap you and your partner if there is a beautiful sunset and see if you would like to take some photos. I leave this optional :)


Example Outline: 

[Time] Getting Ready, Groom: [Name] [Address]


  • Be fairly ready by the time I get there.

  • Keep one room with good window light as clear as possible for getting ready shots and a few photos with the groomsmen.

[Time] Getting Ready, Bride: [Name] [Address]


  • Have any earnings and details that you would like photographed put together.

  • Keep room as clear as possible. Have one corner where you put clutter.

[Time] First Look (if applicable): [Address]

(travel time)

[Time] Optional Second Location for Wedding Party and Portrait Sessions: [Address]

(travel time)

[Time] Ceremony (START HERE AND BUILD BACKWARDS): [Name] [Address]

[Time] Family Photos: [Name] [Address]

TIP: If you do a first look and have time you can do these before the ceremony!

(travel time)

[Time] Reception: [Name] [Address]

Note: Depending on the time of year this is generally when the sunset happens too. If you want those dreamy, glowing sunset shots we will want to set out for 15-20mins to snap some pics! - If you are SO over photos I leave this optional :)

While every wedding day is different, I hope this gives to great starting point. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions or want a planner. 

X Polly C :)