My Suggested Timeline Timeframes: Wedding Planning

Today I’m sharing about one of my FAVORITE things to talk about… I say this all the time, but balancing time and planning well before your wedding day is SO important. When you plan well before your wedding, you’ll have the time to enjoy your guests and to celebrate your marriage, instead of stressing about what will be happening next all day long. What are we talking about?! YOUR TIMELINE!!!

This is a huge and scary topic that I think a lot of couples avoid and put off until the last minute because it is… well, scary and unfamiliar! The truth is, if you haven’t planned a wedding before, you should not be expected to know how long you’ll need for everything on your wedding day! Another truth? You should start thinking about your timeline for at least six months before your wedding! Do not wait to start laying things out. You, your wedding party, and your team of vendors will be patting you on the back when you have everything figured out well in advance!

I let each of my CKP couples know that I will personally help them during the timeline planning process and often take on the task myself! (Photographers… I have a FREE resource coming in the next few weeks to help you with this!) We’ll start laying out a frame of their day 5 months before their wedding. Today, I thought it would be fun to share the formula that I use to put together each timeline to help demystify the planning process for you! Maybe you’re trying to take on the timeline yourself or maybe you just want to see what your wedding day may look like… whatever the answer is, I hope you find this helpful! Of course, this will vary from wedding to wedding, but for the most part, this is my jumping point for each wedding!

Hair and Makeup (TBD!)

If you are having hair and makeup on your day, this will start well before my arrival! I recommend getting time estimates for hair and makeup around the time that we start to plan your timeline (5-6 months before your wedding date). Once you have the estimated length, add about 15 minutes to your hair and makeup time per timeslot on your official timeline. (This would mostly apply to the time in between the end of your hair and makeup time and getting dressed time!) This is key! Allowing for extra time during this portion of your day will serve you well later on! This sounds dramatic and like a lot of time, but TRUST ME. So many times, I have seen an entire day get thrown off because of an unexpected delay during hair and makeup. Truthfully, this is the portion of your day where there is the most potential for us to fall behind…. and it is also at the very start of your day! Do everyone a favor, and pad this time like crazy. You’ll be thanking yourself when you have a minute or two to enjoy a mimosa!

Details (45 Minutes)

This is the very first thing that I will get started with when I arrive! I coach all of my sweet CKP couples to prepare a box with all of their pretty details the week before their wedding. I’ll be doing a post on what exactly should be going in the box soon, but this is the time where I will photograph your stationery and invitation suite, bouquet, wedding dress, tux pieces, and shoes, rings, etc. I look at this as my warmup for the day and truly believe that these images are the perfect way to tie together your wedding gallery! You’ve spent so much time carefully selecting each piece… they should definitely be beautifully photographed!

Final Getting Ready Images (10 Minutes)

Did you get your crew matching robes or pajamas? If so, we’ll take about 10 minutes before everyone is off to get dressed in their wedding day attire to take a few photos of y’all together! We’ll pop some champagne, giggle a little bit, and then everyone will be off to change into their wedding day attire.

Final Prep before Getting Dressed (10 Minutes)

While everyone gets changed into their attire, I’ll have you take a minute for yourself! For lack of a better way of saying it, this is your final bathroom break before getting fully decked out! Wedding party should quickly dress and return to the getting ready space.

Getting Dressed: (30-45 Minutes)

You finally get to step into your wedding day attire and get to see how you look on your wedding day! During this time, I’ll need any VIPs that you would like to help you get dressed in their day-of attire and ready to assist you with getting into your outfit. Everyone else should be relaxing in another room! After you’re dressed, you’ll put on your finishing touches in front of the camera. We’ll finish this time off with a few portraits of you in your attire! If you’re doing a first look with your wedding party, we’ll do this at the end of this timeframe!

Walk to First Look (5-15 Minutes)

At this point, I’ll know where we’re headed for your first look! (I location scout when I first arrive!) We’ll go right there to get you two in position to see each other. I like to leave plenty of time for us to get there and to get set up! Any extra time can always be used for portraiture!

First Look (However long you need… I typically save 10-15 minutes for this on the timeline)

My favorite part of a wedding day!!! You finally get to see each other after a long morning apart! I tell each of my couples that this is absolutely their time to be themselves. While I typically allow 10-15 minutes on a timeline for a first look, they don’t often take that long! Some couples take one minute to hug each other and others take 5 to 10 minutes to chat or exchange vows. This time is absolutely yours. Whenever you have taken the time that you need to chat and love on each other a little, I let my couples know that we’ll move right along into their couple’s portraits— just say the words!

Couple’s Portraits (30 Minutes)

Another one of my favorite parts of the day… and I’ve been told by many couples that it is their favorite time too! This is the sweet time that I have with just you two in front of the camera! We’ll laugh and chat and twirl, and your engagement session will come flooding right back to you! These are the sweet couple’s photos that you will cherish for a lifetime and that the next generation will love to flip through too. DO give yourself permission to enjoy this time. It is one of the only times during the day that you will have to spend alone with your soon-to-be spouse.

Wedding Party (30-ish Minutes)

Time for photos with your best friends! During wedding party photos, we will take photos of you as a full group, individual sides AND an individual photo with each person on your side of the wedding party! I try to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible to keep everyone engaged and having fun!

Family Portraits (30 Minutes)

Family portraits typically happen after the ceremony, but I love it when we are able to make them happen before! This will be the time that everyone on your family portrait list gathers for formal images. We’ll prep your list beforehand, so this time should be a breeze! DO encourage everyone to arrive approximately 15 minutes before with their listening ears in tow. The faster we get through these, the faster they can enjoy your day! Find more tips on how to simplify this time here! 

Everyone in Hiding (30 Minutes)

At this point, your guests are arriving, your ceremony space is starting to fill, and the final countdown to officially being married is ON! I encourage my couples to tuck away at least 30 minutes prior to the ceremony. This gives me a chance to photograph the space untouched and also allows me to introduce myself to your officiant. You’ll love having some time to relax before you need to line up to walk down the aisle.

Ceremony (TBD!)

IT’S TIME!!! Everyone’s ceremony length is different, so this is one of the first things that I ask when we begin timeline prep. We’ll add a bit of padding at the beginning and end of your ceremony to ensure that you’ll be able to start on time with all (or most!) of your guests there!

Reception Detail Images & Light Setup (20-30 Minutes)

It is almost party time! I’ll take a few minutes to photograph your reception space design before your guests enter while you are off preparing for your reception. (Using the bathroom, bustling your gown, grabbing a bite to eat, or enjoying your guests at cocktail hour!) I know how hard all of my couples work to make their reception spaces something beautiful, so I know that you will love to see these images of your vision come to life! I’ll also get my lights all set up for your reception, so when it comes time for entrances, I’ll be ready to go!

Sunset Portraits (However long I can get! Usually 10-20 minutes)

I LOVE couple’s portraits, but even more so than that, I love bride and groom portraits at SUNSET! This is the time when the glow is perfect and you are officially spouses! This is the perfect time to sneak away as a couple for some sweet portraits before spending the night socializing and celebrating with your closest family and friends! I’ll take as much time as you’ll give me for portraits at sunset, but I’ll typically need about 10 or 20 minutes of time during your reception. Trust me when I say that these photos are WORTH IT!

Reception Coverage (TBD!)

We’ve officially made it to party time! The length of time that I spend at your reception really is dependent on the amount of coverage that you have purchased. I typically recommend having my team there for about two to two and a half hours! I’ll take a quick moment to eat at the start of dinner and will spend the remaining time photographing speeches, first dances, and the party!

A note on travel

If your wedding day involves travel, I recommend allowing for DOUBLE the amount of time your GPS tells you it will take! Example: if the GPS says it will take 15 minutes to get from your church to your reception site, you should allow for 30! You never know when traffic, a surprise road closure, or a wrong turn could cause issues. If you have extra time, you can always take the time to relax or get ahead with what is next!

A note on cocktail hour length

This blog post dives into the recommended times for a couple with a first look. If you are NOT doing a first look, I need you to know that we will need to do your family portraits, bride and groom portraits, and wedding party portraits all before your reception begins. Take a second to scroll up and take note of how long I request for each of these portions of your day! I’ve found that the traditional length for cocktail hour is one hour… however, if you are not doing a first look, you may want to opt to extend your cocktail hour. Keep in mind, you will still need to spare some time to bustle your dress and line up for your reception entrances. DO know that all of this takes time. Do yourself a favor and give yourself an extra couple of minutes.

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