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Sample Wedding day timeline

Wedding day timelines can be challenging to put together. We have simplified the process through years of first-hand experience. Below you will find useful information that will guide you through a typical wedding timeline. This will help you plan your wedding day without the stress.

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    Wedding Day Timeline

    As a wedding photographer, we are one of the few vendors you will hire that is present on your wedding day from beginning to end. We are the first to get there and the last to leave. Here are some wedding day timeline samples.

    Keep in mind there are some factors to decide on before you put your timeline together.

    • Time of year winter, spring, fall, summer
    • Are you having a first look?
    • Afternoon ceremony or evening ceremony
    • Sunset time
    • Will the ceremony and reception be at the same location?

    Wedding timeline 4 pm ceremony start with FIRST LOOK

    1:00 pm Prep coverage begins: This includes the bride getting ready, the groom getting ready, first look, and family formals.

    4:00 pm Ceremony begins

    5:00 pm  Ceremony ends

    5:00 pm Cocktail hour

    5:00-5:30 pm Family pictures and wedding party pictures

    5:30-5:50 pm Wedding couple pictures

    5:50 pm Bride and Groom take a quick break, the photographer shoots the reception room

    6:00 pm Cocktail hour ends, reception room opens

    10:00 pm Last dance, reception ends

    Wedding timeline 4 pm ceremony start NO FIRST LOOK

    2:00 pm Prep coverage begins: This includes the bride getting ready, the groom getting ready, and family formals.

    4:00 pm Ceremony begins

    5:00 pm  Ceremony ends

    5:00 pm Cocktail hour

    5:00-5:30 pm Family pictures and wedding party pictures

    5:30-5:50 pm Wedding couple pictures

    5:50 pm Bride and Groom take a quick break, the photographer shoots the reception room

    6:00 pm Cocktail hour ends, reception room opens

    10:00 pm Last dance, reception ends

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    Getting Ready

    Your big day is finally here and it's time to get ready to walk down the aisle. So where should you get ready and with who? How much time will you need for hair and makeup? We go over all the details below. 

    Bride getting ready

    The bridesmaids, mother of the bride, sisters, and flower girl usually get hair and makeup and dress in the bridal suite with the bride. We recommend getting a bridal suite or joint rooms to get ready in. This will allow for ample space for all the ladies to share. In this room, we take candid pictures of the ladies including the flower girl, and any other female relatives that will be there. Getting ready photos to include the bride getting her hair and makeup done.

    Pro tips:

    1. It is important to keep the getting ready area clutter-free. Designating an area or a room for all the personal items is a great way to keep organized. The reason being when we come in and take candids the area should look as nice as possible. This also helps us to save time so we are not shuffling items around, allowing us to focus on capturing moments that are real and uninterrupted.
    2. A great photo op is of all the ladies helping the bride put her dress on. This might take five minutes or fifteen. Just depends on how intricate her bridal gown is.
    3. Before the bride gets dressed the bridesmaids should already be dressed and ready for portraits so when they help the bride getting ready the pictures are beautiful and everyone looks stunning.

    We like to approach this part of the day with our documentary style of photography, capturing all the natural moments of laughter, tears of joy, hugging, and champagne toasts with the bridesmaids.

    This is a great opportunity to take detailed photos of the bride's gown, shoes, wedding rings, wedding invitation, bridal bouquets, and other little details that are part of the getting ready portion of the day.

    We always suggest to our couples to write each other a love note during this time. It can be accompanied by a gift to your future spouse. The reason we love when couples exchange notes it creates beautiful moments to photograph.  These can be delivered to the bride and groom by the Maid of honor or Best Man. Some of the most unrepeatable sentimental moments are forever captured during this time.

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    Groom getting ready

    The groomsmen, fathers, and ring bearer get ready with the groom in his room. After we have taken photos with the bride and bridesmaids we pop over to the guys' room where they are getting ready and again take candid photos of them laughing, joking around, helping each other put on the boutonniere, or tying the groom's bow tie.

    Pro tips:

    1. We take the groom aside for a moment to photograph him reading the love note and opening his gift from his bride.
    2. It is important that the bridal party gets ready at the same location, whether it is at a hotel, ceremony site, or private home.
    3. This ensures that we can photograph both sides getting ready and capture all the moments before the ceremony.
    4. One location allows us to easily bounce back and forth between the bride and the groom. Saves time and more photos are taken. 

    Tips For Pre-ceremony Wedding Photos


    • Pick a room with good light and ample space. Consider the size of your bridal party and family that will be with you. Suites are great, or hotel rooms with an adjoining door. You can designate one room as clutter-free for photos. Nicer hotels & resorts tend to have larger windows and consequently better or more light.
    • De-Clutter the room. Hair and Makeup Artists tend to have lots of "stuff" try to stay tidy so your photos don't have lots of stuff on every surface distracting from your photography.
    • Share a gift or note with your fiance. This is ALWAYS an awesome event to photograph. I love it because I can arrange it in a great spot with beautiful light. REAL emotion is best and will remind you how it felt every time you look at the photo.
    • Water Proof Mascara. I hope you shed a tear or two. I also hope your makeup looks awesome;-)
    • Do a "first look" with your Dad. If you don't have a Dad bring in the closest father figure. This is a must. I swear I'm not trying to sabotage your makeup
    • Have the flowers delivered early. Also make sure the personal flowers such as bride and bridesmaids' bouquets are delivered to your hotel room, and not the church.
    • Ring Shot. Make sure you have the wedding rings with you. It's traditional for the guys to keep the rings before the wedding ceremony. I'd recommend you keep them with the ladies so we can take a couple min. to make an incredible ring shot. Wedding ring photos typically end up on the first page of the wedding album.
    • Hair and makeup artists. Be sure to be on the same page and communicate how many ladies or gentlemen will be needing styling, and start early. Allow a buffer in case things run late. This is the typical cause of a wedding running behind. It's always a shame to lose photography time.
    • Have a drink but not five if you're nervous. It can do wonders.
    • Get lots of sleep. This one is obvious, right? A well-rested bride can better handle pre-wedding stress, and be more mindful and in the moment on her wedding day.
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    The First Look

    The first look between the bride and groom traditionally happens as the bride walks down the aisle with her father during the wedding ceremony. However, the modern first look or reveal tradition takes place before the wedding ceremony with the bride and groom alone. The modern first look is favored by many photographers and couples because it allows more time to create beautiful photography of the bride and groom, and many couples prefer to spend more of their wedding day with guests at the cocktail hour. This is an intimate way to see your bride-to-be before the wedding and just as emotional as seeing them walk down the aisle for the first time.

    Is a first look right for me?

    A first look is simply where the bride sees the groom for the first time before the ceremony. Deciding whether it is right for you and your fiance is not so simple. It is a very personal decision that the two of you will have to make. For some couples, a more traditional approach is taken and they do not want to see each other until the ceremony. This is fine and we will still capture this beautifully. If a first look before the ceremony is right for you we are here to help create an intimate unrepeatable moment. We love photographing the bride and groom together before the ceremony.

    We love this intimate, emotionally candid moment that the two get to experience. You will love the photos and the way we set you up for the first look. 

    Benefits of a first look

    • Intimate and private
    • Allows for more time to take photos before the ceremony
    • Bride and groom can participate in the cocktail hour
    • Newlywed photos with ample sunlight
    • Help ease pre-ceremony jitters.

    What is a first look with the father of the bride?
    A lovely newer trend is having a first look with your father. This is where we bring your father in to see you for the first time in your wedding gown shortly after you have finished getting ready. This is such a special moment and it really draws out true emotions even with the father who likes to keep cool. We highly recommend this to all our brides. The images are simply moving.

    5 Tips For Your First Look


    1. Consider the Location: Since we have some planning control we should pick a beautiful spot with amazing light for a first look event to unfold.
    2. Who will participate? Intimate or with Family & Bridal Party. Some couples want to escape from wedding chaos and have an intimate first look. That's always great to photograph. Other brides and grooms have had their bridal party or family off in the distance to watch, without distracting you from the moment.
    3. Cocktail Hour: Do you want to spend part of your cocktail hour sipping a craft cocktail and socializing with friends and family? If that sounds nice you might consider a first look.
    4. Sunset Ceremony or Winter Wedding: If it's dark or going to be dark after your ceremony you SHOULD have a first look if you would like your wedding images to look like photos on my website. A first look before the wedding ensures you have photos of the bride and groom alone before the sun sets.
    5. Photography Goals: What's the most important part of your wedding? (There is no wrong answer)Bride and groom photos, Family, Moments, Party shots, details. It's easy to make a photography plan when you know what you want to have when the wedding is over.
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    Family Formal Portraits

    Oftentimes families are only able to get together every few years due to distance or health. Weddings bring grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins together. Weddings make this an ideal time for taking family formals. Everyone is dressed up and most importantly together. The photos from this day will become some of your most cherished images long after the wedding is over.

    Tips for stressfree family formals

    • Remind family members to be respectful of your wishes.
    • Being ready on time and knowing when and where they are supposed to be for family portraits.
    • Email, text, or call with details leading up to the day. 
    • Having a small shot list is beneficial for the bride and groom and their photographer.
    • Keep the list realistic. This helps us to be efficient with our time when taking family photos so we can maximize our time with the bride and groom. 
    • This allows us to capture important pictures while focusing on the couple.

    However, a shot list should be reasonable, every combination of bride and groom with individual family members is not necessary. Keeping it simple and taking group shots allows for ample time and helps keep the day running smoothly.

    It is also important to remember that the wedding is about the two of you.

    wedding timeline ideas

    The Triangle of Wedding Portraits


    The Bride

    On the left of the triangle we start with photographing the bride alone before the ceremony, getting ready, bride with bridesmaids, and bride with her side of family. We incorporate many styles of photography to capture candid, lifestyle, documentary, and traditional photos.

    The Groom

    On the right side of the triangle, we focus on the groom. Keeping in mind it is also the Groom's big day we head over to where he is getting ready with his groomsmen. Similar to the bride we photograph the groom getting ready, groom alone, and with all his groomsmen and with grooms side of family. We love to capture candids of the guys getting ready having a good time. These photos show the raw emotion of the groom before he says "I do".

    Bride & Groom

    This brings us to the last point of the triangle the bride and groom together. These photos typically take place after the ceremony. But we love to do a first look with the bride and groom before they walk down the aisle if they choose to do so. We do however understand this is not as traditional and comply with whatever is most comfortable for the couple.

    After the ceremony, we take a few shots of the bride and groom with both sides of the family together. Keeping it simple will allow us to focus on the bride and groom for their photos of the two together. Capturing the love of the beautiful couple who just got married is after all why we are all here.

    Malibu Rocky Oaks Wedding Tr 396

    The Wedding Ceremony

    Wedding ceremonies are as unique as the couple getting married. Fusion weddings, South Asian, Persian, Jewish, Interfaith, Humanistic, LGBTQ, Same-Sex, you name it we have and will photograph it. We capture the love between two people regardless of their beliefs or traditions. Love is love in our opinion.

    When planning a ceremony here are a few things to consider

    Time of day

    • Take into consideration when the sun will be setting. This can have a direct impact on your photos.
    • What time of year is your ceremony?
    • Will it be dark when the ceremony is over?

    These are all important things to consider when you are choosing a start time for your ceremony. If it is important for you to get sunset pictures after the wedding or you want family portraits taken outside in natural light you want to make sure it won't be dark when the ceremony ends.

    We can help you figure out the best time to take photographs on your wedding day with a simple phone conversation. Most likely we have photographed weddings at your venue of choice and we have experience with these details.

    Comfortable seating for wedding guests

    • When choosing chairs for the ceremony site spend a little extra on more sturdy chairs rather than cheaper, plastic folding ones.
    • Provide cushions.
    • Don't have your guests staring into the sun.
    • Offer shade if possible or fans depending on the season or time of day.

    You have invited your closest family, friends, and colleagues to witness your love. They have taken the time to join you in this celebration. A simple gesture of appreciation can be shown by providing comfortable seating.

    Planning Your Ceremony

    Your wedding officiant

    • Get to know your officiant ahead of time Does he/she have the same ideology as you.
    • Does the Officiant have sample wording/ceremonies/readings to show you?
    • Will what they say at your wedding be meaningful?
    • Choosing a close friend to be an officiant might be nice but consider a professional. They will have more knowledge and experience to perform a seamless ceremony. 

    Hiring the right officiant is important. You want to make sure you choose someone who can reflect who you are as individuals and as a couple.

    Music for ceremony

    • Finding music that speaks to you will set the overall mood of the ceremony
    • Live musicians
    • Traditional recessional and processional songs
    • Unique music

    Every detail you choose for your wedding reflects who you are and music is no different. This can add a nice touch to make your wedding ceremony unique to the two of you.

    Decor how it affects photos

    • Flowers make a ceremony look stunning and add color and vibrancy to the photos.
    • Guests throwing flowers at the couple walking down the aisle makes for a beautiful photo.
    • Petals sprinkled on or covering the aisle runner is always a nice touch.
    • Consider other types of decorations besides flowers.

    Professional floral arrangements and other floral accents at a ceremony site can add a pop of vibrancy and beauty to the location. Lack of decor can make your photos look to simple, while too much may take away from the couple.

    Wedding Ceremony Tips

    Length of Ceremony

    • An average outdoor ceremony is 25 minutes
    • A church or indoor ceremony is around 45 minutes.
    • The fastest ceremony I have seen was 6 minutes long.
    • The longest ceremony was a Cambodian ceremony that lasted 5 hours.

    Allow the right amount of time for your ceremony in your timeline to keep things running smoothly.
    Back up plan if you are having an outdoor ceremony

    Back up plan

    • Wish we could control the elements of the environment but we cannot.
    • Have a backup plan
    • Have this plan in place before the ceremony.

    Mother nature can be unpredictable even when the season is perfect. Don't let rain or wind ruin your day.

    Blending traditions

    • Fusion weddings are beautiful.
    • Incorporate traditions that are important to you and your family.
    • Create a new tradition that is unique to you and your fiance.
    • Research traditions online.

    When couples come from different backgrounds it is special to recognize both side's traditions and incorporate them into the ceremony or blend the two.

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    Romantic Portraits

    Bridal portraits sometimes referred to as romantics are the photos that we take of the bride and groom alone. This usually takes place right after the ceremony when emotions at their apex and excitement are real. These photos include none other than the bride and groom.

    Away from guests

    • It's best to get away from the bridal party, wedding guests, and family members.
    • This allows us to capture real intimate moments of love and devotion between the newlywed couple.

    At best distractions waste time. They can also ruin moments and make couples anxious.

    Allow enough time

    Bridal portraits are some of the most important images we capture at weddings.

    • These are the photos that show the couple in love, and connecting as one. T
    • These are the images that document the beginning of your legacy as husband and wife.
    • We typically spend 30-60 minutes with the bride and groom after they exchange their vows.
    • The more time the better.
    • Schedule a time slot for bridal portraits in your timeline as its own event.

    Let your wedding coordinator know these images are important to you. Incorporate the bridal portrait session as an event on your wedding timeline.

    Your legacy

    These pictures are for you, your future children, and grandchildren. We love to whisk the bride and groom away shortly after the ceremony to a secluded location either at the venue or nearby. An hour alone with every couple would be amazing but realistically that doesn't always happen. So we have learned to photograph quickly and be efficient with our time together.

    4 Tips For Great Bride & Groom Portraits

    1. Relax and have fun (trust your photographer)
    2. Trust your photographer.
    3. Don't micromanage the artist. Let your photographer do their thing. 
    4. You just got married! Be in the moment!

    Trust your wedding photographer

    • Our knowledge and awareness of the time and natural light will determine where we position you for your photos.
    • We know your venue and the best places to make beautiful pictures. Either we have worked at the location or have scouted it out beforehand to know the best spots for photos.
    • We pay attention to the time of day when we photograph couples. We do this so we know where the sun will be and how it will impact your photos.

    When you let go and trust your photographer your pictures will be more natural and stunning.

    Get to know your photographer

    • Do this before the wedding day.
    • Have your photographer take your engagement photos. We always recommend an engagement session, it is insightful to see your personalities, chemistry, and comfort level in front of my camera. You will get to see how we work first hand.
    • Share with them your likes and dislikes.
    • Plan your timeline with your photographer before your wedding day.

    When your wedding day comes around you will feel like we are part of the family, not just a vendor. This always helps me create pictures for you that show personality and connection.

    Pinterest and the internet

    • Don't have your photographer try to reenact Pinterest photos on your board.
    • Having a disjointed Pinterest photo list can be unrealistic & counterproductive.
    • If you would like to share some inspirational images you have found discuss these with your photographer before your wedding day.

    Re-creating a disjointed set of images found on Pinterest is unrealistic on a wedding day. Most likely the photos you want to recreate have been taken under completely different lighting, location, timing circumstances.

    Last photo of the day

    • Discuss this with your photographer before the wedding day.
    • Do you want an exit photo with a prop?
    • Sparklers
    • Fireworks
    • Getting into Vintage Car
    • Farewell send-off

    If this shot is important to you then have a discussion with your photographer before your wedding day and put a plan together. For example, if you want all your guests to hold sparklers as you exit the ballroom let us know so we can prepare and set up for the exit shot.

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    Wedding Reception (The Party)

    Wedding receptions typically follow the ceremony either at the ceremony site or at a nearby wedding venue. Receptions are a chance for family and friends to celebrate the couple. It's a very festive time. This part of the celebration is unique to the newlywed couple incorporating their own traditions, music, speeches, first dance, dining, and more dancing, cake cutting, bouquet toss, and garter toss. Having a timeline is a great way to make sure all the events happen and nothing gets left out.

    Wedding Vendors

    A well thought out reception involves using professional vendors. Hiring reputable folks will ensure you and your guests will enjoy a beautiful memorable celebration.

    • Consider making your extravaganza spectacular with professional lighting this will transform the whole space to make it custom to your design.
    • A good DJ or entertainment such as a live band is always a great idea. Not only do they set the mood of the party with their music, but they should be able to M/C the event. They will keep the party flowing with excitement. A good D/J M/C won't break up the party to do traditions when people want to dance. They will know the timeline and drive the ship from there so to speak.

    Sample Reception Timeline

    6:30 pm

    Grand entrance: This includes introducing the Parents, grandparents, and bridal party.  The Bride and Groom enter the ballroom last. 

    First Dance: Immediately after the grand entrance

    (Jewish weddings) the Horah traditional Jewish celebratory group dancing immediately after the entrance.

    7:00 pm

    Guests are seated

    7:15 pm

    Blessing: Typically said by Priest or family member

    7:30 pm

    Speeches/toasts: Bestman, maid of honor, parents. Followed by a thank you speech from the bride and groom.

    During this time the salads are delivered when the speeches begin.

    8:00 pm

    Dinner is served:

    M/C announces father-daughter/ mother-son dance followed by a dance set.

    9:00 pm

    Cake cutting:

    Bride and Groom toast with champagne flutes. 

    9:15 pm

    Bouquet/garter toss

    9:30 pm

    More dancing: Last dance is announced during this set.

    10:30 pm

    Grand exit:

    Sparklers, special vintage car, fireworks, lamp lifting lighting

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