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How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline | 4 Sample Timelines to Get You Started

Getting started creating your wedding timeline can seem like a daunting task. There are a lot of moving parts, and it can be intimidating when vendors start asking for a timeline almost a year out from the wedding day!

I’m here to work with you (and your planner, if you’re using one!) to iron out a wedding day timeline that suits you and what is important to you as a couple. Most couples that I work with want amazing photos that document their love, but they don’t want photography to be the central focus of the wedding day. Let’s work together to make sure that photography fits effortlessly into the day you’ve imagined. My goal is to make sure that you can spend your wedding day on what really matters – celebrating with your soon-to-be spouse, and enjoying time with your family and friends – and that at the end of the day, you end up with amazing memories, and a beautifully documented story in photos.

I’ve found that the best starting point is to think about a few key elements of the wedding day, and build from there:

A) Where will your ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception take place?
B) Do you wish to attend your cocktail hour? And (directly related!),
C) Do you wish to have a first look or an “aisle reveal”?

Below, you’ll find four template timelines that I’ve created to help organize smooth, fuss-free wedding days for the couples I work with. Use these as a starting point, and customize as needed to suit your unique plans!


Timeline 1

CEREMONY and RECEPTION at the SAME VENUE

with a first look

I’ll start here, since this is the situation that I find is most popular with the couples that I work with! This timeline is for couples who will have their ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception at a single venue. Opting to do a first look means that you and your soon-to-be spouse will first see each other in a private moment together before the ceremony. This allows us to then take portraits of the two of you, and of your wedding party, before the ceremony – allowing you to attend your cocktail hour and spend time with guests after the ceremony!

1:00 | Photography coverage begins with “getting ready” + detail photos
2:30 | Bride puts her gown on
3:00 | First look followed by couple portraits
3:45 | Wedding party portraits with bridesmaids + groomsmen
4:30 | Bride and groom hide away before ceremony
5:00 | Ceremony starts
5:30 | Ceremony ends + guests invited to cocktail hour
5:35 | Family formal photos
5:55 | Couple + family arrive at cocktail hour
6:30 | Guests invited to reception
6:45 | Introductions
6:55 | First dance
7:00 | Welcome toast or blessing
7:10 | First course served + speeches
7:45 | Dinner served
8:45 | Parent dances
8:55 | Dance floor opens
9:30 | Cake cutting
11:00 | Photography coverage ends


Timeline 2

CEREMONY and RECEPTION at the SAME VENUE

with an aisle reveal

A first look doesn’t feel right to all couples, and that is perfectly okay! It just means that we need to take that into consideration when designing your photography timeline. This timeline is for couples who will have their ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception at a single venue, but who will see each other for the first time during the ceremony – what we call an “aisle reveal” – as opposed to during a first look.

Family formal portraits, wedding party portraits, and portraits of you two will happen while your guests are enjoying cocktail hour. In this case, you’ll want cocktail hour to be 1.5 hours long to make sure that we have enough time for portraits!

1:30 | Photography coverage begins with “getting ready” + detail photos
3:00 | Bride puts her gown on
3:30 | Separate bridesmaid + groomsmen photos
4:15 | Bride and groom hide away before ceremony
5:00 | Ceremony starts
5:30 | Ceremony ends + guests invited into cocktail hour
5:35 | Family formal photos
5:55 | Wedding party portraits with bridesmaids + groomsmen
6:15 | Couple portraits
7:00 | Guests invited into reception
7:15 | Introductions
7:25 | First dance
7:30 | Welcome toast or blessing
7:40 | First course served + speeches
8:10 | Dinner served
9:10 | Parent dances
9:40 | Dance floor opens
10:00 | Cake cutting
11:00 | Photography coverage ends


Timeline 3

CEREMONY and RECEPTION at DIFFERENT VENUES

with a first look

For couples who will be having their ceremony at a church or separate location from cocktail hour and reception, we’ll need to schedule in a little bit of travel time and think about logistics. With a first look, we’ll do photos of the two of you and your wedding party before the ceremony. Family photos will generally be taken at the ceremony location, directly following the ceremony.

1:00 | Photography coverage begins with “getting ready” + detail photos
2:15 | Bride puts her gown on
2:45 | First look followed by couple portraits
3:30 | Wedding party portraits with bridesmaids + groomsmen
4:00 | Travel to ceremony space
4:30 | Arrive at ceremony space
5:00 | Ceremony starts
5:30 | Ceremony ends + guests travel to cocktail hour
5:35 | Family formal portraits
5:55 | Couple + family travel to cocktail hour
6:00 | Guests arrive at cocktail hour
6:25 | Couple + family arrive at cocktail hour
7:00 | Guests invited into reception
7:15 | Introductions
7:25 | First dance
7:30 | Welcome toast or blessing
7:40 | First course served + speeches
8:10 | Dinner served
9:10 | Parent dances
9:15 | Dance floor opens
9:45 | Cake cutting
11:00 | Photography coverage ends


Timeline 4

CEREMONY and RECEPTION at DIFFERENT VENUES

with an aisle reveal

Again, a ceremony at a church or separate location from cocktail hour and reception requires a little bit of travel time in your timeline. Family formals typically take place immediately following the ceremony, at the ceremony location, while wedding party portraits and couples’ portraits will be photographed back at the reception venue while guests are enjoying cocktail hour. When doing an aisle reveal, cocktail hour should be 1.5 hours to make sure that we have enough time to complete all of your portraits before the reception kicks off!

1:30 | Photography coverage begins with “getting ready” + detail photos
3:00 | Bride puts her gown on
3:30 | Separate bridesmaid + groomsmen photos
4:00 | Travel to ceremony space
4:30 | Arrive at ceremony space
5:00 | Ceremony starts
5:30 | Ceremony ends + guests travel to cocktail hour
5:35 | Family formal portraits
5:55 | Couple + family travel to reception venue
6:00 | Guests arrive at reception venue + join cocktail hour
6:25 | Couple and family arrive at reception venue + family joins cocktail hour
6:30 | Wedding party portraits with bridesmaids + groomsmen
6:50 | Couple portraits
7:30 | Guests invited into reception
7:45 | Introductions
7:55 | First dance
8:00 | Welcome toast or blessing
8:10 | First course served + speeches
8:30 | Dinner served
9:30 | Parent dances
9:45 | Dance floor opens
10:00 | Cake cutting
11:00 | Photography coverage ends

How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline | Four Sample Timelines to Get You Started

I hope that these sample wedding timelines are a good starting point in creating an outline of your day!

If you’re planning a wedding and want to talk about having Emi Rose Studio photograph your event, get in touch! I’d love to hear about what you’re planning, tell you more about the Emi Rose Studio process, and answer any questions you might still have about timeline details!

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The Guide

A lot of moving pieces go into planning a wedding day timeline and it can be hard to know where to begin. Grab this free guide to plan the perfect timeline for your day!