Creating Your Wedding Day Timeline

Wedding Day Timeline Tips

When Spenser and I got married, I didn’t even know where to begin in planning our wedding day timeline. It was totally overwhelming to try and guess at how much time we needed for each part of the day! How early should I put my dress on? How long would our ceremony be? How much time would we need between the ceremony and reception? Should we do a first look?! Yes, these questions are personal and the answers will vary a little for each couple, but there are some overarching guidelines that all couples should know going in!

I want every Emi Rose Studio couple to have ZERO stress in figuring out what will work for their wedding. We’ll personalize your photography timeline to exactly what will best capture your story and your traditions, but since I’ve been to a few weddings (ahem, MANY weddings!) in this line of work, I’ve compiled some thoughts on the ideal wedding day timeline to help you start planning. Let’s work together to make your day as amazing and stress-free as possible!


Wedding Day Timeline Tips


The most important things to consider when planning your wedding day timeline are your traditions and your locations.

When I shoot a wedding, my mission is to capture the unique story of your love and the special traditions (old or new!) that make you who you are. Your timeline also needs to suit the traditions that you’ll be honoring on your wedding day! Do you need to factor in extra time for a long cathedral ceremony? Are you planning a traditional Indian wedding with days of prep and celebration? Is your idea of tradition celebrating your love of the outdoors with a mountainside elopement? In that case, you’ll want to consider travel time to and from the ceremony site!

Location is important for so many reasons. If your ceremony and reception are at two different venues, you’ll need to consider time for your guests to travel from one site to the next. Do you want your portraits taken at a separate location? We’ll need time for that too! Your location is going to determine the feeling of your photos, so choose something that speaks to you. Keep in mind that in order to get those warm and bright photos that we all love, we’ll need plenty of natural light. Look for a nice outdoor space like a local park, botanical garden, or meadow that we can explore for your photos!

Now, let’s walk through the day and talk about what you should think about to make each part your own!



3 to 4 hours

You’ll get started with hair and makeup pretty early in the day. I usually plan to start photographing around the time that your makeup artist arrives. You’ll likely have your hair done by then, and I can capture those glamorous getting-ready shots as you put the finishing touches on your makeup, and some candid shots of you and your girls having fun! Take this time to celebrate with your ladies. Plan a fun brunch with matching robes and mimosas (and preferably some throwback tunes that we can all jam to!).

Photographer’s Tip: Choose a getting-ready location with as much natural light as possible! This will keep you feeling bright and happy, and will give us the most flattering light for your getting ready photos.

I also like to use this time to take some bright and beautiful images of your wedding details! You’ve carefully selected each and every item, heirloom, and accessory for your wedding day, and I want to be sure to record all of those special details.

Photographer’s Tip: Gather details like jewelry, stationery, shoes, and accessories in a bag so that I can grab it and get started styling as soon as I arrive!


How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline | Tips from a Photographer



30 minutes

Plan to put your dress on about three hours before your ceremony. I know it seems early, but it’s not! Something always runs behind on the wedding day, and being dressed and ready to go will help you feel on top of things and ready to roll.

Photographer’s Tip: Your bridesmaids should get dressed before you do – this way they’ll look coordinated and polished in photos when they’re helping you get into your gown!



1.5 hours

If you choose to do a first look, this should happen about two hours before the ceremony. Whether or not to do a first look is a personal decision, but I highly recommend it to my couples! The first look lets me capture the real emotions of you two seeing each other for the first time, where you can really express yourselves without the pressure of being in front of a crowd. Having a quiet, private first look lets you two fully appreciate the moment. Weddings go by fast, and spending a few quiet moments with your soon-to-be-spouse should be a priority.

After the first look, we’ll move right into your couple portraits! Schedule enough time so for this so that we can have some fun, stress-free time to devote to capturing those romantic images that you two will treasure forever! I love to create a natural experience full of romantic looks and candid moments, but we need time for that – rushed portraits result in stiffer poses and won’t let you be fully in the moment.


How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline | Tips from a Photographer


If you choose not to do a first look:

A first look isn’t right for every couple. If you choose not to do a first look, just keep in mind that we’ll need to do your couple portraits and wedding party photos after your family portraits (between the ceremony and the reception). We can absolutely make that happen, but you’ll want to schedule in at least an hour and a half for all of these photos, and you’ll most likely not attend the cocktail hour!


How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline | Tips from a Photographer



30 minutes

Reunite with your bridesmaids and groomsmen for some portraits with your favorites! We’ll move through wedding party photos pretty quickly, but I like to honor your relationships with the people who’ve made you who you are with some beautiful one-on-one and group photos.



15 minutes to 1 hour

You and your soon-to-be-spouse will go your separate ways to await the biggest moment of your lives! Head to your ceremony’s bridal area to touch up your hair and makeup, grab a snack, and get EXCITED!

The timeline for your ceremony will depend entirely on what kind of ceremony you have. These days you can really do whatever you’d like – have a friend officiate your wedding on a dock by the lake, or go all out royal wedding. Traditional Catholic weddings usually last around an hour, while casual backyard weddings can be as short as 15 minutes.

Photographer’s Tip: Ask your officiant to step to the side when you take your first kiss, so that when you feel like the only two people in the world, your photos look that way too. 




30 minutes

I love it when couples take a moment to celebrate right after the ceremony! Bring a bottle of champagne to pop together and toast to the best decision of your lives.

After the ceremony we’ll also do your family formal portraits. Make sure your family knows to stick around the ceremony location so that we can move quickly and get everyone over to cocktail hour!

Photographer’s Tip: Think about the family members that it will be most important to you to have formal portraits with! I usually recommend that we photograph combinations of grandparents, parents, and siblings, as well as your newly united families together.



1 hour for cocktail hour and 4 to 5 hours for the reception

CONGRATS! Now the party begins! Grab a cocktail, celebrate with your family and friends, and kick of married life with a bang!

Photographer’s Tip: I’ll take another round of detail photos before your reception gets underway, this time of the table settings, place cards, and centerpieces. Having some time during cocktail hour will let me capture these details untouched, before your guests enter the reception area!

I usually plan to stay until about an hour after the dance floor opens. That way, I can get some super fun shots of your friends and family getting their boogie on, but I leave before things get too sweaty and boozy (unless that’s what you’re into, in which case I’ll shut the venue down with you guys)!


How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline | Tips from a Photographer


Brides, what are you finding most challenging about planning your wedding timeline? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll reply with some insider tips! Those of you who are already married – what tips or lessons learned would you share with new brides?


Emi Rose


Check out the Emi Rose Studio wedding gallery, or inquire about your wedding today!

Emi Rose Studio is a wedding photography studio located in Rochester, New York and shooting weddings throughout the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, on on a destination basis!

When Should We Schedule Our Engagement Session?

Emi Rose Studio | Rochester Wedding Photographer | Canandaigua Engagement Session

You’re engaged! The ring’s officially on your finger, you have a wedding season (if not a solid date) picked out, your eyes are glued to Pinterest for about 80% of the day, and you’re ready to think about engagement photos! (P.S. if you’re undecided about whether to make time for an engagement session, head on over to my previous post about why engagement sessions are so darn important).

The next question is, of course, when over the course of the next 1-2 years of blissful engagement should you schedule your engagement session? I get asked this question all the time, so I’ve pulled together the biggest considerations on engagement session timing so that you can make sure that you not only get some amazing images to celebrate your love and excitement, but that you have them in time for any of the major engagement milestones that you could need them for!

Emi Rose Studio | Rochester Wedding Photographer | Canandaigua Engagement Session

Question #1: How do you plan to use your engagement photos?

This is probably the biggest thing you’ll need to consider when you’re deciding on when to do an engagement session. Here are some of the most common ways that I’ve seen my brides and grooms use their images, and the timelines that I would recommend to meet each one!

Do you plan to use your engagement photos for engagement announcements or engagement party invitations?
Do you want to submit a photo to a local newspaper to shout your big plans from the rooftops?
Are you just SUPER excited about this next step in life and simply can’t wait to celebrate?
Then think about scheduling your session within the first month of getting engaged.

Do you plan to use an engagement photo for save the dates?
Do you want to include your engagement photos in the design of your wedding website?
Then I’d recommend scheduling your session at least 8-10 months out from your wedding.

Have you decided on your wedding photographer and want to get to know them a bit before your wedding day?
Are you looking for a way to celebrate your engagement, reconnect, and commemorate this chapter of life?
Then think about scheduling a session about 6 months out from your wedding.

Do you plan to submit a photo and wedding announcement to a local newspaper? (Note: Check with your local paper for guidelines – some have specific formatting requirements, and some require submissions as soon as six weeks before the big day)
Then you’ll want to have your engagement photos taken no later than 3 months prior to your wedding. 

Is your wedding right around the corner? Are you close to the finish line and worrying that you’ve missed out on the engagement session fun?
Are you realizing that you’d like some great photos to include on wedding day programs, on favors, or in your guest book?
Then it’s not too late to fit an engagement session in as late as 1 month before your wedding!



Question #2: What season is best for your engagement session?

This is a personal choice that will have a lot to do with your style, your wedding season, and the kinds of memories that you’ll want to capture in your engagement photos!

Let’s say your wedding is in June, and you’re thinking of scheduling your engagement session about 6 months out. That puts you smack in the middle of December, which could be wonderful for a cozy holiday session or a winter wonderland look. But if you want to use those images for your springtime wedding decor, you might prefer something a little warmer! If that’s the case, think about having your engagement photos taken a few months earlier to take advantage of the late summer sunshine or fall foliage.

Think also about potential locations for your engagement session! If you dream of having your photos taken at the ice cream parlor where you had your first date, or in a canoe at your favorite lake, weather can be a little limiting – I want to help you tell your story, so let’s work together to make sure the timing of your session lets your story shine! (That being said, a cozy winter ice cream session sounds absolutely magical – if you’re into it, get in touch!).

Question #3: What is your availability?

Life is busy! On top of wedding planning, you and your soon-to-be-spouse are probably working, traveling for work, visiting friends, and (hopefully) taking time for a vacation or getaway. Look at your calendars and see if there are any months that absolutely DON’T work to fit in an engagement session, or if you have any windows of time that you can lock down now to make sure life doesn’t get away from you!

Your photographer’s travel time is also a consideration – if you’re not located in upstate New York, I’m happy to come to you and take some magical photos! Just be sure you give me enough advance notice so that I can be sure to carve out time for you and make my travel plans.


Emi Rose Studio | Rochester NY Wedding Photographer | Canandaigua Lake Engagement Session


Check out the Emi Rose Studio engagement gallery, or book your engagement session today!

Emi Rose Studio | Rochester Wedding Photographer | Finger Lakes Wedding Photographer | New York Wedding Photographer