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As a wedding photographer, believe me when I tell you that your wedding day is going to FLY by! There is so much excitement, joy, and energy that goes into a wedding day that it is simply unavoidable. That’s why having a wedding day timeline to keep your day on track is SO important. It helps you make sure that you fit everything you envision your day to be without stressing you out by having to make split second decisions the day of that honestly should have been made months ago. But how exactly do you make a wedding day timeline that works best for you? That’s what we’re here to answer today, so without further ado let’s dive right in!
As you start to plan out our wedding day timeline and what it will look like you’ll first want to really map out what exactly your wedding day is going to look like. I like to think of wedding day timelines almost like a game of Tetris! Each part of your wedding day is a different “piece” of the game, so don’t be afraid to move your pieces around to create a day that flows and feels how YOU want it to! Want to get your family and wedding party portraits out of the way early on? We can do that! Want to wait on couples portraits until after your ceremony? We can do that too! Really whatever you envision for your timeline we can make work, as long as there’s enough time in the day!
When planning out where your pieces of your wedding day will land you’ll have to take into account any and all hard start and end times that you are given. Does your dinner start at a certain time? If you’re having a church ceremony, when does it have to start and end? Does your reception space have a set time you need to be out of there by? All these times that can’t be changed are the framework that you’re going to have to build your day around.
If you’re planning something like a backyard wedding celebration where there aren’t really hard set times, plan some of your own in. Having this sort of structure to work with helps you to know what you can and can’t fit within certain parts of your day and will help to keep your day on track, plus your guests need to know when to be there and when they need to leave!
Next up on our list, we need to consider whether or not you want to have a first look on your wedding day. Luckily there are no wrong answers here, it all comes down to your preference! It will greatly impact the layout of your wedding day timeline though, so let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each so you can get an idea of which will fit best into your day!
I am ALL about first looks for a wedding day timeline! They give you so many options for how you want to structure out the rest of your day, and as a bonus they’re a sweet and intimate moment for you two to share together at the start of your wedding day. Having a first look on your wedding day means that we’re able to fit so many of your photos earlier in the day, giving you more time to enjoy being with your guests and celebrating the rest of your wedding.
Using Allie and Dylan’s wedding day as an example, thanks to them doing a first look they were able to get ALL of their wedding party and couples portraits done before their ceremony. That meant they got to enjoy almost the entirety of cocktail hour with their friends since they only had to get through family photos after their ceremony!
If you don’t want to have a first look for your wedding day no worries! There’s a lot of excitement and anticipation that builds up as you two wait to see one another at your ceremony for the first time which can make for SUCH a cool experience for your wedding day. Just know that this will leave you having to get family photos, wedding party photos, and couples photos all between your ceremony and your reception. This is definitely doable, but will come at the cost of you having more time to spend with your friends and family relaxing and enjoying their company before the reception begins. Of course you don’t have to include all these different groupings if you don’t want to, but it is something you’ll have to consider when planning out how your wedding day will flow!
Working off the idea of not including family photos or wedding party photos into your timeline, let’s take a look at how that affects your wedding day. With no family photos or wedding party photos it’s true that you will have more time in your day and more time to spend with those people, but you’ll also receive less photos when your final gallery is delivered. While it’s true your photographer will capture a lot of candid moments throughout the night with you together with these people, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll get a photo with each and every one of them.
I also like to point out that especially when it comes to family photos, when are you ever going to have all these people together to celebrate something like this again? It’s so special to be able to have these photos with everyone together and happy to look back on throughout the years!
If you are planning to take wedding party, family, and friend photos during your wedding day I HIGHLY recommend working with your photographer to make a list ahead of time. Going in blind to these photos with no list in hand it is going to be hectic and take up SO much more time than it needs to. People will wander off, you may miss a grouping that you would have loved to capture, and it’ll take more time and energy to wrangle the people you need to make the photos happen. If you value these photos and value the time and effort your guests put in to travel and celebrate the love you share for one another, having this list done ahead of time is a must!
With everything that goes into a wedding day, things just naturally get behind schedule. Even with the most meticulously crafted timeline there’s always a chance that something will put you behind schedule. Whether it’s something that could be prevented like giving your only curling iron to a guest who misplaces it, or something totally out of your control like google maps rerouting you multiple times on your way from getting ready to your ceremony! That’s why I always recommend my clients to plan some buffer time into their wedding day timeline. It accounts for these mishaps and lets us get back on schedule. And hey, the worst case scenario is we don’t actually need the buffer time and you get to spend it with your friends and family instead!
With all that in mind I thought it would be helpful to take a look at some of my previous wedding timelines so you can see some real world examples of what I’m talking about. When reading through these keep in mind that EVERY wedding day is different, and that is what makes them so cool! If you like some of these timeline ideas and want to mismatch them together I say go for it!
For their wedding day timeline Megan and Ethan chose to have their first look at a separate location from their ceremony and reception space of Destihl Brewery. This gave them a unique space for their first look as well as their family and wedding party portraits which were done prior. Afterwards we all made our way to the Destihl Brewery for their ceremony. After that we only had solo portraits for Megan and Ethan left before the two could enjoy the rest of their evening together with their guests! Having the first look at a different location than the rest of their day added some travel time that we had to account for in the timeline. Luckily with that in mind during the planning process it wasn’t an issue!
I already mentioned Allie and Dylan’s wedding day at the Bloomington Country Club earlier, but it is worth bringing up again as it worked out SO beautifully! The two got ready separately and then met up outside of the country club, next to where their outdoor ceremony would take place. This let them get through all of their formal portraits aside from their family photos which were incredibly easy to knock out once their ceremony was over. This let them enjoy basically ALL of cocktail hour with their guests and then head directly inside once it was time for their reception to begin.
Let’s take a look at Lucy and Josh’s wedding day timeline to get a glimpse at what a wedding day can look like with no first look. With Lucy and Josh not being able to see one another prior to their ceremony, we were only able to do their separate wedding party pictures beforehand. They had a backyard wedding ceremony and reception as well as took all of their portraits there which really helped to keep things running smoothly. After their ceremony we went right into family photos, combined wedding party photos, and solo portraits before it was time for their reception to begin. Again having everything all at the same location for their day was HUGE in keeping everyone’s sanity, and their day did turn out to be the perfect wedding they dreamt it would be!
As you can see, wedding day timelines deserve a TON of care and consideration in order to make them work for your wedding day. Thankfully, when you hire me as your photographer I’m able to use my years of experience to help guide you through all the ins and outs as you begin to put your wedding day together. If we need to move things around I’ll let you know and work with you to find a plan that fits everything you want into your wedding day! Sound like a plan? Ready to book me for your best day ever? Head to my contact page to send me an inquiry and we can start planning your day!
September 28, 2023
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Rachael Marie Photography values inclusivity and will never discriminate against your gender identity, sexual orientation, race, religion, body type, or abilities. You are wonderful, beautiful, and loved here.