Your wedding day is going to go by in a whirlwind. There are so many things that happen on a wedding day, your timeline is what is going to keep them all organized. This article goes through a list of the most common events on a wedding day and how to effectively manage them as well as what can derail the timeline altogether.

Before we start:

Include buffer time in everything. I recommend 30 minutes between additional in every activity.

Have a rain plan.

Make sure everyone needs to know where to be and when. (You may even want to tell them to be there a little early.)

Here is a list of the most common events I see included in a wedding day timeline:

Bride & Groom Prep

This is the time of day when you are getting ready for the main event, hair, make-up, hanging out with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Sometimes this takes place at the venue, a hotel room, or someone's home. If this portion of the day occurs anywhere other than the venue don't forget to add travel time into your timeline.

If you want photos of you and your bridesmaids toasting, in robes, matching tank tops, or any other awesome form of bride squad gear, this is the time of day when we would capture that. Make additional time for this photo if it's something you want and let the bridesmaids know when to be present and ready for this photo!

Bridal prep rooms can quickly become messy. If room allows keep a few areas off limits for personal belongings. (i.e. the space you will be putting on the dress or taking the robe photo.) I will do my very best not to capture areas that would not be less appealing in photos.

This is the part of the day that most frequently runs behind so definitely add that buffer time here!

Detail Photos

This is the time of day when we photograph the rings, the dress, the flowers, the shoes, the invitation suit, the ceremony site, the reception centerpieces, any of the details you would like documented on your wedding day. If these items are ready when I arrive I can create a flat lay and photograph them immediately, otherwise I may need to take several time outs to create these photos for you.

First Look

This part of the day is totally optional and completely your preference. There are pros and cons to having or not having a first look, here are a couple as they relate to the timeline :


It gives you more time for photos before the ceremony so that you can enjoy your cocktail hour.


You may need to be ready earlier in the day.

Wedding Party Portraits

Your attendants. The girls. The guys. The girls and guys together.

We can capture these before or after the ceremony. Even if you do not do a first look we can get a majority of these photos complete before the ceremony.

Family Portraits

Mom. Dad. Siblings. Your favorite aunt. The best way to get through this is to make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when you want them to be there.

Just like the wedding party portraits, we can capture these before or after the ceremony.

I send all my couples a detailed questionnaire asking what family groupings you would like before the wedding so that you have time to think about it.

Allow 2-5 minutes for each grouping.

Couple's Portraits

The couple's portraits portion of your wedding day is a time to capture the two of you during your day when you aren't busy getting married or surrounded by your bridal party, family, and friends. If you have chosen to do a first look we will capture some couple's portraits during that time.

Ceremony start time

When I am helping you consider how much photography coverage you will need for your day this is the focal point of the day. We will arrange your hours of coverage surrounding you "I do."

Receiving Line

A receiving line occurs immediately following the ceremony. It's a time when your guests line up to individually greet you as a couple.

Your guest count determines how long a receiving line will take.

Cocktail Hour

You may or may not have one planned.

We will photograph your guests during this time.

The Grand Entrance

This marks the beginning of the party.


It's mean to take photos of people while they eat so this is the time of day when there is very little photography happening, however, we will capture table shots while people are not eating.

Table shots are photos of guests seated together at their tables.


Choose who you want to speak. I know it's amazing to have everyone you know and love at you wedding to celebrate with you, what I don't recommend here is having an open mic toast.

Sunset Photos

It's a perfect time for couple's portraits.

This is one part of the day when we have no control over the time or the sun. I will let you know before your wedding day what time we will need to capture these so that other wedding day events aren't at the same time.

Cake Cutting

It's the sweetest part of the day. (Sorry, that's a terrible pun.)

This does not take up very much space in the timeline, there may not be a specific time assigned it may be listed in a sequence of events such as the first dance, parent dances, and/or bouquet and garter toss.

A time saving tip here can be to cut the cake immediately after the entrance. You already have the attention of everyone in the room and it lets the catering staff cut the cake to be served after dinner.

First Dance

This is one of the most anticipated moments of the day.

This is another event that does not take up much space in the timeline and may not even have a specific time assigned to it.

Parent Dances

The mother-son dance. The father-daughter dance.

Most songs last between 3-4 minutes, if that feels too long to sway back and forth with your parents your DJ probably has abbreviated versions.

Bouquet and Garter Toss

You may or may not toss a bouquet or a garter but if you do we will be there to capture it.

Grand Exit

Sparklers, glow sticks, bubbles, a getaway car, they all are wonderful ways to make your exit from your ceremony and create awesome photo opportunities to document the end of your day. Know that once you have cut the cake, danced, and fed your guests dinner, they will begin to trickle out beginning with the older guests and guests with small children. This could mean that you may not have everyone you would like present for the big moment at the end of the night.

Ultimately, don't let your timeline be a source of stress. At the end of the day it won't matter if it runs a little late, you won't even remember that. You will remember how much fun you had getting ready with your tribe, you'll remember seeing your spouse for the first time on that day and saying you're vows. You'll remember the moment when you get to seal the day with a kiss. You'll remember your friends and family, the first dance, and it will all be documented for you forever in photographs.