How to Develop A Wedding Day Timeline


A Few Tips Before You Get Started:

1. Plan cushion into your timeline:

My best advice for a stress-free day is to allow yourself more time than you think you need! There’s so many factors during a wedding day that can push you behind schedule, but it doesn’t have to be a stressor. Allow yourself wiggle room in your schedule. More importantly, give yourself WAY more time to get ready than you think you need. This way, worst case scenario means you’re ready to go an hour early and get to relax with a mimosa and your favorite ladies.


2. If you want something to happen, put it on the schedule:

If you and your husband want to exchange letters to each other in the morning, put it on the schedule. Maybe you want your parents or bridal party to open gifts that morning? Put it on the schedule. There’s a lot to think about when you plan your wedding and you don’t want to be worrying about it on the day! Sometimes it’s easy to forget about some of the little things, so my biggest recommendation is to make your timeline as detailed as possible.


3. Take sunlight into consideration:

Depending on what time of year you are having your wedding, the sun will set at very different times (especially in Minnesota). It’s important to keep this in mind for a few reasons:

If you want to have an evening ceremony in winter, you will want to have all of your wedding party photos and couple photos done before the ceremony (otherwise it may be completely dark afterwards). If you are having a summer wedding, the sun may not set until 9pm. In this case, you will want to plan time for some photos the hour before sunset with you and your spouse, to get the best light. I can help with some of the logistics when it comes to exact timing and sunlight, but it’s an important factor to keep in mind.


A Break Down of the Day:

Getting Ready Photos:

Most of my couples love to incorporate getting ready photos into their timeline. In this case, I like to arrive 45-60 minutes before you put on your dress. This offers plenty of time to capture candid moments of you and your maids, along with detail shots like your dress, rings, and anything sentimental you’d like to include!

If there are any special details you want photographed like your (& your soon-to-be husband’s) rings, jewelry, shoes, vows, gifts, a family heirloom, etc. I just ask that you have those ready before I arrive! My best suggestion is to assign this job to a bridesmaid or personal attendant and have them all set aside somewhere so we don’t have to track them down in the morning. This way, you can focus solely on being pampered (as you should be!).


Putting on your Gown:

I always recommend putting your gown on at least 30 minutes before your first look. (Plan for extra if you have a dress that needs to be laced up or buttoned in the back.) This allows plenty of time to enjoy the moment, hug your mom, give a big reveal to your gals and really soak it in.


First Look:

If you are doing a first look, I recommend starting this at least 30 minutes before we start wedding party photos. This was one of the sweetest moments of my wedding day and I want you to have time to breathe with each other. I’ll take the lead on coordinating a spot for photos and positioning you two for the moment. Since the first look usually happens when the sun is at it’s highest, I’ll be on the lookout for any areas with soft lighting and shade, while still remaining in easy walking distance for the two of you!

*Important Note: if you are not having a first look during your day, you will want to plan extra time after your ceremony to get all of the photos of you and your spouse, wedding party and family photos. Make sure to still leave an ample amount of time so this time can still be fun for you and not rushed!


Wedding Party Photos:

I like to leave between 30-45 minutes for both wedding party and family photos. I’ll take care of all the combinations for bridal party photos, but if there are any fun poses you want to include during this time, don’t hesitate to let me know!


Family Group Photos:

Before the wedding, I will have you come up with a “shot list” with all the combinations you would like with your families. (Ex. Bride, Groom, Bride’s parents; Bride, Groom, Groom’s parents, etc.) On the day, I will have this list so you won’t have to worry about remembering all of the combinations or making sure they all get covered.


Break Before the Ceremony:

We’ll wrap all photos up a half hour before the ceremony so we can tuck you and your bridal party away as guests start to arrive! This is a great time to touch up your make up and for everyone to have a bite to eat.

This is also a great time to note, if it’s not now, make sure you plan time to eat and **drink water** during your morning! Not just for yourself — but for the rest of your crew!



Ceremony length can vary, but usually my couple’s ceremonies are short and sweet, lasting somewhere between 20-30 minutes. However, if you know it’s going to last longer, you’ll want to plan extra time here! I love having a copy of the ceremony outline beforehand, that way I know exactly what will be happening and will be positioned best for important moments!

If you plan to have a receiving line, I also recommend leaving extra time after your ceremony ends. This can take up a lot of time depending on the amount of guests you have. If you will not be having a receiving line, I will sneak you away the moment the ceremony is finished for more photos, to prevent getting stopped by all the guests that are eager to see you!


Cocktail Hour/Bride & Groom Photos:

Often, the cocktail or social hour lasts between 60-75 minutes. If you will be traveling to another location, I recommend leaving even more cushion here. This is a perfect time to get more photos of you and your now spouse(!!!) at a location of your choosing!

I will also want to steal the two of you away for a few photos at sunset. Timing for this will change depending on the time of year, but it’s something to keep in mind when you’re planning your timeline! A quick google search will tell you when sunset is. In summer, that often means sneaking away during the reception for a few photos outside your venue. I promise, it is SO worth getting at least a few photos during this magical golden hour.


Grand Entrance:

I recommend scheduling your grand entrance 15 minutes before dinner is ready to be served. This will give time for everyone to sit down for a brief welcome and/or prayer before the meal.



During the dinner, this is a great time for me to take a break and eat along with everyone else. Generally, this is a slower time during the day and you won’t want photos of you eating anyway! However, I’ll still be there and able to pop up to capture speeches and cake cutting.

Generally, salad to desert lasts between 60-90 minutes, but it would be great to get an estimate directly from your caterer on how long this will take.



Usually, I wrap up 20-30 minutes after the dance starts! The only time I stay longer is if you would like an official exit captured like a sparkler send off (or something along those lines)! If you would like to incorporate something like this, we can also sneak you, your wedding party and some of your guests away right before I leave for these photos. (That way, you don’t have to pay to have me through the whole dance.) However, this is completely up to you!


Obviously your day is unique, just like you, but I hope this helps as you begin planning your day! I’ve included a sample timeline below of what a traditional 8-hour day might look like. However, I am more than happy to work with you to provide a customized timeline for your day!


Example Timeline:

12:00 PM: Photographer arrives, getting ready photos

1:00 PM: Bride begins dressing

1:30 PM: First Look

2:00 PM: Wedding Party Photos

2:45 PM: Family Group Photos

3:30 PM: Guests start to arrive, bridal party tucked away

4:00 PM: Ceremony begins

4:30 PM: Ceremony ends

4:30 – 5:45 PM: Cocktail Hour, More bride & groom photos!

5:50 PM: Grand Entrance

6:00 PM: Dinner served

6:40 PM: Cut cake / Dessert served

6:50 PM: Speeches

7:15 PM: First Dance

7:20 PM: Parent Dances

7:30 PM: Dance floor opens

8:00 PM: Photographer departs

meet angela

Hey you! I'm Angela, lover of ginger tea, yoga and self-help books. My heart is happiest when I'm serving others and photography is an avenue in which I am able to do just that.






Wedding Planning