The Almost Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

Wedding Tips

Today’s blog post is for my brides and any photographers out there who are struggling with knowing how to plan their wedding day timeline down to the nitty gritty! After lots of trial and error, advice from other wedding professionals, and a TON of staring at this page analyzing every last detail, I think I have FINALLY come up with a pretty sound wedding day timeline. This of course changes with the time of year because of when the sun sets, but I will always send my clients an example of this that goes right with the sunset time for their wedding day specifically.

While factoring out this timeline, I put a lot of thinking into what I needed to make sure I had time for on the wedding day. Those specific things are:

  • Bride & Groom Getting Ready Photos (an hour – I am with the bride, my second shooter is with the groom)

  • Detail Photos (45 minutes – I will do this as soon as I get there and then join the bride when she is finishing up her hair & makeup)

  • First look (30 minutes – this gives us a little extra time for some pretty amazing bride + groom portraits after you’ve finally seen each other for the first time!)

  • Bridal party photos (30 minutes)

  • Family photos (30 minutes for the typical family; for extended family, I add on 5 minutes for each additional shot requested)

  • Reception & Ceremony photos (30 minutes – I like to do this after the first look & bridal party photos before the ceremony so the bride & groom have time to relax before the ceremony!)

After factoring in all of those details, some other things I like to consider are having the ceremony 2 hours before sunset, having an hour for cocktail hour, having 20 minutes for sunset photos, and making sure that if there is a special exit such as a sparkler, saber arch, or ribbon exit that my coverage goes to that point of the night – I don’t want to miss this!!

Rough Timeline:

2:00pm – I arrive | I start photographing details

2:30pm – Second shooter arrives at groom’s location

2:45pm – I start shooting the bride getting ready | Second shooter starts shooting groom

3:00pm – Bride gets in her dress

3:10pm – Groom gets set up for First Look

3:15pm – Bride leaves to the First Look location

3:20pm – First Look

3:30pm – Bride & Groom Portraits

3:50pm – Bridesmaids portraits

4:00pm – Groomsmen portraits

4:10pm – Full bridal party portraits

4:20pm – Second shooter & I photograph untouched ceremony & reception site

5:00pm – ceremony starts

5:30pm – ceremony ends

5:40pm – Family formals (I am shooting these while second photograph is shooting Cocktail Hour)

6:10pm – If time allows, more Bridal party & Bride + Groom portraits & Reception details

6:30pm – Guests are allowed to enter Reception

6:40pm – Introductions to Reception (Bridal party & Immediate family)

6:50pm – First Dance

6:55pm – Father/Daughter Dance

7:00pm – Mother/Son Dance

7:05pm – Welcome & Prayer

7:10pm – Dinner

7:45pm – Sunset portraits

8:00pm – Toasts

8:15pm – Cake cutting

8:20pm – Open Dancing

9:15pm – Bouquet Toss

9:20pm – Garter Toss

9:25pm – Special dances (Money dance, anniversary dance, etc)

9:30pm – Open dancing

9:50pm – Last dance

9:55pm – Grand exit (sparkler, saber, bubbles, ribbon, etc)

10:00pm – Photographers leave

This timeline was based on sunset being at 8:00pm and would obviously be altered for a time difference in sunset to adjust for the sunset portraits. Those are my favorite part!! This timeline is also obviously not set in stone and is always up for discussion and available to be altered for their special day. Especially if it is a catholic wedding, those ceremonies can be from an hour to two hours long and will alter the timeline drastically!

I hope this timeline helps and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to ask!! 🙂

  1. Chantal says:

    what a great article every bride should read!! Great tips!

  2. Another great idea for a post! So helpful for any future bride!

  3. venus blue says:

    very informative. thanks!

  4. Rebecca Anne says:

    What a great resource for your brides! Awesome timeline as well. 🙂

  5. Alex says:

    Great tips, Jessica! A good timeline is key for every bride!

  6. Pretty neat. Seems like a great timeline. very detailed.

  7. Bethanne Arthur says:

    This is a great post Jessica!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

follow along for behind-the-scenes, PHOTOS of our FAMILY, and tons of SESSION advice! 



Jessica Green Photography provides a stress-free and luxury portrait experience for busy mamas at her studio is located in Warrenton, VA. She serves the greater DC and Northern Virginia areas. She is also available for travel to areas including but not limited to Fredericksburg, Gainesville, Manassas, Alexandria, Stafford, Leesburg, Arlington, Reston, Herndon, Vienna, and Woodbridge. Jessica photographs simple, organic, and timeless newborn, maternity, family, and milestone photography in her studio and on location.