Wedding Day Timeline Scheduling Tips

One of the most important tasks for you to complete as your wedding day starts to approach is creating your day-of timeline! Your wedding day timeline is critical to ensuring your day runs as smoothly as possible. This blog post is going to cover key components of your wedding day timeline as well as a general guide line on the hour-by-hour flow of a typical wedding!

Let’s start with the key components of your wedding day timeline!

Your wedding day timeline is not only for yourself, but also your wedding party as well as your vendors. It should have a very accessible list of every location you plan to visit, as well as every important contact as well as their phone number. Remember that your vendors most likely don’t know who “mom” or “dad” is and as such you should provide full names, relationships and their phone numbers, area codes included! The last thing you, or your vendors, want to do on your wedding day is frantically asking people for phone numbers of an important contact or who your parents are.

Make a special effort to include full & gps-compatible addresses for each location you plan to visit on your wedding day! Obvious ones include your venue and wherever you will be staying/getting ready the day of your wedding. However, if you are getting ready in several different locations, make sure you include each of those as well. Example: if you are getting your makeup and hair done at a salon and then getting dressed at your friend’s house, include both addresses in this section of your timeline.

Pro tip: use the copy button in Google Maps to get a perfect copy of each address you need!

Once you have gathered all of your addresses and contacts, put these at the top of your timeline so they are easily accessible without scrolling through the rest of the document.

One area of a wedding day that can quickly run overtime is family and wedding party formal photos. A thorough shot list is one way you can make sure you don’t spend more time than you need on this portion of your day! Your photographer will be able to advise on specific groupings, but similar to contacts and phone numbers, it is extremely important that you provide full names AND relationships of each person that will be present for formal photos.

Once you have these names, start thinking about ways you would like to group these photos together. For your formal shot list you should write down each specific grouping as its own line. I’ll provide some examples of what this might look like for both sides of your families.

Bride’s Family

  • Bride + Groom + Parents (Mom Mary, Dad Tom) + Siblings (Sisters Ella & Emily, Brother Ethan) + Spouses (John & Scott) + Kids (Taylor, Timmy & Tanner)
  • Bride + Parents (Mom Mary, Dad Tom) + Siblings (Sisters Ella & Emily, Brother Ethan) + Spouses (John & Scott) + Kids (Taylor, Timmy & Tanner)
  • Bride + Groom + Parents (Mom Mary, Dad Tom) + Siblings (Sisters Ella & Emily, Brother Ethan)
  • Bride + Parents (Mom Mary, Dad Tom) + Siblings (Sisters Ella & Emily, Brother Ethan)
  • Bride + Groom + Parents
  • Bride + Parents
  • Bride + Mom Mary
  • Bride + Dad Tom
  • Bride + Groom + Siblings
  • Bride + Siblings
  • Bride + Groom + Nieces & Nephews (Taylor, Timmy & Tanner)
  • Bride + Groom + Grandparents (Grandma Joan & Grandpa Harry)
  • Bride + Grandparents

Groom’s Family

  • Groom + Bride + Parents (Mom Elsa, Dad Aaron) + Siblings (Brothers Thomas, Tony & Tanner)
  • Groom + Parents (Mom Elsa, Dad Aaron) + Siblings (Brothers Thomas, Tony & Tanner)
  • Groom + Bride + Parents
  • Groom + Parents
  • Groom + Mom Elsa
  • Groom + Dad Aaron
  • Groom + Bride + Siblings
  • Groom + Siblings
  • Groom + Bride + Grandma Julie
  • Groom + Grandma Julie

Notice how each of these lists include a full breakdown of each grouping. Each bullet point represents one picture so your photographer can follow along. It’s important to include names so that anyone who looks at this list can call names and assist in setting up each shot. Depending on your family dynamic you can adjust the composition of each grouping. If there are any issues in your family dynamics, let your photographer know and brainstorm how you would like those addressed on the wedding day. The most common example I run into is separated parents. In this situation I need to know if they are on speaking terms and whether or not they will be in pictures together. This determines how I will build the groupings so that there are no awkward interactions the day of!

The same method can be used for wedding parties, here is an example of a typical wedding party list.

Wedding Party

  • Bride + Groom
  • Bride + Groom + Bridesmaids (MOH Jenny, Rachel, Emily, Erin, Ella) + Groomsmen (Best Man Thomas, Tony, Tanner, Garrett, Brody) + Personal Attendants (Jennifer, Jessie) + Ushers (Jackson, Tucker)
  • Bride + Groom + Bridesmaids + Groomsmen
  • Bride + Groom + Bridesmaids
  • Groom + Bridesmaids
  • Bride + Bridesmaids
  • Bride + Jenny
  • Bride + Rachel
  • Bride + Emily
  • Bride + Erin
  • Bride + Ella
  • Bride + PAs
  • Bride + Jennifer
  • Bride + Jessie
  • Bride + Groom + Groomsmen
  • Bride + Groomsmen
  • Groom + Groomsmen
  • Groom + Thomas
  • Groom + Tony
  • Groom + Tanner
  • Groom + Garrett
  • Groom + Brody
  • Groom + Ushers
  • Groom + Jackson
  • Groom + Tucker

It’s not uncommon for this section of the timeline to take up 2 or 3 pages so I typically make two separate documents. One document is just the shot list by itself, and the second document is the main contacts as well as the schedule. Regarding timing, I typically allocate 1 hour for this section, increasing to 1.5 hours for unusually large lists. The grand majority of my wedding day formals are completed well within one hour. Efficiency during family formals is an important question you should ask your photographer before hiring them as they will be the ones running this portion of your day.

This is the part of your timeline that will take the most work & collaboration with your vendors. If you are working with a day-of planner, or your photographer is assisting, this will be much easier. Chances are your full-day vendors (photographer, planners, etc) have been to hundreds of weddings and are knowledgeable about how best to allocate your time so that you have plenty of buffer time and don’t ever feel rushed.

A big question to ask is whether or not you will have a “First Look” as this will determine when family photos happen. If you opt to have a first look, you will have the luxury of taking all of your formal photos before your ceremony. This means that after your ceremony everyone can disperse and mingle without the need to gather family to come back for photos. Trust me, as soon as your ceremony is over and cocktail hour starts, everyone forgets what they were told to do prior.

If you decide against a first look you can still do photos before the ceremony, though you will need to keep each side separated. You will have a list for pre-ceremony photos and a list for post-ceremony photos. You can follow the same template as above by simply removing the joint Bride + Groom pictures and moving them to the post-ceremony list. I would strongly advise against trying to do every formal picture after the ceremony as you are typically very short on time before your reception starts.

To start building your schedule, start with the non-negotiable times. This will be your ceremony start/end time and your reception start time. Once you have these you can work backwards from your ceremony time to plan the beginning of the day. I will provide an example of a wedding day schedule with and without a first look. Both days will have a 3pm ceremony start time.

First Look Wedding Day Timeline

11:00AM – Photo coverage begins at Bride Prep (this address will be in the main contacts section)
11:30AM – Second shooter begins at Groom Prep (this address will be in the main contacts section)
1:00PM – First Look & Couple’s Portraits
1:30PM – Family & Wedding Party Photos
2:30PM – All photos wrapped up (wedding party hides as guests will usually start arriving at this time)
3:00PM – Ceremony Start
4:00PM – Ceremony End
4:30PM – Party Bus Start
5:00PM – Cocktail Hour Start
6:00PM – Wedding Party arrives at Reception
6:30PM – Dinner Service
7:00PM – Toast (totally normal for toasts to happen while people are still eating)
7:30PM – First Dances (Bride + Groom, Father + Daughter, Mother + Son)
8:00PM (or when first dances end) – Open Dance Floor
9:00PM – Photo coverage ends

No First Look Wedding Day Timeline

11:30AM – Photo coverage beings at Bride Prep (this address will be in the main contacts section)
12:00PM – Second shooter begins at Groom Prep (this address will be in the main contacts section)
1:30PM – Separated Family & Wedding Party photos
2:30PM – All photos wrapped up
3:00PM – Ceremony Start
4:00PM – Ceremony End
4:00PM – Joint Family & Wedding Party Photos
4:45PM – Party Bus Start
5:00PM – Cocktail Hour Start
6:00PM – Wedding Party arrives at Reception
6:30PM – Dinner Service
7:00PM – Toast (totally normal for toasts to happen while people are still eating)
7:30PM – First Dances (Bride + Groom, Father + Daughter, Mother + Son)
8:00PM (or when first dances end) – Open Dance Floor
9:00PM – Photo coverage ends

Notice how both days have a similar flow with slight adjustments needing to be made based on the inclusion/exclusion of the first look. This will largely depend on the start time of your ceremony as well. If you are getting married later in the day (5 or 6pm) I would strongly suggest a first look as you will most likely be very short on time afterwards. If you are getting married earlier in the day (12 or 1pm) you may opt for a longer break between ceremony and reception giving you much more time to do pictures without a first look.

There are many other things you can put in your wedding day timeline that will be helpful. This can include photo locations for your party bus, a full list of bridal details you would like documented, as well as a full list of vendor contacts in case anyone of your wedding day has questions!

I hope that this blog post can serve as a good starting point for creating your wedding day timeline! If you are overwhelmed, don’t worry it’s totally normal! I personally consult and build out wedding day timelines for every single one of my couples so that it is one less thing to worry about! If not having to worry about your wedding timeline OR having intimate and authentic photographs interests you, reach out with the contact form below and reserve your date!

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In order to create an unforgettable experience I take on a limited number of weddings each year. My wedding packages are custom tailored to the exact needs of each couple I get the pleasure of working with.

I can’t wait to learn more about you, your partner, your wedding & what you value most! I want to make sure you have exactly what you need and that I am the perfect match for your wedding day.

Talk soon!
– Peter Barnes

2 dates remaining for 2024 weddings

Peter Barnes

We all live beautifully unique lives, but there are two things that draw a commonality between all people; time moves too quickly, and our memories are inherently flawed.

It’s my mission to capture the fleeting & once-in-a-lifetime moments that are quickly and easily forgotten.

You deserve photographs that feel genuine