How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline for Your Wedding

Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of capturing the magic of over 100 weddings in and around Seattle. It’s been an incredible journey. Along the way, I’ve noticed that many couples, as well as my own friends and family who are getting married, often have similar questions, especially when it comes to planning the Big Day. The most common questions revolve around creating a wedding day timeline.

Whether you’re working with a professional wedding planner or taking the do-it-yourself route, crafting a timeline that suits your unique vision can be a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve put together this guide to help inform you about the basics and best practices in tailoring your wedding day timeline. I’ve also layered in my pro-tips about some of the nuances of the wedding day that may not be obvious to someone who has never gone through this experience before.

The First Look

Before we dive into the timeline, let’s first talk about something you might not be familiar with; the first look. This is when the bride and groom see each other for the first time on the wedding day during a private moment before the ceremony. It’s become increasingly popular in recent years, and almost all of my clients choose this over the tradition of seeing each other at the ceremony.

Choosing whether to have a first look before or after the ceremony can significantly affect your wedding day timeline. I highly recommend a pre-ceremony first look because it offers a lot of flexibility. By having your first look before the ceremony, you can get all the essential photos done ahead of time (bride and groom portraits, bridal party, and family). This means once the ceremony is over, you’ll can fully immerse in the joys of your celebration without having to worry about posing for photos.

I will talk more about the pros and cons of pre and post ceremony first looks in a future article. For this this article, let’s assume a pre-ceremony first look since that’s what most couples opt to do.

OK! Let’ dive in!

The Wedding Day Timeline

The key essential components of a wedding day timeline

Below are the essential components of a typical wedding day. Your wedding may include some or more elements that I have listed here. Each wedding is special and has its own unique circumstances to consider so this is a good place to start sketching out an outline of the day:

  • Getting ready
  • First Look & bride and groom portraits
  • Family & bridal party photos
  • Ceremony
  • Cocktail hour
  • Reception
  • Special moments: Sunset photos, or other planned surprises (fireworks, getaway car, etc.)

Most of these are self-explanatory. I recommend starting with an outline of the above and then fill in with events that you want to occur under each grouping. You can use any application you’re comfortable working with such as Word, Excel, Google Docs, iPhone Notes, etc.

Assign actual times to each event

Now you have to assign the actual time to each event. Begin by anchoring the entire timeline of the day to the ceremony start time and then work your way backwards and forwards through the timeline.

Add time buffers and keep expectations real

Time is shorter and space is much different than you’d imagine. Be realistic about what you schedule in for the day. The less friction points incorporated in the day puts less stress you. Delays and unforeseen circumstances are just a fact of life. It’s best to give some time cushion to the areas in the timeline that may give you anxiety if you don’t allow for enough time (example: getting into the dress or hair and make-up) or you feel like have a higher risk for delays (example: travel between locations, always tardy family member).

Pre-ceremony photography time

From the moment I arrive to the start of the ceremony, I have a big part in driving the wedding day timeline because most of the essential portraits are taken before the ceremony. So, I’m the main person that ensures everyone involved is moving in the right direction according to the timeline.

Here is a break down how long each photo session will take:

  • Bride and groom first look and portraits: 1 hour
  • Bridal party: 30 minutes (based on an average of four bridesmaid and four groomsmen)
  • Family: 30 minutes (assuming only immediate family members and grandparents. Keeping the family members during this segment to a minimum is a good idea. Standing for a long line up of photos will sap your energy.

Timeline for a quintessential Pacific Northwest outdoor wedding

Wedding day timeline example

Now that you have the basic framework for the wedding day timeline, let’s take you through an example timeline with my pro-tips included.

For this example, let’s envision you’re planning an outdoor summer wedding in the Seattle-area with a ceremony time starting at 5PM. Summers in the Pacific Northwest are prime time for weddings due to the reliably warm weather and those glorious long daylight hours. Isn’t it amazing that the sun sets as late as 8-9PM?

Wake up – 11:30 AM

Bridal party making a pre-ceremony toast with champagneas captured by Seattle wedding photographer Tony Asgari.

Hair and Make-up (HMU)

This is about the time I arrive at the location where you are getting ready. I start by photographing the bride’s dress & details. I will then photograph everyone getting ready.

Bridesmaids should get HMU before bride so they’re all ready for those champagne toast photos (see pic above).

Bring full wedding invitation & stationary suite to be photographed.

1:30PM

Bride getting ready with help with mother of the bride for her Seattle wedding.

Bride & Groom Get Ready

Give yourself plenty of time to get into your dress so you don’t feel rushed. I highly encourage doing a practice run that includes a chance to walk around in your dress prior to the wedding.

It’s a good idea for the bridesmaids to be dressed and ready to go before the bride. This way they’re looking their finest for the bride’s big dress reveal.

The Mother of the Bride should also be dressed and ready before the bride so she’s looking her best when photographed helping with the bride’s dress.

A bride’s first look with the Father-of-the-Bride is always a tender moment that I love to capture.

2 PM

Bride and groom about to see each other for the first time at their Seattle wedding.

First Look / Bride & Groom Portraits

It’s showtime! You get to see each other for the first time on your wedding day.

My best advice is no advice at all. Just soak it all in and be in the moment.

I will set the first look location for you and then coach you through the whole thing in real time. The first look location is usually somewhere shaded with a beautiful backdrop.

We will then scoot around the venue property and take photos for the next hour.

While a bright, sunny day might seem ideal, it’s actually not the best lighting for the most flattering photos. The real magic happens during sunset. I like to call these portraits “insurance” shots because they ensure we capture the required photos in case it rains later in the day or for some reason we’re unable to take photos during sunset.

3PM

Bridal party portrait at a Seattle wedding.

Bridal Party Photos

I will take photos with different combinations of the wedding party.

I will also take photos of each bridesmaid and groomsmen with the bride and groom.

Prepare to have a lot of fun!

3:30

Family Photos

I will help you create a list with the combination of family members you want photographed with you. I will use this list to call folks to come stand in each photo.

It’s important to share the timeline with your family so they know when they will be on deck for family photos.

The bride should go hide to freshen up after the family photos before the first guests arrive.

5PM

Wide angle view of a wedding ceremony at Roche Harbor Resort on San Juan Islands

Ceremony

This is your moment. Be in it!

I’ll be there to capture it.

5:30PM

Guest posing for a photo at a wedding cocktail hour at a Seattle wedding.

Cocktail Hour

Your chance to mingle with friends and family that you probably haven’t seen in years.

6:30PM

Wedding guest dancing during the reception at a Seattle wedding.

Reception Start

Let the party begin!

Sunset

Bride and groom portrait at sunset during their Seattle wedding.

Sunset Photos

If there is a sunset, I highly encourage you to take advantage of it and take a 20-minute stroll with me. This is where the magical photos are captured.

I really hope that you found this guide helpful. It’s always good to put everything on paper and the timeline should come together very quickly. And of course, I’m always available to answer any questions you may have.

Let’s connect and chat about the magic you wish to create on your wedding day. You can contact me here for more information. My pricing for Seattle wedding photography can be found here. You can also see more of my wedding here.

SHARE

comments

Leave a Reply

I am a Seattle Wedding Photographer

Hello, Friend

I've been photographing weddings around Seattle and beyond since 2009. I do this because I truly love the art of photography and making people happy. Your reaction to seeing your photographs makes my day. My photography style is inspired by years of travel to faraway places with my camera in tow. I will bring the same curiosity and artistic approach to your wedding day.

If my work inspires you, I would love to have the opportunity to photograph your wedding. 

LEt's Get in Touch

Ready to Go on an Adventure together?

Let's Do this And Make Some Magic!

Hire Me!

Follow TONY On THE gram

@Tonyasgari

Tony Asgari

Seattle Wedding Photographer

Inquire