How to plan a wedding day timeline

I often receive questions on timeline from my brides. Being a Boston wedding photographer, our weather dictates much of what we can do as natural light is usually what everyone is focused on. And although I am definitely a champion for natural light, this shouldn’t be the only focus when creating your wedding timeline. You should be considering what you want from your day—are you wanting to spend time alone with your spouse after the ceremony? Do you want to join your cocktail hour? Do you want your family photos to be done earlier in the day? Focus on what is most important to you. If you want to visit everyone who has been invited to join you on your wedding day and you don’t like visiting tables during dinner, you may really want to consider a first look.

Each wedding is unique but there are usually familiar elements which I’ll be capturing too, so you can trust that I know what to look for and how to best represent your day in images. Below is an ideal wedding timeline based on an average 8-hour wedding in the summer at the same location, and it includes a first look. First looks give the couple, on average, about an hour more time to photograph together and helps make the day much less stressful.

Timeline with First Look

2:00: Photographers start “getting ready” photos at prep locations (bride & groom)

3:30: First look + couples portraits

4:30: wedding party photos

5:00: family portraits

5:30: done with portraits (guests arrive)

6:00: ceremony

6:30: cocktail hour + “golden hour” couple portraits

6:45: couple joins cocktail hour (“formal” photos complete)

7:45: introductions + first dance + toasts

8:00: dinner + cake cutting

9:00: parent dances (dance floor opened)

10:00: Photographers are finished

This is obviously a bit of a simplified timeline, but it follows pretty tried and true wedding day events. Here are some other things to consider when planning your timeline.

Hair & Makeup timing

I am also often asked about timing for hair & makeup. Your hair & makeup vendors are going to be the best people to answer this question. But…you have to decide if you still want to actually be getting ready when I arrive, or if you want to be done. A lot of my brides love those makeup photos. And since I photograph details when I arrive, even if you aren’t finished with your makeup yet the artist can call me over when they are almost done and we can get those great shots of morning prep. Same with hair. So my suggestion is that you decide when you want to be finished with hair & makeup, and feel free to overlap it with the photographer’s arrival. In the above example, you may not be finished with hair & makeup until around 2:30 or 3:00 and we would still have enough time to get into the dress and get out in time for the first look at 3:30. Figure out when you want to be ready and count backwards from there.

First Look Timing

Same as above, the first look can be done whenever you want. But I usually suggest having about 1.5-2 hours from first look to when the couple needs to go into “hiding” (if photographing at the same venue as the wedding) or to when they need to leave for the ceremony (if photographing at a different location than the ceremony venue). The 30 minutes is important if you’re in the same venue because guests will start arriving at about that time. And if the ceremony is a different location then of course we need to consider drive time and also when the groom is supposed to arrive (often much earlier than the bride and bridesmaids). So here you also count backwards about 2-2.5 hours from the start of the ceremony and that should be your first look start time.

Of course, at any time I’m also happy to help you plan out your timeline and help you finalize timing and customize it to your needs. Sometimes the parameters are different and we can work with your specific needs to make sure we get the best possible photos on your wedding day without you ever feeling stressed!

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May 30, 2017

I’m  Lexi


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