When consulting with my clients, I’m often asked about what time to begin portraits and the general photography timeline for the day. Your wedding photography actually has a great deal of influence over the events of the day, and if not planned properly, some of the basic happenings of a wedding day, such as hair and makeup appointments, can have a big impact on how the rest of the day unfolds. I thought it might be useful to share, from a photography standpoint, what I’ve learned to be an ideal wedding day timeline. If you’ve done any research at all on wedding timelines, you’ll find that there is a lot of it out there and I have to give a special thanks to two photographers who’ve helped supplement my wedding photography experiences with their informational blog posts. Melissa Jill and Jasmine Star are always willing to share their knowledge of weddings and photography with clients and with other photographers – If you want to see their tips on wedding photography and their perspectives on wedding day timelines, you can read Jasmine’s view here and Melissa’s tips for a well-planned wedding here.

The timeline I have outlined below is meant to be a general guideline to planning your day. There are tons of factors to consider that make each wedding different and every timeline unique. You’ll have to think about things like the ceremony location, sunset time, weather, the size of your bridal party and how many portraits you want taken, and the distance from the ceremony location to the reception venue. Since so many things can affect your timeline,  what I’m suggesting is a general guideline and a good starting place for a well-planned day. This plan is built around a sunset time of 7pm with the ceremony and reception taking place at the same venue. It also assumes that the bride and groom will see each other before the ceremony. I really believe that the bride and groom seeing each other and having their portraits taken before the ceremony is ideal for a number of reasons…. Check back soon for a future blog post about why I think ‘First Looks’ are so wonderful!

With all of that said, here is my suggested timeline. When you organize your wedding day along these lines, everything tends to run smoothly and you’ll be able to more fully enjoy the day.

2:00 – Detail shots and getting ready photos at salon, hotel or bridal room at ceremony location
3:00  – Getting dressed shots and transport to portrait/ceremony location
4:00 – Bride & groom’s first look & portraits
4:30 – Bridal party portraits – Bride with bridesmaids, Groom with groomsmen and the full wedding party
5:00 – Family portraits
5:30 – Finished with portraits (yay!) Now you can rest, relax, freshen up, pray, etc. before the ceremony begins
6:00 – Ceremony (tip I learned from Melissa Jill, – the perfect light for an outdoor ceremony is one hour before sunset)
6:30 – Cocktail hour OR buffet opens for guests (since you took your portraits before the ceremony, now you can enjoy this time with guests OR dash outside for sunset portraits)
6:45 – Grand entrance and first dance
7:30 – Toasts and father-daughter, mother-son dances
7:40 – Open dance floor
8:15/8:45 – Cake cutting and more dancing
10:00 – Bouquet and garter toss
10:30 – Bride and groom exit reception

The ticket to having a relaxed, stress-free wedding day is organization. Another piece of advice I offer to clients and to newly engaged couples is to hire a wedding planner, even if its just to help coordinate on the day of your wedding. Wedding planners and event designers are experts at putting together a beautiful and well-structured day. They have years of experience planning and coordinating weddings, so they know what to expect and can keep your wedding timeline on track. I’ve worked with several wonderful planners in the central and northwest Arkansas areas, so if you need recommendations email me and I’ll send you my list of preferred planners!

Plan ahead and you’ll enjoy your day more fully!