Timelines. Kind of an important part of the day but can often really be overlooked, or hastily thrown together. A great timeline though will get you through the day smoothly, keep your guests happy and entertained, and get you the best photos possible.
There are two things that are probably the most important components of your timeline. Tied for importance. First is to consult with the sun and moon gods. Really, just be aware of the time of day. While a sunset ceremony is beautiful, if you are not doing a first look and photos before the ceremony? You will be taking photos in the dark. Which thanks to the magic of flash is completely possible, however may not what you are envisioning. A ceremony start time (for a ceremony of 30 min or less) of about 2 hours before sunset is a great time. This time of day will be bright, but not too bright, and then allow just enough time in soft beautiful light for family, bridal party, and portraits of you and your boo. Then when we have the beautiful sunset, we can have you two right up in the magical goodness and unicorns will come out and the angels will be singing.
Second, allow for extra time on almost everything. Makeup and hair might run long. If you have to travel between locations there could be traffic. Family photos is like herding cats and someone is ALWAYS wandering away to the bar. It’s better to have extra time to relax than not have enough and be stressed.
There are so many variables when it comes to your timeline. Are you doing a first look, how long is your ceremony, are you doing a receiving line, how big is your family/how many family portraits do you want to take, how many traditional elements of the reception are you doing, are you having a buffet or seated dinner. If you aren’t hiring a planner or coordinator, talk to your photographer (and other vendors) and have them help you plan your timeline. Below is a sample timeline of a wedding occurring in late summer/early fall time period (based on sunset time) with 8 hours of wedding photography. Bride & groom getting ready at the venue, and both ceremony and reception at the same location, no first look.
2:00 Photography begins
– Hair & Makeup has begun previously
– Both bride & groom prep documented as well as detail shots
4:15 Bride gets dressed
– If space and time permit, some photos of bride with bridesmaids might be taken.
– approx. 20 minute ceremony
5:30-7:00 Cocktail hour
5:30-6:00 Bridal party & family portraits
– Any bridal party portraits not taken during prep
– Immediate family combinations (parents, grandparents, siblings, etc)
6:00-6:45 Bride & Groom portraits
– Bridal party & family released to cocktail hour
6:50-7:00 Bridal party & bride and groom line up for introductions
7:00 Reception begins
– Introductions directly into bride & groom first dance
7:15 Dinner begins/Parent dances
– Mother/Son & Father/Daughter dances while salads served
8:00 Toasts & Cake Cutting
– any remaining reception elements such as bouquet toss, dollar or anniversary dances, horah, etc.
10:00 Photography ends
There is no magic recipe in the timeline, it will be different for almost everyone and you have to know what is most important to you. Maybe you want to attend cocktail hour, maybe your friends hate dancing (what?), maybe you have a big gap between ceremony and reception. Your vendors are here to help and want you to have the smoothest and most stress-free day. Don’t be afraid to ask when you are putting it all together!
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