Creating a Wedding day timeline | NJ wedding photographer | South New Jersey Wedding Photographer


Wedding day Timeline

Creating a Wedding timeline is so important!!

Creating a wedding timeline. The one item I include in every wedding package is custom timeline creation. Sometimes putting together all the pieces of the wedding day puzzle can be challenging, and other times they fit together very nicely. During our first meeting, we usually go over the general timeline. Doing this timeline will ensure that your plans fit perfectly into the package you have chosen, and I will get to know your vision for your day.  After breaking down all the different parts of the day, we discover you may need more time or have just enough.

Always keep the timeline in mind.

When you are in the planning stages, keeping the timeline in mind is essential. A couple of critical moments may need extra planning during the day. Having the general timeline we created makes finalizing plans much more manageable.
Two weeks before the wedding date, together with my couple, we do a detailed timeline. We discuss every detail of the day and put it into the timeline. This ensures I know where I am supposed to be and what photos I need to take.  Please get in touch with me when you plan parts of your day or if you are unsure how an event or idea will affect the timeline.  I can help you decide if everything will work well for photos and answer any questions or concerns.

Where do you start?  What critical moments need detailed planning?

Timeline sample for an 8-hour wedding day

Arrival time:

I usually arrive early. I use this time to get photos of your venue.  If the getting location is not at the venue, I use the extra time to get acquainted with the site. When the venue is one that I haven’t worked at before, I will try to visit before the wedding day.  When I visit a venue ahead of time, I scout out locations, see where everything will occur, and meet coordinators. If I can’t visit the venue ahead of time, arriving early gives me a chance to explore the venue before the day starts. 

Shortly after arriving, I will photograph the dress, rings, flowers, shoes, jewelry, and other special mementos. Ideally, 30 – 45 mins is enough time to photograph these items. Having them all together in one spot and ready to go will help keep this part of the day moving quickly.

Budget 1 hour for this part of the day. 

Getting ready:

After photographing all the details, I will start the getting-ready shots of the bride and bridesmaids. This part of the day is fun and memorable for the bride. I like to capture all those special moments. After the bride gets in her dress, photos of the bride and bridesmaids are next.  ( We need to factor in travel time if we go to a different location for these photos.)

If the guys are at the same location, I can go back and forth between the bride and groom getting ready locations to get pictures.  When the guys are getting ready at a different place, and there isn’t a second photographer, I will meet them about 30 mins before the ceremony at the ceremony location.

Ideally, 2 hours would be perfect for the getting ready part of the day. I also add 30 minutes of “cushion” time to change batteries, and Sd cards, take pictures of the ceremony site, meet the officiant, and take photos of guests arriving at your ceremony.  Budgeting 3 hours for getting ready is good in the general timeline. There needs to be an additional hour added with a first look. With a first look, budget 4 hours for the getting ready part of the day.

**Any travel time must be added to the timeline if the getting-ready location(s) differ from the ceremony venue.

Budget 3-4 hours for this part of the day

Ceremony Time:

Average ceremonies are about 20 mins. I have seen speedy ceremonies and have photographed church ceremonies that can last an hour. I like to budget an hour for the ceremony part of the day to have extra cushion time. If the ceremony is only 20 mins and we have budgeted an hour, it gives us more time to do family and wedding couple photos, or travel time can be subtracted from this hour.
At this point, we have used 4 hours, 5 hours if there is a first look. The next part of the timeline can get very tight, and having the cushion time built into the timeline will ensure I get all the photos my couples have dreamed of.

Budget 1 hour for this part of the day

 Family, Wedding party, and Wedding couple photos (cocktail hour):

When the ceremony and reception are at the same venue, the reception will start directly after the cocktail hour. Usually, that is fine, but we only have 1 hour to get family photos and beautiful wedding couple photos done. This hour can get crazy.

Detailed family photo list

When this is the plan, I stress that we work on a detailed family photo list and have a dedicated person to help with the list and gather family members. This part of the day can take up to 30 mins of your cocktail hour. That only leaves 30 mins of dedicated time to get photos of the wedding couple. Oh….and I just remembered that I should mention pictures of the wedding party! So, keeping this family photo time organized will give us more time for photos of the wedding couple.

For a general timeline, budget an hour unless you can have the reception start at a different time. Ideally, 1 1/2 to 2 hours in between would be ideal for family photos, wedding parties, and couple photos.

Budget 1 hour for this part of the day

relaxed gorgeous photos

I encourage a first look when the timeline only allows an hour after the ceremony for family and wedding couple photos. The first look not only gives the couple a special time to enjoy each other with no one else around, but it also can help take away the stress of taking photos only during the cocktail hour. Having a first look gives relaxed time to take photos of the wedding couple, bridal party, and family before the ceremony even starts.  One of the most chaotic times of the day can be a cocktail hour because we must take all those photos quickly. When there has been a first look, most couples are less stressed and enjoy having time to attend their cocktail hour.

For a general timeline, budget an hour unless you can have the reception start at a different time. Ideally, 1 1/2 to 2 hours in between would be ideal for family photos, wedding parties, and couple photos. Creating a wedding timeline will help with this part of the day.

**Please keep the timeline in mind if travel must happen between the ceremony and reception venue; that travel time plus the 1 – 1 1/2 hours for photos has to be factored in.


I work with the venues and DJ/Band timelines during this part of the day.  Two to three hours to capture all the reception events is perfect to budget for this part of the day. The critical moments happen at the beginning of the reception, like introductions, the first dance, parent dances, toasts, and cake cutting. If any special activities are planned that need to be photographed, please make sure the DJ/entertainment knows of these events.  That way, they can arrange for them to happen while I am still there.

Ensuring your DJ/entertainment knows when your photographer is leaving will let them plan to get all the important events done in that timeframe. For example, if your venue or DJ feels there needs to be more time to get in all of your plans, or if you want to do an exit (sparklers), you will need to add an hour or two to your package.

**Keep in mind if you are doing a first look, the reception coverage will be less because we added an hour to the beginning of the timeline.

Budget 2-3 hours for this part of the day

Having all your dream photos

Whew….that is a lot of thinking and planning to get all those pieces to fit together. These are helpful tips for creating a wedding day timeline. My job is to help wedding couples prepare for their day so that I can capture all of the special moments. I will tell my couples if the timetable isn’t working and there needs to be more time for specific photos. This will prevent disappointment because there needs more time to capture the moments they have dreamt of. Of course, this should not happen when we plan and use the general timeline.

The best time to do a general timeline is during the initial planning stage. I am available to help at any time. My goal is to ensure enough time to get gorgeous photos and have a fun, relaxed day.

The budgeted times of the day may be condensed when we get closer to working on the final timeline. However, it is easier to work with extra time than to try to find time at a later date.

Arrival time and Detail photos: (45 mins – 1 hour of the timeline)

Bride and Groom getting ready: (2-3 hours)

 First Look: (an extra hour of photo time added to the beginning of the timeline)

Ceremony ( 1 Hour)

 Family, Wedding Party, Wedding Couple photos: (Ideal time would be 1-1/2 hours)

Reception: ( 2-3 hours in the timeline)

My bridal couples have expressed that they were happy not having to worry about the timeline on their wedding day.  I will carry the timeline and keep the day flowing as planned. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and we will go with the flow when that happens. Always remember that it will be a beautiful day regardless of what happens.  So your wedding day is a dream come true!

Venues featured:

Renault Winery, Egg Harbor City, NJ

Seaview Dolce Hotel, Galloway, NJ

Sea Isle Yacht Club, Sea Isle City, NJ

The Madison,  Riverside, NJ

  1. Fantastic tips! I found myself, as a wedding photographer, even taking notes! Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this information! It’s super helpful 🙂

  3. Susan Lopes says:

    great tips…

  4. Great tips on creating a timeline! So important for brides. 😊

  5. Jen says:

    Awesome! Such good information here! Perfect for making the day go smoothly!

  6. What an informative post. So wise to help couples understand how long things take to photograph, too!

  7. […] can be overwhelming sometimes and hearing tips from other brides may help them. Jackie said “Create a timeline a year ahead of time and stick with it. I was not pressured at all because I stuck to my schedule […]

  8. […] their plans, and it rained. All plans had to change. This was one of those times where our detailed timeline didn’t work as planned. Regardless of what the weather was doing outside their wedding was […]

  9. […] and was happy to hear my advice on timing of the various parts of the day. Together we made the perfect timeline and everything went as planned except for getting stranded without a car! (Stay tuned for that […]

  10. […] beautiful wedding. The weather was perfect for their October date. When I met with Alison for her timeline planning she was praying hard for a nice day so they could have their dream beach wedding. She got her dream […]

  11. […] their marriage with a special dinner. Victoria and I talked before her big day to go over her timeline. She wanted her day filled with memorable moments and to celebrate being married, […]

leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *