As a Kelowna wedding photographer, I’ve helped numerous couples with their wedding timelines. I figure it’s time to compile all of the tips I’ve collected over the years and put it into a blog post! As you read, keep in mind that these are only guidelines: take what you want and customize it as much as you’d like.
There are two main types of wedding day timelines, the main difference being whether you decide on a first look or not:
1) Timeline without a first look: Ceremony -> family photos -> wedding party photos -> couple photos -> reception
2) Timeline with a first look First look -> couple photos -> wedding party photos -> ceremony -> family photos -> reception
While there are other layouts for wedding days (i.e. morning weddings), I’m going to focus on these two types, as they’re the most popular. The central thing that makes these two timelines different is whether you do a first look or not. A first look is when you decide to see and hangout with each other before walking down the aisle. So your first task is to decide if you want to do a first look or not.
If you go with a first look, I recommend starting your ceremony around 4pm. For non-first look timelines, anytime from 2-3pm is standard.
If you’re having an outdoor wedding, lighting is typically the worst from 11:00am until 2:00pm, so avoid having your outdoor ceremony during this time if possible. Having your ceremony start after this time will help avoid harsh shadows on your faces, which will create more beautiful images.
6pm is standard reception start-time.
Family Photos – Plan for your family photos to be right after your ceremony. This is when everyone will be in one place at the same time, which means less time will be spent chasing family members. Schedule 30 minutes for this.
Wedding Party Photos – If you’re following the timeline without a first look, plan your wedding party photos for right after your family photos. If you’re following the timeline with a first look, have them right after your couple photos. Also schedule 30 minutes for these.
Couple Portraits – If you’re following the timeline without a first look, plan for your couple photos to be right after your wedding party photos. If you’re following the timeline with a first look, have them right after your first look. Schedule 30 minutes for this. I’d also love to take you out for a few more couple portraits at sunset!
Now, work backwards from the ceremony time to setup your morning. For instance, say you’re following the timeline with a first look and decide to have your ceremony at 4pm. Since you want to arrive at 4pm, plan to leave at 3:30pm, meaning you’ll begin your wedding party photos at 3pm, meaning you’ll have your first look and couple photos begin at 2:15pm, and so on. Plan backwards to account for all the time you’ll need for each event.
Start at the beginning of your day and check for mistakes in time calculations, things you may have forgotten about, etc. Run through the day in your mind and make sure it all makes sense logistically. Send a copy of your timeline to your wedding planner and photographer to see if they have any further suggestions to make it even better.
PENCIL IN LOADS OF BUFFER TIME
As you plan your timeline, intentionally schedule in tons of buffer time. Things are bound to run late no matter what you do, so add ~10 minutes for each part of your timeline so that your day will go much smoother. You’ll feel much less rushed, meaning you’ll be less stressed! Which is huge.
PLAN OUT TRAVEL TIME BEFOREHAND
Be super intentional about calculating travel time beforehand. If you’re unable to physically practice driving from location to location, hop on Google and calculate the time it’ll take to and from each location. Then, add on 10 extra minutes for each, since you’ll likely get stuck in traffic, take a few wrong turns, find parking, etc. It’s always better to overestimate than underestimate the amount of time things will take.
And voila – you’re be done!!