Wedding Planning Timeline

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I'm mandie, photographer & Videographer

Hey there! Welcome to the Mandie Forbes Blog! I'm Mandie, a Traverse City Photographer and Videographer. Grab a cup of coffee or maybe a glass of wine and enjoy the blog! I try to provide as much valuable information as I can for my brides and I'm here to answer any questions you might have!  I can't wait to talk to you! Use the "Contact Mandie" page to email me today! 

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welcome

I'm mandie, photographer & Videographer

Hey there! Welcome to the Mandie Forbes Blog! I'm Mandie, a Traverse City Photographer and Videographer. Grab a cup of coffee or maybe a glass of wine and enjoy the blog! I try to provide as much valuable information as I can for my brides and I'm here to answer any questions you might have!  I can't wait to talk to you! Use the "Contact Mandie" page to email me today! 

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How to create a stress-free wedding day timeline: Wedding Planning Timeline

Hey there! So you’re engaged! Now comes the hard part, you have to plan the wedding. This can be really fun, but it can also be a challenge because you’ve never been married before. And you don’t know what you don’t know. How could you? So that’s where I come in! As a wedding photographer, I’m at weddings almost every weekend, so I get a feel for what works, and what doesn’t. I also get a feel for things that really add stress to the day. Which is never what you want. So read on for help with your wedding planning timeline!

“a good wedding planning timeline can save you so much stress the day of your wedding”

First I’ll break down the wedding planning timeline by about how much time you’ll need for each item the day of, then I’ll give you several sample timelines with different scenarios (first look, no first look, one location, multiple locations) that work great for wedding days! You can use those to build a custom timeline for your wedding day that gives you plenty of time for everything. Let’s get started!

 

GETTING READY:

 

wedding planning timeline

Bride’s hair: 1 hour

This usually takes about an hour depending on what you’re having done to your hair and how intricate your Do is.

Bride’s makeup: 45-60 minutes

This also depends on the style of make-up you choose for your big day. Some bridal looks take longer than others to achieve. Your make-up artist should be able to give you a good estimate so you can plan for enough time on the day of.

Bridesmaid’s hair and makeup: 30 minutes (hair) & 45 minutes (make-up) for each girl.

Same as with the bride, the amount of time this takes can vary depending on how intricate the hairstyle and makeup look each girl has chosen.

Who gets ready first?: 

Bridesmaids usually get their hair done first, and the bride starts with her makeup. This way the bride looks great with her makeup done when the photographer arrives and the photographer can get images of the bride getting her hair finished and the last portion of the entire bridal party getting ready.

*EXTRA TIP #1:* 

My first tip is to take into consideration any extra time-consuming details that may occur at the beginning of the day while you are getting ready. Do you have a gift to open? Are you exchanging letters with your soon to be spouse? Are there any special moments that you want to have with a loved one? Does your dress or tux take an army to get into? Scheduling time for each of these things will keep you on track and from falling behind schedule.

 

when the heck does your photographer show up?

 

When is the best time for your photographer to arrive?: 

About an hour before you (the bride) will be getting dressed. This gives us time to get all of your detail shots and get the last of hair and makeup before the bride puts her dress on. Generally, the bridesmaids will get dressed first, that way when the bride gets dressed, her girls are fresh and ready to go, and look great if they’re helping her with the last of her preparations.

Pre Ceremony Photos: 2-3 minutes/per shot

The more photos you can get out of the way before the ceremony, the more time you’ll have to enjoy your reception afterwards. Getting individual shots of the bride/bridesmaids, bride/her family members, groom/groomsmen, and the groom/his family members means fewer shots to get after the ceremony when let’s be honest, everyone just wants to go grab a drink and get the party started.

First Look: 20-30 minutes

Plan either a total of 30 minutes for your First Look or 15 minutes to get from your getting ready location/room to where you’re doing your First Look and 15 minutes for your First Look. I’ll be sharing another blog post about the pro’s and con’s of doing a First Look soon, but for now, I’ll just mention that First Looks are a really great way to get some alone time with your spouse on the day of your wedding. My husband and I weren’t sure about doing a First Look on our wedding day, but it ended up being one of our favorite moments of the day, and some of my favorite pictures from our wedding day are from our First Look.

Here are just a few images from our First Look!

First look, wedding planning timeline

 

CEREMONY:

 

Groom and groomsmen arrive/get ready: 1.5 hours before the ceremony

Let’s be real, the guys aren’t going to get ready as early as the girls are. Typically what happens, is that they’ll sit around drinking beer and goofing off until about half an hour before they have to be ready and they’ll all throw their suits on then. Usually in about 15-20 minutes. If the guys are getting ready at a hotel then going to the ceremony, tell them to be at the ceremony/picture location 15 minutes before they need to be there. Guys are usually the ones who run late because they lose track of time.

Bride and bridesmaids arrive: Depends/1 hour before the ceremony

This can also depend on if you’re getting ready at your venue or if you’re getting ready then heading to your venue. A lot of brides will get ready except for their dress, then head to their venue and will put their dress on there. You’ll want to make sure you arrive early enough to do pictures (if you’re doing any pictures at the venue location before the ceremony) and to hide before your guests arrive, so they don’t get an early peek at your gown.

Ideal ceremony length: 30 minutes.

Ceremonies can run anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour+. It really depends on what type of ceremony you’re having. Unless you’re having a Catholic ceremony, I’d say most ceremonies run about 15-30 minutes. Plan for 30, then if you’re done early, you have extra time. Never a bad thing!

Receiving line: 15-45 minutes

One of my best suggestions for creating a stress-free timeline is to skip the receiving line. Especially if you don’t do a First Look. By the time you do a receiving line, family photos, bridal party photos, and the bride and groom photos, you’ll probably need to plan for at least a 2-hour gap between your ceremony and reception entrances. Once you do a receiving line, it becomes a lot harder to re-group all of the family members needed for family photos (they’re usually the first ones through the receiving line, so by the time you’re finished, they’ve wandered off). For a ceremony with 100 guests or less, this will take 15-20 minutes. With 150 guests, allow 30 minutes. If you’re expecting more than 150 guests, seriously consider skipping the receiving line and visiting guests at their tables during dinner instead.

*EXTRA TIP #2:* 

Even the most organized couple with the most well thought out timeline can find themselves a little behind schedule on the big day. Sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned. People can get caught in traffic, a dress can malfunction and….as a rule of thumb, everything will take a little bit longer than you expect. Adding an extra 15 minutes to your getting ready time, travel times and portrait time will help keep things running smoothly. If you don’t need it there’s absolutely nothing lost. Sit back and enjoy yourself!

 

AFTER-CEREMONY PHOTOS:

 

Family photos: 2-3 minutes/per shot — if your family is properly organized!

If not well organized, this could be the biggest time suck of the day! In order to avoid that, make sure to provide your photographer with a detailed list of the groups you want portraits of. Reminding those people the night before where to be and when, as well as asking them not to leave that spot until the photographers are finished, could save you your sanity. It’s also helpful to have a family member (or even one from each side) on hand to find missing family members. Your photography team doesn’t know who people are so they are not the best ones to track down people for family and group photos!

Bridal party: 2-3 minutes/per shot.

These can be done quickly, especially if you did individual photos with the bride and groom with each bridal party member before the ceremony.

Didn’t have a first look? 30 minutes

Factor in 30 minutes after-ceremony for photos of you and your groom. If you did have a first look, you’ll still want 15-20 minutes sometime post-ceremony for just the two of you (this could be at sunset to get gorgeous glowy images of your and your groom).

Save photos of very large groups (like classmates, coworkers, and large extended family groups) for the reception:

If you’d like these images, be sure to let your DJ or band leader know when to make an announcement to gather everyone. You’ll be able to take the photos much faster than trying to track down 50 people right after your ceremony.

*EXTRA TIP #3:* 

Booking a party bus or limousine if you have to travel on a wedding day keeps your whole party together without having to worry about anyone getting lost, broken down, etc…Also, make sure that you communicate ahead of time with your driver exactly where they will be taking you, addresses and all!

 

RECEPTION:

 

Order of events: 

Here are some of the common reception even orders I see. You can always switch them up, but be sure to keep in mind when your photographer is set to arrive and leave. Don’t forget to leave enough time for dinner in your timeline. Dinner usually takes at least an hour and often goes over, so if your photographer is supposed to leave at 9pm, don’t schedule dinner at 8 and have special events after. You’ll either end up having to add more coverage time or miss out on having photographs of those events.

  • Entrance
  • Toasts
  • Prayer
  • Dinner
  • Cake Cutting
  • Special Dances
  • Bouquet & Garter

or

  • Entrance
  • Special Dances
  • Toasts
  • Prayer
  • Dinner
  • Cake cutting
  • Bouquet & Garter

Events:

First dance: Can be done immediately after the bride and groom enter the reception or right after dinner and/or cake cutting.

Father/daughter dance: Immediately following the first dance.

Mother/son dance: Immediately following the father/daughter dance. Or, sometimes, this dance is shared with the father/daughter dance.

Toasts: Ladies first! Start with the maid of honor, followed by the best man. The bride and groom can give a toast too if desired.

Guests invited to dance: Open up the dance floor, and get the party started!

Bouquet and garter tosses: Generally after dinner and the cake cutting, or about two hours before the end of the reception.

Farewell Exit: If you’re doing a sparkler exit, for example, have guests start lining up about 10 minutes before you plan to exit. If your photographer isn’t scheduled to stay until the end of your reception, a great idea is to “stage” an exit. Let your bridal party and immediate family know when you’ll be staging your fake exit and they can leave the party for 10-15 minutes to light sparklers and bid you ‘goodbye”. A lot of times this is much easier and quicker than a real exit because there are fewer inebriated people trying to light sparklers and line up. Once you’re done, you just go back to your party. No one will ever be able to tell the difference between a fake exit and a real one from the photos.

 

SAMPLE TIMELINES:

 

Simply pick and tweak the times for the wedding planning timeline that is most appropriate for your big day

To adjust the times on one of these timelines to fit your wedding day, I recommend starting with your ceremony time, then work your way up and adjust everything before the ceremony, then work your way down and adjust everything after the ceremony.

 

#1

Wedding Planning Timeline (8 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline sample.

***

One thing to keep in mind is that sunset in Michigan during the summer is usually between 8:00 pm and 9:30 pm, depending on what month it is. You can Google your wedding date + location + sunset (for example: August 26, 2016 Charlevoix sunset) to find out exactly when the sun will set on your wedding day, so we can plan those images into your timeline.

*** 

 

_____

 

#2

Wedding Planning Timeline (8 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline, no first look.

_____

 

#3

Wedding Planning Timeline (9 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline, two locations plus a first look.

_____

 

#4

Wedding Planning Timeline (9 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline, two locations and no first look.

_____

 

#5

Wedding Planning Timeline (10 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline, catholic ceremony with three locations and a first look.

_____

 

#6

Wedding Planning Timeline (10 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline with three locations and no first look and an early sunset.

 

_____

 

#7

Wedding Planning Timeline (10 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline with Catholic ceremony plus a first look and a late sunset.

 

_____

 

#8

Wedding Planning Timeline (10 Hours)

Wedding planning timeline for a Catholic ceremony with no first look and a late sunset.

 

_____

 

There you go! Hopefully these tips and timelines are helpful as you plan out your wedding day! Feel free to comment or shoot me an email if you have any questions.

 

Interested in having me as your wedding photographer?

Reach out to me on my contact page: Contact Mandie

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  1. Chrissy

    August 29th, 2018 at 10:25 pm

    Wow! Some really awesome tips here. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Amanda Forbes

    August 29th, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    Glad to help, Chrissy!

  3. Adam Axford

    July 1st, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Very nice article! All your suggestions are very helpful to avoid necessary stress at weddings. Thanks for sharing this article.

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