How to Plan a Wedding Timeline – 7 Things You Should Consider

post by nat

I say, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your wedding day timeline. Sure your wedding may be months away, but there are certainly things that will affect when you do what. So, let’s get right to it! Here is my advice on how to plan a wedding timeline – 7 things you should consider. 

Bride & Groom walking through Riverdale Manor, Lancaster PA Wedding Photographer

How to Plan a Wedding Timeline – 7 Things You Should Consider



1 – Where is your ceremony?

This biggest thing to consider with this question is if you are having your wedding ceremony and reception in the same location, or if you are having a church ceremony at a different location. If you are having both in the same location, it is (in most cases), expected that you will have one hour between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception. This will affect when you decide to do your pictures and if you will be able to join your cocktail hour or not. 

Church ceremonies vary in timing, significantly. You will have to check with your church what time you will be able to have your ceremony and how long it will last. Then, you’ll need to time how long it will take you to get from the ceremony location to the reception. You’ll still have to consider when you will be doing the majority of your pictures, as this may increase the time you need between ceremony and reception. Your day will ultimately start and end at the same time, no matter which path you choose.  

2 – What are your top priorities?

Spending time with your wedding guests? Getting as many pictures with your photographer as possible? Having the longest dance party in the history of weddings? Enjoying all of the food you’ve been thinking about since your tasting?  Whatever is most important to you on your wedding day, make sure you schedule in the time to enjoy it! The day goes all too quickly, so if you plan some time for the things you are looking forward to the most, you’ll truly get to enjoy them. 

3 – Do you want to be a part of your cocktail hour?

If you answered yes to this question, I would highly recommend doing a First Look. You can find all of my reasons for doing a first look here, but I can almost guarantee you’ll miss the cocktail hour completely, if you need to do all of your portraits between the ceremony and reception. The exception to this, is if you are having an early Catholic Mass. Usually you will have plenty of time between your ceremony and reception for photos and still make it to your cocktail hour.

How to Plan a Wedding Timeline

4 – How many people are in your bridal party?

If you have a small bridal party, everything will go a little faster. Hair & makeup, photos, entrances into the reception etc. If you are planning on having your entire sorority in your bridal party, you will have to give yourself extra time in the timeline. Plan to start earlier for hair and makeup. And trust me when I say, bridal party pictures will take some time. Especially if you have any rowdy ones in your crew ;)

5 – How long do you have your photographers?

Every wedding photographer is different in how they stipulate their hours on a wedding day. If they restrict their hours, you’ll want understand your timeline before you sign a contract. Finding a photographer that’s willing to work with your timeline, and be there for your important moments is a must!

How to Plan a Wedding Timeline - 7 Things You Should Consider

6 – How big is your family?

Family portraits are an important part of your wedding day. And even if they aren’t your top priority, I’m willing to bet there is a mother or grandmother that will truly appreciate the time you take to capture those special people. Think about it, it’s one of the only times in life where you will be together with everyone you both know, in the same place, at the same time. 

So, to make the portrait time go as quickly and painlessly as possible, prioritize and include your photographer in the conversation! Matt & I can get through most family pictures in 10-20mins, even with large families. We always work with you to come up with a list of formal portraits, as well as any other groupings of people you’d like to get less formal pictures with during your reception. 

7 – Do you have a dancing crowd?

If you and your guests just want to dance the night away, make sure you give yourself the time! The nice thing about your wedding, is that it’s yours. If you want to skip the cake cutting because you don’t like cake, you can do that. You can work with your DJ or Band to come up with a great reception timeline that will ensure plenty of dance time. Or you can fill your time will speeches, special dances, slideshows, activities and games if that suits you and your crowd more. 

Those are the 7 things you should consider when planning your wedding timeline. The day goes quickly, so make time for what is most important to you! 


Happy Planning,