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Creating an Effective Wedding Day Timeline

Hey there, soon-to-be bride! I’m planning ahead for some beautiful weddings and the number one question that I’ve been getting from brides is “how do I plan my wedding day timeline?” Having an effective timeline is absolutely essential to a wedding day – it tells everyone where they need to be and when. It also ensures that the entire day runs smoothly, eliminating any possible stress for you! Creating a timeline can seem overwhelming when your big day is quickly approaching. That’s why I’m here to offer my insight and hopefully bring up some things that you may have overlooked.

1. Add Cushion Time 

It is so common for things to run late on a wedding day, so having some wiggle room is a must! Some things that can cause your timeline to run behind are: hair and makeup taking longer than expected, your ceremony starting late due to last minute arrivals, or family/bridal party members missing during portrait time. If you stay ahead of the game and incorporate an extra 10-15 minutes of cushion time here and there, this will ensure that your day is stress-free. Whenever I am creating a wedding day timeline, I always make sure to allow for extra time for the bridal party and bride & groom portraits. This is the best time to catch up on lost time from earlier in the day (and I never complain if I have extra time for more photos!).


2. Have All of Your Wedding Details Ready in One Place

You spent months and months planning every aspect of your wedding and you want to have those memories of the little details to look back on. I normally set aside at least a half hour in the timeline to photograph your details when I first arrive. I do this so that I can bring everything back to you for when you put your dress on AND it allows me to have a little “warm up” before the day begins! If you have all of the details gathered before your photographer arrives, it saves both of you the time and stress of looking all over for them at the last second! I always encourage my brides to set them aside in a box the week before your wedding so they are all ready to go.


3. Do a First Look

The best way to make the most out of a timeline and maximize your portrait time is to do a first look! This is the most “ideal” option, but is not the ONLY option! I always encourage my couples to do what they are most comfortable with. If you opt for a first look, most of the time we’ll finish your bridal party portraits and your bride & groom portraits before the ceremony even starts. The only thing after are your family formal photos. This allows you to spend so much more time mingling with your guests and enjoying your cocktail hour and reception! And even more importantly, it allows you and your groom to actually see each other on your wedding day – it doesn’t make sense to spend most of your happiest day ever apart!


4. Use a Family Formal Shot List and Stick to It 

The only shot list that I use on a wedding day is a family formal list. I use one at every wedding and this is why! Having a detailed list with names and relations of family to follow is crucial to finishing family photos as quickly and efficiently as possible. Many couples opt to only include parents, siblings and grandparents. Don’t try to cram every combination possible into this limited portrait time. Think about the photos that are the MOST important and add those to the list. Sometimes there will be things you forget and family members that want a photo with you — don’t worry! We can always get together at cocktail hour or the reception to make sure that photo happens if we didn’t have time to capture it after the photos on your shot list.


5. Add Every Little Detail to Your Timeline

Many times this is the most forgotten thing! Most of us have never experienced a wedding day before and have no idea what to expect with the little details. Some of the things you may forget about are the amount of time it takes to put on your dress, bustling your dress later in the day, and receiving lines after the ceremony. A lot of times it feels like these things should only take five minutes – so it’s very easy to get behind! Normally putting on your dress can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, the bustle can take up to 15 minutes, and receiving lines normally take up at least 30 minutes! When you allow the correct amount of time for these things by adding them into the timeline, it helps everyone to not fall behind!


It’s super important to remember that not everything will happen according to plan on your wedding day, and that’s totally okay! At the end of the day you will be married, and that’s all that really matters. I hope this helps you to feel more confident and less stressed in creating your timeline! Happy planning!




In June, I had the opportunity to spend a few days at Greencrest Manor in Battle Creek, Michigan and it certainly met and exceeded any expectations that I had for it. It truly is a little slice of France, right in the Midwest! It offers the perfect blend of elegance, comfort and charm, making it […]

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