Asa Shutts : Photographer | A Guide for Planning your Wedding Day Timeline

Planning the Timeline for your Wedding Day

Wedding days go by in a blink of an eye.  To help the time last and create a sense of peace and joy throughout the day I suggest you create a wedding day timeline that focuses on what is important to you.  Forgoing a few of the traditional events of the day is a great way to save time for spending quality time with your guests.  I will be planning a few escapes through-out the day to get some creative pictures and give the two of you bits of time to simply spend together.  The guidelines below cover ideas for incorporating traditional parts of a wedding day.  I've have found these to be best for keeping the day on track and not creating any un-needed stress.  I would love to assist you planning out your timeline based on what you want the focus of the day to be if you would like, we can do this over the phone or over coffee!  Just let me know if you would like that. Some weddings will have details that are not covered in this general guide.  

Please take what you like from this list and toss what you don't!  And remember less is more when it comes to wedding day timelines. 


Getting Ready:

(with a hair stylist and make-up artist doing)

Bride's hair: About 1 hour. 

Bride's makeup: 45 to 60 minutes.  

Bridesmaids' hair: 30 minutes per person.

Bridesmaids' makeup: 45 minutes per person.

Who goes when:  When your hairstylist arrives, have her start on your bridesmaids first.  Having the bride go last allows for the bridesmaids to be getting dressed and be ready to help the bride to get her dress on when the time arrives.  When it comes to make-up though the bride should go first.  That way when we arrive to start photography the bride is already picture perfect.

When should the photographer and videographer arrive? One hour before the bride is ready to go. This also gives us plenty of time to capture the details — gown, shoes, jewelry, etc. Having all of the accessories and dress set a side and in one spot will help us to capture these details with minimal time lost!

If you have more than yourself and four bridesmaids getting hair done, ask your stylist to bring an assistant to cut down on time. For makeup, add an assistant after yourself plus two. 

If you're traveling to a salon to prepare, double the travel time you anticipate.  There is a good chance that time will go long and it's better to have too much time than not enough.

Put on your veil after the dress. Consider asking your stylist to stick around until then to make sure your veil is secure or have the stylist do a dry run of the veil with an appointed bridesmaid so it's sure to be fixed securely.

Pre-ceremony photos 10-20 minutes  Bride with her family and attendants/groom with his family and attendants: Two to three minutes per shot; more if the groups are very large, and less if they are very small.  Include cushion time for getting ready.  The last thing you want is to feel rushed or skip something to stay on time. 

First look: (with Dad or Spouse) 15-30 minutes. 

Groom and groomsmen arrive: An hour before the ceremony. 

Bride and bridesmaids arrive: 15 min before the ceremony. Ask if the ceremony location has a room available for you to hide out in so the guests don't get a sneak peek at you before the ceremony, or simply wait in your car till everyone has been seated.

Ideal ceremony length: 30 minutes. Provided you will not be including any religious customs.  30 minutes allows enough time for you to include a special reading and allows for the two of you to settle in to the reality that this is you getting married!

A custom I learned from the Jewish tradition that I absolutely love is yichud (or seclusion). This wedding custom allows the newly married couple to reflect privately on their new relationship and allows them precious time alone to bond and rejoice.  Immediately following the ceremony the couple secludes themselves to a room to be alone and reflect for approximately 18 minutes.  If you are not Jewish there is no reason why you could not incorporate this wonderful idea into your wedding plans even if it's only 10 minutes.


Receiving line: 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 think about skipping the receiving line and visiting guests at their tables during dinner instead.

Another suggestion for guest greeting is to include yourselves as part of the speeches and toasts to thank everyone for coming.

Gap between ceremony and reception: Maximum  one hour if the venues are separate. More time than that and guests will arrive to the venue prematurely.

Photo Session!- appoint a family member from each side to call and gather the correct people for the group photos.  They will know the people needed and can get them easily.  Your Photo shot list will be kept to as we move through the family formals and any extra that are not on the list may be added if there is time left over.

Family photos: Consider doing them at the ceremony location while they are still all together, AND TELL THEM TO STAY AT THE END OF THE CEREMONY!       Two to three minutes per shot — if your family is properly organized! 

Bridal party: 30 minutes per location with drive time between.  Consider renting a limo bus that will fit the entire wedding party if you have multiple locations you'd like to shoot at so you don't have to worry about anyone lagging behind and parking isn't an issue.  I don't suggest more than 2 different locations for bridal party photos, and getting some after bridal prep is key.

Didn't have a first look? Allow 30 minutes post-ceremony for photos of the two of you. 

Photos of very large groups (like classmates, coworkers, or sports teams) should be saved for the reception, when your DJ or band leader can make an announcement to gather everyone. You'll be able to take the photos much faster than trying to track down 50 people during the cocktail hour.

Tip: The best way to save time taking photos is by being prepared. We will go over your shot list prior to your wedding day to make sure you have everything included that you would like.  During the family session we will work down the list and if time allows we can add any other suggestions your sweet Aunt Sue might have.

Knowing the locations you will be taking photos before the day of your wedding is super important.  I will make sure we have clearance for the locations prior to the wedding day so we are not slowed down waiting for other groups at any location.


Ideal length: 5 hours. "This will allow an hour for cocktails, an hour and a half for speeches, and dinner, and 2-3 hours for dancing.

Order of events:  It's really up to you! 

How you space your formal events will dictate when you are let "off the hook" and can party the night away.

Here are some suggestions for how to get the party started 

Introductions: 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the bridal party and family being introduced.

First dance: 3-5 minutes - An organic time to schedule this is immediately after you are announced, this allows for your bridal party to already be on the dance floor to support you.  Other times that make sense are with the other formal dances, or sneak it in later when everyone is dancing if you don't like being the center of attention.

Family Dances: You can include these with the first dance after the introductions which will open up after dinner to mostly spending time with guests and dancing.  You can also do all the dancing after dinner as a way to get everyone near the dance floor and ready to shake it.

Welcome toast: 3-5 min After the Toasts before dinner is served.

Toasts: Ask each person speaking to keep their toast to 5 minutes before dinner. 

Greeting Guests Table to Table:  20-30 minutes. This takes a bit less time than a receiving line but it is very important that you block out time during the dinner hour for it.  Eat first... and I mean it! EAT.  It will give you a bit of time together and will give you the energy to keep the party going.

10 minutes for a private sunset session, it is a great way to get a little break to reflect on the day and slow things down a bit. Make sure you build this into the schedule at the appropriate time.  Not sure when sunset is?  Just ask!  

Cake cutting: There is no need to wait till after dinner to cut the cake!  If you want people to gather for it allow 10 minutes, if you are going to sneak it in without making an announcement then 5 minutes is plenty. It can be done a anytime that works, but I don't suggest pulling people off the dance floor for it!

Night photo session:  A great way to have some fun and get a bit of a break to stop and smell the night air if you aren't planning on doing a special farewell exit.  Also a great way to get creative fun flash photographs . 10-15 minutes

Bouquet and garter tosses: this takes about 10 minutes, many couples are foregoing this and instead doing things like paper lantern releases, or special farewells like sparklers and confetti bombs.

Farewell: If you're doing a special send off have guests start lining up about 10 minutes before you plan to exit.

I hope you are having an amazing planning experience and that this article helps you to build a timeline that works for you and keeps the focus on what is most important to your wedding day.