Ok guys! A while back on Instagram I asked brides and photographers alike when they think wedding timeline planning should start, and I got some amazing responses! Most responses I got were: 3 months, ASAP, No clue, 1 month, Early!

So! Based on all the brides + photographers suggestions, I will be implementing new stuff into my client workflow. When I first started shooting weddings I had no part in the timeline planning. Not sure how I made it out alive haha. But with every wedding I learn a little more and I’ve been helping create timelines for a few years now. Timelines are so important and I forget that most brides have no idea where to start. After all, this is probably their first wedding and I’ve seen dozens! So I’m here to break it down to give you an idea on how to discuss your timeline with your photographer. Now this is what I do for my business, and all photographers will have their own way of going about timeline planning.

First, before you start deciding on times, it’s all about what YOU want YOUR day to look like. Us photographers have a lot of experience and have seen a lot of different wedding schedules, so we can help with anything you have questions about. I assume any photographer would be thrilled to help you with all of this!

wedding timeline


Ohhh let’s start with the biggest part of wedding timeline! If you’re going for a traditional schedule, late afternoon/early evening is the normal. Though this is about you, so if you want an 11am ceremony, let’s freaking do it! I would like to mention that if you choose to not have a first look, there is somewhat of a limit on when you can have your ceremony. If you want natural light portraits that is. Ok so let’s say you don’t want a first look and want your ceremony at 5pm and sunset is at 6:30pm. You probably won’t have time for the family, bridal party, and bride and groom photos before the sun goes down. And that would suck. So if you 100% do not want a first look, make sure you talk with your photographer and plan your ceremony time around the time they’ll need for your photos afterward.

Once you get your ceremony time nailed down everything else will obviously fall around it. This is the order I tend to go with: I like to do the majority of the bride and groom portraits directly following the first look. Your hair and makeup is perfect and flowers are fresh, and you just get to enjoy each other’s company on your freaking wedding day! Then your girls will meet us and we’ll do all the bride + bridesmaid photos. The guys will join in on the fun and we will shoot the whole bridal party and then the ladies can leave while we finish shooting with the guys. That gives the guys at least 30 minutes before the ceremony and the girls even longer to freshen up! Works really well for me and it’s a good flow of photos I feel like.

Sample timeline

I work backwards from the ceremony. We do this to ensure more than enough time for all your amazing photos without unnecessary stress. I always like to have a 30 minute break before your ceremony so you can breathe, freshen up makeup and hair before the ceremony. So working backwards, this is a sample of what it would look like with a 5pm ceremony.

3:00 – first look + bride & groom portraits
4:00 – bridal party photos (both sides, separate and together)
4:30 – done with photos
5:00 – ceremony
5:45 – family portraits (while guests are at cocktail hour)
6:30 – reception/dinner starts
7:30 – sunset photos


And if you don’t want a first look normally it’s family photos, bridal party and end with the bride and groom photos. Our main concern with going the traditional route is making sure your guests don’t get bored. Speaking only for how I shoot and what I feel is enough time, plan for about 2 hours for photos. So maybe there would be a big break between the ceremony and reception and guests could occupy themselves. Or you’ll want to have music, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres while we are doing photos.

I feel like all this info should help you understand a bit about all that goes into your wedding timeline. And there’s probably no such thing as starting too soon. If we continually build your timeline while things are set in stone it will help relieve any stress about it while making it easier to communicate between all your vendors for floral arrivals, HMU, and everything else.

From another vendor!

Speaking of letting your vendors know the timeline. It’s super helpful to everyone to get the wedding timeline pretty early on so they can plan way ahead. I got a message from Beauty and the Belief out of Bozeman and she had some great insight!

“Just coming from another vendor, the sooner a timeline is set the better for hair and makeup artists. We can’t plan our timeline without knowing when the bride needs finished by. Then we also don’t know if everyone needs done by that time for photos or if just a first look is happening. I know how long a bridal party will take to get ready based on what they’ve booked, but I can’t work backwards and tell the bride what time we will need to start without knowing when she’ll need done. Sometimes a bride might have 5 girls for hair and makeup, that takes me 5 hours (an hour per person)… but if the brides ceremony is at 3 I would start her at 9:30 to give everyone a half hour to change and chill. If the bride decides to do a first look at 1 then now the group is pushed back to 7:30am start time which means she might want a second artist to come along to cut that time in half, but if I find out too close to her date I might not be able to find another artist to bring along.”

Maybe this feels like a lot, or maybe not. But I hope either way this will help you with your wedding timeline! And I always send Guides to my couples that go over everything like this. I got you! And whenever I get texts or emails asking questions I love to help out any way I can!

pine tree wedding invitation

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