Feeling overwhelmed with wedding timeline planning?

One of my favorite sayings is, “this ain’t my first rodeo.” One, because I’ve actually been in multiple rodeos. Two, it’s a fun Texan metaphor. Did it originate in Texas? Who cares. Everything belongs to Texas if you try hard enough. Anyway, back to metaphorical rodeos. Most people have not been married before. Even if they have, perhaps they want to do things a little differently this go-around. The fact is, though, that if you aren’t in the wedding industry…you have no true clue how this shiz works. That’s why I’m writing this rad blog about wedding timeline planning! Hopefully I can help you plan your wedding day timeline more efficiently than you spitballing in the dark and hoping something works. Of course, as my client, I’ll help you one-on-one as well. Just reach out whenever you run into a stumbling block!

I’m a big proponent of wedding timeline planning, You should be working on your wedding day timeline around 60 days prior to the event. Sound like a lot? It isn’t. If you’re having a traditional 120+ guest wedding, lots of vendors need to know whats going on. Hair/makeup needs a show up/ending time, caterers need to know when dinner is, photographers need to know how rushed they’ll be. Of course, hiring a wedding planner is ideal. Follow that link to find the blog I wrote in 2019, about the different kinds of planners/coordinators. Guess who isn’t going to be helpful, most of the time? Venue coordinators and/or your aunt. Read the blog or just trust me. HAHA! Anyway, here are the wedding timeline planning tips! Let me know if you have any questions!

Key Tips:

  • Always cushion your wedding day timeline thoroughly. Add 10-15 minutes to everything prior to the ceremony.
  • Talk to ALL of your vendors about their timing needs. If you have a real planner, they’ll do this for you. Just make sure you aren’t violating any contracts via timeline planning!
  • Send your timeline two weeks prior to the event. Seriously. Hell, earlier if you can!

So sit back, get some deets together and let’s rock building this wedding day timeline together!

For dudes: getting ready is hella easy for you. Well, most of you. For hetero couples, I usually tell grooms to be flexible, especially if I’m the only photographer. Sometimes, it’s easiest to get you dressed a couple hours early, so you can then undress and just hang. Every wedding day is totally different, so just be flexible!

wedding timeline planning

Hair & Makeup – The timing on this depends on how many people need to get the services. It is *vital* that you get a correct headcount and try very very very hard to not change it on the day. HMUA’s sometimes do multiple events a day and if you decide on the day that you need three more faces done, you might actually cause strain on the client after you. I recently had this happen for a client and it makes the HMUA look bad, feel rushed AND pushes that timeline back. Please try not to add anyone last minute. Plan approximately 90-120 minutes for your own hair/makeup. You’ll finalize this in your trial, of course.

Getting Ready Images2 Hours – If you’re looking for detail shots, parts of hair/makeup being done, pictures with your friends, getting dressed, please plan for a couple hours. At minimum. I like to take my time during this time period, to really capture the story in full. I’m known for my creative detail shots, which takes time.

First Look30-45 minutes –  Not sure if you’re going to do a first look. I’m super passionate about the fact you should. Here is a whole blog about it. Weddings that don’t have first looks almost always have a real time crunch after the ceremony. My art work takes real time to create and true variety is impossible in 15 minutes after the wedding party and family photography. A first look helps you maximize what you’re paying me! Of course, there are oodles of other benefits, so take a gander at the blog!

Ceremony30-60 minutes – ceremonies with more personal touches and vows will always take longer. You’ll have to figure this out on your own.

Cocktail Hour70 minutes – If you’re skipping the first look, you NEED a full hour. No exceptions. You also need to add an additional 10 minutes after, to get ready for the grand entrance/give your photographer time to prepare inside the reception hall.

Dinner60 minutes – For your wedding timeline planning, you need to allot a whole hour to this. Thirty minutes is for you to EAT. Since your photography/videography team will eat when you eat, make sure you give them time to human. They need to be first served/first in line. In my contract, I very clearly state that I will take thirty minutes. Anything that happens during those thirty minutes are missed, so better to not plan anything. Eating time is *not* a good time for speeches either. Your guests want to enjoy themselves too! No one will really pay attention to the speeches if they’re still trying to guzzle food. The other thirty minutes of dinner is a good time for the photographer get set up, lighting wise, for the upcoming events, as well as touch base with all vendors now on the same timeline i.e. the DJ and planner.

wedding timeline planning


  • Cake cutting5 minutes – Don’t wait to do this two hours after dinner. Instead, consider doing it right after dinner. That way, the caterer can begin cutting the cake and passing it out. It’s acceptable to have the cake being eaten while there are speeches/dances.
  • Speeches20 minutes – For the love of heavens, please try to limit this to no more than four and give them a time limit. I once saw a FOB (father-of-the-bride) take for 45 minutes. It actually ate into the very expensive band time. Your guests love anecdotes, but only if they’re under 3-5 minutes. I’ve also been to a wedding where it was open mic…an hour later…just trust me on this when I say you need to set boundaries for your peeps. hah!
  • Bouquet toss and garter toss8 minutes – If you’re wanting to do these traditions, even after knowing what they stem from, do them back to back.
  • DancesApproximately 10 minutes total
    • Dollar Dances – Please only do this for a song or two. Please.
    • First dance – Please try to do this for the whole song! I often spend the first 45 seconds perfecting my light.
    • Family dances – A song each, have fun with it!
  • Grand Exit10 minutes – One thing that occurs often is people deciding that the exact end of the event is when the grand exit occurs. Except that means me, as the photographer, end up staying over contract. So my recommendation is that if your exit is at, say, 10pm…start lining people up at 9:50. As people line up, I am able to set up and check my lighting.

Things to consider for your wedding day timeline:

  • Have lots of details at the reception hall? Make sure you plan time for it. About twenty minutes or so.
  • Time for nighttime shots!
  • Looking for a little alone time? Try to plan before/after the ceremony and take ten minutes for just the two (or more, if y’all are poly) of you!
  • Time to bustle your dress. 10 minutes or so.
  • If you decide to not hire a professional to handle the ins and outs of your event, please cushion even more time into everything. Things *will* go wrong and those around you will be less equipped to rebound immediately.

Well folks, there you have it! Hopefully your wedding timeline planning isn’t too overwhelming. Of course, like I said, reach out if/when you need more guidance. A good, solid timeline makes a better planned wedding! If you’re like me, you don’t like to be stressed. This is a perfect way to keep the stress down, trust me! That and hiring a professional (can you tell I’m passionate about this?! lol)