Wedding Day Timeline Tips: How Much Time To Allocate for Photography

The secret to having a smooth wedding is a wedding day timeline! Planning ahead and creating a wedding day schedule can help eliminate so much stress. Your wedding day timeline is meant to lay out important details like what order events will take place as well as how much time is allotted for each. It allows you to relax on your wedding day knowing that there is a plan and that you and your vendors are all on the same page.

One of the main reasons I stress the importance of wedding day timelines to my clients is that a wedding timeline eliminates the need to rush through the wedding day. A proper timeline not only includes the necessary events, but it also includes buffer time in between the events to accommodate for any delays. This is helpful to both the couple and the photographer as it provides plenty of time to get all the important photos even if things don’t go quite according to plan. Buffer time in your timeline will come in so handy and eliminate so much stress and worry the day of, allowing you to sit back and enjoy your wedding rather than worry that things aren’t getting done on time.

How Much Time to Allocate for Your Wedding Day Schedule

Deciding how much time to allocate for your wedding day schedule is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make when creating your timeline. The time you allot largely depends on what size wedding you are planning. Larger weddings will naturally require more time as there are more people to photograph and it will take longer moving people from location to location. Below are a few sample wedding schedule estimates based on wedding size.

1/ Mini-ceremony and intimate weddings

A mini-ceremony or intimate wedding typically consists of 15 people or less and takes place in a single location. Four hours is a great amount of time to allocate as small elopements don’t require a lot of coverage. For example, Brianna and Alaa planned a romantic elopement at the DC War Memorial with their family. After getting ready together in Silver Spring, we took a taxi to start their intimate wedding ceremony on the National Mall.

2/ One location for the ceremony and the reception

Smaller weddings usually take place at two locations, one for the getting ready part of the day and another for the ceremony and reception. The guest count is typically between 20-80 people and coverage can last up to 8 hours. Jenny and Paulina’s small wedding ceremony took place at Woodend Sanctuary and Mansion.

3/ Big weddings with multiple locations

For weddings with 80+ guests and different locations for the ceremony and the reception, 10 to 12-hour coverage works best. This ensures that all the important moments are captured and you won’t be rushed throughout the day. Mari and Sam planned a large wedding at 4 different locations in Washington DC which you can read more about here.

4/ Full-day coverage

If you are interested in documentary-style photography, this is the best way to ensure that you will have the best photos. This type of day requires between 14-16 hours of photography and is best suited for multicultural weddings with two ceremonies for example.

Sample Wedding Timeline Ideas

Your wedding day can look however you want it to look, but traditionally there is a flow that most couples follow to ensure they fit in all those important moments throughout the day. Keep reading for ideas to include in your wedding timeline as well as average times for each event.

Getting Ready Photos – 30 min – 1.5 hrs

  • Hair/Makeup

  • Zipping the dress, slipping on shoes, adjusting the veil, etc.

  • Individual Portraits

  • Casual wedding party portraits

First Look & Couple Portraits – 30-45 min

Wedding Party & Family Portraits – 45 min

Wedding Ceremony – 30 min

Wedding Reception – 1.5-5 hrs

  • Cocktail Hour/Sunset Portraits

  • Entrance & First Dance

  • Toasts

  • Dinner

  • Parent Dances

  • Cake Cutting

  • Open Dance Floor

  • Wedding Send-Off

Having a wedding day timeline creates a more streamlined wedding day and can help save you so much stress. You will know exactly what is supposed to take place and when and your photographer can help make sure your day stays on schedule. If you’re ready to start planning your wedding itinerary, head over to my contact page to get started!

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