Melissa Koss Photography's Wedding Planning Guide:
Putting Together a Timeline

Have no fear, Melissa is here... To help you with a timeline! Every timeline is different and varies per wedding! It will truly depend on number of hours you booked with me, the time of day, season, wedding/bridal party/family size, if you want to do a first look, and so on!

 

Please note, you absolutely do NOT have to create your own timeline. I am just including this just so you can see how I personally create one. You are more than welcome to attempt it yourself or if you have hired a planner or coordinator to do this for you, please know I still love being involved in this process. I will triple check any timeline to ensure all of your photography needs are being met! SO! Let's begin with how I like to start a timeline! This example is for a traditional 8 hour wedding. 

Step 1. Find out what time your venue is allowing you to arrive, and what time they are requiring you to be out by. In this EXAMPLE the venue is allowing entry at 10 am and requires everyone to be cleaned up and out by midnight.

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 2. What time do you want the ceremony to start? This will also depend on how long your ceremony will be. Don't stress out here, a 30 minute ceremony in my experience is normal! You can also discuss with your officiant what you want out of the ceremony and amount of time should be one of them. If you are having a religious ceremony and know it will be an hour then adjust here accordingly! SO for the sake of this example, lets say you are having a 30 minute ceremony.

My general rule of thumb is google your wedding date + sunset time. Then SUBTRACT 2 hours. So here for my EXAMPLE sunset is 7pm. So I want my ceremony to start at 5pm. (for the odd times like sunset is 7:18pm ... just round down to 5pm when you subtract the 2 hours) - ***Again, this is just a general rule of thumb/example! If sunset time on your wedding date is 7pm but you want an early wedding and you KNOW you want the ceremony to be at 2pm, that is TOTALLY fine! Adjust your times accordingly!***

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

5:00 pm - Ceremony

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 3. I recommend bride + bridal party's hair and makeup to be done and ready 2 - 3 hours before ceremony time starts. Depending if you are doing robe or pajama photos AND depending on if you plan on doing a first look, times here may vary. For the sake of this example, there is no first look and bride and bridesmaids are doing robe photos. Immediately following bridesmaids get into their dresses. + bride gets into hers. Decide beforehand if you want your bridesmaids to help you with your dress or your mom/mother-in-law. 

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

3:00 - Robe photos (roughly 10 - 15 minutes depending on bridal party size)

3:15 - bridesmaids get into dresses (10 minutes - have them prepare when they get there to have things ready to go)

3:25 - bride gets into her dress (the amount of time here varies depending on the type of dress and who's helping with dress)

5:00 pm - Ceremony

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 4. Once you are in your dress what do you picture happening from here? We already established in this example we are not doing a first look with the groom, but a first look with dad, bridesmaids, groomsmen, children, etc.? Within the 8 hour time limit I highly suggest choosing one. For the sake of this example we will do a first look with dad outside of the venue immediately following bridesmaid + bridal photos.

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

3:00 - Robe photos (roughly 10 - 15 minutes depending on bridal party size)

3:15 - bridesmaids get into dresses (10 minutes - have them prepare when they get there to have things ready to go)

3:25 - bride gets into her dress (the amount of time here varies depending on the type of dress and who's helping with dress)

3:40 - first look with dad (5-10 minutes) here I typically encourage mom to jump in for a few photos

3:50 - Bridesmaid photos (20 minutes) here we will do group shots and bride with each solo

4:10 - bridal portraits (if we didn't do a previous bridal session) (10 - 15 minutes)

5:00 pm - Ceremony

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 5. Here you can see we only have 35 - 40 minutes til the ceremony starts! This is where I que the guys! Once bride is done with all of her photos it is time to go inside and RELAX, use the restroom, get a snack, drink some water, touch up hair and makeup, etc.

For the sake of time, I don't normally get photos of the guys getting ready so about this time they should be dressed and ready to go. I will get some staged images of groom "getting ready" during his solo portraits. 

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

3:00 - Robe photos (roughly 10 - 15 minutes depending on bridal party size)

3:15 - bridesmaids get into dresses (10 minutes - have them prepare when they get there to have things ready to go)

3:25 - bride gets into her dress (the amount of time here varies depending on the type of dress and who's helping with dress)

3:40 - first look with dad (5-10 minutes) here I typically encourage mom to jump in for a few photos

3:50 - Bridesmaid photos (20 minutes) here we will do group shots and bride with each solo

4:10 - bridal portraits (if we didn't do a previous bridal session) (10 - 15 minutes)

4:15 - groom + Groomsmen photos (20-25 minutes) - group, groom with each solo, groom portraits

4:40 - Groom with parents before getting ready to walk down aisle

4:45 - much encouraged 10 - 15 minute break before walking down the aisle

5:00 pm - Ceremony

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 6. WOO we got a lot filled in! From here you discuss with your hair and makeup team what time you need to START getting ready. You already know what time you have access to the venue, and what time you need to be ready for photos. This timeframe can now be discussed between you and them!

But now it's time to decide when I need to arrive. From here - Prior to getting ready photos I like to get detail shots of all your things such as rings, dress, shoes, vow books, etc. These are things I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to have ready to go for me when I arrive so we waste no time! Between me and a second shooter we can knock this out in about an hour - hour and a half prior to robe photos. SO since we decided robe photos are at 3pm, a good ETA would be 2pm for photographers. 

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

(between 10am - 3pm you have figured out time/schedule with hair and makeup team)

2:00 - Photographer arrives to begin detail shots (1hour w 2nd shooter)

3:00 - Robe photos (roughly 10 - 15 minutes depending on bridal party size)

3:15 - bridesmaids get into dresses (10 minutes - have them prepare when they get there to have things ready to go)

3:25 - bride gets into her dress (the amount of time here varies depending on the type of dress and who's helping with dress)

3:40 - first look with dad (5-10 minutes) here I typically encourage mom to jump in for a few photos

3:50 - Bridesmaid photos (20 minutes) here we will do group shots and bride with each solo

4:10 - bridal portraits (if we didn't do a previous bridal session) (10 - 15 minutes)

4:15 - groom + Groomsmen photos (20-25 minutes) - group, groom with each solo, groom portraits

4:40 - Groom with parents before getting ready to walk down aisle

4:45 - much encouraged 10 - 15 minute break before walking down the aisle

5:00 pm - Ceremony

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 7. NOW we know what time I'm arriving! in this example it's 2:00pm! (I typically arrive 30 minutes early but I do not embed this into the timeline because it typically takes me a moment to get set up and ready) And if you have me for a total of 8 hours (adjust accordingly if you booked for more hours) and my time starts at 2pm, in this EXAMPLE my end time would be 10:00pm - this does not mean your wedding has to end at 10pm (or whatever time my time with you ends)! If you wish to have your grand exit at this time and then go back in and enjoy the rest of your reception that is totally acceptable! I would encourage you to relay this information to your dj so he knows to let everyone know to come back inside!

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

(between 10am - 3pm you have figured out time/schedule with hair and makeup team)

2:00 - Photographer arrives to begin detail shots (1hour w 2nd shooter)

3:00 - Robe photos (roughly 10 - 15 minutes depending on bridal party size)

3:15 - bridesmaids get into dresses (10 minutes - have them prepare when they get there to have things ready to go)

3:25 - bride gets into her dress (the amount of time here varies depending on the type of dress and who's helping with dress)

3:40 - first look with dad (5-10 minutes) here I typically encourage mom to jump in for a few photos

3:50 - Bridesmaid photos (20 minutes) here we will do group shots and bride with each solo

4:10 - bridal portraits (if we didn't do a previous bridal session) (10 - 15 minutes)

4:15 - groom + Groomsmen photos (20-25 minutes) - group, groom with each solo, groom portraits

4:40 - Groom with parents before getting ready to walk down aisle

4:45 - much encouraged 10 - 15 minute break before walking down the aisle

5:00 pm - Ceremony

10pm - Grand exit/photographers end time

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 8. I know it may seem I am all over the place with this timeline but it really does help to fill in the pieces! We are back at ceremony and in this example the ceremony is 30 minutes. AFTER the ceremony typically follows family formals, blended bridal party, and bride and groom portraits. Depending on family size and different groupings and variations I can knock this portion of photos out in an hour and a half (even quicker with a shot list!)

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

(between 10am - 3pm you have figured out time/schedule with hair and makeup team)

2:00 - Photographer arrives to begin detail shots (1hour w 2nd shooter)

3:00 - Robe photos (roughly 10 - 15 minutes depending on bridal party size)

3:15 - bridesmaids get into dresses (10 minutes - have them prepare when they get there to have things ready to go)

3:25 - bride gets into her dress (the amount of time here varies depending on the type of dress and who's helping with dress)

3:40 - first look with dad (5-10 minutes) here I typically encourage mom to jump in for a few photos

3:50 - Bridesmaid photos (20 minutes) here we will do group shots and bride with each solo

4:10 - bridal portraits (if we didn't do a previous bridal session) (10 - 15 minutes)

4:15 - groom + Groomsmen photos (20-25 minutes) - group, groom with each solo, groom portraits

4:40 - Groom with parents before getting ready to walk down aisle

4:45 - much encouraged 10 - 15 minute break before walking down the aisle

5:00 pm - Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:40pm - Family formals (20-30minutes) (this will give everyone time to make there way to the front of the ceremony site or wherever you choose for family photos)

6:15 - Blended bridal party (15 minutes)

6:30 - Bride and groom portraits (20 minutes)

6:50/7pm - RECEPTION TIME

10pm - Grand exit/photographers end time

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

Step 9. See! Filling in the gaps! AGAIN - your wedding day timeline may look totally different and you may not need as much time dedicated to certain areas.

For your reception timeline (there is now 3 hours dedicated to your reception) this is something you will need to discuss with your DJ and the order of events you'd like things to take place! But I can give you a general idea of how most receptions go!

 

Bride + Groom introduced into reception and goes into their first dance

Time to eat

Toasts

Father/daughter dance

Mother/son dance

Open dance floor

Cake cutting

Open dance floor

Grand Exit

 

PLEASE remember grand exit does not have to mean your wedding is over! If just means my photography services are! BUT keep in mind your venue likely has you scheduled to be out by a certain time so don't forget to allow yourself some cleanup time whether that's hired workers, your bridal party, or even you who plans on staying to clean up. 
 

Example:

10:00 am - venue allows you to come in

(between 10am - 3pm you have figured out time/schedule with hair and makeup team)

2:00 - Photographer arrives to begin detail shots (1hour w 2nd shooter)

3:00 - Robe photos (roughly 10 - 15 minutes depending on bridal party size)

3:15 - bridesmaids get into dresses (10 minutes - have them prepare when they get there to have things ready to go)

3:25 - bride gets into her dress (the amount of time here varies depending on the type of dress and who's helping with dress)

3:40 - first look with dad (5-10 minutes) here I typically encourage mom to jump in for a few photos

3:50 - Bridesmaid photos (20 minutes) here we will do group shots and bride with each solo

4:10 - bridal portraits (if we didn't do a previous bridal session) (10 - 15 minutes)

4:15 - groom + Groomsmen photos (20-25 minutes) - group, groom with each solo, groom portraits

4:40 - Groom with parents before getting ready to walk down aisle

4:45 - much encouraged 10 - 15 minute break before walking down the aisle

5:00 pm - Ceremony (30 minutes)

5:40pm - Family formals (20-30minutes) (this will give everyone time to make there way to the front of the ceremony site or wherever you choose for family photos)

6:15 - Blended bridal party (15 minutes)

6:30 - Bride and groom portraits (20 minutes)

6:50/7pm - RECEPTION TIME

Bride + Groom introduced into reception and goes into their first dance

Time to eat

Toasts

Father/daughter dance

Mother/son dance

Open dance floor

Cake cutting

Open dance floor

Grand Exit

10pm - Grand exit/photographers end time

Midnight - venue requires you to be cleaned up and out

more wedding timeline samples below!

8 hour wedding day with a first look sample timeline

 12:45 - 1:30 Photographer arrives - detail photos - bridal party finishing touches

 1:30 - 2:15 - Bride gets into dress

       2:15 - 2:30 - Walk to First Look 

2:30 - 2:45 - First Look 

2:45 - 3:15 - Bride & Groom Portraits + Bride & Groom Individuals

3:15 - 3:30 - Bride with Bridesmaids

3:30 - 3:45 - Full Bridal Party 

3:45 - 4:00 - Groom with Groomsmen           

4:00 - 4:30 - Immediate Family Photos (Parents, Grandparents, Etc.)        4:30 - 5:00 - Bride & Groom Hide, Rest & Retouch 

•  Photograph Ceremony Decor

5:00 - 5:30 -  Wedding Ceremony

5:30 - 6:00 - Bride & Groom Join Cocktail Hour 

6:00 - 6:30 - Husband & Wife Sunset Portraits 

•  Cocktail Hour Continues + Outdoor Dinner Details Set

7:00 - 7:15 - Guests Seated

7:15 - 7:30 - First Dance

7:30 - Sunset 

7:30 - 8:45 - Reception         

10 hour wedding day sample timeline

10am- Bride and Bridesmaids arrive

10-11- Set up

11am- Groom & Groomsmen arrive

12:30pm- Photographer & Videographer arrive

1 pm- Groom getting ready w/mom pics

1:15pm- Groom pic + family pics

1:30-2pm- Groom & Groomsmen pics

2-2:15pm- Bride getting ready pics

2:15pm- PJ pics

2:30-2:45pm- Bridal getting ready w/mom

2:45-3:15pm- Bridal

3:15-3:45pm- Bridesmaids & Bride

3:45-4pm- Bride & Parents pics

4pm- Everyone needs to be ready- relax

4:30pm- Ceremony begins.

5pm- Ceremony ends, guests leave for cocktail hour. 5:05pm- Sign marriage license

5:10-6:15pm- Pictures

•   5:10-5:35- Family Pics

•    5:30-5:50- Wedding party pics

•    5:50-6:15- Bride and groom pic

6:25pm- Walk into reception

6:30pm- Welcome guests

6:35pm- Start dinner

7:05-7:15pm- Toasts (Franky, then Rita)

7:20pm- Cake cutting 7:30pm- 1st dance

7:35pm- Father Daughter dance.

7:38pm- Mother son dance.

7:40pm- Anniversary dance.

10:15pm- Exit car pictures.

10:35pm- Last dance (Wonderwall)

10:40pm- Guests go outside for Grand exit.

•    Bride & groom have private last dance. (Keep on loving you)

10:30pm- Bride & groom exit.

11pm- Reception ends.

11-12am- Clean up.

10 hour wedding with more than one location sample timeline

Getting Ready Location

10:15 - 11:00 - Detail photos

11:00 - 11:45 - Bride Getting Into Dress

11:45 - 12:00 - Bride Portraits

12:00 - 12:15 - Bride with Bridesmaids

12:15 - 12:30 - Bride with Her Family

12:30 - 12:45 - Groom Individuals + Groom with Groomsmen   

12:45 - 1:00 - Groom with His Family              

1:00 - 1:30 - Drive to Ceremony Location   

 

Ceremony Location

1:30 - 2:00 - Bride & Groom Hide, Rest & Retouch (photograph ceremony decor)

2:00 - 3:00 - Wedding Ceremony 

3:00 - 3:30 - Drive to Reception Location   

Reception Location

3:30 - 3:45 - Full Bridal Party

3:45 - 4:00 - Immediate Family Photos with Bride & Groom

4:00 - 5:00 - Bride & Groom Join Cocktail Hour 

5:00 - 5:15 - Guests Seated & Grand Entrances             

6:15 - 6:45 - Husband & Wife Sunset Portraits

7:00 - Sunset

8:15 - Photography end time