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How To Create Your Wedding-Day Timeline

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All photography by Samantha Ong Photography.

Memorable weddings don’t just happen—they take quite a bit of organization. To ensure a smooth flow of beautifully captured memories of your day, a good timeline of your wedding events is so important!

We know that wedding planning can be extremely overwhelming. But the secret to a smooth-running and stress-free wedding day is to create a detailed timeline before of your wedding. A well-crafted schedule creates a flawless experience for you, your wedding party, your guests, and your vendors. It also eliminates the possibility of being overwhelmed on your big day.

Creating a detailed wedding-day timeline is so essential, especially when it comes to getting great photos. When you’re having a great time, that will certainly show through your photos. Having a fail-proof timeline can mean the difference between having a stressed-out day and an amazingly fun time that you will remember for the rest of your life! 

Below are several helpful tips to help you as you think about your wedding timeline.

How To Create Your Wedding-Day Timeline

Do Your Research

If you are at a loss for where to start or overwhelmed by the idea of creating a wedding-day timeline, fret not. There are many resources out there that can help you find great examples of successful timelines. The internet is just one of the many great ways to find information. You don’t necessarily have to follow the sample timelines exactly—you can always adapt to your timeline to fit your own timing and priorities.

Ask The Experts

Talk to your vendors and friends and family who have walked down the aisle. They are experienced, having witnessed and been part of countless weddings in the past! Your caterer will know firsthand how long it typically takes to serve guests, and your photographer will have a basic idea of how long it typically takes to capture your photos. Of course, you will have to adjust your timeline based on your individual goals for your big day.

Slowly Begin To Create Your Timeline

Next, begin building your timeline by thinking of your wedding. Start by asking yourself questions and begin making decisions about your wedding’s logistics. Every little detail is important, from planning how long it takes to get ready, to deciding if you want to make a special exit. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Will there be a rehearsal dinner?
  • Where will you be getting ready?
  • How many bridesmaids will be getting their hair and makeup done?
  • Are your ceremony and reception in separate locations?
  • Will you do a “First Look”?
  • How many family photos do you want to take?
  • Do you want to enjoy your cocktail hour and mingle with your guests?
  • How many people are giving toasts?
  • What time is sunset?
  • Are there any games or entertainment items you want to include during your dinner reception?
  • Do you want to toss your bouquet?
  • Do you want to make an exit or dance until the last song?
How To Create Your Wedding-Day Timeline

Allow For Extra Time Between Events

It’s important to understand that the wedding-day timeline is a guideline, not a strict set of rules. Make sure to plan more time in every area so you won’t feel stressed if things fall behind. It’s always a great idea to have too much time planned and be early than to not schedule enough time. Allocating buffer time to each part of your day is always a good idea especially when it comes to travel time or when there’s more people involved.

Trust and believe that no wedding goes to schedule. Allowing for lots of extra buffer time is best to allow for “things to go wrong”. And if it doesn’t – then yay! More time to have fun and enjoy!

Your Wedding, Your Day

Remember, your wedding is unique. You can look at countless sample timelines online but a personalized wedding-day timeline catered to all the specifics and needs of your day is essential. It’s always best to send your wedding timeline to your wedding planner or co-ordinator and your photographer to make sure your timeline makes sense. Make sure to send it to them early on in your planning so they can give you feedback sooner than later so you still have the flexibility to make any adjustments.

How To Create Your Wedding-Day Timeline

Below are my general time recommendations for each part of a wedding day:

Getting Ready: The Bride & Groom — 1.5 to 3.0 hours

Creative details take time! This time will depend on how many people will be with you while you get ready and the types of photos you want to do. I always recommend to allocate some extra time before you leave to take some portraits alone as well as with your family and friends. It’s always a fun time to pop the bubbly to start the celebrations!

The Wedding Ceremony — 30 minutes to 1 hour

The length of your ceremony will vary widely on traditions, readings, etc. Just make sure to allow some time after your ceremony for formal portraits or one big group photos of you with all your guests!

Formal Group & Family Portraits — 30 minutes to 1 hour

How much time your group photos will take will largely depend on group size and the number of family/group combinations you want to do.

Wedding Party & Couple Photos — 1 to 2 hours

How much time you want to spend time doing photos is ultimately up to you. It also really depends on how big your venue is, size of your bridal party and just how much time you spend doing photos rather than soaking in your day.

Your Reception — 2 to 6 hours

The big party! How long your reception runs for depends on whether you’re having a sit down three-course meal but also how many “items” you have on your agenda. This could be your first dance, parent dances, cutting the cake, and any other entertainment items such as performances or games. But it also depends on how early your guests to get onto the dance floor too!

Samantha Ong is a Toronto-based wedding photographer and the owner of Samantha Ong Photography, a boutique wedding and lifestyle studio specializing in romantic, whimsical, and timeless photography.

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