Planning a wedding day that is stress free and a magical, super rad, once in a lifetime celebration is totally possible.


What is comes down to is creating a realistic wedding day timeline of events. That sounds complicated but the process can be broken down into a few important steps.

Before we dive in, let’s talk wedding planners. If your wedding will take place in multiple locations, will have a more extensive vendor list and a larger budget I recommend hiring a professional wedding planner. That being said, weddings take on many “shapes and sizes.” Many folks want a smaller, more intimate, simpler affair. Fantastic! But, you still need a timeline. So, away we go!

1. First Look vs. Seeing Each Other For the first Time at the Wedding Ceremony


Deciding whether you want to see each other before the ceremony or waiting until one of you walks down the aisle is step one. There’s really not a “right way” to go here. It’s a personal preference. First looks usually happen after both brides, the bride and groom or both grooms are dressed and ready. It’s a time to connect, breath and share an emotional moment before getting hitched.

A first look changes the wedding day schedule of events in one important way: it allows for wedding party portraits and family portraits before the ceremony. This frees up time after you say “I do.”

If you decide to go a more traditional route - waiting to see each other until the start of your wedding ceremony - wedding party photos and family portraits will take place immediately after the ceremony.

2. Determine your wedding ceremony time

Once you have a ceremony time you can work backward to plan the first half of your day. Some considerations:

  • -Getting hair and makeup done takes time! Sedona Beauty Team suggests brides plan an hour for makeup and a second hour for hair.   And I can vouch for their assessment. Each member of the bridal party will need at least 30-45 minutes as well. Getting an early start is super important. IT TAKES LONGER THAN YOU THINK.
  • The wedding party should arrive at the wedding venue 30 minutes before the ceremony begins.
  • Family and wedding party portraits will take about one hour.
  • Allow 30-45 minutes for a first look.
  • Add in time for travel to the ceremony site.

Assuming a 4 p.m. ceremony start time and a first look, everybody should be dressed and ready by 1:30 pm. That’s 2.5 hours before everybody walks down the aisle. Without a first look, 2:15 p.m. would be a great time to be ready to go.


3. What time will the sun set?


Knowing when the sun will set is important for a few reasons. Getting that golden hour look means you need to take photos during the golden hour. Pretty self explanatory, right? That means a great time for portraits of just the two of you is just before the sun goes down. You’ll want to factor this into your wedding day schedule.

Going the traditional route, family portraits usually take place right after the ceremony. Plan 30-45 minutes to get that done. While these photos might not seem like the most exciting pictures taken all day, they’re really important. When family is all in one place, which doesn’t happen all that often, you need some photos, right?

Next it’s time for photos of the newly married couple. 30 minutes or more is about right. This is a great time to slow down for a few minutes and take it all in - while making some creative portraits.

In the summer months, sunset is much later. You’ll likely get your reception started before the sun goes down and then sneak out for some sunset photos. In late fall, winter and early spring, the sun will set closer to your ceremony time.

Let’s put this all together!

OK. Keeping all of the above in mind, here are two basic timelines to help you get started. Notice there is a liberal amount of time allotted to each event. That way when things run late (they always do…) the day stays essentially on schedule.


Timeline No. 1: First Look

  • 9 a.m. Hair and Makeup Begins
  • 12:30 Hair and makeup complete
  • 1:30 p.m. Wedding party is dressed and ready
  • 1:45 p.m. First Look
  • 2:30 p.m. Family Portraits/Wedding party Portraits
  • 3:30 p.m. Wedding Party Arrives at Ceremony Venue
  • 4 p.m. Wedding Ceremony
  • 4:30 p.m. Wedding couple portraits
  • 5:15 p.m. Grand Entrance to wedding reception
  • Sunset Portraits 10-15 minutes
  • Reception…

Timeline No. 2: Keeping it traditional

  • 10:00 a.m. Hair and Makeup Begins
  • 1:30 p.m. Hair and makeup complete
  • 2:15 p.m. Wedding party is dressed and ready
  • 2:30 p.m. Wedding party portraits (each half photographed separately)
  • 3:30 p.m. Wedding Party Arrives at Ceremony Venue
  • 4:00 p.m. Wedding Ceremony
  • 4:30 p.m. Family Portraits/Wedding party Portraits
  • 5:00 p.m. Wedding couple portraits
  • 5:45 p.m. Grand Entrance to wedding reception
  • Sunset Portraits 10-15 minutes
  • Reception…

O.K! Still with me? Great! Breath deep.

So, we’ve obviously not talked about reception timing. If you have a DJ on board, they’ll help you plan that portion of the day.  If you aren’t having a DJ, your reception will likely be a bit simpler.

As a wedding photographer, it's my job to document your day, to tell your story through beautiful images. But, I also believe it's my job to help you have the best wedding celebration possible so I'm a big fan of a solid timeline. I'll have a copy with me and help keep everything running smoothly. I work closely with your wedding planner, best man, maid of honor, DJ, venue catering manager - whoever!

Questions? Want to talk all of this through? Send me an email or give me call: info@ryanwilliamsphotography.com

(928) 864-6074