How to Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline | Detroit Wedding Photographer

Okay, we all know this is one of the mysteries for new couples’ planning their big day. Let me break it down for you.

The “ideal” timeline is out there for every single wedding. Each wedding day has a different structure, vibe, and level of “tradition”, and sometimes have multiple locations. There are ways to make it run smoothly for each variation.

I love helping people figure out the flow, and do so for every single one of my clients. The first thing to keep in mind for your timeline is how many people you have in the party!

Bride walking down the stairs at the Historic Holly Hotel.

The more people = more time for hair and makeup. (I highly suggest if you have a large wedding party to make sure you have 2-3 stylists for your attendees. Hair and makeup can slow the day way down if someone is running a little behind.)

Check out the Wedding Day Timeline Time-Savers

A typical day for one of my couples who’s focus is on getting to the biggest party they’ve ever thrown looks a lot like this;

8am – Hair and Makeup Starts
11am – Bride Starts Hair/Makeup (Bride is always the last to go, we want to make sure the photographer/videographer arrive around the time the Bride is finishing up)
12:30pm – Photographer Arrives for Getting Ready Photos;

Bride sitting down during getting ready time of her wedding timeline.

– When I arrive, I start photographing all the details; dress, rings, bouquet, all jewelry the Bride/Groom is wearing, shoes, bowtie, cuff links, garter, and veil. (*Pro-tip – Bring a copy of your wedding stationery and invites to be photographed as a keepsake for your photo gallery! You’ll never pull it out of the box again, so a pretty arrangement is nice to look at!)

-While I’m photographing the details, I also photograph the bridesmaids/groomsmen hanging out for fun candids. (*Pro-Tip – It’s amazing when the photographer/videographer arrives and the room is tidy and neat. Trust me, you won’t want all the clutter in the background of your photos. Appoint a closet, or drawers for keeping things contained.)

Couple standing on top of the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, exchanging gifts during their first look.

1:15/1:30pm- First Look + Wedding Party Photos

-This is the biggest time-saver of the day. You can get all of your wedding party photos done before the ceremony, leaving you more time after! It’s intimate, and you get some incredible photos!

3pm – Ceremony

3:45pm – Family Photos

-Don’t make this part too complicated, I typically recommend doing immediate family only. *Pro-Tip (This is a good idea to have a very detailed list of your family members, grouped from biggest to smallest. It’s also a good idea to have someone who knows your family appointed to help in the gathering of the family in case we have some missing stragglers.)

4:00pm- Cocktail Hour

– Since we’ve already completed your wedding party photos, now is a great time to do photos with your new Mr./Mrs.! Send your wedding party guests to enjoy the cocktail hour, while we do your photos alone. Once we’ve finished those up, please go enjoy your cocktail hour; besides you paid for it!!


5-5:15pm – Reception Grand Entrance

-The time you can save here is simple, go straight to cake cutting once you’ve been announced into the reception. Everyone is already seated, and excited – so, cut the cake, and get that part out of the way!

5:30pm- Toasts/Speeches

7pm- First Dances

Once the first dances are finished, we really only need maybe 45 minutes or so for getting photos of people dancing. Also, if it’s the right time of year – this is a great time to snag the newlyweds, to get some golden hour photos. Nobody even knows your gone!

I hope this has given you a little sense of how the day can run, and where you can narrow down your timeline to be efficient. If you’re looking for even more tips, check out this post!

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