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Elyssa Explains

June 5, 2021

Wedding Timelines – Important Considerations

Tips for wedding day timelines

7 Things to Consider for Wedding Timelines

(from a photography perspective)

Wedding timelines can seem really daunting! You want to have fun with all your people, but you also want to make sure you’re doing everything you planned, and you want to make sure you don’t feel rushed or stressed. 

It’s a lot. 

But I’m here for you. 

Scroll on down if you want to get to the juicy wedding timelines tips, or philosophize with me for a minute. 

The Philosophizing:

Let’s talk about the undue pressure the wedding industrial complex tends to put on your wedding day. So much talk of “best day ever,” “most important day of your lives,” “once in a lifetime,” etc. etc. That’s a lot of pressure!

And yes, marrying your person is a once in a lifetime event. (Although… there’s nothing stopping you from doing a vow renewal party every year…) So yes, your wedding day is a significant day and it should for sure be loads of fun. But it doesn’t have to be the most important day of your lives. I’d argue that the day you met is pretty damn important, because you wouldn’t even be putting together wedding timelines if you never met. Milestones in our careers can be just as important. Bringing a tiny human into the world is pretty freaking important. You’re allowed to have a million important days in your life. 

So, first things first, take a deep breath and repeat after me: “It’s okay if our wedding is not perfect, because perfect is boring AF” 

BUT

Your wedding can still be the best day ever, because I’m a firm believer that any day you’re spending joyfully with your people is the best day ever.

So how do we make sure that you can find joy on the wedding day? With thought-out wedding day timelines. If things are planned (even loosely) it’s easier to relax and be in the moment. When you can be relaxed and in the moment, you’re naturally more open to the joy the world has to offer. 

Tips for Wedding Day Timelines

AND NOW, 7 things to consider for wedding day timelines (from a photography perspective):

  1. Sunset Time
  2. Photography priorities in general
  3. How hard you’re going to party
  4. Size of your wedding party
  5. Number of family/wedding party photos you want
  6. First Look vs. Aisle Moment
  7. What events are important to you as a couple

More on each:

1. Sunset Time: 

Look this up first. Before you do any other planning. Depending on the time of year and your ceremony/reception locations, it might influence when you schedule your ceremony. And the ceremony time often organizes the rest of the timeline. 

There are so many reasons you want to know the sunset time, but first and foremost is that the 30-40 minutes *before* sunset and the 15 minutes *after* sunset are the most ideal times for couple portraits. 

That doesn’t mean you have to set aside that whole block of time for couple portraits (although you can, if portraits are a top priority), but you want to have at least 15-20 minutes in that time for those portraits. 

The time before sunset is going to be that golden light that adds orange glowy romance (that’s why it’s called golden hour), and it’s super flattering. Then in the 15 minutes or so after sunset, we have the best part of blue hour. If the skies are favoring you, this is when you’ll have beautiful purples and pinks, and at the very least you’ll have the deep blues that I ADORE. 

Tip: make note of sunset time so you can have golden hour portraits in your wedding timeline

Golden hour is the time just before sunset

Other reasons to consider your sunset time: 

Building in enough time before sunset for all your group photos and couple portraits to be done in daylight. This is most relevant in the fall and winter as the days get shorter. If sunset is at 6pm and you want daylight for group photos and couple photos, then you need to make sure the time set aside for those photos comes early enough. If you want indoor group photos or actually prefer the look of more dramatic after dark group photos, then awesome!

Not having the sun blaring into your eyes (or your guests’ eyes) during the ceremony. I’ve seen gorgeous outdoor ceremonies set right before sunset, but consider your angles if you’re doing this, so that people don’t have to squint right into a setting sun to try to see you. 

Make note of sunset time in your wedding timeline and don't be afraid to have blue hour portraits too!

Blue hour is the time just after sunset

2. Photography Priorities in General

What photos are most important to you? Portraits with your partner? Shenanigans on the dance floor with everyone? Quiet getting ready moments with your best friends? This is one of the most important things to think about when planning your timeline/determining photo coverage start and end times. Allocate more time to the things that are most important to you. 

What are your photo priorities on your wedding day? These tips will help with timeline planning

3. How hard you’re going to party

Your venue might have specific rules that dictate what time the music shuts off and you have your exit, but if it doesn’t, you get the fun opportunity to figure out how hard you’re going to party. We’ve had exits everywhere from right after dinner all the way to the wee hours of the next morning. Knowing how long you want to party will impact when you start (and end) the reception, and that in turn will impact other stages of the day.

If you’re a party-all-night-long type of couple, you’ll also want to consider (1) if you want to stay at the venue or move to an after-party location (2) if you want a super late exit, a faked early exit, or no exit at all, and (3) how much photo coverage of the party you want. I’ll tell you that I’m in camp “Photos of ALL THE PARTY” because that’s when everyone has relaxed and let their guard down and the moments get so epic. But it’s definitely a personal decision based on your photography priorities (see #2). 

How long should your wedding reception be? Tips for wedding timelines

4. Size of your wedding party

There are two main reasons the size of your wedding party will impact your timeline: (1) getting ready time, (2) group photos time. Generally speaking, the more people there are getting ready, the longer you should allot for getting ready in your timeline. This is especially true when hair & makeup is involved. More on group photos in #5 next.

Wedding timeline tips

5. Number of family/wedding party photos you want

When we get close to the wedding day, I’ll ask you for a list of what family & wedding party groupings you want to take posed portraits with. Don’t worry – I’ll send you a sample list to help out! The main thing to know when you’re putting this list together is that you should budget 2-3 minutes per grouping in your timeline. So a list of 10 groups will take about 25 minutes, give or take. 

Wedding Timeline Tips - budget 2-3 minutes per family group photo

6. First Look vs. Aisle Moment

I’ve written about this before, and I definitely encourage you to read about why I love First Looks. But you should decide which route you’re going before you get too in depth with timeline planning. With a first look you’ll want to have plenty of time built in for group photos between getting ready and the ceremony. If you’re not seeing one another pre-ceremony, you’ll want to have that time built in between the ceremony and the reception. 

Couple shares a first look on their wedding day

7. What events are important to you as a couple

If there are particular traditions (or something new and fun) that are significant or important to you as a couple, put them in the timeline!!! 

Gifts are your love language and you’ve got presents for all your parents and wedding party? Set aside a block of time during getting ready to allow for those sweet exchanges.

Your friend group always sings Wonderwall AND Champagne Supernova at the top of their lungs whenever you get together? (Hi, this is my college friend group.) Make sure the DJ knows, and it definitely doesn’t hurt to have a line item in the timeline.

These examples don’t need to be scripted in the timeline down to the minute. I’m not saying “DJ has to play Wonderwall at 8:47pm” or “give Mom her present at 12:23pm”. Just write them in as something that should happen during those particular blocks so you don’t forget when you’re sketching out how much time getting ready will take or how long you want the DJ to play for. 

Another example: Your friends and family are wordsmiths who love to toast (or roast) and you love that about them? Make sure the time allotted for toasts reflects that.

Consider what events and moments are important to you when planning your wedding day timeline


That’s what I’ve got for tips for your wedding timelines from a photo perspective!! Hope it’s helpful. And know that I am always available to chat about your specific timeline! I actually really enjoy the organizational/logistical side of things too, not just the right-brained creating, so I am more than happy to help.

Raleigh wedding photographer behind the scenes


We believe that love is fun and colorful, and your wedding photographs should be too.

Kivus & Camera are Raleigh Wedding photographers who create bold, colorful, magical memories of your wedding day with beautiful, artistic portraits AND enthusiastic, genuine moments. Your unique love story deserves to be told through unforgettable, breath-taking photographs that stand out from the crowd. Kivus & Camera love creating that magic. After all, as past bride Courtney says, we are photography sorcerers.

And though we call ourselves Raleigh wedding photographers, we definitely photograph Durham weddings, Chapel Hill weddings, Cary weddings, etc. We’re all over the Triangle area, and we’re happy to head to the beach or mountains and even to places outside of North Carolina! Just let us know where your love story is headed.

Want to know more? Check out more of our images or learn more about our nerdy selves or just send us a note! Can’t wait to hear from you.

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