How To Create The Perfect Wedding Timeline + FREE Checklist!

Jan 14, 2023

Wedding Timeline Blog Cover Image by Lily Laidlaw Photography

Create the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

Wedding day timelines not only give you peace of mind but will also provide transparency to your wedding guests and vendors – especially your wedding photographer. If you need clarity on how to schedule your day to be stress-free and photography-friendly, my extensive How To Create The Perfect Wedding Timeline Guide will walk you through the entire photography process from start to finish.

How To Create The Perfect Wedding Timeline Tip #1:

The Basics Of Planning Your Wedding Photography Schedule

If you are in the early stages of wedding planning, I cover a few of the wedding photography timeline fundamentals in this section. I hope to give you a better idea of how to create the perfect wedding timeline for your big day! 

A couple posing for formal portraits on their wedding day

A couple posing for formal portraits on their wedding day

What Is A Wedding Timeline And What Should It Include? 

Your wedding timeline is your day-of schedule. You and your guests will refer to this timeline to ensure everyone is on the same page – and in the same place at the right time! When will the ceremony start? Will there be a Cocktail Hour, and, if so, when will it be? Do your guests need to be aware of other events besides the ceremony and reception? Your wedding timeline also helps me determine the best spots and times to complete all of your must-have wedding portraits and photographs. 

When Should You Finalize Your Wedding Photography Schedule?

I always recommend planning your wedding photography session 2-3 months in advance. Within this time frame, we can create a timeline that fits everything you want to do for your wedding photography. If you plan to sneak away and take Golden Hour photos while your wedding guests enjoy their Cocktail Hour, we will make time for those gorgeous sunset photos in your day-of schedule! We also need to consider if you want your First Look done and include this wedding photoshoot in your wedding timeline. 

Pro Tip: Instead of sending your wedding schedule to all of your guests and vendors, opt for a custom-made wedding web page! You can share your wedding timeline and have it available 24/7 for everyone attending or involved in your wedding. The Knot has an easy-to-follow FREE wedding website service that you can use. 

How Long Does Wedding Photography Last?

The wedding photography session depends entirely on what my couples want. In most cases, I will be at your venue from the start of your wedding day until the end of the reception or wedding after-party. A typical wedding photography schedule can last 8-10 hours; for more elaborate or cultural/religious weddings, it can last even longer. Some couples may request that I only do a part of their 8-hour wedding. If you are having an elopement or micro wedding, your photography session can have a shorter duration. 

Getting To Know You

Though I will capture the classic wedding shots (e.g., the bride in her dress for the first time, the couple’s wedding portraits, etc.), I will also get to know the unique parts of your love story! Let me know which aspects of your wedding you want to emphasize or leave out, and I will do that for you. We will also discuss the benefits of including First Look and Golden Hour photos and how we can fit these time-exclusive sessions into your schedule.

How To Create The Perfect Wedding Timeline Tip #2: – When To Take Photographs

Now that we have covered the basics, I will guide you through formulating your wedding photography timeline. I also provide a sample timeline later in this section to show you what yours could look like:

Working Out The Logistics Of Your Wedding Day & Timeline Considerations

As a part of my services, I will plan and create your wedding photography timeline for you and all of your vendors. This helps to ensure the day runs smoothly and there are no hiccups 

Various details can affect the way we plan your photography session, and one of those factors is the ceremony and reception locations. Are your ceremony and reception areas in the same venue or close by (5-10 minutes away)? Or will there be some travel time in between the ceremony and the scheduled Cocktail Hour or reception time? I will plan accordingly to capture all your most important moments!

We will also go over any buffer times between the ceremony and Cocktail Hour/reception. How long will it take for your guests to arrive? What is the traffic like in the area? How far do guests need to travel to the location of the reception? We can utilize the buffer time to take extra photos, especially if you plan to have Golden Hour wedding photos taken!

No matter what delays or hiccups may occur during the day, I am very flexible and work with you and your wedding coordinator to create the perfect environment to take your photos! 


A couple drinking champagne at their wedding reception in Santorini, Greece

A couple drinking champagne at their wedding reception

Here is a sample of an 8-hour wedding photography timeline that highlights the best times to take wedding photos: 

  • 2:30 p.m. – The bride, groom, and wedding party are getting ready in their separate suites. I always love capturing these moments because it adds depth to your wedding album! It creates a visual story and shows the build-up to the First Look and the ceremony. I also use this time to take pictures of the bride’s gown, heirlooms, jewelry, bouquet, etc. and showcase the bridesmaids’ dresses, shoes, bouquets, and accessories.
  • 4 p.m. – If you booked a First Look with me, you would have these bride-and-groom portraits completed after the get-ready phase. Reserve about 30 minutes for this portion of the day so that you can enjoy your time together as you have your first couple’s photos taken. 
  • 4:30 p.m. – This is when the bride and groom will take family formals and wedding party photos before the ceremony. I love getting shots of the father seeing his daughter in her bridal gown for the first time! The family’s private time with the bride and groom is truly a momentous occasion and makes a wonderful photography opportunity.
  • 4:30 – 5:15 p.m. – Guests arrive and get seated while the bride, groom, and wedding party relax and enjoy their time together separately. I take photos of guests entering the venue, the wedding decor in the ceremony area, etc. I spend extra time with the bride and bridal party for more pictures before everyone lines up for the walk-the-aisle moment!
  • 5:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. – All guests are seated, and the groom is ready to greet his bride at the altar. This is one of the most significant once-in-a-lifetime moments I will capture in your wedding, so I am well-prepared for this part! 
  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. – Wedding ceremonies last 20-30 minutes typically but can go on longer if you have a religious or cultural wedding. I strive to photograph every part of this sacred yet fleeting moment so that it is well documented in your wedding photos. 
  • 6:30 – 8 p.m. – The couple leaves the ceremony; if there is a receiving line, we take time to photograph this celebration of the newly married couple! Guests will be heading to the reception area or Cocktail Hour location. Suppose you have a Golden Hour Wedding Photography Session scheduled with me in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, or surrounding locations; in that case, we will take this time to get those captivating sunset photos of you and your partner! If your wedding is near the Rocky Mountains and you want your Golden Hour photos done, the sunset can come much later in the day. Depending on your wedding schedule, we can sneak away from the reception to get your Golden Hour couple’s portraits completed!
  • 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. – The newlyweds will enter the reception room and have their second wedding celebration! Besides the classic moments like the toasts, cake cutting, and father-bride/mother-groom dances, I work my way around the reception to take photos of you and your guests. If you have a wedding after-party, we can include this in your wedding photography schedule, too. 


White and Green Floral Ceremony Arch overlooking the Caldera in Santorini, Greece.

White and Green Floral Ceremony Arch.

Bonus Planning Tip: Do you have a backup plan if there are any sudden weather changes?

Hopefully, your special day will be clear, sunny, and perfect! But the weather is one of the main concerns my couples have when planning their wedding photography timeline. Here is what you should consider in case the weather forecast changes on the day of your wedding: 

  • What areas in the venue or elsewhere can you use for your wedding photographs? I also scout out places for my couples so that we are prepared.
  • If there is rain or snow on your wedding day, are you willing to take outdoor wedding photos despite the not-so-ideal weather? I always have transparent umbrellas in my wedding photographer toolkit that I let my couples and their wedding party use. The umbrellas are not intrusive and won’t take away from the beauty of their romantic moment… and they also work great if it is snowing a lot. 
  • If you have photograph sessions later in the day when it gets colder, make sure you have formal outerwear custom-prepared for your wedding day. Some ideas include wool coats, shawls or faux furs, muffs, and boots which will not be visible underneath your dress.
A couple posing in front of their floral wedding arch on their wedding day.

A couple posing in front of their floral wedding arch on their wedding day.

Creating The Perfect Wedding Timeline Tip #3: Capturing The Details Of Your Wedding

All the months – even years – of planning your dream wedding are all on display in one day, and you want to get every detail immortalized for your wedding album! Early communication about your wedding schedule allows me to know when your vendors (caterers, wedding decor, etc.) arrive so that I can take photos of your venue and reception. I love putting together your very own wedding storybook that reveals every detail that went into your special day –  from the beautiful decor to the magical and candid moments with your wedding guests. 

Here is a List of Important Wedding Details to Include as you Create your Wedding Timeline:

The People (And Pets!) 

Your central portraits will always include your wedding party, close family members, and beloved pets.! You can have individual shots of each of your bridesmaids and groomsmen for them to take home as a lovely thank-you gift and memory. 

The Wedding Attire

One of the most loved shots is the bride’s wedding dress! Before the bride steps into her dress, we take a photo of the entire wedding dress in all its beauty and elegance. Here are other ideas for you to add to your “Wedding Attire” photo collection: 

  • Bride’s shoes, jewelry, and reception dress;
  • Groom’s tux, shoes, and personalized cufflinks; 
  • Matron of Honour and Maid of Honor dresses and accessories;
  • Best man suit and cufflinks;
  • Bridesmaids’ dresses, jewelry, and shoes; 
  • Groomsmen’s suits and shoes; 
  • Flower girl dress and ring bearer attire;
  • Pets in their wedding accessories and clothes; 
  • Personalized matching satin robes for the bridesmaids.
A happy couple smiling in their wedding attire in Santorini, Greece, by the ocean, on their wedding day.

Couple’s portrait time on their wedding day

Heirlooms & Personal Items

Do you have a family heirloom that is near and dear to you? Your wedding day is the perfect time to showcase your precious heirlooms and other personal items, such as photographs of loved ones who cannot be there in person. Your wedding allows you to celebrate every part of your life that has led you to the happiest day of your life! 

Your Wedding Florals 

Weddings and flowers go hand in hand! Those breathtaking floral arrangements made for your wedding deserve a special place in your wedding album. From the bride’s bouquet to the greenery and florals decorated all over your venue, these timeless wedding decorations will now live on forever in your wedding photos. 

Your Wedding Decorations

Besides the wedding florals, I will photograph your wedding decorations and wedding calligraphy as well! With the flurry of wedding planning and preparation, all those little details can be missed and not thoroughly enjoyed. I always take the time to capture your beautiful wedding details. You can go back and see all the beautiful work done to create your dream wedding! 

Religious Ceremonies & Cultural Wedding Celebrations

If you are having a cultural or religious wedding ceremony, we will go deep into detail on what you want to capture and what each part of your wedding means to you. I am very open to all my couples and their backgrounds, and I love learning about your traditions! 

Wedding Day Detail Flatlay with Jimmy Choo Shoes

Wedding Day Detail Flatlay with Jimmy Choo Shoes

Do You Need A Second Photographer? 

With so much going on in your wedding, would a second wedding photographer (also known as a second shooter) help keep more stress out of your day? If you want to have more variety in your wedding album and more memories captured, a second photographer streamlines the entire wedding timeline photography process! Since I work with the same second photographers in the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada area, I already have an established relationship with them, and our teamwork is well-organized. If you decide to hire our team of wedding photographers at Lily Laidlaw Photography, your wedding timeline will not require significant adjustments to accommodate multiple photographers. 


A beautiful Bride smiling in a couture wedding dress at Golden Hour in Santorini, Greece

A beautiful Bride at Golden Hour in Santorini, Greece.

Free Wedding Photography Timeline Checklist to Create the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

To help you remember the key information in this guide, and help you stay on top of your wedding planning, I have created a complimentary checklist for you: Click HERE to access the wedding photography checklist to make your wedding photography schedule. 


If you want more insight into how to create the ideal wedding day timeline, send me a note. You can also view more about my wedding photography and other services by viewing my website.

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