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Recommended Wedding Schedule

Here's the definitive guide to wedding-day scheduling. It's an excellent starting point for your planning.

Introduction to Wedding Planning


Wedding planners, coordinators, and family members often have a preferred way of scheduling time for wedding-day traditions and the corresponding photography.

Some of those scheduled events include getting ready, a first look, wedding party photos, the ceremony, family portraits, and reception traditions like the first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss, and dozens of other small happenings.

My scheduling and planning recommendations I share are based on 15+ years of experience as a professional photographer photographing 300+ weddings. That experience has provided me with a deep knowledge of factors related to wedding-day scheduling in general—particularly how certain scheduling considerations can affect the photography.

By setting aside the time I recommend and scheduling reception events in a certain order, I can help you and your guests look their best while reducing potentially unpleasant wedding-day surprises. As Tom Cruise's character proclaimed in Jerry Maguire, "Help me, help you."

Wedding Day Challenges

One of the most important things to remember is that your schedule is unlikely to survive the day. In other words, at many weddings I photograph, the timeline often slips. For example, these delays are common:

  • makeup application takes longer than expected
  • hair styling needs to be redone
  • the flowers don't arrive on time
  • apparel needs last-minute steaming
  • attendants often take longer than expected to get dressed
  • buttoning buttons or lacing laces on dresses can cause significant delays
  • packing up to leave the room causes a mad scramble
  • traffic delays you, your wedding party, or your vendors
  • entering and exiting vehicles takes time even for smaller wedding parties
  • finding nearby parking can be a challenge for everyone

And you really should be aware that no matter how well you plan, one or more of these issues can affect your wedding. But if you simply set aside the recommended amount of time in your schedule and I can help you overcome issues like those I've mentioned.

When all is said and done, final scheduling decisions are up to you and I'll work within whatever framework you provide, continuing to advise you in the best way I know how. In other words, I'll happily work within the constraints of your final schedule—even if that final plan doesn't align with my recommended ideal.

In order to have the best outcome on your wedding day, I recommend that you involve me early in your planning so that I can provide you with important information related to how certain choices might affect your wedding day. By providing me with early input, you may be able to avoid an occasional gotcha that might not be correctable as you get closer to your wedding date.

Plan for the Day

Please consider reading my thorough my extensive overview of wedding planning information. The time investment you make here will pay great dividends as you plan your wedding day. The times listed next to each of these segments represents the typical minimum amount of coverage needed.

Example Schedule

NoonPersonal Flowers Arrive
12:30 PMEveryone Makeup & Hair Ready
12:30 PMAttendants + Mother Start Getting Dressed
12:30 PMPhotography Begins
12:30 PMGet Dressed: Men (30 min); Women (60 min)
1:50 PMParent First Look (optional)
2:00 PMCouple's First Look
2:05 PMAttendants + Couple Portraits
3:00 PMCouple Alone Portraits
4:00 PMCouple Alone Portraits End
4:30 PMCeremony Begins
5:00 PMCeremony Ends
5:00 PMFamily Photos Begin
5:00 PMCocktail Hour Begins
5:30 PMFamily Photos End
6:00 PMGrand Entrance
6:05 PMFirst Dance
6:10 PMParent Dance #1
6:15 PMParent Dance #2
6:20 PMSalad Course
6:30 PMToasts
6:45 PMDinner Service Continues
8:00 PMCake Cutting
8:05 PMBouquet Toss
8:10 PMGarter Toss
8:15 PMDance Floor Opens

Other Considerations

This timeline presumes that your celebration occurs at a single location without any travel between locations. If travel is required, additional time in your schedule will be needed to account for the movement of you and your wedding party.

This timeline also presumes a 30-minute ceremony. If your ceremony is longer than 30 minutes, you'll need to account for that additional time in your schedule.

For Jewish celebrations, additional time before the ceremony will be needed for the Ketubah signing and more time will be needed after the ceremony and during the reception for other Jewish traditions including the yichud and the hora.

When these events occur at multiple locations, you'll also want to add the following time to your schedule between each separate location:

  • 5 minutes for finding / entering transportation
  • estimate time using Google then pad generously to address the unexpected
  • 5 minutes for exiting transportation

Additional Information

In addition to planning out your schedule, you should also consider the other factors that might affect your wedding day including your other wedding vendors.