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Wedding Schedule Tips

Here's the definitive wedding photographer guide to wedding-day scheduling.

Introduction to Wedding Planning

Scheduling

Wedding planners, coordinators, and family members often have preferred times 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.

"Help me, help you." - Jerry Maguire

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 avoiding unpleasant wedding-day surprises. As Tom Cruise's character proclaimed in Jerry Maguire, "Help me, help you."

Wedding Day Challenges

Know that your schedule is unlikely to survive the day. In other words, at many weddings I photograph, the timeline 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 take longer than expected to get dressed
  • buttoning buttons or lacing dress laces causes delays
  • packing up to leave the room is 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

No matter how well you plan, one or more of these issues can affect your wedding. But if you set aside the recommended amount of time in your schedule, that will help you overcome issues like those I've mentioned.

Final scheduling decisions are up to you and I'll work within whatever framework you provide, even if that final plan doesn't align with my recommended ideal.

For the best wedding-day outcome, please involve me early in your planning so I can provide you with important information about how your choices might affect your wedding day. When you ask me for early input, you may avoid occasional gotchas that might not be correctable as you get closer to your wedding date.

Wedding-day Plan

Schedule planning will pay dividends on your wedding day. The times listed next to each segment represents the typical photography 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 travel between locations. If travel is required, additional time is needed 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, account for that additional time in your schedule.

For Jewish celebrations, additional time before the ceremony will be needed for the Ketubah signing. More time will also 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 and pad generously for the unexpected
  • 5 minutes for parking and 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.