How To Create Your Wedding Day Timeline

June 20, 2022


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Making a weeding day timeline is an essential part of planning your wedding, and whether you’re creating a timeline yourself or working with a planner, it’s important to understand the critical elements of a wedding day timeline and why they’re so important.

Your wedding day vendors, including your planner, venue, DJ, photographer, videographer, caterer, baker, along with all your guests are all going to be relying on your timeline throughout the day, so it’s important to schedule everything ahead of time to help the day go as planned.

I know it can feel like an overwhelming task, but don’t fret. By following this guide, I can help you create a timeline that is straightforward, simple, and sure to make your day flow as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.

Every wedding is unique, and therefore there is no cookie-cutter approach to wedding timelines. But my timeline guide is a great example of how long traditional wedding day events typically take, and how to plan them around a 6pm sunset, but it’s imperative to take your particular wedding day details into consideration when creating your own wedding day timeline. These considerations should include things like your wedding location, particular venue restrictions, sunset, special events and overall size of the wedding.

I always recommend giving yourself more time than you think is necessary. It’s never a bad idea to add an additional 5-15 minute buffer between events that are likely to take longer, typically things like hair and makeup, wedding party photos and family photos.

One thing that is a given on any wedding day is that things are going to run behind. But by building in a little extra cushion in your timeline, there’s no reason to worry.


9:15am: Bride and Bridesmaids arrive at Beaulieu Garden Bridal Suite

9:30am: Hair and Makeup Artists arrive at Bridal Suite

10:30am: Groom’s Party arrives at Auberge du Soleil Groom’s Suite

11:30am: Vendors begin setup at Beaulieu Garden

11:30am: Photographer and Videographer arrive at Bridal Suite

12:30pm: Groomsmen travel to Beaulieu Garden

1pm: First Looks and Couples Portraits

1:45pm: Wedding Party Portraits

2:30pm: Family Portraits

3:30pm: Guests arrive at Beaulieu Garden

4:00pm: Ceremony Start Time on Invitations

4:15pm: Ceremony Begins

4:45pm: Cocktail Hour Begins

4:45pm-5:15pm: Couple’s Sunset Portraits

5:45pm: Reception Begins

5:50pm: Wedding Party Introduction

6:00pm: First Dances

6:15pm: Toasts

6:30pm: Dinner Served

8:30pm: Cake Cutting

8:45pm: Garter Toss and Bouquet Toss

10:00pm: Newlyweds Exit


Should I Do A First Look?

Deciding whether or not to do a first look is a very personal choice, but from strictly a photography perspective, I highly recommend it.

Some benefits of doing a first look are that you’ll be able to spend more time with your love on your wedding day. You’ll also be able to take more photos before the ceremony, then be able to attend cocktail hour, which couples and families often miss out on.

When Should We Do First Dances.. Toasts.. Tosses.. Cake Cutting..?

The timing of special events largely depends on your photo and video coverage. If you’re not planning to have your photographer and videographer stay until the very end of your event, you’ll want to fit in any special events before they’re scheduled to leave. Some couples choose to schedule these events back to back; i.e. grand entrance, straight into first dance, toasts then the cutting of the cake. Whether your dinner is plated or not, will also affect your reception events timeline.

Other benefits of doing evening events earlier in the reception, are that anyone giving speeches can relax, guests can enjoy their dinner sooner, and your night can flow into the dancing and partying portions easily and without interruptions.

You may find it helpful to reflect on other weddings you’ve attended and think about how you felt about the flow of their receptions.

When Should We Hold Our Ceremony?

Your ceremony time should depend primarily on the time of year you’re getting married, because sunset will be earlier or later in the day depending on the season.

During the winter months in California, the sun can set as early as 5:25pm, while in the summer, sunset is as late as 8:30pm. Golden hour, the best light for photos, is the hour before the sun sets. Keeping this in mind, your timeline might go one of two ways.

With a First Look: If you’re planning on doing a first look, you’ll want to schedule the first look about 2.5 hours before the ceremony begins. So, if you’re having a winter wedding and sunset is 5:30pm, you’ll would want to plan your first look for 1pm, followed by couples photos at 1:15pm, wedding party photos at 2pm, family photos at 2:45pm, and then having time nat 3:15 for hair and makeup touch-ups and time to rest and hide while guests begin to arrive. The ceremony would begin at 4:30pm, and during the cocktail hour, you would have some more time for couples sunset photos during the “golden hour” light.

No First Look: Assuming the same scenario as before, but this time without a first look, both sides of the wedding party photos can take place before the ceremony. The full wedding party, family formals, and couple’s photos would happen afterwards. This might look like your ceremony beginning at 3:30pm, followed by family photos at 4pm, wedding party photos at 4:30pm, and couples photos at 4:45pm.

How Many Hours of Photography Coverage do We Need?

Once again, no wedding is the same; and depending on the size of your wedding, unique wedding details, location (or locations), and wedding events, it may be necessary to allocate more or less time to your photographer. I always advocate working with your planner (if you have one) and your photographer when finalizing your wedding day timeline and determining your photo coverage needs.

I hope that this has been helpful to you! While there may be a typical flow for traditional weddings, ultimately, I want your to remember that this is your day and you should feel empowered to do what feels right for you.

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Photographer, Equestrian and Scuba Diver. Lover of Fashion, Art and Interior Design. Collector of Cookbooks. Creator of Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Travel Itineraries. Obsessed with Haute Restaurants and Hot Yoga.

When Elizabeth isn't photographing destination weddings, she's scuba diving (warm waters, if at all possible), riding her Iberian Warmblood, or spending time with her sweet family in Central California. She's just as good at planning menus as planning trips, and she makes a legendary pomegranate and rosemary baked brie. 



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Timeline guide

Planning your wedding day around the lighting, the venue and your wedding party is important to capturing the wedding images of your dreams. Use these recommended timelines as a guide to planning your day.


considering a first look

planning your wedding day details


 engagement session guide


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