You’ve been dreaming about your wedding day for years. All the intricate details swirl in your head – the flowers, the cake, your dress. Yet often overlooked is the wedding day timeline, which sets the entire tempo of your big day.

As a Georgia wedding photographer, I’ve witnessed many timelines. The good, the bad, and the completely disastrous. Take it from me – a solid timeline makes all the difference.

Trust me, the timeline makes or breaks your wedding day. A strategic schedule ensures everything flows smoothly so you get to savor every moment. And when you’ve invested in professional photography, you want to maximize those photo ops!

Here’s my foolproof guide to creating the perfect wedding day timeline with photography as the priority. Follow these steps, and I guarantee you’ll get the most out of your time and money while keeping your stress at bay.

Groom holds brides chin at wedding ceremony site

How To Create A Wedding Day Timeline

Creating the perfect wedding day timeline requires some strategic planning, but following a few key steps and asking yourself a few questions will ensure everything flows smoothly so you can relax and savor every moment. Below are a few things to think about while planning your big day.

Should You Do A First Look?

The most important first decision is whether or not to incorporate a “first look.” This is a private moment before the ceremony for just the two of you to see each other for the first time on your wedding day.

Many couples are against the idea at first. It goes against tradition, and there’s the fear it could “ruin” that aisle moment.

But I’m here to debunk those myths! After photographing countless first looks, I’ve only ever seen them enhance the entire wedding experience. Those aisle jitters melt away, allowing you to truly be present for the ceremony. And the private time together is the only real alone time you’ll get all day.

I always recommend first looks because:

  • You capture more romantic portraits with optimal lighting. If you wait until after the ceremony, you risk missing magic hour and having less time.
  • Seeing each other earlier calms nerves so you can really be present during vows.
  • You can take more photos ahead of time and join cocktail hour.
  • This helps with a rain backup plan. If it starts raining during the day before your ceremony, you may have a second chance to take outdoor photos after the ceremony.

There are creative ways to craft a first look that still feels special, like wearing a veil or not looking directly at each other at first. Most grooms cry twice – during the first look and again seeing their bride walk down the aisle!

So consider breaking from tradition for an intimate first look – you won’t regret it!

Choose Ceremony Time Based on Sunset

Once you decide on the first look, next choose your ceremony start time. The best way is to base it around sunset at your venue.

Google the exact sunset time for your location and date. For example “sunset in Atlanta, GA on September 3rd, 2024”. Then double check how the natural light looks at that time using Google Earth’s handy interactive sunset feature.

For ideal photography light, have your ceremony about 1-2 hours before the area gets shaded from the setting sun. Any earlier and photos may appear too harsh and squinty.

Consider the area you are getting married at. If there are mountains or trees this will cause an earlier shadow and you will lose light faster. If this is the case, set an earlier start time.

Leave Room for a Cocktail Hour

After sorting ceremony time, decide if you’d like a cocktail hour. This is a buffer block between the ceremony and reception when guests mingle as you take photos.

If you skip the first look, a cocktail hour is a must to keep guests relaxed and entertained. But I recommend one either way! They’re fun for incorporating your wedding style through unique drinks and food. I suggest giving yourself about 1.5 hours for cocktail hour.

Decide How Many Photography Hours Are Needed

Next assess how many hours of photography you need. Most couples underestimate this. Planning for every portion you want photographed adds up quickly!

When planning coverage time, budget for:

  • Bridal/groom prep: 1 hr
  • Portraits: 60 min
  • First look and Couple photos: 30-60 min
  • Pre-ceremony bridal/groom party shots: 60 min
  • Ceremony: 30 min
  • Post-ceremony family photos: 30 min
  • Reception events: 3+ hours

That’s a total of 8-10 hours to fully document your day. Book at least an 8-hour package to check all the boxes.

From getting ready through the grand exit, the average wedding requires 8-10 hours of photography. If having photos that tells the story of your wedding day is important, don’t skimp on coverage time.

Map Out Your Wedding Day Timeline

Armed with all these decisions, you’re ready to map your timeline! Place ceremony start time first, then work backward.

Leave ample time for photography at every major event – getting ready, first look, family formals, reception events. Things nearly always take longer than expected.

Bonus points for adding in buffer time to handle any hiccups. Trust me, something inevitably veers off schedule, despite the best laid plans.

And voila – you now have all the tools for crafting a stress-free, photography optimized wedding timeline! Let me know if you have any other questions. Now relax and let your perfectly planned timeline work its magic so you can fully soak up every precious moment.

Luxury Georgia Wedding Photographer

Looking for an Georgia wedding photographer to capture your special day? I’d love to be considered. Helping my couples plan their ultimate wedding day is one of my specialties. Contact me to start your planning process.

Let’s make it official! 

Here’s to capturing life’s next step