Planning Your Ideal Wedding Day Timeline

Planning Resources

Planning an ideal wedding day timeline can be the key to a stress-free wedding. There are SOOO many different moving parts. And it’s like where the heck do you even begin! Once you nail down your date and your vendors the timeline is the next best place for you to start for your wedding planning, especially if you don’t have a wedding planner or coordinator. There’s obviously a LOT of people that need to be coordinate and be ON TIME for your day to run smoothly.

There are a couple of people that should definitely be involved with this process. You and your fianc√©, your planner or coordinator, and your photographer must all be on the same page and should be involved in this conversation. So, let’s discuss some things to consider when planning your wedding day timeline.

Seasons Dependent

The first thing to take into consideration is what season you’re getting married in. This is because during the summer the sunsets later in the day and the fall/winter the sunsets significantly earlier. This is why coordinating with your photographer is so so important because who doesn’t love those golden hour portraits?! If you do, then picking the right time for your ceremony along with everything else is super important.

I would say you’d want your ceremony to be about 2 to 3 hours before the sunsets. That way you have plenty of time to take pictures following the ceremony and can socialize with your guests. However, this is also assuming your ceremony won’t be longer than about 30 minutes. If you do plan it to be then you should definitely take that into consideration and plan accordingly.

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First Look

Deciding whether or not to have a first look can be a tricky thing. Check out this post to help you decide. There are definitely pros and cons to having one and not having one. But, you should 100% do what feels authentic to you.

Just briefly here are some things to consider. There are some definite positives to choosing a first look. You and your future Mr. or Mrs. get to have some alone time before all the chaos. Weddings can feel like a go go go type of day. And “sneaking” in some one on one time before you host all your family and friends can make the moment even more special.

Bridal party pictures can be done before the wedding even starts. This means that you can spend even more time with your guests and can socialize more during cocktail hour instead of posing for photos.

Some cons: There may not be that big shocker moment as you walk down the aisle. You also are “breaking” tradition which you may or may not care about.

Wedding Party Pics

Depending on if you choose to do a first look or not will determine the rest of the day. If you choose to not have one wedding party photos follow shortly after the ceremony along with family portraits and these can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. This depends on how many different combinations of family members you want in the photos and how well everyone can listen to directions

If you choose to have a first look. Then, you’ll have your bridal party pictures taken before the ceremony followed by the family portraits after the ceremony which will most likely cut that time in half.

Ceremony Start Time

Your ceremony should be at least 2 hours before sunset. Assuming your ceremony is 30 minutes this leaves 30 minutes for family and or wedding party portraits. 30 to 40 minutes for you to enjoy the cocktail hour. And then everyone can get settled in their seats and you can grab a plate of food quickly eat before you sneak away for those golden hour portraits.

2 hours gives you just enough time but if you want to be even more prepared with 2 1/2 or 3 because when things run behind you’ll be able to stay cool, calm, and collected. And notice I said WHEN not IF. Because things will definitely run off of schedule at one point. Considering things like this in your wedding day timeline can save you from feeling so overwhelmed and anxious on the big day.


Transitions are hard. They were hard when you were 5 and they’re still hard now. What do I mean by this? I mean getting you from your getting-ready place to the ceremony site. Transition. Going from the ceremony to pictures or cocktail hour. Transition. From dinner to speeches. Transition. And those are just a few of the transitions you’ll have on your wedding day.

Your wedding day is filled with so many different transitions it’s actually crazy. So, the best way to plan for them is to add an extra 10 to 15 minutes in between each one. This creates a buffer zone so when the wheels get off track they can get right back on. Your photographer will fully endorse, support, and insist that you take this extra time. This way your wedding day timeline can run as smoothly in real-time as it looks on paper.

Ideal Lighting

I touched briefly on this in the seasons and ceremony section. But, part of the reason this should be and will be a part of this conversation is that you want to take some BOMB pics right?! Ok well, let me let you in on a little secret do you know what can make or break a photo? The lighting.

Yea, that’s right something that seems so small can be a big deal. So, when planning your wedding day timeline. Making sure the time of the day you want those golden hour photos is set aside can make a huge difference. Your photographer 100% knows this and is probably already talking to you about it. And if they aren’t they should be.

The Ideal Wedding Day Timeline

Is there a perfect timeline for a wedding? Probably not. But, there is probably a near-perfect one for your wedding. It’s just a matter of you finding it. So, in case you’re feeling a bit lost click here to find two timelines one with a first look and one without. They’re a great starting place for planning your own!

I personally love to walk through this process with all of my clients and or their wedding planner to make sure that we’re all on the same page. One of my top priorities as a photographer is capturing all of the photos that you want me to and creating a smooth cohesive timeline is a part of that!

Hi I'm Torez, a die-hard romantic and San Francisco-based wedding photographer with years of experience capturing love stories against the backdrop of our charming city. From intimate City Hall ceremonies to epic coastal elopements, I've seen and photographed it all. I know the ins and outs of navigating wedding planning in San Francisco like the back of my hand - from selecting the perfect location that aligns with your love story, to creating the dreamiest wedding timeline that lets you enjoy your day to the fullest. And guess what? I'm sharing all of that expertise right here with you.

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