Wedding Day Timelines - Amanda Cromer

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amanda cromer

Phoenix Wedding Photographer

Wedding Day Timelines

Sunset Photos, Husband and Wife pictures, Blue Suit, Desert Wedding Pictures, Wedding Day Timeline, Wedding Shoes, Baby Blue Bridesmaid Dress, Wedding Rings

How to build a wedding day timeline

When it comes to wedding day timelines, the possibilities are endless!  Although planning a wedding is exciting, let’s be real -it can be overwhelming at times. My hope in sharing these tips with you is that it will eliminate some of that stress.  So, what’s important to know when deciding your timeline?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  

  • Are you going to do a first look?  This will determine A LOT.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, a first look is where you see each other before the ceremony.  They’re great if you aren’t set on tradition and actually give you 60% more portraits!  If you’re doing a first look you can get the majority of your pictures done before the ceremony and it will allow you to join cocktail hour – and who doesn’t LOVE cocktail hour!!  I like to format my timeline in this way:  first look, portraits of the two of you together, portraits of the two of you individually, wedding party, family formals, and then give you 30 minutes to hide, rest and retouch makeup before the ceremony.  This allows me time to photograph your ceremony untouched and makes sure no one sees you before its time.  If you’re not doing a first look, make sure you allow at least 90 minutes after the ceremony – I like to call this an extended cocktail hour – to get the rest of your pictures taken.  Generally speaking, your photographer will need 20-30 minutes for family formals, 30 minutes for the wedding party, and 30 minutes for just married portraits of the two of you.  
  • Sunset (or sunrise if you’re having a morning wedding).  An easy way to find this is by searching “sunset time, wedding city and state, wedding date”.  Keep in mind if you are close to mountains the sunset may actually be 30-40 minutes earlier than what is stated online.  If you’re having an outdoor ceremony and are sharing a first look you can schedule your ceremony time to start anywhere from 30-60 minutes before sunset time for the best lighting.  If you’re not sharing a first look make sure you set your ceremony for at least 2 hours before sunset. Click HERE to view your sunset time.
  • Hair and make-up.  If there is one thing that will throw off a schedule it’s this.  Make sure whoever you’re hiring has a schedule and can stick to it.  It’s always smart to do a trial run before the big day – and not on the big day.  You want to make sure you schedule hair and make-up to start two hours before you think you need to and if you have a large wedding party, make sure you have more than one hair and make-up person.  Giving yourself enough time in the morning is KEY!  If you’re done early not only do you have less stress, but it allows you time to relax and enjoy some time with your girls! 
  • Prepare all your details that will be photographed the night before.  Some of my favorite things to photograph are invitation suites (set aside 2 full invitation suites – this includes the envelopes), all 3 rings (your engagement ring, your wedding band, and your fiancé’s ring), earrings, necklace, bracelets, perfume, anything borrowed and blue, anything with sentimental value, your shoes, veil, and your dress.  Also, make sure you bring a wooden hanger or a special hanger for your dress.  You can save space in your getting ready room if you place all of these details in a box or bag and place them in your dress bag.  It also ensures you don’t forget them!  If you plan on steaming your dress, make sure you do it the day before.  If you can’t do it the day before – please assign someone to do it FOR YOU the morning of WHILE you’re getting your hair and makeup done.
  • Travel Time.  Are you getting ready at a different location than your ceremony?  Is your ceremony location at a different spot than your reception?  All these factors into your timeline.  Make sure you add a buffer (10 minutes) to the travel time in case an unforeseen issue arises.  If the travel time is large (an hour or more) make sure to find out if you need to add an additional hour of photography coverage to your contract that way all your moments are still able to be captured. 
  • Day of Coordinators are a gift from God Himself!  They keep all vendors on time and ensure the day runs smoothly. They also take care of any and all hiccups that happen such as issues with your bouquet, taking care of beauty needs (i.e. running to target to get the correct lip color or extra deodorant.)  Providing flip flops for you to wear because you forgot to bring them and didn’t realize how much heels SUCK, buying extra champagne because who REALLY knows how many mimosas you’ll drink in the morning, etc. I’ve done all these things at weddings and it eats away your photo time.  If you can’t afford a day of planner look to a trusted friend or extended family member who is happy to help.   I always suggest keeping it out of the immediate family and wedding party so you’re not trying to hunt anyone down for photos.  

Below is how much time I like to allow for photos throughout the day.  Keep in mind this may be different for each vendor.

  1. Bridal Details and Hair and Make-up: 45-60 minutes
  2. Getting Dressed: 45 minutes
  3. First Look: 30 minutes (Includes time to set up and walk to)
  4. Couples Portraits and Individuals – 30 minutes
  5. Wedding Party (Group, Bride with Bridesmaids, Groom with Groomsmen): 30 minutes
  6. Immediate Family Photos: 30 minutes
  7. Ceremony (and if possible reception) Decor: 30 minutes
  8. Wedding Ceremony: 30 minutes
  9. Just Married Portraits: 30 minutes
  10. Reception Details and Cocktail Hour: 30 minutes
  11. Reception: 120 minutes

Timeline Examples

**Ceremony: 5:30pm Sunset 7:00pm**

  • 1:15 – 2:00 Photograph Bride’s Details and Final Touches of Hair & Makeup 
  • 2:00 – 2:45 Photographs Getting Dressed
  • 2:45 – 3:00 Walk to First Look
  • 3:00 – 3:15 First Look
  • 3:15 – 3:45 Bride & Groom Portraits &  Individuals
  • 3:45 – 4:00 Bride with Bridesmaids
  • 4:00 – 4:15 Full Bridal Party
  • 4:15 – 4:30 Groom with Groomsmen
  • 4:30 – 5:00Immediate Family Photos
  • 5:00 – 5:30 Photograph Ceremony Location Bride & Groom Hide & Retouch
  •  5:30 – 6:00 Wedding Ceremony
  • 6:00 – 6:30 Just Married Portraits
  • 6:30 – 7:00 Photograph Cocktail Hour & Reception Details
  • 7:00 Sunset 
  • 7:00 – 7:15 Guests Seated & Grand Entrances 
  • 7:15 – 9:15 Photograph Reception

If you were to be getting ready at one location and your reception is at a different location than your ceremony, you’ll want to make sure to factor in that time.

**Ceremony: 5:00pm Sunset: 7:00pm

  • 1:45 – 2:30 Photograph Bride’s Details and Final Touches of Hair & Makeup
  • 2:30 – 3:15 Photograph Bride Getting Dressed
  • 3:15 – 3:30 Bride Portraits
  • 3:30 – 3:45 Bride with Bridesmaids
  • 3:45 – 4:00 Bride with Her Family 
  • 4:00 – 4:15 Groom Individuals & Groom with Groomsmen
  • 4:15 – 4:30 Groom with His Family
  • 4:30 – 5:00 Photograph Ceremony Location Bride & Groom Hide & Retouch
  • 5:00 – 5:30 Wedding Ceremony
  • 5:30 – 5:45 Full Bridal Party
  • 5:45 – 6:00 Immediate Family Portraits with Bride & Groom
  • 6:00 – 6:30 Husband & Wife Sunset Portraits
  • 6:30 – 7:00 Photograph Cocktail Hour & Reception Decor
  • 7:00 Sunset 
  • 7:00 – 7:15 Guests Seated & Grand Entrances
  • 7:15 – 9:45 Photograph Reception

With this timeline, you can see that setting the ceremony time 30 minutes earlier than the previous timeline, it allows everything to flow easily.  If you keep the ceremony at 5:30 pm you most likely won’t be able to enjoy cocktail hour because you’ll be taking your just married pictures.

Here is a timeline for a Catholic Mass Ceremony which includes 3 locations for the wedding day:

**Ceremony: 2:00pm Sunset 5:00pm

  • 9:15 – 10:00 Photograph Bride’s Details and Final Touches of Hair & Makeup
  • 10:00 – 11:15 Photograph Getting Dressed
  • 11:15 – 11:30 Walk to First Look
  • 11:30 – 11:45 First Look
  • 11:45 – 12:15 Bride & Groom Portraits &
    • Bride & Groom Individuals
  • 12:15 – 12:30 Bride with Bridesmaids
  • 12:30 – 12:45 Full Bridal Party
  • 12:45 – 1:00 Groom with Groomsmen
  • 1:00 – 1:30 Drive to Ceremony Location
  • 1:30 – 2:00 Photograph Ceremony Location Bride & Groom Hide & Retouch
  • 2:00 – 3:00 Wedding Ceremony
  • 3:00 – 3:30 Drive to Reception Location
  • 3:30 – 4:00 Immediate Family Photos 
  • 4:00 – 4:30Husband & Wife Sunset Portraits
  • 4:30 – 5:00 Photograph Cocktail Hour & Reception Decor
  • 5:00 Sunset 
  • 5:00 – 5:15 Guests Seated & Grand Entrances 
  • 5:15 – 7:45 Photograph Reception

Here is a timeline for a Jewish Ceremony with a late sunset:

**Ceremony: 7:00pm Sunset: 7:00pm

  • 2:00 – 2:45 Photograph Bride’s Details and Final Touches of Hair & Makeup
  • 2:45 – 3:30 Photograph Getting Ready
  • 3:30 – 3:45 Walk to First Look
  • 3:45 – 4:00 First Look
  • 4:00 – 4:30 Bride & Groom Portraits
    • Bride & Groom Individuals
  • 4:30 – 4:45 Bride with Bridesmaids
  • 4:45 – 5:00 Full Bridal Party
  • 5:00 – 5:15 Groom with Groomsmen
  • 5:15 – 5:45 Immediate Family Photos
  • 5:45 – 6:00 Ketubah Signing
  • 6:00 – 6:30 Just Married Sunset Portraits
  • 6:30 – 7:00 Photograph Ceremony Location Bride & Groom Hide & Retouch
  • 7:00 Sunset 
  • 7:00 – 7:30 Wedding Ceremony
  • 7:30 – 8:30 Photograph Cocktail Hour & Reception Decor
  • 8:30 – 10:00 Photograph Reception

Since traditional Jewish Saturday ceremonies happen at or after sunset, I need to do the husband and wife sunset portraits before the wedding ceremony. I like doing the Ketubah signing first so that we can do their husband and wife portraits as close to sunset (as possible) while still giving them a chance to hide and retouch before their guests start arriving. I hope these timeline suggestions help ease some planning stress.  Just remember to relax! You’ve been planning this day for MONTHS!! ENJOY IT! I hope these tips are helpful to you while you plan your wedding day timeline!  Xo 

If you’d like to see a few of my favorite weddings with these timelines check out Erin & John, Shelby & Wyatt, Laura & Rich, Hannah & Nathan

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Amanda Cromer is an Arizona Wedding Photographer and Arizona Engagement Photographer and Arizona Elopement Photographer most commonly servicing weddings at The Windmill Winery, Verrado Golf Club, and other cities including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Peoria, Glendale, Surprise, Buckeye, Florence, Gilbert, Chandler, Cave Creek, Sedona, Flagstaff and Mesa.