How to write the

Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

Creating A Thoughtful & Realistic Timeline is the best way to enjoy & Savior every moment on your wedding day

Feeling rushed on your wedding day is the last thing we want! Our photography style is documentary, and we love to capture real moments as they unfold, but if everyone’s rushed & in a panic, those real moments aren’t going to happen as easily.

From our first inquiry call, we will discuss your vision for your wedding and the best timeline in order to capture all of the details that you have worked so hard to put together. We will also talk through those details about a month before your wedding when we finalize your timeline together. However, if you want to get a jump start on this planning, we are hoping to answer all of your questions about timelines, first looks & wedding traditions in this blog post so that you are equipped and knowledgeable about the timeline process and have all of the information as you make decisions about your wedding day!

Schedule an Inquiry Call

How much time do I need?

This is the first question we need to answer when we start to build our timeline. In this section, we will talk through a couple things to think about as you build out your timeline.

I like to arrive at the prep location just as the bride is finishing hair/makeup—that way, we can get a few photographs of the final touches. I’ll also photograph some flat-lays of your details (stationery, flowers, heirlooms, etc) so remember to gather everything together so that they’re ready for me to photograph when I get there! Either myself or my second shooter will photograph your partner’s prep.

I usually recommend allowing about 30 minutes for detail photos and then 30 minutes for getting ready photos including putting on your dress prior to starting any formal portraits.

Ceremony length totally depends! From my experience most wedding ceremonies are about 25-30 minutes long. A Catholic church mass typically lasts anywhere between an hour and a half to two hours.

The amount of time these take depends on size and family/group combinations. I recommend keeping the different combinations to a minimum—any more than 15 can start to eat into cocktail hour and/or the time we have set aside for couple portraits.

I prefer to do we the majority of wedding party photos prior to the ceremony so that all we have to take still are the whole bridal party portraits if you decide against a first look! However, if you decide to do these during your cocktail hour, I usually allot about 20 minutes for extended family and immediate family portraits and then 10 minutes for whole bridal party portraits (30 minutes total if we do some bridal party portraits before the ceremony).

I’ll take as much time as I can get with you two! But, I typically recommend setting aside about 30 minutes on your wedding day for couples portraits. I always like to steal you away at sunset for a few extra portraits if the light is right!

Things to consider when you are deciding how much time you want for these portraits is if you would like to go to a second location, if you are also going to take photos before the ceremony (after a first look) and if you want a large variety of photos or just a few to look back on.

The typical cocktail hour is an hour long, so that allows us to do 30 minutes of bridal party/family photos and 30 minutes of couple portraits with plenty of time to get the dress bustled & you ready for your grand entrance, however, depending on these other factors you might want to consider a longer cocktail hour.

I typically recommend hiring me for about an hour of open dancing in order to get a good amount of variety of people dancing & having a good time! If you’re doing a big exit at the end, consider doing a smaller “faux” exit I can photograph, so you’re not paying for extra photography time that you don’t really need!

Black Canyon Inn Wedding - Estes Park Colorado - Antoinette Smith Photography

The Big Question

Should we do a first look?

First looks are one of my favorite modern wedding day trends — for a few reasons! A first look allows you to spend more time with your partner on the morning of your wedding day, instead of waiting until the ceremony to see them. You can take this time to read letters to each other, or simply just breathe, embrace, and take a quiet moment to yourselves.

From a photography perspective, doing a first look allows us to take photos before the ceremony, leaving you to enjoy most of your cocktail hour instead of having to cram ALL of our photos (wedding party, family, & you two) into a single hour.

A common fear I hear from couples is that if they do a first look, their partner won’t be emotional when they walk down the aisle later on — and I’ve found this to be the total opposite! Nothing can take away from seeing your person walk down the aisle to a beautiful song, with all of your friends & family surrounding you. I’ve seen many brides/grooms still tear up walking down the aisle even after doing a first look earlier in the day!

With that said — I never want you to feel pressured into making a decision for your wedding day that doesn’t feel right to you. I’ve photographed weddings with and without first looks, and at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you’re happy with whatever you decide!

Black Canyon Inn Wedding - Estes Park Colorado - Antoinette Smith Photography
Black Canyon Inn Wedding - Estes Park Colorado - Antoinette Smith Photography

Sample Timelines

01

6 Hours (Without a First Look)

Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Maecenas faucibus mollis interdum.

  • 2:30pm Photography Coverage Begins
  • 2:30pm Getting Ready Photos (Final Touches)
  • 2:45pm Bride Puts on Dress
  • 3:00pm Bridesmaid Photos
  • 3:30pm Groomsmen Photos
  • 4:00pm Pre-Ceremony
  • 4:30pm Ceremony
  • 5:00pm Immediate & Extended Family Photos
  • 5:20pm Bridal Party Portraits
  • 5:30pm Couple Portraits
  • 5:55pm Bustle Dress
  • 6:00pm Grand Entrance to Reception
  • 7:00pm Toasts
  • 7:20pm Cake Cutting
  • 7:30pm Formal Dances
  • 7:45pm Dance Floor opens
  • 8:15pm Sunset Photos
  • 8:30pm Coverage Ends
02

7 Hours (Without a First Look)

Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Maecenas faucibus mollis interdum.

  • 2:00pm Photography Coverage Begins
  • 2:00pm Detail Photos
  • 2:30pm Getting Ready Photos (Final Touches)
  • 2:45pm Bride Puts on Dress
  • 3:00pm First Look with Dad
  • 3:10pm Bridesmaid Photos
  • 3:40pm Groomsmen Photos
  • 4:00pm Pre-Ceremony
  • 4:30pm Ceremony
  • 5:00pm Immediate & Extended Family Photos
  • 5:20pm Bridal Party Portraits
  • 5:30pm Couple Portraits
  • 5:55pm Bustle Dress
  • 6:00pm Grand Entrance to Reception
  • 7:00pm Toasts
  • 7:20pm Cake Cutting
  • 7:30pm Formal Dances
  • 7:45pm Dance Floor opens
  • 8:15pm Sunset Photos
  • 9:00pm Coverage Ends
03

7 Hours (With a First Look)

bride and groom dancing outside colorado wedding photography

Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Maecenas faucibus mollis interdum.

  • 2:00pm Photography Coverage Begins
  • 2:00pm Detail Photos
  • 2:30pm Getting Ready Photos (Final Touches)
  • 2:45pm Bride Puts on Dress
  • 3:00pm First Look with Dad
  • 3:10pm First Look with Groom & some Couple Photos
  • 3:30pm Bridal Party Portraits
  • 4:00pm Pre-Ceremony
  • 4:30pm Ceremony
  • 5:00pm Immediate & Extended Family Photos
  • 5:20pm Couple Portraits
  • 5:50pm Bustle Dress
  • 6:00pm Grand Entrance to Reception
  • 7:00pm Toasts
  • 7:20pm Cake Cutting
  • 7:30pm Formal Dances
  • 7:45pm Dance Floor opens
  • 8:15pm Sunset Photos
  • 9:00pm Coverage Ends
04

8 Hours (With a First Look)

Maecenas sed diam eget risus varius blandit sit amet non magna. Maecenas faucibus mollis interdum.

  • 1:30pm Photography Coverage Begins
  • 1:30pm Detail Photos
  • 2:00pm Getting Ready Photos (Final Touches)
  • 2:20pm Bride Puts on Dress
  • 2:40pm First Look with Dad
  • 2:50pm First Look with Groom & some Couple Photos
  • 3:20pm Bridal Party Portraits
  • 4:00pm Pre-Ceremony
  • 4:30pm Ceremony
  • 5:00pm Immediate & Extended Family Photos
  • 5:20pm Couple Portraits
  • 5:50pm Bustle Dress
  • 6:00pm Grand Entrance to Reception
  • 7:00pm Toasts
  • 7:20pm Cake Cutting
  • 7:30pm Formal Dances
  • 7:45pm Dance Floor opens
  • 8:15pm Sunset Photos
  • 9:15pm Exit
  • 9:30pm Coverage Ends

Ready to create the perfect timeline together?

My favorite part of photography is the relationship that we are able to build with our clients- we love that we get to help as you plan your big day.

Our booking process includes an inquiry call or coffee date where we will discuss what you are hoping for photography wise and then create a custom package and timeline together. Fill out our contact form to book a call or get a coffee date on our calendar!