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Bride holding bouquet of white flowers

The Ultimate Wedding Timeline – With and Without a First Look


What is the key to creating an incredible wedding day timeline that will keep your day on track and smooth? Details, details, details!

The more organized you (along with your planner and wedding photographer) are leading up to the day, the more likely the day is going to go smoothly. Chances are, this is your first wedding — so relying on the professionals for timeline planning is critical. When I build your wedding timeline, I take all the information you give me and create a detailed timeline for each and every step of your wedding day.

Let’s take a look at the below two sample wedding timelines (with and without a first look) and to help highlight how to start thinking about the flow of your own wedding day. If you aren’t sure whether or not a first look is for you yet, check out this recent blog post.

Each and every wedding day is different. And especially in Pennsylvania, where every season will provide different lighting that you’ll want to take into account when planning your wedding day. These are the factors that I accounted for when creating these sample timelines:

  • Sunset time of 7:30 pm
  • Both the ceremony and reception are happening at the same venue


Based on our sunset time of 7:30 pm, we’re going to say that the ceremony is happening at 5:30 pm. Learn how we decided the ceremony time based on sunset.

1:00 pm: Photo Coverage begins with wedding detail photos

  • I typically spend about an hour on detail images alone.
  • I recommend setting aside no less than one hour for photos of your wedding dress, invitation suite, and rings. Stylizing your items takes time.

2:00 pm: Robe/pre-getting-dressed photos

  • These typically take only 5 minutes, but I like to plan for 15 minutes in the event that hair or makeup runs behind, or that there’s some running around to get champagne or missing people — which definitely happens!

2:15 pm: Parents and Wedding Party members should all go get dressed by this time; Photo Team documents the couple opening any cards, then they should brush teeth/use bathroom/prep to get dressed

  • This is a critical part of the timeline that can often be missed. Essentially, anyone that will be with you when you get into your dress or suit jacket, should already be dressed so that everyone looks polished in those “final prep” images.
  • For anyone with a Bride or Groom – anyone wearing a dress should be in that dress; anyone wearing pants for the day should get those on, plus collared shirt. Parents should be fully dressed if they’ll be present for the “final prep” images.
  • A reminder to anyone with the couple: there will be time during the first look for you to do final touches of your own! Being dressed and looking presentable is important, but you’ll have extra time to perfect your look after this point. Don’t be that friend/parent that holds up the couple from going to their first look on time.
Bride's wedding ring hand touching her white bouquet

2:30 pm: Getting Dressed

  • Brides get into dresses, Grooms begin to put their suits on.
  • 30 minutes can sound like a lot, but in the event that there is a button malfunction or something, you’ll want the extra time. This is NOT the time to add stress to running late.
  • Pro-tip: If you’re getting dressed off-site (i.e. at a hotel or a family home) be sure to account for travel time to the venue AS WELL AS time to transition into the suite and settle in before jumping right into the first look. That transition time can often be overlooked and could be the difference of rush versus relaxed portraits.

3:00 pm: First Look

  • The first look itself will literally take about 5 minutes, but you also have to factor in setting everyone up and time for the two of you to enjoy the moment before beginning portraits.

3:15 pm: Private B&G Portraits

  • This time can be abbreviated now and picked up again during cocktail hour, if necessary. I’ll occasionally recommend it, based on lighting and available shaded areas at your venue — the closer we are to sunset, the softer and nicer the lighting in your images.

4:00 pm: Wedding Party Portraits

  • Generally sufficient for average-sized wedding parties.

4:30 pm: Immediate Family Portraits

  • Sufficient timing for both families when there are no or few special circumstances (i.e. multiple family variations due to divorce, remarriage, or other situations).
  • Immediate family generally includes parents, siblings, any sibling spouses or children.
  • It’s most common for grandparents to arrive with an aunt/uncle for the ceremony time, but not beforehand (to avoid unnecessary waiting time). For that reason, I generally see photos with grandparents happen immediately after the ceremony.

5:00 pm: Couple freshens up for the ceremony; Photo Team photographs the wedding ceremony and reception setups

  • Many venue coordinators will ask that we’re done pre-ceremony portraits by 30 minutes prior to the ceremony starting, as this tends to be the time that guests begin to arrive.
  • When possible, I plan to end the pre-ceremony portraits 40 minutes prior to the ceremony. This gives us a 10-minute buffer if any family or wedding party photos were delayed for any reason — a missing brother or bridesmaid that forgot their bouquet inside sort of situations. If we don’t need the extra time for family/wedding party, it’s a bonus 10 minutes that we can use for your portraits or to relax with your friends and family!
Bride and Groom facing each other in maze garden at Appleford Estate


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Philadelphia Wedding Photographer