How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

how to create wedding day timeline

The dress slips over your head and the tulle catches the breeze, billowing a little as it falls around you. Your Mom steps up behind you to help with your zipper as the room seems to hold its breath. 

You're fastened in and look around at your closest friends who smile, clap their hands and let out a collective “YAY!”. You can't believe you're one step closer to marrying your love!

Peeking at the clock, you realize there's 30 minutes to spare so you sip your mimosa, relax, and mentally thank Shannon for posting that timeline advice. *winkwink*

One of the easiest ways to ensure you start the day off right is really just a little preparation. If you don’t have a wedding planner, ask your photographer if they’ll make you a timeline. It provides a general outline of where you need to be and when. This is something I provide to all my clients and is essential in keeping everyone on the same page. Read on for my handy guide in prepping your timeline!




This portion of the day really sets the tone for everything. Allowing ample time to get ready will keep you refreshed and happy. I mean, how often do you get hair and makeup done professionally?! Treat yourself! You’ll also be able to have proper time to collect yourself and make it to your First Look/Ceremony with time to spare. Let’s call this extra time your “sanity cushion”. :)

Hair and makeup can run late so take the estimated time that your artist gives you and double it. If it goes over, you're covered and, if not, you have extra time to play with! Make sure that you’re not being done last, also. This ensures that you’ll be ready when you need to be and feeling great for when your photographer arrives!

The guys are quicker to get ready (lucky!) so this is normally around 30 minutes. Keep in mind, you should add an extra half hour if you’re doing a First Look.

CEREMONY | 30 min - 1.5 hr

The length of your ceremony can vary greatly depending on your personal and religious choices. You may want a short and sweet vow exchange, barefoot in a garden or a more traditional full church mass, complete with receiving line. Work with the person officiating your Ceremony to get an estimated time for this and factor it into your timeline.


ALL PORTRAITS | 1.5-3 hrs

The Wedding Party portrait time varies depending on the size of your party. On average, this takes about 30 minutes for group photos and breakdowns. Once these are done, your people can go relax while your photographer whisks you both away for at least 30 minutes. Try to really enjoy this part, trust your photographer, and cozy up to your love. Newlywed portraits work double duty by providing you with some much needed “alone time” on your wedding day! If either of you are camera shy, consider adding a little extra “warm up” time.

RECEPTION | 2-6+ hrs

The announcements, first dances, tearful toasts and wild dance floor. All these moments are what make your celebration unique to you and should be captured for posterity! I generally recommend ending photography coverage about 1-2 hours into the “dance party”. After that it can get a bit redundant, anyways, and people tend to get more drunk/sweaty! Unless you have an epic send-off or are planning something special like sparklers or a bonfire, your photographer doesn’t necessarily need to stay until the end.



  • Tell people to arrive to a location 30 minutes early if they’re prone to be late.

  • Look up travel times between locations and double it to account for traffic.

  • Designate a “point person” (or two) to help gather family for formals and to generally lend a hand and help keep you worry-free. They won’t mind, promise.

  • Arrive at Ceremony site 30 minutes early to tuck away from guests.

  • Your reception timeline should match up with photography end time. If there are discrepancies, consider adding time or rearranging events slightly.

  • The two hours before sunset makes for the best portrait lighting! Take advantage by popping out of your reception for a bit with your photographer.


Hopefully this is helpful in planning your wedding day!

If you have any questions or tips to add, feel free to leave them in the comments. Happy planning!

Want me to photograph your wedding? Send a message! 

xx Shannon

Reasons to do a First Look

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If you're considering doing a "First Look" on your wedding day (ie; seeing each other before the Ceremony), you're definitely not alone. This recent movement has been popping up in most of the weddings I photograph and for really good reasons. As a wedding photographer, I get asked my opinion on this all the time so I wanted to compile my answers into a post for anyone who is curious about what the perks are.


He turns to see you as you walk up to him in all your wedding day glory. Your eyes lock and you rush up to meet him excitedly. When you opt for a First Look, you can actually soak in this emotional moment for longer. Your photographer hangs back and you have the freedom to remark on how great each other looks, hug, kiss, and generally just revel in each other's gorgeousness. Once you're ready to proceed with portraits, you simply let your photographer know and you're on your way.


As someone who opted to see her groom before the ceremony, I can tell you from experience that it does not take away from that walking down the aisle moment. Nothing could. It's the most real AND surreal moment of your life and it's absolutely wonderful. If anything, having a First Look means you get to live this twice.



Emotions run high on a wedding day and sometimes that can leave you feeling a bit stressed. Being able to see your love before the ceremony can help calm your nerves and remind you what all this wedding stuff is about! Plus, hugs raise serotonin levels which are guaranteed to make you feel happier and more relaxed! It's science.


When things run late on a wedding day, the first thing to get cut is your portrait time. Suddenly you're rushed and your photos end up looking forced because you're worried about time. Doing all the formal photos after the First Look is highly recommended to avoid this. I’ve photographed a wedding where the grandparents got stuck in traffic and caused the ceremony to start over an hour late. If we hadn’t done the formal photos ahead of time, it would have been a nightmare. The objective is to alleviate any potential stressors that can crop up which helps ensure your day is enjoyable, you're not being rushed and your smiles are authentic and natural.


When you get the majority of your portraits done prior to the ceremony, you can make it to your cocktail hour! This is great because you can greet everyone and actually be a part of the party from the jump. Plus, cocktails! And since you have a chance to greet and thank guests early, during the reception you can sit down and enjoy your dinner while it's still hot. You’re going to need that fuel for your dance party.

For the reasons stated above, it definitely WAS for me and my husband! We wanted a laid back wedding with plenty of time for us to spend with our guests (we had a 2-hour cocktail hour but that's a tale for a different time!) so it was perfect. With all that being said, having a First Look isn't for everyone and no photographer should pressure you to do something you're not comfortable with.

What are your thoughts on First Looks? Let me know in the comments!

Getting married? Click here to inquire about your date!

xx, Shannon

Top 10 Tips For a Stress Free Wedding

There’s nothing sadder than seeing a person on their wedding day who is stressed to the max. With so many moving parts, it’s easy for a detail to go awry but that’s no reason to fret! After a decade of working with happy couples, I’ve picked up a tip (or 10!) that can help your day run smooth like silk!

Hire a Planner

There are so many moving parts during wedding planning that having a pro to guide you through the process is worth its weight in gold. Not only do they help you plan but they’re on site the day of to make sure your day is perfect. Not having to worry about anything other than getting married is priceless!

Trust in Your Pros

You’ve done your research, hired your dream team, and still have a lot of decisions to make. What time is best for photos? What music will pack the dance floor? For these and any other question you can think of, there’s a vendor to help you. We are honored to give insight and help you plan your day. Ask your pros for advice along the way and the day of you can sit back and know your people have set you up for success!

Identify Your Top 3

Fallen into a Pinterest black hole and feeling overwhelm at all the cute ideas out there? Save your sanity (and your credit cards) by chatting with your partner about what matters most to you. Stay on track and in budget by splurging on your top 3 priorities and making quicker decisions on the others.

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Limit the DIY

When planning your wedding, you should get very comfortable asking for and accepting help from your people. It’s tempting to tack on to dos but that year to plan goes quicker than you think. Sure a night with your ladies drinking wine and dying fabrics sounds like a blast, just keep it simple. Only take to task the projects that you know won’t stress you out and let someone else do the others.


You may be sensing a trend here but this wedding tip still deserves its own point! When in doubt, cut it out. Keep the guest list exclusive, opt for an easy dress to bustle, and have the entire event at one venue. By streamlining the logistics of your day, your entire experience will be easy, breezy, beautiful.

Cultivate Positivity

Surround yourself with all the best people. Invite your kindest and funniest friends to be in the wedding party. When something goes awry, they’ll be there before you even know it happened. Everyone takes their cues from you so keep it light, don’t sweat the small stuff, and love on your support system. As long as you end the day married, that’s all that truly matters.

Prep for Family Photos

There’s nothing more annoying than having everyone together and ready to take a photo when someone yells out, “WAIT! Where’s Uncle Tommy?!”. Then the manhunt ensues and valuable time ticks away while you stand there helpless. Coordinate ahead of time with everyone who will be in formal photos and assign someone from each family to help make sure everyone is where they should be. Less time chasing people down means more time for you to sip celebratory cocktails.


Prioritize Self Care

Stress tends to pop up unexpectedly and you’re better able to shut it down when you’re at 100%. Nourish yourself, move your body, and take time to just be. Go on a date and agree to not talk about the wedding. Don’t let it take over your life at the expense of your health. Oh yeah, and make sure you stay well hydrated and get good sleep the night before. You’ll feel (and look) your best!

Consider a First Look

On the fence about seeing each other before the ceremony? In my experience, this modern tradition is practical and, oh, so romantic. On a day when you’re pulled a million different directions, a little extra time alone together is exactly what the Dr. ordered.

Maintain Perspective

Yes it’s a huge deal and one of the happiest days in your life, but it’s not the last. This new chapter is part of a bigger story that is your love and it could never be summed up into one day. Try to remember this if things don’t turn out quite like you had expected. When you keep your perspective, you’ll have the best day possible and will start your marriage off on the right foot.

xx Shannon

Have a great tip to add to these here? Jump into the comments below and share!

SGP Housewarming!

Welcome to the new wedding website for Shannon Grant Photography!

After using the same diy branding for the past decade, it was high time to retire it and call in the experts. With much soul searching and help from some talented women, this new home was created and is a perfect representation of the heart of this business.

To celebrate this exciting milestone and because everything is better with gifts, we’ve partnered with some of our favorite brands for 4 days of giveaways!

To enter, follow the directions under the prize you’d like to win and check back here the following day to see if you’ve won. Easy peasy!


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Our friend at Romanticist Studios is gifting this set of 3 pinch dishes from Notary ($50 value) that are almost too darling to give away! Use them to hold your rings, as props for photos, or to hold spices for cooking. These small dishes are made by hand using locally sourced clay from Portland, Oregon and will make a lovely addition to your collection!


  1. Follow both @theshannongrant and @shopromanticist on Instagram

  2. Post or story about this giveaway today (12/29) and use the hashtag #SGPhousewarming

  3. Come back here tomorrow to view the winner!!!




Craft beer, comfort food, and regional cheeses…need I say more? This is my husband and I’s favorite restaurant and we even went there for a snack on our wedding day after the First Look! That’s love, people.


  1. Leave your all time favorite cheese in the comments below

  2. Check back tomorrow, 12/31, at 9pm to see if you won!

  3. Bring me with you. ;)




This planner is the best. Define your big dreams, create the road maps, and schedule them into the year. It sounds so simple but it never clicked for me until I used this. Give your goals a major leg up in 2019 with the Passion Planner!


  1. Leave one goal you’d like to accomplish for 2019 in the comments below!

  2. Check back tomorrow, 1/1, at 9pm to see if you won.

  3. Happy New Year!!!



Upgrade your photo styling and/or gift wrapping with these heavenly hand dyed silk ribbons from Frou Frou Chic!


  1. Leave the best gift you’ve ever received in the comments.

  2. Check back tomorrow, 1/4 @ 9pm, to see if you won!

UPDATE: ALEXANDRA YOU WON! Email me at to claim.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck!!!

xx Shannon