first look

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

reasons to do a first look.png

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