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How to Create a Stress-Free Wedding Timeline

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

One of the top questions that we hear from Joy couples is, “How do I plan my wedding timeline to make sure we don’t run out of time for the best photos and video shots?”

We have supported weddings across the great state of Texas and have experienced a variety of wedding timelines. There are so many different approaches that you can take when creating a breakdown of the events on the big day!

Before you start to get overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone and there are great resources and support from wedding professionals available to help you think this through.

Tiffany Bias from the WNBA weds Tyler Patmon from the NFL in Dallas, Texas

What’s most important to keep in mind as you begin to build the timeline: make sure you are rested when the day begins, and that you have time to breathe when moving from one activity to the next.

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is packing the day too tight. You don’t want to become worn out or overly focused on going from one task to the next. Not only will this take away from enjoying and being present in the moment, but this will show in your photos!

Remember: You may need to take a few moments for an extra snack after the mimosas. There may be traffic when traveling from your getting ready spot to the ceremony space. Or your wedding officiant or caterer could be running behind.

This isn’t to be negative or call out what can go wrong, but to serve as a reminder that things happen. We are all human, there is likely a lot of pressure on you, and it’s important to do what you can to make sure you’re setting up yourself for success to have the best day of your life!

We’ve partnered with photographer extraordinaire and Joy team member, Timothy Milton, on his best tips, which we’ve shared below. Since 2017, Timothy has captured over 10,000 images at 50+weddings so he knows what he’s talking about! Here’s his breakdown of the big day and how to create a stress-free wedding timeline.

Planning the Timeline for Getting Ready Before the Wedding

When creating a timeline for the getting ready portion of the wedding day, we recommend starting with these questions. These answers may alter how much time you allocate.

  1. What times will you both be getting ready?

  2. Will you both be on the same floor, different rooms, or different floors? (We highly recommend the same floor with different rooms if you choose one photographer and one videographer.)

  3. Will you be getting both hair and makeup done or just makeup?

  4. Will you both be handing gifts out?

Let’s start with the bridal party. If you do everything on this timeline example, you will need 2 hours.

  • Detail shots: 30 minutes

  • Make up shots: 10 minutes

  • Candid shots: 10 minutes

  • Group shots of you and the girls in robes/other attire: 15 minutes

  • Pair shots of you and each bridesmaid in robes: 10 minutes

  • Gift exchange: 10 minutes

  • Bride change into dress shots: 15-20 minutes

  • Parent helping bride shots: 10 minutes

  • Bridal shots: 30 minutes

  • Bridesmaids helping bride getting ready: 10 minutes

  • Bride adjusting earnings and other accessories: 5 minutes

Tip: Time segments like detail shots can be sped up if you have a box ready with everything you want captured. These photos can be taken while you and your girls prep for makeup and hair. If you remove clutter from one area of the room where you’re getting ready (preferably an area with the most natural light possible) then the photos will be more impactful since they are clutter-free.

Now, the groomsmen. If you do everything on this sample order of events, you will need 1 hour.

If you’ve only booked one photographer and videographer, please do not have you and your partner start at the same time. If you have a larger team, many of these timeline items can overlap to decrease the length of time needed.

  • Detail shots: 10 minutes

  • Candid shots: 10 minutes

  • Group shots of you and the groomsmen: 15 minutes

  • Pair shots of you and each groomsman: 10 minutes

  • Gift exchange: 10 minutes

  • Best man helping groom shots: 10 minutes

  • Groom shots alone: 15 minutes

Groom getting ready shot list inspiration from Dallas wedding

One additional important consideration when planning your getting ready timeline: location. If your wedding venue is separate from where you’re getting ready, make sure you know the distance to the ceremony.

If your wedding photographer and videographer need to travel to get to the ceremony, then give them a heads up whether if it's free or paid parking so they can be prepared. No surprises!

Creating Your Wedding Ceremony Timeline

One of the most important decisions to be made is to choose the best time for the ceremony because this could alter when your timeline begins. If you do everything on this timeline example, you will need 3.5 hours for this portion of the wedding day.

When selecting time of day, be mindful of the season, the weather, and the activities that come before and after. Is it in the summer? Spring? Fall? Don’t choose the peak time of day (hot or cold) and make sure there’s enough time for getting ready beforehand and the wedding reception afterwards.

  • Photographer/Videographer set up: 30 minutes

  • Ceremony décor and detail shots (before guests arrive): 30 minutes

  • Optional first look/first touch: 15-20 minutes

  • Ceremony, then dismiss guests to cocktail hour: 20-30 minutes

  • Family formals after the ceremony: 15-20 minutes

  • Bridal party shots: 15 minutes

  • Romantic shots/Couple alone time: 45-60 minutes

Glamorous DFW wedding photos with tips for planning a stress-free wedding day timeline

Our favorite ceremony moment to help create a priceless photo? Right after you said ‘I do’, we like to capture both of you walking down the aisle and then stopping for a kiss.

Couple kissing at the end of the aisle at their wedding in Dallas, Texas by Joy Photo and Video

Building a Wedding Reception Timeline

Here are a few more tips on how to create a stress-free wedding timeline with the last part of the big day: the wedding reception!

If you plan to have a cocktail hour, guests can enjoy some time with one another while you’re taking photos with your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and family. Depending on the size of your photography and videography team, and the layout of your reception space, the detail shots could also be taken at the same time.

  • Guests at cocktail hour: 45 minutes- 1.5 hours

  • Reception décor and detail shots (before guests arrive if possible): 60 minutes

Keep in mind that a wedding reception typically lasts 4-5 hours but this can vary depending on your location, culture, or personal preferences. You can alter the time spent on typical reception activities based on how important each one of these are to you.

While spaced out differently, most wedding receptions break down into the following order:

  • Grand entrance

  • First dances

  • Dinner

  • Speeches

  • Cake cutting

  • Bouquet toss

  • Garter toss

  • Huge group photo/Individual group shots

  • Dancing or other special entertainment

  • Grand exit

Joyful and grand wedding exit with sparklers and wedding timeline planning tips

When it comes to building a timeline for your wedding day, we recommend working closely with your wedding team: planner, venue coordinator, officiant, photography, and videography team. They will be the very best resources because of their expertise and commitment to supporting you on the big day.

We hope these tips helped you see how to create a stress-free timeline for your wedding. Here are some additional articles with tips that might help!

[Photoshoot in the spotlight: Tiffany and Tyler in Dallas, Texas by Timothy.]

Choose Joy,

The Joy Team


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