The Wedding Day Timeline of Your Dreams | Tips to having a Stress-Free Wedding Day!

Phoenix Wedding Photographers and Videographers | Stephen and Melissa

When you close your eyes and envision your day, what is the flow? Is it fast paced, lots of events, lots of celebration…or is it low key, relaxed and chill? Maybe it’s a little bit of both! What does the wedding day of your dreams look like? We would say that many married couples will tell you, your wedding day is going to feel like an absolute whirlwind! From getting ready with your best friends to exchanging vows, mingling with guests and dancing the night away, your celebration will (sadly!) fly by quicker than you think.

With this in mind, we think a wedding day timeline is an essential tool to help you manage the finer details of your day and keep your celebration running smoothly for everyone! Only a wedding photographer truly knows how much time they need in order to do their best work. Just like we have no idea how much time your hair & makeup artist needs to make you look fabulous on your wedding day, or how much time your planner needs to set up your reception space – you should be consulting with your wedding photographer about their photo timeline needs! 

Why Create a Wedding Day Timeline?

We know some people may roll their eyes at the idea of staying on a timeline. You want the day to flow naturally, right!? Well, can we tell you, it flows better naturally with one! A wedding day timeline (otherwise known as a run-sheet or day-of timeline) is essentially a reference point for everyone involved in the running of your day. Creating a wedding day timeline will give both you, your suppliers and your loved ones a clear idea on how the day is going to run from start to finish – allowing you to step back and truly enjoy every moment, without worrying about the finer details! Even if you ar planning an intimate elopement in the forest, a timeline will keep you determine what your entire day will look like!

After years of photographing weddings under almost every circumstance, we have come to understand the tremendous value of a timeline. Your wedding day timeline can also help to save time and stress throughout the planning process, too. The full picture of your wedding day might seem overwhelming and intimidating at first, but breaking up your day into smaller, more manageable chunks of time will help you understand exactly how things will flow.

There’s nothing better than a stress-free wedding day when everything runs like clockwork, wedding party and family are on time for photos, your guests are having the time of their lives, and you soak in every special moment with each other. Though it sounds too good to be true, you can have the smooth sailing wedding of your dreams. After years of shooting weddings of all shapes and sizes, we can attest to the fact that the biggest secret weapon to making this happen is a well-planned wedding day timeline!

Now maybe you are sitting there thinking, “No way, I’m such a go-with-the-flow person. I don’t need a timeline!”

We feel you on this one, trust us! But consider this: if you have a timeline and everyone is on the same page, then on your wedding day you can carry on being the easy-breezy you. You won’t have to stop to answer small questions that will in the end, add up to LOTS of your day!

For us, a finely tuned wedding day timeline has become our foundation for every wedding we shoot! It also ensures that we can do the best possible day and capture every detail just as it happened! Below is an example of a ‘typical’ timeline. Every wedding day in unique and so of course every wedding day timeline will also be unique. However, this is the kind of schedule that makes for a pretty magical day! 😉

creating your dream wedding day timeline
  • 12:30 We Arrive for Getting Ready Photos & DETAILS!
  • 1:30 All Hair & Makeup Finished (HARD STOP)
  • 1:45 Bridesmaids group photos + get Dressed; 
  • 2:00 Bride’s dress on
  • 2:30 First Look; Bride & Groom Portraits
  • 3:30 Wedding Party
  • 4:00 Immediate Family Photos
  • 4:30 Guests Begin to Arrive
  • 5:00 Ceremony Begins
  • 5:30 Ceremony Ends
  • 5:40 ‘Just Married’ Sunset Portraits (MAGIC HOUR!)
  • 6:00 Extended family portraits if needed or couple Joins their Cocktail Hour if planned
  • 6:30 Guests Seated for Dinner
  • 6:40 Grand Entrances – Let the Party Begin!

What events should I plan in my wedding day timeline?

Each and every wedding is totally unique, but our typically wedding day “flow” might look something like this:

Details Images:

We always give ourselves plenty of time to shoot the details such as jewelry, shoes, the dress, cufflinks, heirloom items, ect. We don’t want to feel rushed, so we build that time into the schedule as you are getting ready! We feel that the details are so important in telling the full story of your day and love styling details! We consider this a great ‘warm up’ for the day and it always gets things flowing creatively for us!

 Getting Ready:

Like we talk about in our tips for the getting ready time, the #1 thing that can make a wedding day timeline run behind it’s if hair & makeup is running behind schedule.  No, we are NOT pointing fingers because we LOVE our wedding hair and makeup artists. The simple fact is that if wedding hair & makeup is running late, everything else that follows in the wedding day timeline will be compromised!

Having a hard stop time, helps your makeup artists and hair stylists know when they need to be done, and it allows for a cushion if something happens to run late or you need something touched up.

Do you have any special outfits or robes for your ladies? Want to plan a champagne toast or a confetti POP!? These moments are so much fun on a wedding day and can add to the JOY! With a well prepared schedule, we make sure to build in time for events like these!

We also schedule a specific time for your dress to go on, and we allow at least 30 minutes for this. It probably won’t take 30 minutes to put on most dresses, but it allows you to relax as you put it on, slip on jewelry, hug Mom, and laugh with your bridesmaids. We love creating those carefree images of your bridesmaids getting you ready and without time planned for these moments, you are rushing to get into your gown. Plus, we get to spend a few minutes photographing just you before heading out for the First Look. 😉

First Look:

Learn all about why we love the first look here! During this time, you are able to hang out with each other! We capture so many candid, emotional moments during the First Look simply because we allow time for you to relax, feel your emotions, talk about the day, and live in the moment!

We schedule a full hour of time for your First Look and that includes your couple portraits before the ceremony while the two of you are looking & feeling your best! This gives you plenty of time to breathe, relax, and enjoy your private time together before the day really sets in motion. This will help focus you on what really matters most – the two of you together, celebrating your love with your friends and family!

An added bonus, if things run late during the getting ready process, we have the flexibility to adjust things – another benefit to having two photographers on the wedding day is that we work quickly! We have also scheduled some time after the ceremony during sunset time!

wedding day timeline
wedding day timeline first look
wedding day timeline first look
wedding day timeline first look barn

Wedding Party Photos: 

Once you’ve had some time together and we have finished with your portraits, we move on to another of our favorite parts of the wedding day! These are the friends or family members who you’ve chosen to stand by your side as you begin life as husband and wife and they are always amazing people!

For our perfect wedding day timeline, we schedule 30 minutes for you to enjoy those moments with your wedding party instead of rushing through to the next event. We snap all the essentials: everyone looking at the camera, full group shots, mixed, matched, details of the flowers and accessories, as well as candids of your favorite people bring out their best ‘vogue’ face.

Family Portraits:

After we’ve photographed your wedding party, the next sop on our wedding day timeline is to schedule 30 minutes to photograph you and your family. We talk all about how important the shot list is for this section of the day is and getting these images done prior to the ceremony has some huge advantages!

Doing the family portraits BEFORE the ceremony accomplishes a number of amazing things:

  1. There are no distractions so we can move VERY quickly (no pulling family from enjoying cocktail hour!)
  2. Family can immediately enjoy the cocktail hour and mingle with wedding guests after the ceremony
  3. It leaves the large ‘extended’ family group photos for the reception!
wedding day timeline

The Ceremony:

We always aim to finished with photos at least 30 minutes before your ceremony time because that is when guests will begin to arrive. We get you tucked away so that no one can sneak a peek while we are off photographing your gorgeous details of the ceremony setup! The only thing you will need to do is freshen up and take a moment to breathe, relax, and enjoy the moment!’

wedding day timeline desert foothills wedding and events
wedding day timeline

‘Just Married’ Sunset Portraits:

Once the ceremony is over, it’s time for the fun part!! Because we’ve taken all of the necessary ‘must-have’ images before the ceremony, everything we take during this time is just considered extra magic, and it’s always when we create our absolute favorite portraits! ** If the golden light of sunset doesn’t line up with cocktail hour and goes down later in the evening, we’ll schedule on your wedding day timeline a few minutes to sneak away during the reception for just a few songs! Sometimes having your DJ play a game with your wedding guests entertains them enough that they never even realized your slipped away. Those 15-20 minutes will be so worth it when you’re soaking up the best light of the day together!

wedding day timeline
We snuck away during sunset for just 15 minutes at sunset to capture that glow, it was magic!
wedding day timeline
wedding day timeline sunset husband and wife
wedding day timeline wedding photographers in phoenix
wedding day timeline


Once the reception begins, you’re only job is to HAVE FUN. We’ll be there to capture all of the amazing emotions and moments! One thing we always tell our couples is to make their reception THEIR OWN!  If your wedding day timeline dream includes a mechanical bull, you DO IT! 😉

wedding day timeline

Extra Wedding Day Timeline Tips:

Want to make the most out of your wedding day timeline? Don’t forget to keep these practical tips in mind from an expert:

  • Aim to complete and distribute your timeline at least 2-3 weeks prior to your day. This will give you enough time to make any necessary amendments after receiving feedback from suppliers.
  • Make sure you include some buffers throughout your timeline “just in case”. For example: add a buffer to your ceremony transport time in case of traffic, or to your speeches in case your speakers ramble on! The last thing you want to be feeling on your wedding day is rushed or stressed, so be sure to give yourself a little flexibility where needed.
  • If you’re not working with a wedding planner, make sure you’ve clearly allocated an emergency on-the-day contact person for your suppliers. This could be your venue manager, chief bridesmaid or close family member – somebody that you trust to make last-minute decisions.
  • Make sure your wedding timeline is easy to read and understand – try not to go overboard with confusing spreadsheets, dramatic fonts or complicated layouts. You might want to use a wedding timeline creator to ensure your timeline looks clean and professional.
  • If any wedding related activities are happening before or after the day (for example, suppliers setting up and packing down, items being delivered to your venue, or ceremony rehearsals), you can slot these into your timeline, too.
  • And finally, once you’ve finished your run sheet, sent it across to your suppliers and allocated an emergency contact, it’s time to surrender! Let it go and trust that your day will flow exactly as it should. Don’t panic if your timeline isn’t going exactly to plan on the day – these things happen, and we promise, your guests won’t even notice the difference.

Our number one rule for any couple getting married? The key to enjoying your day is having a great plan ahead of time. That way the day will run smoothly, and the only thing you will need to focus on is being with each other and savoring every precious moment!


Stephen & Melissa

The Wedding Day Timeline of Your Dreams | Tips to having a Stress-Free Wedding Day Timeline!

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