How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline – PART 1

Steph Masat is a wedding and portrait photographer photographing the poetry of everyday people, one beautiful story at a time.
Browse these stories and peruse these tender memories. 
 Based in St. Louis, Missouri. Available for travel.

How to Create Your Wedding Day Timeline – PART 1

You’re sitting there, trying to figure out how you can organize your wedding day efficiently. How the heck do you create a wedding day timeline? HOW MUCH TIME DOES EVERYTHING TAKE? Are you missing something CRUCIAL? Maybe one of your girlfriends has a horror story about the day feeling like a runaway freight train. Or maybe you know someone who ran out of time for bridal party photos, or didn’t plan for travel. Whatever it is, I’m here to help you sister. 


So, how do you start creating your wedding day timeline?

I take every single one of my couples through this process. We’ll put all the details down on paper, together, so that you are assured nothing is missing. I’ve create hundreds of timelines for my brides. I’ve seen just about every scenario. I’m here to help you with some tips that you can apply to your wedding day timeline if you don’t have someone like me in your corner. 

First let’s tackle:

How long do things take on the wedding day? 

On a side note: you don’t have to learn How to create a wedding day timeline if having a vendor friend like me in your corner on your wedding day! See if I’m available for your wedding day! Being taken care of and inviting me into your journey is literally a click away. 

OK, now let’s get down to business!

Hair and makeup: 45 – 60 minutes per service 

Generally, bridal hair and makeup takes 45-60 minutes per service. That means if you are getting your hair and makeup done onsite or in a salon, you need to plan for 1.5 to 2 hours of time for that to be complete (the wiggle room is based on what type of styling you are having done. Updo’s and full curling takes a bit longer, than a more relaxed look. Just use common sense with this one. You’ll be safe if you plan for 1 hour and 45 minutes for your bridal makeup. 

You have to plan for your bridal party as well. If you have 4 bridesmaids having full hair and makeup done, then plan for 30-45 minutes per service for them. If you are hiring a one person hair and makeup artist, you’ll have to budget more time in your day for this piece. However, you are hiring a hair and makeup team, you can have multiple people working at the same time to cut down on time. 

Family Portraits: 30 Minutes

Other photographers may approach this differently and may need more time. Because I work closely with my brides on a shot list for this portion of the day, I make sure we have a plan and have communicated that plan with your family members. I budget 30 minutes of time for family photos. 

Ceremony: 20 – 60 minutes

Depending on your ceremony preferences, your ceremony will be anywhere from 20 minutes long for a simple ceremony to 60 minutes long for a full catholic mass. One extra way I take care of my couples is planning in 30 minutes of rest before the ceremony. This time for you to go pee, take a breather, throw back that drink, get in a clear headspace. At the same time it also allows me to document your ceremony details and other pre-service candids. 

First Looks: 15 – 30 minutes

Ok, a first look can be as long as you want it to be. I’m simply giving you the average time my couples take for their first look. This gives them time to say hello, exchange gifts, pray together, take a breather, cry, etc. There is no cookie cutter way of doing this piece, so follow your heart and be true to your relationship. 

Bridal Party Photos: 30 – 45 minutes

Again, like family photos, other photographers will approach this differently. I am heavily adaptable on a wedding day and have gotten some of my favorite bridal party images from having a 10 minute window of time. However, I love having 30 – 45 minutes to spend with you and your bridal party. This allows you all to relax and allows me to capture a bunch of beautiful candid moments with you and your best people. Couples who plan some time for this piece never regret it. 

Couples Photos: 30 Minutes

I’m not going to say “no” to more time! But if I can have 30 minutes with you two on your wedding day, then I am one happy camper!! This is time apart from your bridal party photos. This is just the two of you (and me) having some intentional time together documenting you guys looking fine and feeling happy as hell. 

Serving Dinner: 45-60 minutes

This one is always a shocker for couples. Whether you are having a sit down dinner or serving buffet style, it will take roughly 45 – 60 minutes for your guests to get their food, before you can start toasts. This is an average for a 150+ person wedding. If your guest list is a lot larger than that, you obviously need to add a bit more time. 

Travel Between venue and reception: Unknown

A quick google maps search will tell you how much time you need to budget for your limo/bus ride from your venue -> to your photo location -> to your reception.

A quick tip: talk to your photographer (aka ME!) about locations that are beautiful and that will give you the most bang for your time. 

Room Flips: 30-60 minutes

If you are having your ceremony and reception in the same spot, there will most likely need to be (what we in the biz like to call) a room flip. Your venue will transform your ceremony space into your reception space. Depending on the size of your wedding, the details involved with your decor and tablescapes, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. During your room flip is generally when your cocktail hour will take place in another part of the venue. During your room flip is also when your family portraits will happen. 

A few final thoughts while I wrap up part one of this series!

No two wedding days are identical. Learning how to create a wedding day timeline takes some finesse! Making sure you have prepped yourself, your friends, and you’ve been thorough about your planning is a really easy way to ease any stress on a wedding day. What is even easier is hiring people like me who won’t leave you to do this by yourself.

Stay tuned for next week when we start to put these pieces together with some more helpful timeline tips!


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