Benefits and Challenges of Different
Wedding Day Timelines

This is one of those not so glamorous wedding details.  While there aren’t Pinterest pages and beautifully styled blogs dedicated to timelines it’s one of the most crucial aspects to get right so your day is everything you’ve dreamed!

We’ll go over lots of detail on how to choose your timeline, but to start, here are three tips for a smooth flow to your wedding day:

1. Allow more time than you think is needed to get ready! It’s better to be safe than RUSHED!

2. If possible, try to have all bridal details together before the photographer arrives. (Dress, jewelry, shoes, bouquet, garter, veil, etc.) This will make the detail shots more efficient!

3. Relish moments with friends and family! It’s time to celebrate!!

Thinking through the structure of your day early in the planning process will help you know when it will be best to start photography coverage and how many total hours you’ll need to capture the moments that are important to you!

We fully believe that the most important part of a wedding day are the vows you make to each other before friends and family. A wedding day does NOT revolve around the photos.  However, the ceremony is often the shortest part of the day and a couple pays a lot of money to have their wedding given the attention it deserves. In order to capture your once-in-a-lifetime creative moments it’s always worth budgeting as much time as possible for special images together.

Something to keep in mind is that “More Time Allocated = More Unique / Beautiful Shots.”  When looking at our website you see (hopefully!) some jaw-dropping images.  Always remember, these took time – and the more time you give us to create this level of artistry, the more spectacular images you’ll have to remember the day. A good photographer works quickly – but the best images happen when everyone is relaxed and not focused on rushing around to beat the clock.

Nearly all wedding photography schedules fit into one of three categories:

1. First Look
2. Mid-Day Creative Gap
3. Before & After

The following information should give you a good understanding of each options for organizing your wedding day.

TIMELINE OPTION #1: “First Look”

This schedule tends to be the favorite choice for most of our couples. The main reason is that it results in a relaxing and easy paced day, without time away from your guests.

Instead of waiting until the wedding ceremony to see each other for the first time many couples are adding a special, private moment together. A good wedding photographer will make this “First Look” memorable and intimate. They will capture your reactions as you seeing each other for the first time, it’s often even more emotional since you’re alone instead of in front of guests. It’s a moment you can actually talk and embrace one another instead of being limited in your movement before reciting vows.

An Example of a “First Look” style schedule

  • 1:00 – 1:10pm / First Look
  • 1:10 – 2:20pm / Bride & Groom Creative
  • 2:20 – 2:50pm / Bridal Party Creative
  • 3:50 – 4:20pm / Ceremony Prep
  • 4:20 – 4:50pm / Wedding Ceremony
  • 4:50 – 5:20pm / Family Formal
  • 5:20 – 6:20pm / Cocktail Hour W/ Couple

We call it the “First Look” because this type of schedule is characterized by an early afternoon time alone for the bride and groom, followed by a relaxing and fun time for creative imagery with each other and then with your bridal party. Once those are complete you’ll be stress free and excited to see family and friends at your ceremony! Then instead of having to leave everyone for a lengthy creative photo session, you’re able to actually enjoy your own cocktail hour 🙂

We’re never pushy about schedules– but this option is highly, highly encouraged if you’re having your ceremony and reception at the same venue (one directly after the other).

Benefits of a “First Look”

  • Less stress / less rushing around
  • You get to capture your hair and make up at their peak
  • Your photographer has more time and freedom to craft creative wedding images
  • More fun during the creative photography process
  • Ensures your guests aren’t left waiting
  • Ensures you can BE with your guests during a cocktail hour

Negatives of a “First Look”

There are really no downsides to this approach – unless you are fundamentally opposed to seeing each other before the wedding.

If seeing each other before the ceremony isn’t something you’re interested in, here are two other way to still have a special, private moment:

  • First Touch
  • Letter or Gift Exchange

Check out this blog to learn more (Do This Instead Of A First Look).


An alternative approach to your timeline is doing the majority of your creative wedding images in-between your ceremony and reception. To make this kind of schedule work, couples typically need a gap of 2-4 hours between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception. Like Option 1, all the creative images are done in one section of time – but after a late morning or early afternoon wedding ceremony. It tends to work best when the ceremony and reception are at different locations.

An Example of a “Mid-Day Creative Gap” style schedule

  • 1:00 – 2:15pm / Wedding Ceremony
  • 2:15 – 3:00pm / Family Formal Photos
  • 3:00 – 6:00pm / Couple & Bridal Party
  • 6:00 – 7:00pm / Cocktail Hour W/ Couple

**Note – If your “Gap” is less than Two Hours, we encourage considering Timeline Option 3: “Before & After”.

The only real downside to this sort of schedule is that your guests will have to keep themselves busy for a few hours. We often see families organize luncheons or outings for guests to keep them entertained, or guests just take an afternoon to explore the city in between.

Benefits of “Mid-Day Creative Gap”

  • As long as the gap is long enough, you have plenty of time for a healthy creative session
  • If you’re opposed to a “first-look”, this schedule is usually a good alternative

Negatives of “Mid-Day Creative Gap”

  • Your guests usually have a pretty lengthy wait
  • If your ceremony is a late morning ceremony, your day is going to start very early

Timeline Option #3: Before & After

This schedule is often used when a couple doesn’t want to have a First Look and only has a small gap of time between their ceremony and their reception. We’ll focus on doing the creative sessions for the two parts of the bridal party (guys and gals) separately prior to the ceremony. Then, the bride and groom images, as well as a limited few of the entire bridal party, will be captured between the ceremony and reception.

An Example of a “Before & After” style schedule

  • 2:00 – 3:00pm / Bride & Bridesmaids
  • 3:00 – 4:00pm / Groom & Groomsmen
  • 4:00 – 5:00pm / Wedding Ceremony
  • 5:00 – 5:45pm / Family Formal
  • 5:45 – 6:50pm / Couples & Bridal Party
  • 6:50 – 7:00pm / Entrance To Reception

To be honest, this schedule is usually a bit more stressful on the couple. This isn’t always the case of course – but we always aim for the creative session with the bride and groom to be relaxed and easy going, and it can be hard to fit that into a short window of time.

Given that line of thought – we always encourage couples to really consider either doing the entirety of their images prior to the ceremony (See Option 1: “All Up Front”) or focusing on Creatives during a larger window of time in between the ceremony and the reception (See Option 2: “The Mid-Day Creative Gap”).

We are never ever pushy though – just realists. We want our couples to have a GREAT wedding and to joy celebrating every part of the day, and we do feel that this particular style of schedule can make things a little crazy at times. The option can be especially challenging if the getting ready location, ceremony and reception are all at different locations. Travel locations tends to really cut into your portrait time.

Benefits of “Before & After”

  • Easygoing morning and afternoon – you have lots of time to relax
  • Ensures your guests aren’t left waiting

Negatives of “Before & After”

  • Often the wedding party is ready late leaving less time for pre-ceremony creative photos
  • Frantic and fast paced post ceremony schedule
  • Rarely can you attend your cocktail hour
  • Often less amount and variety of full bridal party pictures
  • Often less amount and variety of pictures of just the couple together

There you have it, the three most common wedding timelines. Take some time and really think through your wedding schedule – it’s hugely important to the way you’ll experience and remember your wedding day!

Remember, you don’t have to figure it out on your own! When you complete our questionnaire, we help craft a personalized timeline based on your answers. Meeting a month or so before your big day, to go over everything together, will give you the reassurance you need that all the tough planning stuff will be taken care of so you can ENJOY YOUR WEDDING DAY!

For more suggestions of how to think through the details of timing throughout the day, check out this post.