The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline: FAQs 

No one ever said that creating a wedding day timeline was easy, but it’s definitely worth it in the end! If you’re getting ready to tie the knot, you’ll want to make sure you have everything planned out perfectly. This includes creating a timeline for your big day. Wedding day timelines help us photographers in order for things to run smoothly and for us to get the best shots. To help get you started, today we’re going to answer some of the most common questions about wedding timelines. And add some mini sample wedding day timeline as well. Keep reading for all the details!

Wedding Day Timeline: Getting Ready 

Chinese and Indian wedding at Belle Mer in Newport, Rhode Island by Nicole Chan Photography
Chinese and Indian wedding at Belle Mer in Newport, Rhode Island by Nicole Chan Photography

When I’m photographing weddings, the part that gets me excited is not just jewelry or shoes. It’s watching couples get ready for their big day and knowing what awaits them on the altar or the stage! The anticipation can be felt in every nerve as friends help with hair/makeup while also getting dressed themselves – it’s an electric atmosphere filled with happiness for two people who love each other very much indeed

The best thing about this specific moment? witnessing all these emotions come together at once: excitement from both parties preparing themselves visually before heading out.

How long do I need to be photographed for the “getting ready” segment? 

For this part of the wedding the wedding day timeline, 1-1.5 hours of preparation is perfect. Close-ups of the cosmetics being applied and hair being styled, as well as candid moments of the wedding party getting ready for the day, are captured by wedding photographers. I always keep in mind that this is one of the most moving and enjoyable parts of the day, so I usually take my time. 

What time should I tell my hair and makeup artist that I need to be finished?

When I photograph weddings, it’s important to me that the couple are done with hair/makeup 30-60 minutes before my arrival. This way there’s plenty of time for all those beautiful photographs to be captured!

Here’s a sample timeline without a first look or pre-ceremony portraits

1:30 Hair and makeup completed

2:00-3:15 Photo starts! Getting Ready. Couples start putting on outfits when the photographer arrives.

3:15-3:30 Drive from Getting ready to Ceremony site 
3:30-4:00 Arrive at ceremony site & Buffer in case there is traffic
4-4:30pm Ceremony

Will you take photographs of my invitations, dress, shoes, jewelry, and rings? 

Absolutely. Please have these things laid out in a corner for me so that once I arrive, I can be efficient with time. With the wedding elements in one place, it’s easier to plan the angles and lighting that will work best with the objects and with that, I can photograph them immediately. Once finished, I usually call over a parent or member of the bridal party to officially hand over the jewelry, rings, and other important items back to them. 

Please set aside 20 minutes for me to photograph all of the day-of elements and still life objects!

Where should I get ready?

Getting ready for your wedding can be a fun but stressful time. There are so many things to do and so little time! 

If you’re looking for a place to get ready that is relaxing and stress-free, look no further than your own home. With plenty of room to spread out, your home provides the perfect space to prepare for your big day.

Some prefer their ceremony space so that they don’t have to move anywhere for their day. This is very convenient especially if your wedding ceremony venue offers getting ready rooms or bridal suites but there are instances when it isn’t always the case. 

Some prefer booking out a large hotel room/suite or an airbnb. Hotel rooms can provide a lot of extra space for packing and can be much cleaner than your home. Plus, if you’re traveling out of town for your move, the hotel can act as your base camp. 

Who should I get ready with?

For some couples, they want to get ready alone because it’s the least stressful situation for them. For some, they love the excitement of being surrounded by their closest family and friends. 

I will say that getting ready alone and not having a wedding party has been a trend that I’ve been seeing over the last couple of years!

Wedding Day Timeline: First Look & Pre Ceremony Portraits

How long will the First Look take? 

If it’s just the couple, I’d love 30 minutes for this part of the wedding day timeline.

If we are photographing the couple, wedding party, and family members, I’d love 90 minutes (30 minutes for each segment). 

Where should the First Look be?

I like my couples seeing each other for the first time at their getting ready locations, so that we can then travel together. From there, we can take portraits in a variety of pictureque locations. 

Where should my Pre-Ceremony portraits be? 

We can choose a location between the Getting Ready location and the Ceremony location, or perhaps we can even get to the Ceremony location early and photograph there. This will be something that I plan with my couple during our Timeline Strategy meeting.

Who from my family should come to these Pre-Ceremony portraits?

Typically, wedding party, immediate family, and grandparents. However, it’s your wedding, so there’s plenty of room for flexibility for whoever you’d like to invite (or not invite)

Wedding Day Timeline: Ceremony 

How long should my ceremony be? 

That’s completely up to you. I’ve photographed 10 minutes City Hall ceremonies, 30 minute ceremonies officiated by friends, and 3 hour traditional Hindu ceremonies. 

Family Photos and other Formal Portraits after the ceremony

How long does it take for each wedding party photo?

For this part of the wedding day timeline, please budget between 3-5 minutes, depending on group size. This is also assuming that everyone is present, and not hiding in the bathroom, chasing after appetizers, or getting a drink at the bar.

There is no denying that a first look is one of the most magical moments during a wedding day. For many couples, it’s a moment of pure joy and excitement as they finally get to see each other in their wedding outfits for the first time. That’s why photographers need to be prepared to capture this moment at its best. So, when is the best time to photograph a couple’s first look?

Ideally, the First Look should be photographed in the morning or early afternoon, with 45-60 minutes allotted. The couple enjoy seeing one another for the first time on their wedding day during this period. While the first look itself may only last 5-10 minutes, the remainder of the time is spent taking a few essential photographs of the couple.

The majority of the couple’s session should ideally be saved for later. If there is no other time during the day, it is ideal to set aside another 45 minutes to an hour here to ensure that we have enough images of the pair. A venue garden or an empty venue hallway are good options for this wedding segment(shaded areas with natural light).

The Wedding Party 

alden castle wedding photographer nicole chan

Some photographers prefer early in the day before things get too hectic. Sunrises and sunsets make beautiful backdrops for photos and present fewer distractions than in the middle of the day. Some might choose to photograph right before the ceremony when everyone is dressed up. This allows for an uninterrupted session with minimal rushed preparations. Whatever time you choose, keep in mind your surroundings and what will make for great photos!

Wedding party photos should last between 45 and 1 hour. Wedding photographers acquire a range of images in several poses during this period. Begin with simple, classic ideas that emphasize unique expressions and lighting. Then move on to a set of imaginative and funny images. Finally, because wedding photographers understand how important the wedding party is to the couple, they photograph the couple with each member of the wedding party separately.


There is no one “best time” to photograph formal family photos during a wedding. However, certain times are more advantageous than others.

1) Think about natural light. The best time to photograph formal photos is usually right before sunset or early in the morning when the light is soft and beautiful. 

2) Consider the weather. Outdoor photos can be gorgeous, but be aware of potential weather hazards like strong wind or rain. If it looks like it might rain or if it’s too windy, try photographing inside instead. 

3) If possible, the best time to photograph formal photos during a wedding is typically right before the ceremony. This allows you to capture all of the couple’s family and wedding party while everyone is still dressed in their formal attire. It also allows you to take photos of the couple with the backdrop of the ceremony site. If you wait until after the ceremony, many guests will have already left, and you’ll miss out on some great shots.

Depending on the size of the couple’s family and the number of visitors, formals should last between 45 minutes and an hour. Allow around 3 minutes for each group. If you have ten groups, for example, set aside 30 minutes.

To save time, some couples have elected to take pictures with all of their guests, while others have decided to take images with only a few VIPs. We suggest something in the middle. It’sIt’s also a good idea to be well-organized, with a list of groups and assistants from each side of the family to assist in gathering people.

Cocktail Hour

How long is a typical cocktail hour?

A cocktail hour is a great opportunity for guests to mix and mingle before the main event. But how long should it last? Usually about 60 minutes. But this segment of the wedding day timeline can also last up to 90 minutes tops. 

What will you be photographing during cocktail hour?

Not much goes on during cocktail hour for the wedding party, but it’s more focused on the reception instead. During cocktail hour, I take the following photographs:

  • Formal portraits, if we didn’t have a First Look
  • Light coverage of candids of guests during Cocktail Hour
  • Reception details like centerpieces, etc. 
  • Setting up lighting for reception 
Tower Hill Botanic Garden Wedding Photo of the Orangerie by Boston Wedding Photographer Nicole Chan Photography

Wedding Day Timeline: Reception 

How long is a typical reception? 

The answer depends on a number of factors, but as a general rule, most receptions last between three and four hours. If the venue is not limited by time constraints,then there’s no reason for the couple to rush the party! You can have a great time celebrating with your friends and family for as long as you like. 

Reception Detail and Venue

The best time to photograph the reception venue and details varies depending on the year. In the summer, the best time is early in the morning or late in the evening when natural light is. During winter, midday is the best time for photographing indoor receptions. Outdoor receptions can be photographed at any time of day. 

Regardless of the season, it’s essential to consider the location and surroundings when planning your shoot. For example, large trees near the reception venue should be photographed in the early morning or evening when they have nice shadows. If beautiful flowers are nearby, try to shoot them during their peak bloom hours. Pay attention to lighting conditions and backdrop possibilities when planning your shoot.

For about 30 minutes, the second shooter should take pictures of the reception room after setting up with no guests or vendors nearby. This is a unique opportunity for wedding photographers because this will show off how beautiful your venue can look before people start arriving!

Reception First Look

At the end of Cocktail Hour, before the doors open for visitors, take photos of the reception area. This is the first time the couple sees the reception hall. It’sIt’s a perfect chance to photograph a genuine reaction and a private period on the dance floor to practice the couple’s first dance.

Best time for Wedding Photography Portraits –  Miscellaneous 

When is golden hour for sunset photos?

A couple of sessions should last around an hour and start 30 to 45 minutes before nightfall. In terms of lighting, this is the optimum moment. It also enables photographers to take stunning scenic shots with vibrant skies. If your wedding is in a city or a region with many tall structures, this time frame isn’t as significant for photographers (although it still helps).

If you choose your venue because of the breathtaking beach view or the beautiful vines in the winery, however, you must adhere to this advice in your timetable.

For golden hour photos, you can view some of my works here.

When is the best time for twilight and blue hour wedding portraits? 

The colors at “Blue Hour” make me feel like I can escape into another world. The sun has dipped below the horizon, but its light still shines through and paints an otherworldly scene before me as if to say that there are no boundaries here – only endless possibilities for your mind’s eye!

Blue and yellow are a favorite color combination of mine because they are complimentary color pairs in the color wheel. Just some Modern Color Theory nerding out for ya!

Check out some of my blue hour portrait here!

Can we sneak out during the reception for night portraits? 

W Hotel Boston wedding Photo of bride and groom by Boston wedding photographer Nicole Chan Photography


The reception sneak out is usually done from Dusk to Night Time in Areas with attractive lights, fountains, cityscapes, and mirrors

Photographers intend to sneak out for a few night photos during the reception. Only 20-30 minutes are required, since the significance of being a good host is also being kept in mind. For individuals who enjoy night photography, though, this period is critical. This is best done shortly after the pair has eaten or during open floor dancing after the couple has danced a few songs and would want to take a break. Another option is to take these pictures at the very end of the night after all guests have left.


As a wedding photographer, you know that the photos you take are an essential part of the day. But when is the best time to take them? Capturing shots throughout the day can be tricky – you don’t want to miss anything important, but you also need to make sure you have enough time for all the photos you want to take. We’veWe’s put together a guide on the best times to capture different types of shots during a wedding to make sure you get all the photos you need without missing any of the action.

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