The Wedding Timeline

Updated: a day ago

I'm not one to waste your time, you clicked on this link because you wanted a sample timeline so here you go:

Sample timeline for a 6 PM sunset:

1:00 Getting ready shots (60 - 90 minutes)

2:30 First look (20 minutes)

2:50 Immediate family photos (30 minutes)

3:20 Bridal party (30 - 40 minutes)

4:00 Ceremony (30 - 60 minutes)

5:00 Bride and Groom + any missed people (30 - 60 minutes)

6:00  Sunset/reception starts


Now that we got that out of the way, if you want more explanation on how to edit the timeline to fit your day, keep reading!


Every wedding is different but I'm sure that most wedding professionals can agree that the wedding timeline is extremely important. Please know that this is just a sample and feel free to change it to fit your wedding day best.

As a photographer who loves natural light, everything for me works with the sun. From a natural light perspective, schedule your outdoor ceremony 1.5 - 2 hours before sunset. This will give all of your ceremony photos a beautiful warm glow from the sun. Since sunset changes throughout the year just give it a google search and you will be able to see what time sunset is for your wedding date. 


Let's say that sunset is at 6 PM, that means your ceremony would be at 4:00 PM (or 4:30 PM). The average ceremony is 30 minutes to an hour but adjust based on how long your ceremony will run. 

Now that we know where to start we can move down the timeline. I like to shoot all of your family photos and bridal party shots before the ceremony and this takes about 1 full hour. Bigger families might need more time.

This means that for a 4:00 PM ceremony, from 2:50 PM - 3:50 PM will be photo time, first for immediate family then the bridal party. For family photos, I start with everyone that you consider to be immediate family for one complete family photo. Then we will narrow it down to smaller groups that you pick a head of time. 


After family photos we will move on to the bridal party. Just prep your friends that we will have fun! Your bridal party photos turn out best when everyone is down to have a good time. 

Before your family photos I like to set aside 20 minutes for a private first look. Based on a 4:00 PM ceremony this means the first look is at 2:30 PM. 


I recommend that all first looks are private for a few reasons. The first is that it keeps the moment more authentic. When you are surrounded by your family and friends it becomes more of a show instead of a real moment between you and your future spouse. The second reason is because even though I allot 20 minutes for a first look, I only shoot for about 15 minutes. Then I give you 5 minutes to just be alone with your partner.  This time is precious and is likely the only alone time you'll get all day. 


Next, we are at the getting ready shots. I like to start getting ready shots about 1.5 hours before the first look. During this time I'll take shots of everyone getting ready, the dress, the rings, bouquets, the ceremony space, reception space, and any other key details.


For a 4:00 PM ceremony, I'll get there around 12:45 PM and start shooting at 1:00 PM. Tell your hair and makeup team that you need to be done at 2:15 PM, just in time for your first look.

So if you've been keeping up we started with the ceremony and worked our way to when I arrive. So what about after the ceremony? 


After the ceremony we will escape while your guest enjoy cocktail hour. If there are any immediate family members that were missed earlier we will snap those quickly then take your couple portraits. Depending on how long your ceremony is, please allow a minimum of 45 minutes for your couple portraits. These should again be private. Why? This is right after you just got married! Take the time to just enjoy the moment while your guest can start the party, it's only 45 minutes and you will have plenty of time to hang out with your friends and family. This sunset light is so soft and warm, everything glows; it's perfect for your portraits.  


Then we can head to the reception where the party starts! I'll do another post about receptions since that has a few elements like speeches, cake cutting, etc.


So now that timeline should make a lot more sense. Do you have any questions? Feel free to send me an email through my contact page, I'm here to help!


Sample timeline for a 6 PM sunset:​

1:00 Getting ready shots (60 - 90 minutes)

2:30 First look (20 minutes)

2:50 Immediate family photos (30 minutes)

3:20 Bridal party (30 - 40 minutes)

4:00 Ceremony (30 - 60 minutes)

5:00 Bride and Groom + any missed people (30 - 60 minutes)

6:00  Sunset/reception starts


If you have any questions about each of these sections, don't worry a post is coming with more details. 


San Luis Obispo Wedding Photographer

Serving the Californa Central Coast: Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, Santa Barbara and Beyond

Instagram @kelleywphotos

© 2020 By Kelley Williams Photography | San Luis Obispo Wedding Photographer | 831-613-1070

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