Hi! I'm Laura! I'm a NJ + Hudson Valley NY based wedding and brand photographer for adventurous couples in love and creative, heart driven brands. I'm a storyteller at heart and am so blessed to call this my job! My photography style is organic and timeless and I can't wait to hear your story!. 

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The Wedding Day Timeline

This is a doozy of a post that has been on my to-do list for a few months now and I have honestly just DREADED it because there’s so many variables that go into creating an ideal wedding day timeline from a photography standpoint but I know it’s the biggest pain point for most bride and grooms to be!

The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography

So for starters: here are some tips to keep in mind for your wedding day that will greatly help out your timeline.

  1. Check the sunset time for your wedding day! Simply type into google “sunset time, {Wedding City} {Wedding Date}”. Use this as the center of your timeline. If you’re having an outdoor ceremony, schedule your ceremony start time to be anywhere from 30-60 minutes before sunset time for optimal lighting conditions. This is known as golden hour and your pictures will be dreamy and gorgeous!! If you’re doing an indoor ceremony and not doing a first look, make sure you give your photographer 2 hours to complete Bride and Groom Portraits, Family Formals, and Wedding Party Formals before heading to the reception.
  2. If you are doing a first look, it’s a great idea to do ALL your formal pictures before the ceremony begins so you can go and enjoy your cocktail hour! Ideally, 2 hours of picture time is necessary to get all the magical moments and ensure a stress free portrait time! 2 Hours includes Bride and Groom, Family, and Bridal Party photos.
  3. Schedule hair and make-up to start two hours before you think you need to and if yo have a large bridal party, make sure you have more then one hair and make-up person. In the dozens of weddings I shot I have only had a handful be on time in the morning.. and not because hair and make-up didn’t time themselves accordingly but because there are often unexpected changes that occur. (Ie. your hair doesn’t look quite how you expected, your fake eyelashes are just NOT adhering properly.) These things take time to fix and we want you to be stress-free! Therefore, giving yourself ample time in the morning is ESSENTIAL. Plus, if you’re done early there’s more time for champagne and dance parties, am I right?!
  4. Keep ALL your details in one place in the morning for when your photographer arrives. They should provide you and your Maid of Honor with a list of everything they will want to photograph and it saves a TON of time in the morning if it’s all ready to go to start the detail shots!The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography
  5. Keep in mind how much time it takes to travel between all your venues (Getting Ready, Ceremony, Reception) and account for this in your timeline and your hourly coverage. If you have an hour of travel, ask about adding an hour to your contract to account for missed photo time.
  6. Give your photographers time to capture the Reception details untouched! If your portraits are all happening during the cocktail hour, make sure you give them enough time to go into the reception space before your guests do to capture the details and set up their lights.
  7. Make sure your dress and your bridesmaids dresses (and this goes for the guys too I suppose) steam your dresses BEFORE the day of the wedding. Nothing worse then trying to steam and panicking the morning of!
  8. Hire a day of wedding coordinator to help keep all vendors on time and ensure the day runs smoothly. They also take care of any and all hiccups that happen such as but not limited to: your bouquet not being the right flowers and needing to be redone. Having the wrong lipstick color and needing to make a Target run, Providing flip flops for you to wear because you forgot to bring them and didn’t realize how much heels SUCK, Buying extra champagne when you miscalculated how many mimosas would be drank in the morning, the list goes on.. and yes, I have had to do all of these things as a PHOTOGRAPHER, and this cut a lot of time into me taking pictures because I was putting out fires. Don’t let this fall onto your bridal party or family members to fix, they’re here to enjoy the day. If you’re looking for a great coordinator and planner look no further because I know a great one! Click HERE.The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography
  9. If your photography and video only cover a set amount of hours make sure all your important reception events fall into the time that they are there.
  10. Relax. Seriously, at the end of the day, no matter what tiny details go wrong, you are still marrying the love of your life. And in reality, it’s not the wedding that matters, it’s the marriage.


SO, With all that being said…. Here are Two sample timelines for with or without a first look.

WITH A FIRST LOOK, {Based on 9 Hours of Coverage and 7:00PM sunset time}:The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography

1:00 PHOTOGRAPHERS ARRIVE AT GETTING READY LOCATION, PHOTOGRAPH DETAILS
Flowers should be on site by this time.

2:00 PREP SHOTS – HAIR + MAKE UP TOUCH UP, GIRLS IN GETTING READY ATTIRE
If girls are wearing cute robes or tanks we’ll definitely want some shots of that!

2:30 BRIDESMAIDS CHANGE INTO DRESSES

2:30 GROOM PREP
Groomsmen should be completely ready. Groom should only have pants and shirt on. We’ll photograph him putting on shoes, tie, cufflinks, jacket, etc. Best man, mom, and dad should be available to help. Usually mom will help pin the boutonniere.

The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography

2:45 BRIDE PUTS DRESS ON
Bridesmaids + Mom should be completely dressed and ready.

3:00 BRIDES FIRST LOOK WITH DAD

3:15 FIRST LOOK AND BRIDE AND GROOM PORTRAITS

4:05 WEDDING PARTY
Full Wedding Party
Bride with Bridesmaids (Together and Individually)
Groom with Groomsmen (Together and Individually)
Bride with Groomsmen
Groom with Bridesmaids

4:40 FAMILY FORMALS
It’s important that the immediate family involved in photos know ahead of time where they need to go after the ceremony. It also greatly helps for the officiant to make an announcement after the ceremony directing family to one place and other guests to another. Otherwise we could spend 15 minutes tracking down family members!

5:15 PICTURES COMPLETE PRE-CEREMONY
Bride Hides from Guests at the point and has time to relax and touch-up hair or make-up.

5:15 PHOTOGRAPH CEREMONY AND RECEPTION DETAILS UNTOUCHED

6:00 CEREMONY BEGINS
6:30 CEREMONY ENDS

7:00 SUNSET

6:30 COCKTAIL HOUR BEGINS
7:30 RECEPTION BEGINS
7:40 INTROS, FIRST DANCE
7:50 TOASTS AND BLESSING
8:00 PARENT DANCES
8:10 OPEN DANCING
8:30 DINNER
9:00 OPEN DANCING
9:45 CAKE CUTTING/ BOUQUET AND GARTER TOSS
10:00 PHOTOGRAPHY COVERAGE ENDS

11:30 RECEPTION ENDS

The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography

WITHOUT A FIRST LOOK {Based on 7:00 Sunset time and 9 Hour Coverage}

1:00 PHOTOGRAPHERS ARRIVE AT GETTING READY LOCATION, PHOTOGRAPH DETAILS
Flowers should be on site by this time.

2:00 PREP SHOTS – HAIR + MAKE UP TOUCH UP, GIRLS IN GETTING READY ATTIRE
If girls are wearing cute robes or tanks we’ll definitely want some shots of that!

2:30 BRIDESMAIDS CHANGE INTO DRESSES

2:30 GROOM PREP
Groomsmen should be completely ready. Groom should only have pants and shirt on. We’ll photograph him putting on shoes, tie, cufflinks, jacket, etc. Best man, mom, and dad should be available to help. Usually mom will help pin the boutonniere.

2:45 BRIDE PUTS DRESS ON
Bridesmaids + Mom should be completely dressed and ready.

3:00 BRIDES FIRST LOOK WITH DAD

3:15 PHOTOS COMPLETE PRE-CEREMONY

3:15 PHOTOGRAPH CEREMONY DETAILS UNTOUCHED//SET UP RECEPTION LIGHTING

4:00 CEREMONY BEGINS
4:30 CEREMONY ENDSThe Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography

4:45 FAMILY FORMALS
It’s important that the immediate family involved in photos know ahead of time where they need to go after the ceremony. It also greatly helps for the officiant to make an announcement after the ceremony directing family to one place and other guests to another. Otherwise we could spend 15 minutes tracking down family members!

5:20 WEDDING PARTY
Full Wedding Party
Bride with Bridesmaids (Together and Individually)
Groom with Groomsmen (Together and Individually)
Bride with Groomsmen
Groom with Bridesmaids

6:00 BRIDE AND GROOM PORTRAITS

6:50 PICTURES COMPLETE//JOIN COCKTAIL HOUR

7:00 SUNSET

6:30 COCKTAIL HOUR BEGINS

7:30 RECEPTION BEGINS
7:40 INTROS, FIRST DANCE
7:50 TOASTS AND BLESSING
8:00 PARENT DANCES
8:10 OPEN DANCING
8:30 DINNER
9:00 OPEN DANCING
9:45 CAKE CUTTING/ BOUQUET AND GARTER TOSS
10:00 PHOTOGRAPHY COVERAGE ENDS

11:30 RECEPTION ENDS

The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography

PHEW!!!! YOU MADE IT! I am always more than happy to help all my couples build their timelines to ensure the most fun, stress free day possible with a guarantee to get all the pictures they want! If you have timeline questions feel free to email for help at hello@imlauralee.com 

Share this post with a friend you think might need help planning their wedding day timeline!!

The Wedding Day Timeline - Laura Lee Photography

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