Wedding Timeline Tips by Emily Wenzel Photography

How to make a wedding schedule

It seems like when it comes to wedding planning, that just as you cross one stressful item off your to-do list, another one pops up in its place and making your wedding timeline is one of the trickier items on your list (although you might not know it yet!), which is why today’s post is so great. The lovely Emily of Emily Wenzel Photography is dishing her top tips for how to practically (and realistically) plan your wedding timeline, she’s even included some sample schedules! It turns out that Emily is not only a stellar wedding photographer, she’s also a great writer and expert on all things timeline.

Take it away Emily!

How to make a wedding day schedule...

Congratulations! You’ve survived the first few weeks (or months) of being engaged. You’ve made some of the big decisions, but now you’re overwhelmed by what comes next. You’ve contacted a few photographers and are looking at their packages. Now comes the hardest part of picking a wedding photographer: picking your photography package.

How to make a wedding day schedule...

I got married almost three years ago, and I had the craziest spreadsheets. So, I’m going to spare you the angst of doing this on your own. Here’s what I wish someone had shared with me: there is no perfect timeline. There are a lot of variables to consider. Unless you’ve decided on a photographer who only offers all-day coverage, you’re going to have to pick a package length. And it’s not easy to do, especially when you’re so far out from the wedding day. Things change. I’ve broken down some common timelines for you at the end of the post, but here are a few points to consider when planning your timeline.

  • The Bridal Party. Are you having a large bridal party? It’s best to plan extra time if you’ve got more than 2-4 people standing next to you.
  • Location, Location, Location. Having your wedding ceremony and reception in different places? Getting ready at another location? If you plan on having a photographer travel from location to location, plan for extra time. Getting around in a wedding dress, with an entourage, takes a little more time.
  • The Family Photos. I strongly encourage my couples to do family photos. Grandma is going to want them on her wall. Talk to your photographer about their approach to family formals. If you’ve got a large family, you need to know that it takes about 5 minutes to get each group of people organized and photographed.
  • The Ceremony. Are you planning a religious or secular ceremony? A full, Catholic mass can take upwards of an hour to perform. A secular ceremony can be done in as little as 20 minutes.
  • Chronically Late Syndrome. We all know at least a few people who are chronically late. Plan on starting your ceremony 10-15 minutes after the announced time. People might not have planned on the traffic, or finding parking. And if you know someone in your bridal party (or your fiancé) is chronically late, consider giving them a schedule with earlier times on it.
  • What You Want. In the end, you can throw my timelines out the window and go with what you want. Maybe you’re planning a big wedding, but only want a few photos. Maybe you’re planning a little wedding, but want the whole day covered. It’s your party; you can do what you want to.

How to make a wedding day schedule...


I usually only recommend this package for small weddings of less than 50 people, backyard weddings, or elopements.  Your ceremony needs to be short and sweet in order for this package to work, and you won’t get much of the reception covered.

30-45 min: bride + groom portraits, bridal party photos

30 min: ceremony

30 min: family formals

45 min: cocktail hour

45 min: dinner/lunch

45-60 min: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)

How to make a wedding day schedule...


This package is best for weddings of about 80-100 people, in two or fewer locations, with a short ceremony. This will get you all the important details of the day. If you squeeze too much in, you’ll feel rushed.

30-45 min: getting ready

45-60 min: first look, bride + groom portraits

45 min: bridal party photos

30-45 min: ceremony

30-45 min: family formals

60 min: cocktail hour

60 min: dinner/lunch

60-90 min: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)



For most weddings, this is the idea package. You’ll have time for everything in the 6-7 hour package, but with a little more breathing room, so the day won’t feel rushed. It’s great for weddings with a religious ceremony, and up to 200 guests. Honestly, this package is perfect for almost every wedding.

1-2 hours: getting ready

1-1.5 hours: first look, bride + groom portraits

1 hour: bridal party photos

1 hour: ceremony

45 min: family formals

1 hour: cocktail hour

1 hour: dinner/lunch

1-2 hours: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)

How to make a wedding day schedule...


If you’re having a large wedding of more than 200 guests, using more than two locations, or just want every moment of the wedding day covered, this is what you’re looking for. A photographer to join you from the moment your day starts till the moment it ends.

2 hours: getting ready

1-2 hours: first look, bride + groom portraits

1 hour: bridal party photos

1-1.5 hours: ceremony

1 hour: family formals

1 hour: cocktail hour

1 hour: dinner/lunch

2-3 hours: reception (toasts, cake, dancing)

If you’re still struggling with coming up with a timeline, I strongly suggest you talk with your photographer. I like to help my couples come up with a timeline early on, in order to avoid confusion and stress, but every photographer has a different approach. Also, be sure to discuss adding coverage with your photographer. Each photographer has a different policy, and it’s important to know if there’s a time when you can no longer add coverage, or if the hourly price goes up to add it later on.

How to make a wedding day schedule...

 Emily is one of our favorite Inland Northwest photographers, check out her website for more info!


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