Sample Wedding Timeline with First Look

October 24, 2017

Your wedding day will be here before you know it! It’s time to start working through your wedding day details including your wedding day timeline!

Wedding timelines are important, not only for the schedule of the day but how much time is accounted for photos, catering, and ultimately having a stress-free day.

bride and groom portraits in grassy areas in philander knox estate wedding by Washington DC Wedding Photographer Adam Mason

I wanted to give you a sample timeline to start out with! This doesn’t have everything for your wedding in it, nor is it a set of hard and fast rules. Your photographer, wedding planner, makeup artist, caterer and venue will have tips as well. Of course, I’d say make sure the photographer looks over the timeline if you care about having lots of photos! This is important! Plus, you don’t want to feel rushed throughout the day. As I say in my about section, if it’s between details (getting ready/ceremony/reception) or people (you and your partner, wedding party, family photos, dancing, etc.), choose people every time!

Either way, this will be a great place to start planning! If you have 8 hours of coverage from your photographer and are planning a first look, this timeline will be almost perfect!

If you’re not sure what a first look is or whether or not it’s right for you (short answer: do it!!!) check out my post about the first look here.

emotional first look at 1757 Golf Club Wedding in Virginia by Virginia Wedding Photographer Adam Mason

Sample Wedding Timeline

1:00PM – Final Details & Getting Ready Photos
3:00PM – First Look with your partner! And a few portraits of course!
3:30PM – Wedding Party (Bridesmaids & Groomsmen) Photos
4:00PM – Family Photos. This is optional but if you want to have your entire cocktail hour taking portraits at sunset or with your guests, you can do family photos before the ceremony!
4:30PM – Couple in hiding/final pre-ceremony prayers, traditions, ketubah signings, etc.
5:00PM – Ceremony!!! (You can adjust everything after this based on how long your ceremony is! For some of my couples, it’s an hour, for others, it’s only 12 minutes!)
5:30PM – Cocktail Hour Begins – Photographer with Bride & Groom for Portraits.
6:30PM – Cocktail Hour Ends. Guests are seated for the reception.
6:45PM – Introductions, first dance, toasts.
7:00PM – Dinner
7:30PM – Dancing & other traditions!
8:00PM – Sunset Pictures (This is also the best time for couples who traditionally change into different outfits to change!)
10:45PM – Last call
11:00PM – Last dance. Reception Ends. After Party begins!

Family Photos or “Formals”

Most photographers (including myself) do not need a “shotlist” before the wedding. If you’ve looked over their full galleries before booking, seen a lot of their portfolio, you should have a wonderful day! BUT, when it comes to any family photos or important people in your life, you can totally have a list. Just remember, more people=more time needed for photos. I estimate about 3 minutes per photo combination. This helps have buffer time throughout the wedding day.

Also, whenever I shoot family formals, I try my best to go from the biggest group to the smallest. This helps older folks get to sit earlier rather than waiting while keeping everyone else attentive so this can go smoothly.

boys during family formals playing with fidget spinners at comus inn wedding on sugarloaf mountain by Washington DC Wedding Photographer Adam Mason

Here’s a sample list of family formals to add to your wedding timeline!

  • Bride + Groom + Both Immediate Families
  • Bride + Groom + B’s Immediate Family
  • Bride + Groom + G’s Immediate Family
  • Bride + Groom + B & G’s Parents
  • Bride + Groom + G’s Parents
  • Bride + Groom + B’s Parents
  • Bride + B’s Parents
  • Bride + Bride’s Mother
  • Bride + Bride’s Father
  • Groom + G’s Parents
  • Groom + Groom’s Mother
  • Groom + Groom’s Father

Family Situations to Be Sensitive To

This section is important and a great note to avoid any awkward situations on the wedding day! Whether it’s a divorce, death, or just two family members who don’t get along, tell your photographer & vendors. Many won’t need it, but your photographer will thank you for it! It’s also okay if this section is blank.

I hope this helps brides, grooms and couples when planning their big day! Wedding days shouldn’t be stressful or rushed. My couples with all-day coverage receive 40-60% more photos from their wedding. Wedding photos aren’t just for one day, they’re for life!

Have more questions or need a photographer for your wedding? Tell me more about your wedding HERE or simply email me!

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Adam is local to Washington, DC and is currently booking 2018 and 2019 wedding photography sessions at any destination. Really, any destination!

Adam Mason frequently travels for wedding, event, and non-profit portrait sessions and has clients from coastal Maui to Iceland. To find out details regarding his upcoming travel dates to a city near you or to book a custom travel session, please contact for more information or follow along on Instagram!