Believe it or not, the timeline of your wedding is one of the most overlooked (and most important) details of your wedding day. A well thought out timeline will reduce stress for you, your parents, your cousin Ginny, your vendors, and your future grandchildren.
When planning your timeline, remember that sunlight is very important if you want outdoor, natural, soft portraits. The schedule below is for a summer wedding (sunset around 8). If your wedding is in the spring, fall, or winter, make sure you don't plan all your portraits for a time after the sun has gone down.
I also HIGHLY recommend doing a first look and getting the majority of your pictures done before the ceremony. This is a huge stress reducer for the bride and groom, and it allows you to get to the reception sooner to party with all your friends! Not all couples want to see each other before the ceremony, so just make sure you have enough time and sunlight left after the ceremony, or book a post-wedding portrait session with your photographer to make sure you have all the Bride/Groom portraits you want!
Basically, this schedule is to help you gauge how long each segment of the day might take. Keep in mind the time of sunset and build your schedule to allow for plenty of daylight. Check out the SUNSET CALENDAR HERE
Before photographers arrive- Bride starts hair/makeup (give this at least 2 hours)
2:30 pm- Photographers arrive- detail shots, rings, locations, getting ready
3-4 pm- Getting Dress on, Finishing Touches for Bride and Groom
4-4:45/5 pm - First Look/ Bride and Groom Portraits
5-5:30 pm- Wedding Party Photos
5:30-6:15- Family Portraits (Tip: Have a family member in-the-know communicate with and wrangle relatives)
6:30 - Pictures done, guests start arriving for ceremony
7:30-7:45/8 - A few Bride and Groom portraits at sunset/ Driving to reception
7:45/8 pm- Wedding party arrives at reception
8:10 pm- Wedding Party Announced and First Dance
8:15 pm- Special Dances (aka Bride and Father)
8:15-9 pm- Dancing, food, mingle
9:00 pm- Cut the Cake
9:15-10 pm- Dancing
10 pm- Garter/Bouquet toss
10:15 pm- Last few dances
10:30-10:45 pm- Bride and Groom exit!
If you book your photographer for all day coverage, you're allowing more time for candid shots, pictures of you hanging out with your best men and best ladies, pictures at the salon getting hair/makeup done, pictures of the groom and groomsmen grabbing a beer before they get suited up, and allowing for more travel time between venues.