Wedding Day Timelines {Part 1}


I’ve been thinking about the ideal wedding timeline which has nothing to do with a watch. Or a calculator.

And it goes like this: Yikes!

Death, taxes, and wedding day timelines, yes, they are all inevitable. None are particularly easy to think about, especially when creating an ideal wedding day timeline.

Yet, there is an art, and grace, to planning events and have them unfold according to expectations. I know a good wedding timeline created by a master. After photographing 125+ weddings since 2005, I offer my helping hand.

One word describes the perfect timeline: Flow.

If there was a single visual, it might look light this (created by Kevin Omura at Kuleana Design):

Art of Wedding Day Timelines

Like watching a good movie, time escapes us. When seamless weddings are thoughtfully planned, timelines flow with meticulous precision, despite the unimaginable.

I admit: I am no expert in wedding day timelines. There ARE experts called wedding planners (not to be confused with a day of wedding coordinators… very different). The good ones make weddings flow, despite last minute hail storms (an inconvenience) or flower girl temper tantrums (photogenic) or a controlling mother of the groom (camera down).

To help shape the uncontrollable, I turn to wedding planning expert Hana April Chughtai (Mani Mela) and share her insights:

1. What is your ideal wedding day timeline, assuming ceremony and reception at same place, couple agree to a First Look, using sunset as a starting point?

The ideal wedding day timeline would be conductive to a late start for the ceremony, and a relaxed morning.  I highly recommend having both the ceremony  and reception area at the same place so that you don’t spend the most beautiful day racing around to different places.  Let guests enjoy being in one place, and let the two of you enjoy being in one location.  Be creative in the spaces around your venue, and think critically at some of the areas around the building as hidden gems.  Let your photographer find unique areas that can be used as photography backdrops so that you don’t need to shuffle your bridal party off to scenic areas for photos.  Allow plenty of time for breakfast, hair and makeup, and to get into your dress.  Getting into your dress is more then just the dress; the shoes, jewelry, veil, hair accessories, and final makeup touch ups all have to be accounted for, so allow time for all of those important details without being rushed.  Savor the moments of your Mom or another loving friend getting you into your dress. Those are special moments that you will want to document and treasure.


2. How does a First Look help shape the timeline?

Make an effort to have mini-first looks with your Mom when you are fully dressed, and don’t forget about Dad and Siblings.  Often the tender moment between a sibling is not documented–take time to do that.  When you plan for your first look with your beloved–make sure that it is how you want it done.  Don’t be talked into what others have done, or be swayed to do something that isn’t truly authentic to you.  Spend as much time as you want or need between the two of you. After all it is your day.

One of the most critical aspects is the first look of a couple and their parents into their reception space.  All the months spending time on the details and the moment all your ideas comes together is truly a magical experience to see at once.  Capturing that reaction is essentially priceless.  Schedule time in your timeline to ensure you take a few moments to do a grand reveal into the reception space and truly enjoy all your hard work and how it came together.

I love when guests don’t feel rushed throughout the day, as it seamlessly blends from one experience to the next.  Linger over a delicious dinner, but get the party started when you see fit.  There is no right or wrong way to plan your day, and it does not need to be traditional.  Dancing can happen in between course. People love when weddings offer something unique and different than a standard dinner.  Sneak away while guests are still eating, to do an intimate sunset picture outside with just you and your loved one.  Savor those moments and build your timeline in a way that makes sense to the two of you. At the end of the day, it is truly all about that.


3. What three things would you suggest to avoid when building a timeline.

  • Too much travel, driving, or too many picture locations
  • Choose a ceremony time to seamlessly transition into cocktail hour and then the reception
  • Be realistic about how long everything will take on your wedding day. Allow plenty of time for hair and makeup styling, and extra time for those special moments getting into your dress.  Ask your photographer for input on special moments you can build into the timeline, such as the father of the bride seeing the bride in her dress, a wedding couple First Look, and a photo opportunity while the sun is setting–moments that might be easily forgotten in a busy wedding day.


4. Why is it important to work with a wedding planner when creating an ideal timeline?

An expert wedding planner/manager assists in creating realistic timeline and schedules.  They work closely with the photographer to create a timeline to ensure important moments are captured.  The planner will also ensure the bridal party will be on track to coordinate special moments in the timeline, ie: one managing the groom receiving a card his bride, making sure the bride is getting into her gown, getting ready for their First Look, and managing The Grand Reveal for the couple into the reception space, to make sure they get to experience the spectacular first look of the design.  We consider the photography team as an extension of our team, and will work together to ensure that everything the wedding couple wished for their wedding day is taken care of.

Special thanks to James Christianson for offering an amazing experience on par with exceptional images (he took these images from our wedding).


Want to delve deeper into timeline details? READ PART 2 HERE, which shares personalized details sketched out in the art of a wedding day timeline.

One Response to “Wedding Day Timelines {Part 1}”

  1. Pingback: Wedding Day Timelines {Part 2} » Kern-Photo - Kern-Photo

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