Your Adventurous Wedding: Why Day-Of Timelines Help Your Wedding Day Run Smoothly

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Today on the blog, we’re moving away from recent sessions and weddings and chatting about a super important wedding day topic— DAY OF TIMELINES!

One thing that I love to include in all of my wedding packages — no matter if it’s a shorter elopement or a full-day celebration— is offering to assist in creating a day-of timeline for each couple. Often times, couples will hire a coordinator, or a wedding planner, that may help create a timeline for the wedding day as well (HIGHLY recommend hiring a planner/coordinator to run the day), but in case they don’t, I love helping out too! I know that usually this is the first time a couple has planned a wedding and understand that it can be tricky to put together a schedule for everyone to know where to be and when, coordinate where the photographer should be, and just how the day is going to go in general! When I help my couples create a timeline, I try to make things easy for everyone and try to keep their ideas and wishes in mind.

It can all be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s a super important part of the day— and here’s why!


First off, plans can get off-track and things can go wrong.

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I’m starting this off with a hard fact and am just trying to be honest here- wedding days hardly ever go EXACTLY as planned! There is usually some small hiccups here and there, but big ones can happen too. There could be a missing bouquet (happened on my own wedding day), rain can cause delays/change in plans, an important family member could be running late, etc etc! Having a timeline helps keep everything together and can help see where things can be moved around if need be.

Whenever I help create timelines, I add in buffer time here and there. I learned this trick from my first wedding photographer mentor (and my own wedding photographer) Rebecca Watkins. She ALWAYS added in 5-10 minutes extra where she could, in case things ran behind. For example, it may only take 20 minutes to capture the first look, but if something happens where the bride is late getting into her dress, all of a sudden that extra 5 minutes becomes super helpful and puts you back on track! If we schedule 30 minutes for family formal portraits, sometimes 10 minutes of that is spent trying to track down an important grandparent or sibling who has run off to the cocktail hour a little early.

Yes, I love my turquoise rain coat. PHOTO:  Jeff Payne Photography

Yes, I love my turquoise rain coat. PHOTO: Jeff Payne Photography


Timelines tell family when to be ready and where they need to be.

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There are a bunch of moving and working parts to wedding days. Immediate family members are usually on-site helping to decorate and get everything in place to make the day perfect for the couple. Having a detailed day-of timeline helps coordinate family members and lets them know when they need to be ready and where they need to be for photos and moments.

It’s often tradition for Mothers-of-the-bride (MOB) to help their daughters into the dress that they’ve spent quite some time picking out and trying on. If a MOB is at the reception site, for example, helping put together the centerpieces, she may miss out on that beautiful moment or may cause things to run behind. If she has a timeline, she can plan to help at the reception site for 20 minutes, but will know that she has to be back at the bridal suite for getting ready at a certain time.


Timelines keep everyone on the same page- including all of your vendors!

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It’s no secret that it, “takes a village,” to come together on a wedding day to make it the best possible for the couple! Not only do family and friends come together to help create the day, but also a team of a vendors— hair stylists, makeup artists, florists, caterers, videographers, photographers, officiants, planners, coordinators, venue staff, live bands, DJs, cake bakers.. I could go on! We all come together to work as a team on a wedding day to make it a success.

Having a timeline and communication between vendors help us all stay on the same page and keep the day going— especially DJs! Since coordinators and photographers primarily instruct brides and grooms where to go the first part of the day, when it comes to reception time the torch is passed off to the DJ, who runs the show at the reception. Having a timeline that the DJ, coordinator, and photographer can look at will keep them all on the same page and they’ll know when special moments are going to happen, like when the cake is going to be cut, when the bouquet will be tossed, etc.

PHOTO: Lakyn Hayes,  The Williams Creative

PHOTO: Lakyn Hayes, The Williams Creative


Lastly (and super importantly): Planning for the light, first looks, and golden hour!

Since I primarily photograph outdoor weddings, lighting is super important to the whole day! Whenever I’m the sole person creating a timeline (and depending on logistics of the day), I always look up the sunset time to see exactly how much daylight we’ll have. This is particularly important for Fall wedding days (hello Daylight Savings) where the sun sets much earlier than it does during the Summer. I’d rather have enough time in the evening for those important couples portraits than to start late in the day and have to rush through them and lose sunlight.

A great work around to this is considering having a first look! I wrote all about first looks on my blog, “5 Reasons Why You Should Have a First Look,” but what it boils down to is that a first look allows you to get a large chunk of your wedding portraits finished before the ceremony! A first look timeline looks a little like this:

  1. Bride and groom gets ready

  2. First look

  3. Couple’s portraits together

  4. Portraits with the bridal party (whole party, bride + bridesmaids, groom + groomsmen)

  5. Ceremony

  6. Family

  7. Sunset couple’s portraits

  8. RECEPTION!

With a first look, you get the majority of your photos finished and can then get to the reception a lot faster and not have to chase the sunlight!

Planning for sunset also helps us gauge when that amazing, “golden hour,” light will be! This is particularly important if we’re shooting on a mountain, or in a field, that will give us that beautiful, glowy, golden light! This is my favorite time for portraits and I’m always so giddy when I have the opportunity to shoot at that time and we hit it just right. I will say though, sometimes we don’t always get this light- it’s kind of luck of the draw and what Mother Nature decides she wants to give us.

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Like I said earlier, creating a timeline can be a bit overwhelming at first- BUT! The good news is that by hiring professionals, you have a whole team of people who I’m sure are more than willing to help put their knowledge and expertise together to make the logistics of the day run smoothly! These professionals will know just how long they need to do their job and create the best day possible! Obviously, I can only speak for myself here, but don’t be afraid to reach out to your photographer/coordinator/other vendors and ask them for advice or help with your timeline! I’m sure they’ll be happy to help!

Happy wedding planning! :D