Too many people under-estimate the importance of a solid wedding timeline.  I mean, you have your ceremony, then portraits, and a bunch of stuff goes on at your reception that your DJ essentially runs, correct?  Hmmm…. not really…. that is, if you want really good wedding photos from your day.

As a Dallas wedding photographer, I get the unique chance to see the weddings that run flawlessly, and the ones that struggle a bit.  The wedding timeline has a lot to do with that (along with hiring an amazing coordinator).  One of the things that I do for my brides is to provide them with assistance on creating a photo-friendly wedding timeline and providing them with a detailed account of where we will be at any given moment of your wedding day.  This timeline allows you to get the absolute most out of your day by providing lots of great photo opportunities.  And I know you would love to take advantage of all of those photo opportunities, or you wouldn’t be reading my blog.  =)

Truelove’s Photo-tastic Wedding Timeline

2 Hours before ceremony – Bride’s getting ready photos & details
I like to arrive about two-hours prior to your ceremony and jump right in on getting all those pretty details of yours.  I put your dress up in a neat location.  I also want to get your shoes, rings, garter, and anything else that you have available at that moment.

getting ready details during a wedding timeline


While I am getting your details, my second shooter is getting your groom as he puts on his jacket, adjusts his tie, and finishes getting ready.  Then, it is time for bridal party portraits.

bridal party portraits during a wedding timeline


If we do a first look, this is also when it takes place.  A first look is when you and your groom get the opportunity to see each other before the ceremony.  It is a really sweet moment and allows your groom to have a genuine reaction without having many different eyes on him.  It also gives you the opportunity to get all bridal party pictures out of the way before the ceremony.

first look between a bride and groom during a wedding timeline


Your ceremony can vary greatly, but most of them are between 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Right after ceremony to One Hour After Ceremony – Formal Portraits
The faster we can start doing family formals, the better.  I go from largest group shots and narrow it down from there, allowing your family to go to the reception as soon as possible. One thing that is usually overlooked is bride and groom portraits.  Please, please, please do not leave just 30 minutes between your ceremony and reception, as this does not allow enough time for some awesome bride and groom portraits.  It gives you two a little ‘break’ as well.

bride and groom portraits during a wedding timeline bride and groom portraits during a wedding timeline


While we are completing your portraits, my second shooter is at your reception venue getting all of the amazing details that you have set up.

wedding reception details during a typical wedding timeline wedding reception details during a typical wedding timeline


1 Hour after Ceremony – Start of Reception
Once you are announced, go straight into your first dance.  Enjoy your time together and imagine it is just the two of you in the entire room.  After your first dance, begin dinner.


1-1.5 Hours into Reception – Toasts/Cake Cutting/Last Dances
Let’s just face it, some people are only going to stay till after dinner & cake.  So, don’t make them wait till the end of the wedding to have this treat.  Those with small children, as well as the older individuals in your crowd, will want to go home soon but they want to see this very important and traditional part of your wedding day.  Go ahead, have your toasts, cut your cake, and dance with your dad (and let your husband dance with his mom).

mother son last dance during a wedding timeline

2-3 Hours into Reception – Open Dancing/Night Portraits
I cannot stress this enough… DO NOT have 3 or 4 hours of open dancing!!!!!  If you want to do this, make sure to do a fake exit and come back and party the night away.  But I promise you that you do not need 3 or 4 hours of open dancing pictures.  Open dancing is a good time for me to ‘borrow’ you and get some fun, evening shots of just the two of you.

bride and groom portraits during a wedding timeline

3.5 Hours into reception – Garter/Bouquet Toss
Having this saved till the end is a good idea, as most of the group that you have left are going to be your young, single friends.  Oh, and even if they are in a serious relationship — no ring means that they can participate =)

garter toss at a Paradise Cove wedding in Southlake during a wedding timeline garter toss at a Paradise Cove wedding in Southlake during a wedding timeline

3.75 Hours into reception – Private Final Dance
Kick everyone out to line up and get a few quiet moments just to yourself.  I love, love, LOVE private final dances for that reason.  It is nice and quiet, just the two of you, the music, and me (for a few minutes anyway).  You did it!  You’re now husband and wife!  Let the reality sink in.

private last dance during a wedding timeline

4 Hours into reception – Grand Exit
There are so many ideas on what to do for your final exit.  I don’t recommend sparklers, no matter how pretty they look in pictures.  They can be quite unsafe.  During one exit, several caught on fire, hurting someone and scaring the bride.  You can do bubbles, confetti, rice, sprinkles, glitter, or any number of other things.  Check with your venue, as they may have various stipulations on what can be used and what cannot.

grand exit in horse-drawn carriage in Sundance Square Fort Worth

Not every wedding includes this timeline, but I have noticed that weddings that do, tend to run smooth with less stress and disorganization.  A good coordinator is absolutely necessary as well, in order to carry out your plan and keep everyone on time.  Even the best laid plans become skewed, and a planner can fix the problem and get everyone back on track.

Stay tuned for more tips and advice on planning your wedding.


To schedule a session or consultation, simply email me at or call/text 469-432-2245.  Looking forward to hearing all about your wedding!