How to create an awesome wedding timeline to help plan your wedding day – and why you should bother.

For a few years now part of the service I offer to my brides and grooms is creating a wedding timeline to help them plan their wedding day.

Often-times I do this several months or even a year or more out from the wedding and the time for the ceremony and the reception are still be up in the air.  In fact, the couple might not even know which venue the ceremony or reception will be at yet!  Despite this lack of details/information I can usually whip up a timeline for my couples fairly easily based on my experience as a wedding photographer.  This timeline is a great way for me to help my couples understand how long the various bits of the day usually take (and as a result, what we can squeeze in photo-wise and what we can’t).

Understanding how long we are likely to need on the day to capture all the photos the couple wants also helps me to tailor my wedding packages appropriately for them.I do worry sometime when talking about wedding timelines and such-forth that my brides will think I’m some sort of retired sergeant-major with a penchant for goose-stepping and military precision.  And so I’m always careful to point out that the timeline isn’t me telling them how they should spend their wedding day, it’s simply to give them an idea of how long the various bits of the day normally take so they can plan accordingly.  Family shots is a great example.  You might only have 10 different family combos you want photos of, and the photos themselves might only take 10 minutes, but it will take far longer than this to wrangle the rellies and if you don’t plan for that you soon end up running out of time for other (possibly more important) photos.  Uncle Fred will have had one champagne too many and will be passed out in the magnolias, sister Beth will be in the loo, etc…

Anyway, if you haven’t drawn up a timeline for your up-coming wedding day yet I highly recommend you do so.  Below is a sample timeline that is fairly typical of the Queenstown weddings I shoot.  (These times are based around a winter wedding as we are in winter now).  I highly recommend that, using the below timeline as a template, you spend a bit of time to make your own wedding timeline.  If you know the time you want your ceremony and the time your reception is starting then that’s more than enough info to come up with a guesstimate wedding timeline right now.  Hopefully once you have done a timeline for your wedding it will help you to plan your big day.

(Warning: I had a 5am start this morning and despite drinking more than my fair share of espresso this afternoon to compensate, I am feeling a little tired.  So hopefully the above makes sense, if not or if you have any questions please leave a comment below.  And if you need help or advice in drafting your wedding timeline email me at and I will do my best to help).


  • If you don’t know the timing for much of the day yet but have booked your reception venue, ask them what time they normally serve the mains and work backwards from there.  (The bride and groom and bridal party should be at the reception venue at least half an hour before that).
  • Keep in mind that if you are planning a winter wedding you may lose the light well before your mains are served. In this case check with your photographer how late he/she is wanting to shoot and what time you are likely to arrive at the reception venue after any bridal party/location photos.
  • Try to not squeeze too many locations/photos into the time you have. It’s better to not feel rushed and be nice and relaxed for your photos. That way you will enjoy the day and get more beautiful photos.
  • I have left times in this sample guesstimate timeline as I find it easier to edit the timing if I have actual times in there.



WEDDING DATE: Wednesurday the umpteenth of Somethinguary, 201X


1030 – 1230  Getting ready photos (also a good opportunity for shots of the dress hanging up, the wedding shoes, the bouquet, tail end of bride’s preparation/hair/makeup etc, photos of bride before the wedding in her full get-up, with Mum/Dad/bridesmaids etc).

1230 – 1300  Bridal party travels from Queenstown to the ceremony venue

1300  – 1320  Ceremony

1320 – 1335  Bride & Groom congratulated by friends and family.  (There will be at least 15 minutes of guests congratulating you after the ceremony and this is a really lovely part of the day.  It is also a great opportunity for some lovely, emotional candid photos).

1335 – 1400  Group photo of all guests (Takes a little bit of time to wrangle everyone into position but it’s a nice memento for everyone).

1400 – 1430 . Family/group photos (might take longer depending upon how many family/group combos you want).

1430 – 1615 Bridal Party photos.

1615 – 1630  Travel to the reception.

1630   Bridal party arrive at reception venue

1800  Mains served

1900  Speeches commence

1930  Cutting of the cake

1945  Dessert served

2045  First dance

I hope you find the above info helpful!  I highly recommend drawing up a wedding timeline to help plan your wedding day (liaise with your photographer and other vendors and rely on their experience and advice).  Patrick

wedding timeline keep calm and make a plan




Author Details

Patrick Fallon

I am a wedding photographer based in beautiful Queenstown, New Zealand. I have been full-time with the photography thing since 2006 and still can’t believe I get to do what I love for a job! Here are a few words that I think sum me up: I AM…tall and bald, happy, imaginative, constantly hungry, active and friendly. I LOVE…my girl, coffee, photography, fooooooood, my family and friends, riding bikes, being outside, the simple things in life, people… I love my life! I believe that wedding photography can and should be SIMPLE, NATURAL, BEAUTIFUL.

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