Advice & Inspiration

How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline | Raleigh Wedding Photographer

December 13, 2021

Dawn Marie Photography


Who knows as much about wedding day timelines as a wedding planner? A professional wedding photographer! Our job is to tell your wedding day story through photography, and that means making sure your timeline is down pat so not a moment is missed! Like a planner, I’ll be one of the first ones in and last ones out, by your side the majority of the day. Many times, couples are surprised by how much their wedding photographer helped facilitate the day, gently making sure the timeline moved along as planned (and giving those extra nudges to the groomsmen caught up in a game of cornhole). From elopements to micro weddings to ballroom celebrations, I’ve taken part in all variations of wedding day timelines. Here are a few tips to help you know what to expect and how to plan the perfect wedding day timeline for your special day. 

Tips on Creating a Flawless Wedding Day Timeline

Center Your Wedding Day Timeline Around Your Ceremony

You can’t move your ceremony time, so work everything else around that. If you’re still early in the wedding planning process and haven’t chosen a ceremony time yet, consider these factors when selecting your time:

Wedding Party Size—If you have a large wedding party, an early ceremony time may not be the best idea, especially if you have several bridesmaids getting their hair and makeup done together. Get with your hair and makeup artists ahead of time to see how much room you should schedule to get everyone ready.

getting ready, wedding timeline, Raleigh wedding photographer

Location & Transportation Time for You and Guests—Your venue make have limited ceremony times available. 

Raleigh Wedding Photographer

Guest Count & Type of Wedding—The more guests you have, the longer it takes to set up. On the other hand, a small outdoor elopement or micro wedding will offer more flexibility for time.

First Look or Not—See notes below about how to create a timeline with a first look.

Couple’s Portraits—What time of day and type of lighting do you want for couple’s portraits? 

sunset couple's portraits

Cocktail Reception, Buffet, or Plated Meal—Typically, earlier ceremonies have less formal receptions, and later ceremonies lend more toward formal dinners.

What’s the Best Ceremony Time?

I personally love a 4-5pm ceremony. That way, you can get beautiful sunset newlywed portraits right after. It also allows plenty of time for set up, vendor logistics, getting ready, a first look if you want one, etc. However, there are many things to take into consideration (see above), and I’m happy to offer timeline guidance based on your unique wedding day plans.

wedding day timeline, Raleigh wedding photographer

Should We Do a First Look?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. However, if you’d like to do a first look, go with an afternoon or early evening ceremony so you aren’t pressed for time (ideally 2pm or after). A first look will allow us to take wedding party and possibly family portraits ahead of time, letting you get to cocktail hour and the reception sooner. So, you need enough time before the ceremony to ensure everyone has hair, makeup, and attire ready to go! 

first look, wedding day timeline

Alternatively, you might do a first look with your dad or brother or other family member, or even a first touch around a door if you want a traditional across-the-aisle first look.

first look with day

You might expect most photographers to encourage a first look for time’s sake. However, my heart melts at the groom’s reaction when he sees his bride for the first time down the aisle. And, sunset photos are just gorgeous! Either way, first look or not, you’ll get beautiful, heartfelt couple’s photos and time to savor the moment. Above all else, do what you’ve envisioned, and we can create your wedding day timeline accordingly. 

traditional wedding
Dawn Marie

*I have wedding day timeline templates available for all my couples. I customize them based on ceremony time and with or without a first look. I’ve got you covered! 

Book with Dawn Marie Photography for Your Wedding Day Timeline Template

Connect with me here to book your date, start planning, and receive planning templates and resources. As a professional wedding photographer, I know that you must have a great wedding experience to get great photos, and I’m passionate about making that happen from engagement to newlywed sendoff!

bridals by Dawn Marie Photography

Raleigh Wedding Photographer

Dawn Marie Photography is a wedding, engagement, and boudoir photographer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. View her work here and find wedding resources on the blog. Get in touch with Dawn today to book your session.


dawn walsh

Dawn started her career in fine art wedding photography in 2012 on the foundation of genuine connection. She provides comfort for her clients through her down to earth personality and playfulness that allows them to show genuine interactions and emotions with one another in front of the camera. Capturing the essence of their relationship and the love they have for each other, with an editorial composition.

At home, Dawn is a wife and mother, living on a ranch in North Carolina. Spending quality time with family and dear friends, traveling, and having experiences is what drives her. Her family also fosters children and is active in fighting for all foster kids and their needs. 
Being able to have fun with her family, travel and share experiences is all because of the blessings God has given her and never taken for granted.

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