The Insider Scoop

6 Things to Consider When Making Your Wedding Day Timeline

Michael Lopacki, of Michael John Photography, has tips to make sure your wedding day is perfect.

With all of the planning that we do for our wedding, making sure the day goes smoothly is important. And one way to help with that is to create a wedding day timeline. This may seem like a daunting task, but with the help of your photographer, as well as your venue, creating that perfect wedding day timeline will be one of the easiest things you’ll do throughout your planning.

But where do you even begin? Michael Lopacki, of Michael John Photography, a BOLI preferred vendor, has six things to consider when making your wedding day timeline.

Your Ceremony

The first thing that Michael asks his brides is the time of their ceremony and the location. “That’s the most important question because that will determine what kind of timeline we’re looking at,” says Michael. “Your ceremony time is a starting off point and I build out a timeline from there.” For example, if you are having a church ceremony at 2 p.m., Michael suggests starting your ‘getting ready’ photos at 11:30 a.m., leaving you two hours for photos before leaving for your ceremony.

MORE: 40 Questions to Ask Your Photographer

Cocktail Hour

Next, Michael asks about the timing of your cocktail hour. “My ultimate goal is to get all of our photos done before cocktail hour,” Michael explains. “I don’t want any of my brides missing their cocktail hour.”

It’s important to find out how early you can arrive at your venue – no matter if you’re getting married there or off site. That ‘extra’ time at the venue is important to your timeline in terms of photography. “If we’re allowed to arrive two hours before, that’s perfect for photos,” says Michael. “But if we’re only allowed an hour on site, we probably need to find a second location to ensure we get our couples to cocktail hour.”

Of course, if cocktail hour isn’t that important to you, or if you have an extended cocktail hour, this helps with your timeline for the day!

First Look

In terms of timing, your first look goes hand in hand with cocktail hour. For brides that have a first look, there are more opportunities to get the majority of your photos done before the ceremony. “For example, we can do full bridal party and some family shots, as well as the couples alone – or at least some of those – all before their ceremony starts,” says Michael. “All of those shots usually take around 45 minutes or up to an hour, so without a first look, brides might miss their cocktail hour.”

Of course, if you don’t want a first look, that’s OK. Your photographer will factor this into the perfect wedding day timeline for you.

MORE: The Pros & Cons of a First Look vs. Meeting at the Altar

Where are you getting ready?

Another important thing to consider is where you’re getting ready. Are you getting ready at home? A hotel? Or maybe you’re getting ready at the venue. Wherever you’re getting ready, you’ll need to factor in travel time to where you’re ending up. And something to consider after you get ready? Traveling together! Michael suggests doing your first look at the location where you’re getting ready, and then utilizing that party bus with your friends and family to head to your venue, church or off-site location for more photos. “I suggest this to make the day more seamless,” says Michael. “You want the day to be easy going with fun and enjoyment – so enjoy that bus ride!”

Family Photos

Family photos are important on your wedding day. And when creating your timeline, you’ll need to factor in the size of your family, as well as if you’ll want extended family photos. “If it’s a larger family, we would have to build that into the timeline,” says Michael. “Preferably earlier in the day, if we can.”

Michael suggests getting immediate family photos done early – after brides have gotten ready and before the ceremony. “I try to get the solo shots with mom and dad, as well as siblings done before we leave for the church or venue, this way we can fly through group shots at the venue, and it allows for extended family photos, if we want.”

Another fun tip that Michael suggests – get those extended family photos done during your reception! “Sure, people love to make their rounds and do table photos, but a faster and more fun way is to have the family members run out to the dance floor where the bride and groom are,” he says. “I always coordinate this idea with the DJs, so they can announce the table number or families. It’s a fun way to get photos of everyone without wasting too much time.”

Time of Day or Year

If you love the idea of sunset photos, make sure to consider the time of day or even time of year when making your timeline. In the summer months, that sunset is between 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. In the winter months, the sun sets by 4:30 p.m. depending on the time of year.  “I love to shoot in the golden hour!” says Michael. He knows that grabbing those sunset shots might pull brides away from the reception, so he makes sure he’s ready to go before couples head out for the gorgeous shots. “I’ll have them outside for 5-10 minutes max, and then they can head back into the party.”

MORE: Summer Soiree? Fall Fête? A Breakdown of Weddings by Season. 

On average, Michael says getting ready photos take about two hours, and then he suggests at least two hours for bridal party and family photos, as well as portraits with the bride and groom. “Two hours is key because we want to relax,” says Michael. “Taking photos on your wedding day shouldn’t be work. It should be fun and enjoyable.” And when you consider his suggestions in making your timeline – your wedding day will definitely be stress-free.