Photography, Weddings

How to create a stress-free wedding day timeline

Chelsea & I always talk about breaking the mold of “wedding photographer.” So what does this mean?

When you choose one of us, you’re not just getting a wedding photographer. We’re boutonniere pinners, dress-bustlers, ring leaders, and family-wranglers. We’re heartfelt encouragers + happy tear-driers. We’re always thinking 10 steps ahead, while staying fully present. We’ll belly laugh with your bridesmaids and dish out dad jokes with your groomsmen. And, as one of the first vendors our couples meet with, we LOVE helping couples create a detailed timeline for their wedding day!

Although every wedding day is different, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Out of any vendor, we’re typically spending the most time with the couple, and because of that, we want to ensure your day flows beautifully & efficiently, while still offering plenty of breathing room!

minnesota wedding photographer

In order to serve our couples best,

we recommend…


Arrival time:

Ideally, we like to arrive 45-60 minutes before the bride dresses. This gives us plenty of time to capture fly-on-the-wall moments (like your bridesmaids giving you a box of cards that make you sob…so you have to touch up your makeup, your flower girl gettin’ her curls done, and beautiful detail shots).


Bride Starts Dressing:

We always recommend starting to dress at least 30 minutes before the First Look. Seem like too much time? TRUST US! Worst-case scenario? We have a bit of extra cushion time! Pro tip: Allow more time for a corset-back dress that requires lacing up. And if you have a dress with tiny buttons on the back? Bring a crochet hook! It’s way faster and saves the fingers of whoever is buttoning!


First Look & Couple Photos:

We recommend at least 45 minutes for photos of bride + groom (the more, the better!). As the photographers, we take the lead on finding gorgeous locations, and prefer places with lots of variety within easy walking distance of one another. Our faves include…anywhere outside with soft indirect lighting, a stretch of lake shoreline, and tall pines (always).


Wedding Party Photos:

We recommend at least 30-45 minutes for Wedding Party photos (where 30 = bare minimum, and 45 = ideal). Bouquets should be in-hand, and boutonnieres should be pinned before photos start (designate a non-wedding party friend or family member to help with this!).


Family Group Photos:

30 minutes is ideal! We typically work faster, but cushion time is essential. Before the big day, we always ask our couples for a list of requested immediate family group photos, so we can do roll call quickly + efficiently. We’re not afraid to be firm yet friendly + keep things movin’!


Guests start arriving, photos wrapped up:

30+ minutes before ceremony start time. Example: If your ceremony starts at 4 PM, have all photos wrapped up by 3:30 at the absolute latest.



The duration is, of course, up to you! Most of our couples have short + sweet ceremonies, around 20-30 minutes. We always ask our couples for a detailed outline of the ceremony ahead of time, so we can plan accordingly.


Social Hour:

Typically 60-90 minutes in length. If your ceremony + reception are at the same location, the social hour will likely start immediately following the ceremony. If any travel is involved, be sure to factor this in (and always add extra cushion time, even if you don’t think you’ll need it!).


Dinner & Dessert:

The meal length varies, so ask your venue or caterer! Buffet meals often take longer, especially with guest counts over 200. We typically see dinner service lasting about 90 minutes from salads through dessert.

If you plan to do a cake cutting, chat with your caterer/venue about timing! Cake cutting often happens after salads are served, or immediately following the meal.



Begin 45 minutes after dinner begins! Why do we recommend this? The wedding party is typically done eating at this point, but many guests may still be eating, and will be a totally captive audience for any speeches. Pro tip: Keep speeches to 1-2 per side, plus parents + couple. If you have a crew of enthusiastic speech-givers, consider having an “open mic” at the rehearsal dinner (but not on wedding night!).


Photographers depart:

We typically wrap up 20-60 minutes after the dance floor opens!


Our biggest tip? Don’t just assume something will happen on your wedding day. If you want to ensure it will happen, put it on the schedule (even little things like…exchanging gifts, cutting the cake, taking a 15 minute breather right before sunset with your photographer in tow, etc.).

We do our best to gather & wrangle people on the big day, but communication is key: Share the schedule with your family, wedding party, and vendors well in advance, so that everyone is on the same page.

Below you’ll find a sample timeline of a typical 8-hour wedding day! Bear in mind: This is based on all events happening at one location (getting ready, photos, ceremony, and reception). This is a great starting point if you’re just starting to plan + are curious how much wedding coverage you’ll actually need!

minnesota wedding photographer

Bailey Aro Weddings: Sample Timeline

12:00 PM: Photographers arrive

1:00 PM: Bride begins dressing

1:30 PM: First Look

1:35 PM: Bride & Groom Photos

2:15 PM: Wedding Party Photos

3:00 PM: Family Group Photos

3:30 PM: Guests start arriving, wedding party tucked away

4:00 PM: Ceremony begins

4:30 PM: Ceremony ends (couple exit to avoid unintentional receiving line!)

4:30 – 5:45 PM: Social Hour

5:50 PM: Grand Entrance / Seating for dinner

6:00 PM: Welcome / Dinner served

6:40 PM: Cake Cut / Dessert served

6:50 PM: Speeches

7:15 PM: First Dance

7:20 PM: Parent Dances

7:30 PM: Dance floor opens

8:00 PM: Photographer(s) depart!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *






Browse by Category

Fave Posts