The Ultimate Wedding Timeline – With a First Look
Updated: Oct 16
CREATING THE ULTIMATE WEDDING TIMELINE FOR YOUR DAY
Are you currently navigating the world of wedding planning? Trust us, we've been there too and we know that planning a wedding can be overwhelming, especially if you lack prior experience.
But hey, here's the thing— a wedding can be whatever you want it to be! It's awesome when a couple makes the day their own, right? Don't let other people's expectations ruin your vibe. Don't allow societal norms or others' expectations hinder your celebration. Remember, your wedding is a reflection of your love, so whether you're envisioning a beachside ceremony, or a picturesque hacienda celebration, Mexico offers an array of stunning backdrops. Trust us to capture every precious moment, ensuring that your Mexico destination wedding is filled with lasting memories that you'll cherish forever.
The most important aspect of planning your wedding day is nailing down your photography timeline.
Your timeline plays a huge role in your day when it comes to lighting and whether or not you’re able to get all of the photos you want. To ensure your wedding day runs smoothly, it’s important to create a detailed, hour-by-hour wedding day timeline—doing so will help you stay organized, stress-free, and on time (because even running a few minutes late can throw the whole day off track).
Because every wedding is different, it’s impossible to have a single formula for creating the perfect wedding day timeline. However, we have listed for you the main wedding planning aspects you will need to consider when crafting the schedule for your perfect wedding day celebration.
Here’s how a wedding day timeline generally breaks down:
Getting Ready, bridesmaid and groomsmen photos, and Wedding details (1-1.5 hrs)
First Look (15 mins) – If you’re planning a first look with anyone else (like a parent or wedding party) you will want to set aside and additional 15 mins for each of them as well
Couple Portraits (1 hr )
Wedding Party (30 mins)
Group Portraits: Family, Friends, Coworkers, etc. (30 – 45 mins each depending on the group sizes. We highly suggest doing immediate family formals before the ceremony if you have a large groups)
Ceremony decor and details (20 mins)
Ceremony (20-30 mins, up to an hour sometimes depending on the type of ceremony)
The signing of your marriage license (15 mins)
Cocktail hour (1 hr)
Reception decor and details (20 mins)
Reception grand entrance (10 mins)
Welcome Speech (5 mins)
Dinner (45 mins)
Reception events: Cake-cutting, toasts, first dances, party (2-3 hrs)
Sunset Portraits (30 mins)
Pro Tip: We recommend using a document like Google Sheets for clear organization and easy editing. Once you’ve drafted your wedding day timeline, share it with your wedding-party members, wedding coordinator/planner, photographer, caterer, florist, and other wedding vendors so everyone’s on the same page.
SAMPLE WEDDING DAY TIMELINE: CEREMONY & RECEPTION AT THE SAME VENUE - WITH A FIRST LOOK
This means guests don’t need to travel to a separate location for the reception, so cocktail hour can begin right after the ceremony has concluded, followed by dinner, toasts, dancing, and cake.
SAMPLE TIMELINE WITH A FIRST LOOK
12:00 pm: Photo Team begins their coverage with wedding detail photos
This time will vary depending on the level of detail or importance of these images. We typically spend about an hour on detail images alone. For full weekend wedding events, we’ll sometimes do these photos the day prior, before rehearsal coverage, and work alongside your planner to stylize these images.
We recommend setting aside a minimum of 30 minutes for a few simple photos of your wedding dress, invitation suite, and rings. Stylizing your items takes time.
If you care about having truly artistic, refined and comprehensive wedding photos, wedding details are an essential part of wedding editorial submissions, so if you want your wedding to be featured in a publication like Vogue Weddings, capturing every detail will also allow us to submit.
1:00 pm: Getting Ready Photos
These can oftentimes take only 10 minutes, but we like to plan for 15 minutes in the event that hair or makeup runs behind, or that there’s some running around to get champagne or missing people — which definitely happens!
1:20 pm: Parents and Wedding Party members should all go get dressed by this time; Photo Team documents the couple opening any cards, then they should brush prep to get dressed
This is a critical part of the timeline that can often be missed. Essentially, anyone that will be with you when you get into your dress or suit jacket, should already be dressed so that everyone looks polished in those “final prep” images.
For anyone with a Bride or Groom – anyone wearing a dress should be in that dress; anyone wearing pants for the day should get those on, plus collared shirt. We’ll document putting on ties, jackets, etc. Parents should be fully dressed if they’ll be present for the “final prep” images.
A reminder to anyone with the couple: there will be time during the first look for you to do final touches of your own! Being dressed and looking presentable is important, but you’ll have extra time to perfect your look after this point. Don’t be that friend/parent that holds up the couple from going to their first look on time
1:40 pm: Final Prep
Brides get into dresses, Grooms begin to put their suits on.
30 minutes can sound like a lot, but in the event that there is a button malfunction or something, you’ll want the extra time. This is NOT the time to add stress to running late.
Pro-tip: If you’re getting dressed off-site (i.e. at a hotel or a family home) be sure to account to travel time to the venue AS WELL AS time to transition into the suite and settle in before jumping right into the first look. That transition time can often be overlooked and could be the difference of rush versus relaxed portraits.
2:10 pm: First Look
The first look itself will literally take under a minute, but you also have to factor in setting everyone up and time for the two of you to enjoy the moment before beginning portraits.
2:20 pm: Couple Portraits
This time can be abbreviated now and shifted to cocktail hour, if necessary or wanted. We´ll recommend it, based on lighting and available shaded areas at your venue — the closer we are to sunset, the softer and nicer the lighting in your images.
3:20 pm: Wedding Party Portraits
Generally sufficient for average-sized wedding parties.
3:50 pm: Immediate Family Portraits
Sufficient timing for both families when there are no or few special circumstances (i.e. multiple family variations due to divorce, remarriage, or other situations).
Immediate family generally includes parents, siblings, any sibling spouses or children.
It’s most common for grandparents to arrive with an aunt/uncle for the ceremony time, but not beforehand (to avoid unnecessary waiting time). For that reason, we generally see photos with grandparents happen immediately after the ceremony.
4:20 pm: Couple freshens up for the ceremony; Photo Team photographs the wedding ceremony and reception setups
Many venue coordinators will ask that we’re done pre-ceremony portraits by 30 minutes prior to the ceremony starting, as this tends to be the time that guests begin to arrive.
When possible, we plan to end the pre-ceremony portraits 40 minutes prior to the ceremony. This gives us a 10-minute buffer if any family or wedding party photos were delayed for any reason — a missing brother or bridesmaid that forgot their bouquet inside sort of situations. If we don’t need the extra time for family/wedding party, it’s a bonus 10 minutes that we can use for your portraits or to relax with your friends and family!
5:00 pm: Ceremony
Even the shortest of ceremonies tend to run ~30 minutes by the time the wedding party is all lined up, everyone walks down the aisle and back up on either side of the actual ceremony. And many ceremonies start at least a few minutes behind. I’d use 30 minutes as a baseline timeframe in your timeline, and treat anything leftover as a bonus!
Receiving Line – for the purpose of this, let’s pretend there isn’t a receiving line.
If you do plan to have one, be sure to adjust the time based on the number of guests in attendance.
5:30 pm: Cocktail Hour
We always recommend doing a few “just married” portraits right after the ceremony — the energy between the two of you will be incredible and these always tend to be some of the best ones of the day! Even 5-10 minutes as guests transition to cocktail hour is sufficient — and also fits perfectly for making an entrance into the cocktail space! This time of day is also incredible for photos — the lighting tends to be very soft and flattering.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to take any photos immediately after the ceremony, determine a place “hide out” while guests transition over to cocktail hour. Clue your parents and wedding party into this as well, if they need to be included in any photos. Guests will be excited to all say hi, if you’re within their sight.
During this time, the Photo Team will generally photograph guests mingling at cocktail hour. They might also wrap up detail photos of the reception decor, or do any extended family portraits you’ve requested.
Pro-tip: Consider your cocktail and reception space — if they’re connected/nearby it may be critical to allocate some pre-ceremony time for your photographer to document the setup untouched (i.e. no guest jackets or purses scattered everywhere). There are almost always guests that are excited to see the space and set their personal belongings down.
6:30 pm: Your Wedding Reception
From this point forward, your catering manager/venue coordinator generally takes the lead on scheduling.
The order of events we most commonly see: Welcome speech, Introductions into First Dance and Toasts; Dinner is served; Cake cutting into Parent Dances; Dance floor is opened!
7:30 pm: Sunset Portraits
Depending on the flow of events and how epic the sunset is, we can either plan to sneak out for a moment or find a window of time between toasts and dinner.
Sunset time will vary depending on the time of year; it will also vary at what point it happens on your wedding day, depending on when your ceremony time is in relation to sunset.
10:00 pm: Photo Team coverage typically ends
This will vary depending on the package you have with your photographer. The majority of our wedding packages are for 10 hours, which allows us to capture the details and wedding prep, through just enough dancing to see everyone had fun!
If there’s an exit or surprise happening later in the evening, talk with your photographer about extending their coverage when you do your final timeline planning.
If you are you looking for a Mexico Destination Wedding Photographer to capture the essence of your wedding day in Mexico, you can find us here. We would love to help you craft and document your most magical day in Mexico or any part of the world that you´d love to take us.