The Wedding Timeline | Getting Ready and Bridal Prep


Originally, I was going to write one big post for this topic but I feel like it will be an easier read if I break it down. That being said, today I want to talk about the wedding timeline! If you are a newly engaged bride this series is for you. There are a lot of details that go into planning a wedding and although it's fun, it can also be very overwhelming. I want to help take a little bit of that off of your plate! Now, there is no "template" for your wedding day timeline because everyone's wedding is different. Some ceremonies are at 10am while others are at 6pm, not to mention the season you may be getting married in. It's also VERY important to note that if you have a natural light photographer (like me) the sun dictates how long we will be able take photos outdoors. Yes, we do use flashes but the sun creates such a different scene that artificial light just can't recreate. In this series I'm going to not only break down what an ideal timeline would look like but also throw in some tips along the way! The sample timeline I'll be using throughout this series is for a spring wedding with a ceremony beginning at 4pm. Here's how it will be broken down. 

  • Getting Ready (Details & Bridal Prep): 12:30pm - 1:45pm

  • First Look and Romantic Portraits: 2:00pm - 2:45pm

  • Bridal Party: 2:50pm - 3:20pm

  • Cocktail Hour & Reception Details: 3:30pm - 3:50pm

  • Ceremony: 4:00pm - 4:45pm

  • Family Formals: 5:00pm - 5:30pm

  • Extra Romantic Portraits: 5:40pm - 6:15pm

  • Reception: 6:30pm - 10pm

Today we're just going to focus on the Getting Ready portion of the day. You may be thinking, Jackie, everyone gets dressed, hair & makeup done and that's it. Well, yes that's the gist of it. But you don't want the gist, you want an experience, right?! So, let me walk you through what a typical morning on a wedding day looks like.


(Details and Bridal Prep): 12:30pm - 1:45pm

I generally arrive about 30 minutes before I'm scheduled to be there. So for this timeline my scheduled time to show up is 12:30pm which means I'll probably get there around 12, maybe even a little earlier if I know I will have a lot of details to photograph and if there is a larger bridal party. The reason for this is because I like to take my time photographing the details. The dress, rings, bouquet, shoes, jewelry, a few fun "getting dressed" shots, the bride with her girlfriends, perfume, heirlooms, etc. Capturing all of these details is important because it's apart of the wedding story and needs to be documented for the album. Plus, I like to have extra time to get to know the bridal party so I can call on them for help if need be throughout the day like during family formals. It helps them get to know me too and relax in front of the camera. While I'm photographing bridal details, my second photographer is documenting the groom's with his groomsmen and their details as well. Don't worry guys, we won't forget about you! :)

Side note for the groom: I know that some guys could care less about this time but you'd be surprised what you have that's worth documenting. I once photographed a wedding where the groom's family put together an heirloom and framed it with their family crest. His father gave it to him as a gift on his wedding day and you could tell that it was something special and really meant a lot to him. Your family may not have a family crest but I would encourage you to find something that you feel is special and and ask that it be documented. You won't regret it!

Remember, you are investing in high quality wedding photography so of course you want the best photos possible. As the photographer, my job is to try and make the most out of any situation during the getting ready portion of the day we can run into some real issues from time to time. That being said, there are a few things a bride can do to help the photographer!

  1. Look for LIGHT! - Whether you are getting dressed in a church, bed and breakfast, or hotel room, look for LIGHT!! I don't mean overhead fluorescents or spotlights. I mean NATURAL LIGHT from windows. Now, the room doesn't need to look like Versailles. Just having a few will do just great, even if it's just one really big one (hotels are good for this!). If the room you are getting ready in doesn't have any windows, don't worry! I will find a space that is bright enough for us to use and still create beautiful images. Having natural light available on the wedding day is CRUCIAL in ALL of your images but the getting ready portion of the day tends to be in a space that is not always well lit.

  2. Hair & make-up and bridesmaid dresses - Having most everyone's hair and make-up complete by the time the photographer arrives is ideal for two reasons. 1. If for some reason we're running behind schedule, no one will be scrambling to finish fixing their hair. 2. All they have to do is slip into their dresses and I can start photographing! :) Having all of the bridesmaids in their dresses with hair and makeup already done before the bride gets into her dress is key to saving time and getting gorgeous, cohesive portraits. Plus they'll look beautiful in the album!!


I realize that most brides aren't photographers and probably have never though of any of this before. I believe that the only way to have a truly photography-friendly wedding day is simply through bridal education! :). I use my newsletter to connect with brides (and even throw in some tips for grooms!) even more than how I do on the blog because not everything needs a super long post. But don't worry, if you love following the blog I include links to the newest blog posts in the newsletter as well. If you'd like to get more info and tips for your wedding day sign up below and get excited for some content that will help you have the best wedding photography experience possible!! :)