Corinne Graves

Destination wedding photographer

The Best Wedding Timeline for a Stress Free Celebration



Although each wedding is unique, I’ve found that there’s a few basic ingredients that always make up a stress free wedding day.

A couple who is focused on each other. Loved ones who are thrilled to share in the celebration. A timeline that allows you to soak in all the parts of your day, while getting gorgeous photographs along the way.

Although I’m not an expert (that’s what wedding planners are for and I can’t recommend them enough), I have a few tips that I can share after nearly a decade of shooting weddings.

First off, every wedding is different so there are never any hard rules about what you should and shouldn’t include.

Want to skip something entirely? Create a whole new tradition? Have a pre-ceremony cocktail hour? Do a first look or wait until the ceremony to see each other for the first time?

It’s your day and whatever you decide is totally fine. Stick to what will make the two of you happy.



Second, most of the images you see around my website are taken with natural lighting. If that’s the style of photography you love, then making sure you create your timeline around available, abundant, natural light should be at the foundation of your planning.

For example, if you love light filled images you would want to make sure to have the ceremony, couple portraits, family portraits, and part of the cocktail hour/reception all before sunset to ensure they’re all captured with natural light. Also, making sure there’s even lighting where key moments will happen is important, so you’d want to make sure the ceremony is at the correct angle in the right location and not partly in the sun, partly in the shade kind of scenario.

For now, just keep in mind that lighting is very important, but part of hiring an experienced photographer means you get help figuring out all of those logistics, it’s not all on your plate.



Also, no matter how punctual you usually are, weddings always tend to run late. With so many different elements coming together for one day,  it’s just bound to happen! Building a good timeline can prevent wedding disasters from happening. Hair and makeup running late or a groomsman missing can easily be made up if there’s extra time padded between parts of the day. A full hour isn’t always needed for a first look (as scheduled below), but if suddenly things are running late and you’re only left with 30 minutes you’ll be glad plenty of time was allotted.

Ideally, when the day comes you’re not thinking about any of this. An experienced planner and photographer will keep the day on track and take care of any problems that may arise. Because there’s been enough time scheduled in for different scenarios to happen, you’re left to simply enjoy your day knowing you’re in good hands.

With all this in mind, I’ll include an ideal sample timeline below. Remember things can be switched around to fit your day or shifted earlier/later, but I’ve found that this timeline is a pretty fool-proof way to make sure your day runs smoothly with plenty of time to enjoy every single part of it.


  • 1:00 Getting Ready & Detail Shots (Invitations, Shoes, Dress, Jewelry, Etc)
  • 2:00 Dress On, Final Touches, Bridal Portraits
  • 2:30  First Look/Bride & Groom Portraits
  • 3:30 Wedding Party Photographs
  • 4:00 Family Portraits
  • 5:00 Rest and Refresh While Guests Arrive, Ceremony Details Captured
  • 5:30 Ceremony Begins
  • 6:00 Cocktail Hour Begins
  • 6:30 Couple Portraits (Or later in the evening, whenever there’s great evening light!)
  • 7:00 Dinner Reception Begins
  • 7:15 Grand Entrance/First Dance
  • 8:00 Toasts/Special Dances
  • 8:30 Open Dancing
  • 9:00 Cake Cutting


My wedding packages range anywhere from 5 hours to 10 hours, with couples typically booking 8 hour collections. The above timeline allows for all the important moments to be captured during the typical wedding day, but there are so many different possible scenarios for other lengths of coverage. We would work together to figure out just the right fit and flow for your day.

Hopefully this is helpful! Remember to take your time deciding the right fit for you and the important things you want to include in your day. Then enjoy every moment of it all coming together and happening!

Want to grab coffee and chat? I’d love to meet you! Get in touch HERE.