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Expert Tips for your perfect wedding day timeline!

After going to hundreds of weddings, a lot of brides ask me how they should structure their wedding day. A lot of effort goes into planning your timeline and I see a lot of brides become overwhelmed with everything they have to think of. Everyone's wedding is different and there are a lot of dependencies such as family, vendors, and the venue you pick. That being said, I'm here to give you my top secret tips that will help your day run smoothly so you and your fiance have the best time of your life! Stay to the end and I'll also provide you with the perfect outline too!


This sounds contradictory to the purpose of these tips, but before I give any tips I actually think it is the most important to understand. Of all the weddings I've been to, I have NEVER seen any timeline or schedule go as planned. There is always something that comes up to throw the schedule off. Honestly it doesn't matter anyway. The most important thing to remember is that this is your wedding day and you should enjoy it to the fullest! If things are an hour behind, don't stress about it. Just move forward and live in the moment. :)

Tip #2 Getting ready (1hr 30 min)

We all know that groomsmen won't take long to get ready, so this is more focused on the brides. If you plan to have your hair and makeup done I would dedicate and hour for that alone. Putting on the dress can be difficult at times and requires the help of your bridesmaids too. There are dependencies from dress to dress, but this is just my overall consensus. During this time your photographer/videographer should plan the getting ready shots you want around your schedule. These include dress shots, jewelry, and bridesmaids just having a grand ol' time.

Tip #3 Do a first look! (30 - 60 min)

For those of you who are not familiar with a first look, it is a special time for the couple to see each other alone before the ceremony. Usually the photographer picks a spot for the groom to be at and the bride comes to him once she is ready. It's an extremely special moment and some of my best photos are during this time. The traditional route is waiting to see the bride until she walks down the aisle, but this is actually worse for your wedding day and let me tell you why. The biggest reason is that having a first look allows you more time to enjoy your day. Once the first look is over, you can knock out all of the pictures of your wedding party/family right after! If you didn't have the first look you would have to take all of those pictures during your reception, which takes time away from your family and friends. I don't know about you, but if I spent a lot of money on my wedding day I would probably want to enjoy as much of it as I could!

Tip #4 Relax before the ceremony! (60 min)

If you choose to do a first look then you will also have time to relax! Now that you have all of your pictures out of the way you have time to eat and drink water. Let me also stress how important it is that you DRINK WATER during this time! I have seen brides faint during their ceremony because they spent too much time drinking mimosas in the beginning before entering the mid July 90 degree sun. Dedicate at least one hour for relaxation so you have a little break for yourself before the big moment. You can also use this time to make sure everyone is dressed and ready to walk.

Tip #5 Dancing (10 min a person)

This is probably one of the most romantic moments of the wedding and I think it should also have its own category to be planned for. Some people like to just have a first dance with their significant other, but others like to include their parents, grandparents, and siblings. If this is the case for you, then you should definitely make sure they know ahead of time so you aren't searching for them during the reception.

Tip #6 Plan for the sunset (30 - 60 min)

What I've really noticed is that brides spend to much time thinking about the ceremony and reception that they totally forget about the sunset shots. When all is said and done pictures and video are all that you will have to remember your day. As any photographer/videographer will tell you... THESE ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT SHOTS! They are absolutely beautiful and I promise you that you won't regret putting it in the schedule of events. Plan for at least an hour to explore the sunset. If you are really feeling adventurous then plan to go to another location near your venue. If you are curious to know when the sunset is, just type in "your wedding day" followed by "sunset" on google and it will tell you the exact time. Talk to your photographer and they should also be able to help you understand the best time as well.

The Perfect Schedule and Timing!

Based on all of the weddings I have attended, this is the perfect schedule that I would make for my wedding day. Like the tips above, I have included about how long each part would take.

Lunch: 1 hour

Hair/Makeup: 1 hour 30 min

First Look: 30 min

Bridal party pictures: 30 min

Family Portraits: 30 min

Time to decompress before the ceremony: 30-60 min

Ceremony: 1 hour

Extra Family portraits: 30-60 min

Cocktail hour: 60 min

Dinner: 1 hour

Toasts: 10 min per person

First Dance(s): 10 min per person

Dancing: no specific time limit

Cake cutting: 10 min

Bouquet toss/Garter: 25 min

Sunset photos: 1 hour

Grand Exit: 30 min

I hope this schedule and tips help you out in creating your own personal day. If you have any questions about anything in particular I would be more than happy to help. As a photographer/videographer I like to go above and beyond for my brides to make sure they enjoy every second of their wedding :)

~Julian McFadden

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