TLIC’s Guide to the Perfect Wedding Timeline

TLIC’s Guide to the Perfect Wedding Timeline

Table of Contents

An Expert Guide to a Successful Wedding Day Timeline

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Love can be a whirlwind of intense emotion and joyful surprises. Once you have found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, the journey to bliss is full of exciting twists and turns. This is the thing that makes being in love so great — it’s a never-ending adventure with the perfect partner-in-crime. 

However, while spontaneity can be a precious part of your love story, the wedding day requires a bit more structure and organization. Creating this outline and carrying out your grand plan as best as possible is the responsibility of not only your planner (if applicable) but your photographer and videographer. 

You want to enjoy every moment of the day you say “I do” without worrisome distractions and unforeseen issues. The best way to ensure a stress-less wedding day is to have a solid plan in mind and to have full confidence that you have a photo & video team that has your back. 

Below, you will find a detailed timeline of a traditional wedding to help you imagine your own big day. At TLIC, we are huge fans of well-crafted timelines, but we are also happy to adjust to the personal needs of every couple. 

A Tale of Two Weddings

So, let’s dive in. One of the biggest factors that decide the timeline of a wedding is the First Look. Seeing the beautiful bride for the first time is an extremely emotional moment for the groom, as well as her family and friends. This is a must-have moment to capture! 

Traditionally, couples have preferred to see each other for the first time during the actual ceremony, but this custom is not as popular as it has been in the past. There are advantages and challenges that come with both options, and our timeline explains each one in detail. Here is an overview of both:

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First Look Before The Ceremony:
1. Getting Ready (1½-2 Hours)
2. The First Look (½ Hour)
3. Portraits (1-2 Hours)
4. Ceremony (¼-2 Hours)
5. Cocktail Hour (1 Hour)
6. Reception (4-5 Hours)

7. Couple Send-Off (¼ Hour)

First Look During The Ceremony:
1. Getting Ready (1½-2 Hours)
2. Ceremony With First Look (¼-2 Hours)
3. Portraits (1-2 Hours)
4. Cocktail Hour (1 Hour)
5. Reception (4-5 Hours)
6. Couple Send-Off (¼ Hour)

 Now, let’s take a look at some details and tips for each step!

 1. Getting Ready for Your Special Day (1½-2 Hours)


Whether your wedding is grand and extravagant, or cozy and casual, you will definitely want to start the day by getting ready — and this is when the wedding footage begins! Photos and videos of both sides of the wedding party preparing for the big day show off the feelings of excitement and unity that characterize the event. It is also a great opportunity to commemorate the candid moments that might not be as apparent in more formal shots. 

Here are some things to consider:

-Figure out the tasks that must be done during this time — hair, makeup, gown prep, jewelry, etc. If possible, assign specific tasks to specific people. List the details about these tasks on your timeline, so that the wedding party and vendors are all on the same page. 

-Assemble all bride and groom items such as jewelry, shoes, bow tie, and special mementos that you wish to be photographed in a box, so that the photography team can capture them all at once.

-Because the bride’s preparation is usually longer, the groom should get a signal from the photographer to start getting dressed. He and the groomsmen might have a bit more down time because of this. 

2. The Big First Look Decision (½ Hour) 

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If you decide to go with the First Look before the ceremony, it will happen after the getting ready session and will be followed by the portraits session. The great thing about doing the First Look before the wedding ceremony is that you can do the portraits of the couple and the bridal party next, saving time later in the wedding. This way, you get to join the cocktail hour, relax, and enjoy yourself after the ceremony.

If you choose to have the First Look during the ceremony, you get the magical moment of a traditional reveal, with the groom seeing the bride for the first time right before they say, “I do.” However, keep in mind that you will need to go off to do the portrait shoot after the ceremony and before the reception, missing the cocktail hour with your guests.

Here are some other things to consider:

– An alternative option to a First Look would be a First Touch (shown above). This moment provides you with the best of both worlds as you are able to have an intimate moment together before the ceremony while also keeping the suspense of waiting to see each other for the first time until the walk down the aisle.

 -The First Look is not only about the bride and groom! Your family and friends will also have wonderful reactions to seeing you in your wedding best. Make sure to include their First Looks on your wedding timeline, indicating which specific people you want to capture.

– If you are doing the First Look before the ceremony, start thinking of the way you want it to happen! Need some inspiration? Subscribe to TLIC’s newsletter and watch out for our upcoming article about ways to get the perfect First Look footage!

3. Portraits (1-2 Hours)

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The time slot for portraits will depend on when you decide to do the First Look. If the First Look happens before the ceremony, then the portraits follow immediately after. If the First Look happens during the ceremony, the portraits happen afterwards, while all guests proceed to cocktail hour. In this case, the portrait shoot is going to be a bit shorter in order to be done in time for the reception. 

Regardless of which option you go with, the portrait session is extremely important because it will be the heart of your wedding album. These are the shots that usually end up framed and hanging above your mantle for generations to admire. The portrait session is a combination of couple-only shots and footage of the wedding party and family. If you want your hype crew to put a smile on your face, you can start with the group photos before moving on to those of just you two.

4. The Big "I Do:" The Ceremony (¼ -2 Hours)


This is definitely the most personalized part of the wedding timeline. It all depends on your cultural preferences and the traditions that are important to you. Some ceremonies are elaborate and lengthy; others are short and sweet. Make yours perfect for you and your love, and let your expert photography and videography team take care of capturing every gorgeous detail.

5. Cocktail Hour (1 Hour)


Let the party begin! Of course, if you opted to do the First Look during the ceremony, and not before, you and the wedding party are going off to do the portrait session at this time. Meanwhile, your guests are mingling, sipping on cocktails, and gushing about how happy they are for you. This is when it becomes crucial to have at least two photographers and videographers! One pro cannot be in two places at once, right? And even if you are already finished posing and do attend the cocktail hour, you will still benefit from having more hands-on deck. There are lots of amazing candid moments to be captured when you and your guests are relaxing, talking, and celebrating.

6. Reception (4-5 Hours)

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This is the longest part of the day, so it is important to have a vision for the order of events at the reception. The flow of your wedding reception depends on the habits and personalities of your guests, and you know them best! Are your guests avid dancers? Will they want to give multiple toasts? Do they need a chance to take a break every now and then?

Our ideal reception flow goes something like this:
–   Bridal Party Entrances
–   First Dance (or Anniversary Dance)
–   Welcome Speech
–   Dinner
–   Toasts
–   Formal Dances
–   Open Dancing
–   Cake Cutting/Bouquet/Garter/Etc.

Of course, you can organize your reception any way you want! Just make sure to note everything on your timeline to help your videography and photography team know what to expect and help them anticipate opportunities to capture amazing footage! The more they know about your detailed plan, the more ready they are to capture every heartfelt minute.

7. Send-Off Into Your Happily Ever After (¼ Hour) 


This is one of the most emotional and exciting moments of the night! You began the day as two people, in love and ready to commit to each other. And, as the day comes to a close, you are now a united whole, ready to take on the world together for the rest of your lives. Your guests will be ecstatic to see you off on your adventure.

Plan your send-off to be ten minutes before the end of the night. Let your DJ know when they have time for one-two more songs, so they can give the crowd a heads up. Get creative with your send-offs! Check out some of these great ideas!

A Helpful Tool Before You Go


Remember — the key to a seamless and stress-free wedding day is organization and communication. If you, your wedding party, and your vendors are all on the same page about when and how all the planned events occur, your big day will go off without a hitch. And the best way to do that is to literally get on the same page, or rather create a master document with all the times and details for the day. Use this wedding week template tool to make planning a whole lot easier for yourself!

Need some more expert guidance and advice, reach out to our amazing team at TLIC Media! Having contributed to the success of over 200+ weddings, we know the ins and outs of a smooth timeline and are certain to have all the answers you need (including knowing how to get events back on track when things are falling behind). 

Leave the heavy lifting to us so you and your spouse can enjoy the moment. After all, it is your wedding day!

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Thousands of couples in the DMV reach out to us each year to capture their wedding.

Join the wait list to temporarily reserve your wedding date.