Customer Journey

How to Create the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline 

October 31, 2023

Byron Bay Wedding Photography Couple

Planning the perfect wedding day time line? Well you’re in the right place.

So you’re probably at the stage where you’ve locked in the wedding date, booked your venue and now you’re starting to look at your dream vendors to provide you with flowers, food and photographs etc. Your wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and creating the perfect wedding day timeline is essential to ensure everything goes smoothly. A well-planned schedule not only keeps things organised but also allows you to relax and fully enjoy the day and believe me, you really want to have everything planned and organised before hand because I’ve seen first hand what happens when it isn’t and you do not want that. To help you build the perfect wedding day timeline, I’ve compiled a list of tips and considerations that will make your special day unforgettable and organised.

1. Start Planning Early:

Begin planning your perfect wedding day timeline as early as possible. Ideally, you should start at least six months before the wedding day. This early start allows you to make necessary adjustments and avoid last-minute stress. The last thing you want is to feel stress and anxiety on the lead up to your big day, so being organised can help you feel nothing other than excitement and joy for your big day!

2. Consult with Your Vendors:

One of the first steps of planning your perfect wedding day timeline is to coordinate with your wedding vendors, including the venue, caterer, photographer, and florist. Communicate your expectations and confirm their availability and requirements. They can offer valuable insights and help create a realistic schedule. Each of your vendors can help plan certain elements: Your photographer can be really helpful with coordinating how the day runs from prep to dancing. Your venue will help coordinate the supplier bump-in and set-up. Make use of their expertise as they can offer valuable insights and really help coordinate your day so that it suits you and your expectations.

3. Prioritise Must-Have Moments:

Identify the most important moments of your wedding day and prioritise them in your perfect wedding day timeline. Ensure there’s ample time for these highlights, whether it’s the ceremony, first look, or speeches. If photography is really important to you, make sure that adequate time is set-aside for sunset photos. Ideally you want somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour. This allows for adequate time to capture beautifully lit photos of the wedding party and then of the two of you. These are the photos that you will be most blown away by when you’re reviewing your gallery. This is also the only moment of the day where you and your partner get a chance to spend it with one another.

4. Work backwards from Sunset

A really helpful way to build out your perfect wedding day timeline is to work backwards from sunset. This will help you to allocate enough daylight hours to fit in all the important moments before your reception (the party). Some of the most important moments of the day to fit in are: prep, first look, ceremony, family photos, champagne tower, wedding party and couple portraits. There can be a lot to fit in so you need to plan so you’re not feeling rushed trying to squeeze it all in.

The reason why it is good to work backwards from sunset is because usually the last thing you’ll do with the remaining light is do your wedding party and couple portraits. I do this in the last hour of daylight because it is referred to as golden hour. This is the best hour of the day for photos because that beautiful hour is where everything is drenched in soft, warm and dreamy golden light.

This timeline will vary according to the time of the year you get married. You need to first look at what time sunset is. You then want to check with your venue or photographer to find out what time sunset impacts your chosen wedding venue. For example, although sunset might be at 6pm, the golden light may go behind a hill or bush line at 5:30pm, so that means we need to start photographs half an hour earlier. Once you have that time, work backwards with all of your planned moments and schedule your ceremony (when guests will arrive) as the beginning of the day.

For winter weddings, a ceremony start time of 2pm works really well to ensure you have enough light for photos after the ceremony. In the summer however, having a late afternoon ceremony works best (3-4pm) so that wedding party and couple portraits can happen closer to golden hour. You want to consider especially in late spring/summer that the later the ceremony the cooler it will be. You want to avoid having a midday or early afternoon ceremony if possible because the temperatures are hot, make-up will run, the light is harsh and unflattering and there will be a lot of people squinting for photos.

A good photographer knows this, so if you want to work with someone like me that takes account of these considerations, head to my contact page and send me a message and let’s chat about how you want your day to flow and what your perfect wedding day timeline might look like.

5. Consider Travel Time and Time Zones

If your ceremony and reception are at different locations, don’t forget to factor in travel time. This can significantly affect your timeline and transportation arrangements. If you’re getting married anywhere between Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, make sure to factor in that there are different time zones. From October to April, NSW will have daylight savings, whereas QLD will not. This means that this is an hour time zone to consider. Make sure you communicate to your guests the time in the time zone your ceremony will be.

6. Consider Hair and Make-up and Prep Times

How much time should be allocated to hair and make-up is a common question from most. This will depend on a variety of factors including your bridal party size. You will want to find out from your hair and make-up vendor how much time they think they will need and then add some. I always find hair and make-up are delayed and this can delay the ceremony and then the rest of the day.

I will usually allocate 2 hours towards photographing the bridal prep, depending on the package that you pick. I recommend organising your hair and makeup to be complete at least an hour before your photographer needs to depart for the ceremony. To give you an example of what the morning prep might look like with your photographer, I have broken this down for you:

  • 10am – Hair and make-up arrive
  • 12pm – Photographer arrives to capture preparations
  • 1pm – Hair and makeup finishes
  • 1.15pm – Photographer departs for ceremony (allow 15 mins travel time)
  • 2pm – Ceremony commencement

7. Family and Friend Group Photos

After you’ve tied the knot, walked the down aisle, had confetti poured on you and received hugs from all of your nearest and dearest, this is the perfect time to do a group photo of all guests and those vital family and friend photos that will be a family heirloom and passed down over generations. This is because everyone is at the same place so it is quick and easy to get everyone together.

Closer to your wedding, I will be in touch with you with a questionnaire and this will give you the opportunity to list all those vital family and friend photos you want. This list will include all the different combinations of family photos you would like me to capture.

It is important to note that the length of this will depend on a few things including how many different combinations you want to capture. It may sound like a chaotic exercise but trust me, I have done this many times before to make it an enjoyable time for all of you.

8. Couple Portrait Photos

Although I touched on this briefly in point 4 – there are a few other things I want to help you consider. I said before you want to spend at least an hour, but that again will depend on a number of variables including whether you will be travelling off-site, if you want to use a number of locations and the size of the wedding party.

My personal advice would be to sick close to your wedding venue for photos as you do not want to waste to much time in transit and miss out on the party. A photographer will have visited or photographed at the venue and will know exactly what options are available and will know how to capture the best of what is available. This golden hour is the best time of the day so you want to spend more time basking in the golden light getting beautiful photos rather than driving around to spots and missing out on it.

With this all in mind, an example timeline might look something like this:

  • 2:00 – 2.30pm: Ceremony
  • 2.30 – 2.45pm: Greet and mingle with guests
  • 2.45 – 3.15pm: Family photos (guests go to the reception area for drinks)
  • 3.15 – 3.45pm: Champagne Tower & mingle with guests
  • 3.45 – 4.00pm: Travel to location for photos
  • 4.00 – 5.00pm: Wedding Party Photos and Portrait Photos on location
  • 5.00pm: Sunset

9. The Reception

When it comes to your wedding reception, your venue or caterer will be able to advise on timing the formalities (e.g. entrees, mains, speeches). There are a few pieces of advice that I can share with you that you can mention to your venue and caters.

Firstly you want to think about what your budget is for a photographer and how much you want documenting? Photographers’ packages will have different choices with a range of hours. The more hours, the more expensive. You want to maximise their time there so you may want to bring forward certain elements like the cake cutting, first dance, sparkler exit, fireworks etc. earlier into the evening so that it can all be captured without the photographer hanging around waiting.

If you’re planning a summer wedding, it’s pretty likely that sunset will be part-way through your reception – which is prime photography time as this is when the golden hour hits. If this is the case, I would suggest trying to include a 15/20-minute window during your reception run sheet to pop out for some sunset photos. This could be while everyone is being seated, while you’re waiting for the main course, or even between meals and speeches. You’ll really appreciate doing this as you will then have a moment with just you and your partner to take it all in. These will also be some of the best photos from the day.

Last, but definitely not least, make sure you allow enough time to enjoy the party after the formalities are over so you can throw some shapes on the dance floor. I love capturing these moments.

I hope this planning tool has helped give you some insight into the importance around creating a perfect wedding day timeline. This will help ensure your day runs smoothly and stress free! As an experienced wedding photographer, I assist all of my clients in creating the perfect timeline that suits YOU! and nobody else. If you would like to know more about my approach, you can learn about my packages here. If you are interested in obtaining my price guide which explains all about my photography packages, please fill in my contact form. I photograph weddings all across Byron Bay, Tweed Coast, Gold Coast, Brisbane and beyond.

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At home near the sea. Ever-focused on beauty and the thrilling art of creation; found in the moments that leave me breathless and in awe. 

A tenacious visionary with big ideas, Ross is a passionate artist and conservationist who truly loves his work. He's always creating, forever a student, and brimming with wanderlust. His purpose is to evoke wanderlust and inspire people to set our on their own adventures










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