Wedding Timelines

Crafting Your Day, Moment by Moment

Bride and groom sharing a moment on a vintage sofa at Bean Town Ranch in Plantagenet.
Bridal gown hanging on rustic barn door at the Herb Garden in Almonte, entwined with green vines.
Elegant couple in wedding attire holding hands by a historic stone archway in downtown Ottawa.
Bride's wedding dress fluttering on stairs with groom, iconic Ottawa hotel, the Chateau Laurier, in the backdrop.

Let's face it, a well-crafted timeline is crucial for the flow of your wedding day. A carefully planned schedule ensures peace of mind, something we all aim for on such a significant day. As your wedding photographer, my role includes keeping you on track, especially since our time together is so limited. The last thing I want is for you to feel pressured by time. By strategically planning the sequence of events, we can maximize our photography coverage, potentially saving you valuable time and money. After all, while we're all willing to invest in our best day ever, finding savings is always a bonus!


Crafting a timeline for your wedding day is essentially about prioritizing what matters most to you and your partner. Whether you wish to mingle with your guests during cocktail hour, which might mean scheduling a first look, or if personally greeting each attendee is key, in which case a receiving line would be fitting, each decision shapes the day. There are countless elements to consider in wedding planning, but the core focus should be on what resonates with your values and vision for the day. Reflecting on these priorities not only ensures a day that feels genuinely yours but also leads to authentic and memorable photographs that truly capture the essence of your celebration. Remember, the most beautiful moments are those that reflect your unique connection and the choices you've made to celebrate it.


Closer to your wedding day, you'll be asked to complete a WEDDING QUESTIONNAIRE, enabling me to tailor the perfect schedule for your day. Please fill this out a few weeks before your wedding to allow us time for any adjustments that might be needed!


Some typical wedding day schedules are listed below.

Remember, every wedding is different — these are just suggestions

Schedule 1 - No First Look


1:30PM-3:30PM: Bridal Preparation

3:30PM-4:00PM: Photographing Ceremony/Reception Details

4:00PM-4:30PM: Ceremony

4:30PM-6:00PM: Formal Photos (Family, Bridal Party, Newlyweds)

6:15PM: Grand Entrance

6:30PM-8:00PM: Dinner + Speeches

8:00PM-9:00PM: First Dances, Cake Cutting and Dancing

(10-15 minutes of sunset photos during the reception!)

Schedule 2 - With a First Look


1:00PM-3:00PM: Bridal Preparation

3:15PM-3:30PM: First Look

3:30PM-4:00PM: Photographing Ceremony/Reception Details

4:00PM-4:30PM: Ceremony

4:30PM-6:00PM: Formal Photos (Family, Bridal Party, Newlyweds)

6:15PM: Grand Entrance

6:30PM-8:00PM: Dinner + Speeches

8:00PM-9:00PM: First Dances, Cake Cutting and Dancing

(10-15 minutes of sunset photos during the reception!)

Schedule 3 - With a First Look


12:00PM-2:00PM: Bridal Preparation

2:15PM-3:30PM: First Look/Newlywed + Bridal Party Formal Photos

3:30PM-4:00PM: Photographing Ceremony/Reception Details

4:00PM-4:30PM: Ceremony

4:30PM-5:00PM: Family Formals

5:00-6:00PM: Enjoy Your Cocktail Hour!

6:15PM: Grand Entrance

6:30PM-8:00PM: Dinner + Speeches

8:00PM-9:00PM: First Dances, Cake Cutting and Dancing

(10-15 minutes of sunset photos during the reception!)


Bridal Preparation Time


Organizing your wedding day timeline effectively is key to ensuring everything flows smoothly, avoiding any rush or missed opportunities for cherished memories. Here’s a concise, reorganized approach to planning all the big parts of your wedding day.


If you're working with just me as your photographer, I usually like to start with groom prep for 45-30 minutes and then move on to the bride and spend anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours. If you'd like specific details shots of all the small items from your wedding day (such as stationary, rings, shoes, etc.), 2 hours is recommended. If you're looking to get photos towards the end of your getting ready time, such as putting on your dress and some bridal photos, 1 hour is a good amount of time to allocate. In this situation, I like to arrive halfway through the bride getting her hair and makeup done.


If you've opted for two photographers, bridal and groom preparations will occur simultaneously. I'll focus on the bridal preparations, while my wonderful second photographer, captures your partner and that party for about 30 minutes. I always aim not to rush this group, acknowledging their usual need for a more laid-back atmosphere. For more details on this part of the wedding day, visit the BRIDAL PREPARATION section.

Bridesmaids adjusting bride's dress, joyful preparations in a cozy cabin at Temple's Sugar Bush in Lanark, Ontario
Best man adjusting groom’s bowtie, at the rustic Herb Garden in Almonte
Bridesmaids in golden dresses laughing and enjoying a first look at the bride in a hotel room at the Brookstreet.

First Look and Couple Photos


The timing for a first look varies greatly, from a quick 15 minutes to a full hour. Incorporating this into your schedule allows for either just the first look or completing all wedding party formals before the ceremony. This strategy frees you up to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests! For a deeper dive into the advantages and considerations of adding a first look to your wedding day, check out the FIRST LOOK page.

Groom in blue suit wiping tears during first look with smiling bride in a garden setting at the Herb Garden in Almonte.
Groom in vibrant blue suit smiling at bride during first look in lush Ottawa forest.
Bride embracing groom in a heartfelt hug after their first look, holding a bouquet, in front of the Britannia Yacht Club

The Ceremony


A typical ceremony lasts about 30 minutes; the shortest I've seen is 15 minutes and the longest was a 90 full Catholic mass! The person marrying you will be able to guide you on the expected duration for this portion of your wedding day. If you need some suggestions for who to hire, I have some suggestions in my VENDOR list.

Joyful bride laughing during ceremony, with officiant and bridesmaids in background, Ottawa wedding.
Bride and groom exchanging rings, intimate close-up of hands during wedding ceremony in Ottawa.
Bride in traditional red sari and groom in kilt celebrating, guests applauding at Ottawa wedding.

Family & Friends Photos


I recommend allocating around 30 minutes for family photos, considering it takes 2-3 minutes per group. A shot list is super necessary, it helps you to determine the important photo combinations that you'll want captured, as well as helping you to budget the time needed for this section of the day.


The time allocation for this portion of the day does vary for each couple. If you have numerous guests attending your wedding that you don't get the chance to see often, it might be important for you to get photos with them. In contrast, other couples place a lot of importance on mingling with their guests during cocktail hour and grabbing photos in this more informal setting. It all comes down to what's important to you on your wedding day. Also, don't forget to factor in travel time to the photo location if it’s different from the ceremony site. Visit the PORTRAIT page for a sample shot list and further details.

Bride with bridesmaids laughing in blue dresses under a tree on a sunny Ottawa day.
Wedding party with bride and groom, smiling together in an urban courtyard with a checkered floor outside Restays.
Family portrait at a wedding, with bride and groom laughing, flanked by relatives in front of a brick archway.

Bridal Party and Newlywed Formals


Set aside an hour for formal photos with the bridal party and newlyweds. If traveling by limo, allow extra time as limos may travel slower. We’ll need 20-30 minutes with the wedding party and 30 minutes with the couple. Additionally, we’ll capture sunset portraits during the reception for 5-15 minutes to utilize the golden light.


Check out the PORTRAITS page for more guidance.

Bride with bridesmaids in purple dresses, sharing a joyous moment beside a rustic barn wall.
Bride and groom embracing in a white gazebo, with a serene lake and autumn landscape in the background at Orchard View.
Joyful bridal party dancing around the couple in front of a rustic barn, celebrating with bouquets in the air.

The Reception


The bulk of our remaining time together will be dedicated to capturing your reception, where scheduling can often slip. Ceremony and reception details will be photographed 30-45 minutes prior to the ceremony if at the same venue. Cake cutting is recommended right after dinner and speeches, followed by the first dance and family dances. If you'd like some photos of you and your guests hitting the dance floor, I recommend just keeping me 30 minutes into when you anticipate dancing to begin. That's plenty of time for me to grab some awesome party photos as you unwind from your wonderful day. Read the RECEPTION page for more details and tips!


Remember, a well-structured timeline not only ensures that no moment is missed but also keeps the day enjoyable for you and your guests.

Decorated wedding reception hall at Britannia Yacht Club with blue tablecloths, golden accents, and white paper lanterns
Bride and groom share their first dance under a chandelier, surrounded by guests at an intimate wedding reception.
Newlyweds cutting a rustic wedding cake adorned with a cute dog topper, with a donut wall backdrop.

The Shot List


I know you've invested a tremendous amount of effort into planning your wedding, and you definitely want to capture every detail perfectly. This list highlights the usual shots I capture on wedding days.



Getting Ready


- Candid moments of preparation and anticipation

- Bridal attire (dress, shoes, jewelry)

- Groom's attire (suit, tie, cufflinks)

- Detailed shots of the wedding rings and other special items

- Hair and makeup application

- Wedding party and groomsmen getting ready

- The bride and groom reading pre-ceremony notes or gifts

Ceremony


- Venue and decor before the arrival of guests

- Guests being seated

- Wedding party entrances

- Groom’s reaction to seeing the bride

- Bride's entrance and walk down the aisle

- Family and guest reactions throughout

- Candid moments between the couple during the ceremony

- Exchange of vows and rings

- The first kiss

- The recessional

- A group photo

Portraits


- Bride and groom with their respective family and friends

- Wedding party group photos

- Bride with bridesmaids and groom with groomsmen

- Bride and groom together

Individual portraits of the bride and groom


For more information on the breakdown for this section of your wedding day, see the PORTRAIT section.

Reception


- Reception venue and tables before guest arrival

- The grand entrance

- The first dance

- Speeches and toasts

- Parent dances (mother/son, father/daughter)

- Guest interactions and dancing

- Cutting of the cake

- Bouquet and garter toss

- Candid moments and reactions

- Send-off (sparklers, confetti, etc.)


One of my brides during my 2023 wedding season made a checklist of her wedding day and it was so wonderful seeing this attention to detail! It helped to keep everyone on track throughout the day so that everything planned ran smoothly.

Detailed wedding day schedule listed in a binder, a pen ready for any last-minute changes.

In summary...


Here are the suggested minimum durations for various segments of your wedding day. If you need assistance crafting your schedule, please reach out!


  • Preparation for Bride(s): 1 to 2 hours
  • Groom(s) Preparation: 30 minutes
  • First Look: 15 minutes
  • Ceremony: ~30 minutes
  • Family Formals: 30 minutes
  • Bridal Party & Couple Portraits: 30-45 minutes
  • Reception: 2 to 4 hours
  • Sunset Session for the Couple: 15 minutes


The biggest takeaway from this section? If your timeline is rushed, your photos will also be rushed.

Laughing couple embracing in sunlit Ottawa forest during golden hour.

Farrah Sanjari Photography // Ottawa Wedding, Engagement & Portrait Photographer