how to plan your wedding timeline

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images and text by NC Photography

Let’s talk timeline. Every single wedding is different. Yes, they are all similar in so many ways but I can tell you for sure that no wedding will ever run the same as another one. Things will run late, things will come up and things will change. So before I get into planning your timeline for the day, let me say this…GO WITH IT. Accept that the day is here and what will be, will be. Your memories will be what you make of the day. Let it be good ones!

Alright, so now that is out of the way, let’s plan your day.

Alberta tends to have similar timelines for most weddings. With that being said, if you are having a late ceremony or a winter wedding this will vary a lot and you may consider doing a “first look”. But if you are holding a standard wedding, here are a few tips and a timeline for you to check out and use as a guide. This is a bit biased and coming from a day in the life of a photographer, but I hope you find it helpful.

edmonton wedding photography getting ready

Getting Ready, Ceremony, Receiving Line, Family Photos, Wedding Party Photos, Reception… Party!

There are so many things you need to think of. Not only do you need to think of you and how you want your day to flow, but how it will affect your guests as well. You don’t want too big of a gap in between your ceremony and reception, but you want enough time to take some fabulous photos with your photographer. (Tip – make sure to have at least two hours with the photographer of your choice.)

edmonton wedding blog

Getting Ready

No, you will not want to see a ton of pictures with you without makeup and your hair wet. I am a girl, I understand this. I want to be there when you are just starting to go from PJ’s to ‘bride’.

I always suggest no less than 1.5 hours for me to be a part of your getting ready process. This allows me to capture the dress, the shoes, the makeup, and some great candid moments while you are still looking camera ready.

I always suggest that the bride has her makeup done last. This allows her girls to be getting ready and fussing over her while she gets pampered right down to the very minute she gets in her dress. It also keeps that fresh face lasting longer.

edmonton wedding blog


Most ceremonies, unless a religious tradition, will be between 20-30 minutes. If it is any longer than this that will obviously change the timeline a bit.

Receiving Line

I personally think receiving lines are important. People have spent time and money to come witness you saying your vows… give them a hug!

But a lot of people nowadays are not doing a receiving line and just making sure to see everyone at the reception.

Whatever you decide, make sure to take this into consideration with your timeline. A receiving line can take up to a half of an hour to complete. If you choose not to do a receiving line please have your ceremony officer announce that you will not be staying, that way you don’t have an unplanned receiving line.

edmonton wedding blog

Family Photos

Probably the most tricky part of that day. Who would have thought – right? It is a little like herding cattle. Everyone is everywhere! Please chat with your family prior to the wedding (ideally at the rehearsal so it is fresh in their mind) that family photos will be taken immediately after the ceremony and the same exact place (unless otherwise decided by you). Family photos can take 30-60 minutes. This can add up really fast.

edmonton bridesmaids in coordinating dresses

Wedding Party Photos

Ahh the fun stuff. I personally require at least two hours for these photos, but ask your photographer for their recommendation. Yes, it may sound like a lot of time, but trust me – it goes by quick. And that is also after freshening up and maybe having a few drinks. This takes time and we want to be able to give you the best images we can, please allow us the time to do this!


This is the part that always gets a bit unique. They are all the same; it’s just the order you choose to do them in. Some choose to enter with their first dance to make sure their photographer is there. And others choose to do their dance after the speeches. It’s totally up to you – just make sure to talk with your photographer and the package you booked with them and make sure everyone is leaving happy! Just a little tip: depending where your reception venue is, if you allow for your photographer to be there late enough, and love them a ton, you may want to sneak outside for some fabulous sunset pictures as well. Just a thought!

edmonton wedding blog sunset bride and groom

So with all of that being said, it gives you a little glimpse into a “typical” wedding day. To break it down it would look something like this (reminder, this is just the photographers timeline and what I have found to work best):

Getting Ready – 12:30-2:00

Ceremony – 2:30-3:00

Receiving Line –  3:40-4:00

Family Photos – 4:00-4:30

Wedding Party Photos – 4:45-6:15

Reception – 6:30-8:30 (starting with first dance as the couple walks in)

This is an 8 hour timeline but you can see where you could possibly need more or less time. I can tell you that almost all of my clients book a 10 hour day with me. Usually it is 12:00-10:00pm and it is perfect for telling the complete story of your day.

edmonton wedding photographer

Nicole Modde is the lovely lady behind NC Photography– check out her home on the web here, say hi on facebook here, or follow her on instagram here