Shelly Pate

FAQ’s in Planning Out Your Wedding Day Timeline

Couple embraces at washington dc elopement

One of the many things you will realize after your wedding day is that so many of the decisions you thought were such a big deal–ended up mattering very little. Items on your to-do list like deciding who sat next to who or what order to have the wedding party walk down the aisle turned out to be pieces you barely noticed. But, one item that can be SO crucial in the success of your day is the wedding day timeline. Even though it’s never set in stone and you always have to be flexible (rainy weddings anyone?)–having an organized structure to your day can be such a dealbreaker! Here are my best answers to the questions I get asked the most by my couples in planning out your wedding day timeline!

View of Washington, DC from the LINE DC Hotel
Shoes and weddings rings at washington dc elopement

Question #1 What role does the photographer play in creating timelines? 

It’s my job to create the timeline for photos from getting ready through the start of the reception. Often, I am working with a planner who will handle all the other details like organizing transportation (if needed), and other vendor arrival/set up. I’m basically in charge of maintaining the wedding party’s schedule throughout the entire day.

Once we have a time set for the ceremony, I work backwards to draft a timeline for the day. Then as we get closer to the wedding date we make changes based on how the day evolves.

Couple has first look at washington dc elopement

Question #2 What are the major items to include in a wedding day timeline?

  1. Getting Ready (both or just one partner)
  2. First Look
  3. Wedding Party Photos (if you have one)
  4. Immediate Family Photos (1 hour before the ceremony or right after the ceremony)
  5. Sunset Photos

Optional items to include:

  1. First Look (here are all the reason why I actually recommend first looks!) If you opt to forgo a first look, all your couples portraits, wedding party photos, and family photos will be done during cocktail hour.
  2. Getting Ready

Items that may need more time than expected:

  • Family Photos
  • Transportation and moving in between spaces/venues/locations.
Couple kisses at washington dc elopement

Question #3 Has there ever been a time where the timeline has been completely thrown off?

This happened very recently! Everyone was getting ready 30 minutes away from the venue and it ran late so the wedding party arrived at the venue 30 minutes later than we planned. Then the dress, which was being transported separately, arrived 45 minutes late. I spent the time photographing the details (rings, venue, bouquet) while I waited for everyone to arrive.

Couple holds hands at washington dc elopement

We ended up having to take way less bride and groom portraits with only about 10 minutes to do it. Also, the bridal solo photos were cut short by the wedding party and immediate family photos. Luckily, in working alongside the videographer we were able to get everyone hidden before guests started to arrive!

Despite all of the planning, we then hit another delay in the wedding timeline when the bus transporting a handful of guests was running 30 minutes late. After about 15 minutes, the couple decided to go ahead and start the ceremony.

With all the delays, we changed the extended family photos to just 3 larger groups and used the beautiful sunset light for bride and groom portraits after they had about 15 minutes to themselves to take in their wedding day. Whew!

It all worked out, but the couple did not get to attend cocktail hour as originally intended. After wrapping up photos they kicked the party off and all was well, with the couple ending their day with a sparkler exit!!

Couple exchanges vows at washington dc elopement

Question #4 How important is it to have a coordinator running the wedding day?

Couple signs wedding certificate at washington dc elopement

In this particular scenario, the planner was able to communicate with the DJ, caterers, and transportation through all the delays. They were even able to organize the family and bring them to our photo spot as I did not have enough time to gather them. We needed several things to happen at once and it would not have been possible without planning and a coordinator on hand executing the wedding timeline!

Couple holds hands walking on roof at washington dc elopement

Here is Casey and Dylan’s (pictured throughout) the LINE DC Hotel Elopement Timeline:

  • 3:00 PM Hair + Makeup.
  • 3:30 PM Detail Photos.
  • 4:00 PM Getting Ready Photos.
  • 5:00 PM Start Getting Dressed.
  • 5:30 PM Individual Photos.
  • 6:00 PM First Look & Couples Photos.
  • 6:15 PM Family FaceTime Calls.
  • 6:30 PM Ceremony: exchange personally written vows & rings.
  • 7:00 PM First Dance/Sign Marriage License/Champagne Pop
  • 8:00 PM Blue Hour Photos.
  • 8:30 PM Watch Videos from Family/Dinner/Cake.

Here are more examples in planning out your wedding day timeline:

Brittany and Jason’s Full-day DC Metro Area Elopement Timeline:

  • 8:00 AM Hair + Makeup.
  • 8:30 AM Getting ready photos with Hair & Makeup.
  • 9:15 AM Hair & Makeup finishing touches.
  • 9:30 AM Groom gets ready.
  • 10:30 AM First Look at the LINE DC Hotel. City Photos: explore Adams Morgan neighborhood.
  • 11:30 AM Head to Vigilante Coffee in Hyattsville, MD.
  • 11:45 AM Coffee & Snack.
  • 12:15 PM Explore Hyattsville buildings (rainbow wall).
  • 12:45 PM Head to Rock Creek Park.
  • 1:30 PM Arrive at ceremony location. Portraits & Self-Officiated ceremony.
  • 3:30 PM head back to the LINE DC Hotel.

Alicia and Neil’s DC to Shenandoah All-day Adventure Session Timeline:

  • 1:30 PM Bullpen for a beer, Nationals Stadium & Lunch at Shake Shack (right next door).
  • 2:30 PM Leave for Shenandoah.
  • 4:30 PM Arrive at Shenandoah National Park (gate check-in can take some time on Saturdays).
  • 5:00 PM Arrive at Big Meadows.
  • 6:00 PM Head to mountain-view trail.
  • 6:30 PM Short hike up for the view.
  • 6:45 PM Sunset mountain photos.
  • 7:15 PM Head back down the mountain.

Lauren and Chris’ Adventurous Washington, DC Elopement Timeline:

  • 1:00 PM Get Ready
  • 1:30 PM First Look
  • 1:45 PM Friends Arrive
  • 2:15 PM Arrive at Rock Creek Park
  • 3:15 PM Arrive at 12th Street
  • 3:55 PM Arrive at Blagden Alley
  • 4:35 PM Arrive at Lincoln Memorial
  • 6:00 PM Arrive Back Home
  • 7:00 PM Coverage Ends

Ash and Adam’s Full-day Oregon Coast Elopement Timeline:

  • 11:00 AM Details
  • 11:30 AM Hair & Makeup
  • 12:30 PM Lunch
  • 1:00 PM Ash & Adam Dress Together
  • 2:00 PM Leave Airbnb
  • 2:30 PM Arrive then Explore secret spot on the Oregon Coast!
  • 5:00 PM Sunset
  • 5:30 PM Leave for Airbnb
  • 6:00 PM Arrive at Airbnb for dinner (starting with cookies!)
  • 7:00 PM Coverage Ends
Couple cuts cake at washington dc elopement
View of washington monument from rooftop at washington dc elopement
Couple embraces on rooftop at washington dc elopement
Couple exchanges vows at washington dc elopement

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