Creating Timelines – Fargo Wedding Photographer

Part 4 – Creating Timelines
Abby Anderson Wedding Planning Series
for Fargo-Moorhead Brides


Let’s talk timelines! Nothing can kill your wedding day joy more than being unorganized and rushed, and a good timeline will help you avoid that. About a month before every wedding, I connect with my brides over the phone and create a customized, detailed timeline just for her. In fact, I’ve recently started creating proposed timeline for every couple I even meet with, regardless of whether they book me or not. This gives them an idea of how to start planning their wedding day events.

I’m going to begin with a conversation about a couple key topics and then share some bullet point tips. At the end of the post, I’ll include a full sample timeline for you! Keep in mind, this series is written specifically for Fargo-Moorhead Area brides and my tips are entirely based on how most weddings in our region are conducted. They are also largely influenced by my approach to wedding photography.


This might seem unrelated to timelines, but it actually isn’t. When I first meet with couples, they are often unsure of how much coverage to book. When you’re in the early planning stages, you don’t have a detailed timeline worked out and you don’t know how long things will take. Most photographers offer anywhere from 6-12 hour coverages. Personally, I offer a 6, 8 and 10 hour coverage. Although every wedding is different, here are the events that I usually capture within those timeframes.

6 Hours –
Bride + gorom, bridal party and family portraits, ceremony and the first part of the reception.

8 Hours –
Dress on the hanger, bridal details, getting ready, bride + groom, bridal party and family portraits, ceremony, reception through the first dances.

10 Hours –
Everything in the 8 Hour package, PLUS extended getting ready coverage, more of the reception and group dancing, and an additional night portrait session.

Also, it’s important to note that most couples having a Catholic wedding ceremony choose 10 hours of coverage, due to the gap of time between an afternoon mass and an evening reception.

Before you create a timeline you’ll need to decide if you and your fiance want to have a first look (and portraits before the wedding) or wait to see eachother until the ceremony (and do portraits afterwards). Let’s have a discussion about this. Most couples don’t want to leave their guests waiting around at the reception while portraits are being taken, and this is one of the primary reasons to choose a first look.  There are many other reasons as well. Another big reason for doing a first look is that it gets your nerves out! I see many brides who are really tense the morning of their weddings totally relax as soon as they see their groom at their first look. It’s amazing. Suddenly the bride is smiling, the stress is gone, and she’s ready to enjoy the day! If you do a first look, you and your groom are able to spend a larger amount of time together on your wedding day.

That said, waiting to see eachother until the ceremony is perfectly acceptable and can be a VERY special moment! I am happy to work with brides whichever direction they decide to go. If you choose to do your portraits after the ceremony, it might be a good idea to plan a large enough amount of time between the ceremony and reception that your guests can go check into their hotels and grab coffee before the evening kicks off.


I get many calls from brides about this when they are ready to book their hair appointments! Start your hair and makeup at least 6 hours before your ceremony time. You want to be completely ready by 4 hours before your ceremony, which is usually when pictures would start.

I usually plan about 45 minutes each for Bride + Groom, Bridal Party and Families.

Typically, your dance will start 1.5 hours after your meal begins.

If you’ll be going from one location to another within Fargo on your wedding day, a good rule of thumb is to take the amount of drive time it takes to get from Point A to Point B, and double it. This will account for the time it takes to load cars, park, etc.

Wedding Photographers in Detroit Lakes Minnesota
After booking with me, brides receive an exclusive Bridal Guide with tons of helpful tips, including three different sample timelines. (LOVE sending these books out!) I’m going to share one of my most popular timelines from that book here!

Traditional 8 Hour Timeline with a First Look

12:00 p.m. Abby Photographs Dress on the Hanger + Bridal Details
12:30 p.m. Bride Gets Dressed
1:00 p.m. First Look and Bride/Groom Portraits
2:00 p.m. Bridal Party Portraits
2:45 p.m. Family Portraits
3:30 p.m. Bride in Hiding
4:00 p.m. Ceremony
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Social Hour
5:30 p.m. Reception Begins: Dinner, Cake, Toasts.
7:00 p.m. First Dances
7:45 p.m. Sunset Photos
8:00 p.m. Photo Coverage Ends

*BONUS* Work details into your timeline. For instance, put it on the schedule for your bridesmaids to dress 30 minutes before you get into your bridal gown. This will ensure that they are all in their dresses and ready to go when it’s time for you to get dressed!

Fargo Wedding at St. Anne & Joachim Catholic Church

It’s important to think this through and put together a thoughtfully prepared timeline. However, try not to go too crazy! (Ultra-organized brides who love excel spreadsheets, I’m looking at you!) Think of your timeline as a framework, not a rule book. You want to create a framework upon which your special moments can happen, and then allow the day to unfold naturally from there. When the morning of your wedding dawns, take the “roll with it” mentality and let things happen as they happen. Your photographer and other vendors will make sure you’re on track, so rest easy and enjoy the day!

This is the continuation of our Wedding Planning Series. Check out other posts in the series here:

Five Tips for Choosing a Wedding Dress
Tips for Your Engagement Session
Night Wedding Photography


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