Picture this...

Your wedding day is finally here. The weather is perfect, you have just the right amount of butterflies, and you seriously cannot wait to see your boo. Everything is perfect, and there's only two hours to go until you're saying "I do" to the love of your life. Your hair and makeup artist is crafting a gorgeous updo and your eye liner is what dreams are made of. And your photographer keeps checking their watch.

In fact, they've been checking their watch a lot, haven't they? I mean, sure, that's what they do, they have to keep track of the time to make sure they're where they need to be throughout the day. No need to worry! Until your HMUA wraps up, you're looking ah-mazing, and then your photographer tells you your ceremony starts in 30 minutes, and now you don't have time to get all of the pre-ceremony shots you had wanted.

So, you can either skip those precious pre-ceremony shots you had wanted to keep the timeline intact, or you can try to speed run them pre-ceremony or cram them in with your already jam-packed post-ceremony shot list. Either way, this is a stress you didn't want to deal with and now it's putting a huge damper on your day.

Believe it or not

One of the most crucial parts of planning your Day of Wedding Timeline is deciding when to start hair and makeup, and when to schedule your photographer to arrive. If you start hair and makeup too late, you run the risk of setting your entire timeline behind schedule, as well as wasting coverage time from your photographer on 2 hours' worth of the (relatively) same getting ready photos.

So, how do you avoid this?

There's a few things you can do to make the most informed decision that will work best with your timeline. The first thing you need to 100% nail down is what time your ceremony will start, and what time your venue will allow you on property. Your ceremony start time will function as an "anchor point" in your timeline - it is unmovable, and everything else is dependent on it. After that, you need to know what time your ceremony venue will allow you on property as this will dictate if you need to start getting ready prior to your arrival, or if you can get ready on site.

Once you have your ceremony start time decided and know when your venue will allow you on site, the next thing is to communicate with your HMUA these times and ask them how much time they will need to complete your hair and makeup, along with everyone else who is getting their hair and makeup done.

From there you'll want to communicate all of this information to your photographer so you can discuss with them your photo priorities and what pre-ceremony photos you want done. Your photographer will then be able to recommend to you how much time you should plan for pre-ceremony photos and when you will need to be done with hair and makeup to accomplish all of them on time, without rushing. In general, your photographer should arrive roughly 3 hours prior to your ceremony start time and you should be entirely done with hair and makeup within 30-45 minutes of your photographer arriving.

Wait, do I really need to be done with hair and makeup within 30 minutes of my photographer arriving?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: While it's tempting to have your photographer arrive before you've even started your hair and makeup, this is a waste of photography coverage time and here's why.

Most of the people in your wedding party are going to feel uncomfortable getting dozens of photos of themselves taken while their hair is messy, they're without their usual makeup, and they're otherwise feeling very casual and possibly quite self-conscious. You're also unlikely to look at the photos of your wedding party getting their foundation applied and hair curled after the first time you look through your gallery, so it's fairly easy to conclude you don't need to document your wedding party getting their hair and makeup done.

But what about you? This is where that 30-45 minute buffer comes in. By this point everyone in your wedding party should be done - or just about done - with their hair and makeup and the focus will be all on you. Assuming your hair and makeup will take one hour to one and a half hours to complete, your wedding day look will be at least halfway done by the time your photographer arrives. At this point you'll have enough of your look put together that you'll be feeling more comfortable with a camera pointed on you, and you photographer will get plenty of shots of you getting done up. And if your photographer arrives after your makeup is complete and you're on to hair, faking shots of applying lipstick or mascara is super quick and easy!

As soon as you're done with hair and makeup, you can immediately move on to the rest of the pre-ceremony photos you want. That means robe photos, photos of you getting into your wedding attire, putting all your jewelry and accessories on, photos of just you, of you with your wedding party, your parents, and on and on. When all is said and done, it's going to be more important to make sure you get all of these important shots and have the time to enjoy them and be intentional and present, than to get 1-2 hours' worth of hair and makeup photos.


Your wedding day is about you, and what's important to you. If you genuinely want full coverage of everyone getting their hair and makeup done from start to finish, tell that to your photographer! But be open to them suggesting to extend their coverage time or otherwise be okay with getting less reception coverage at the end of your big day.

And remember, the key to Day of Wedding Timeline success is clear communication with your vendors and knowing your priorities! If you've got that down, you'll be golden.