Sample Wedding & Elopement Timelines | Charlottesville Wedding Photographer

Sunset photos at an urban wedding in Charlottesville, Virginia

I shoot three types of weddings – traditional, intimate and elopement. Everyone has different definitions for what these are, but for me traditional weddings are anything with more than 50 guests, intimate weddings have 16-50, and elopements are either just the couple, or the couple and up to 15 guests.

Generally the three types of events are structured a little differently.


Most of my elopements have an adventure element to them. They may include a hike or time on the river or a hot air balloon ride. They often include dogs and a handful of guests. The timeline of the day looks like whatever you want it to. Sometimes that may mean a sunrise ceremony and meeting guests for brunch and a rafting trip afterwards. Sometimes it’s dinner first, ceremony up on the mountain. But always it’s a day totally of your design and inclination that includes just the people you really want there.

Intimate Weddings

Intimate weddings are often structured similarly to traditional weddings, but they may or may not include dancing. Instead there could be a potluck or barbecue. They usually happen somewhere where everyone gathers in for a weekend, like a group of cabins or old inn with lots of rooms, and they include other activities outside of the wedding, like everyone going to a music festival together or a float trip down the river. They tend to be pretty informal, but sometimes they are super fancy – just the most epic party you can imagine for your BEST friends and family.

Traditional Weddings

Traditional weddings generally include most of the “traditional” elements of a day. A big wedding party, lots of family, a packed dance floor, and things like toasts, garter toss and first dances. I’m not going into a detailed description here because sites like The Knot and Wedding Wire have this topic WELL covered. But if you want to get a feel for what a traditional wedding looks like, keep scrolling – the one I’m sharing on today’s blog would fit that bill =).

No matter what you choose, it’s important to know that I approach all of them the same way – with the goal of documenting the moments that make up your unique day as comprehensively and authentically as possible.

So no matter if there are two people or 200, I start at the getting-ready point and shoot through to some sort of celebration at the end of it all.

Which means, even for elopements and intimate weddings, I’m typically with you for 6-8 hours on your wedding day. For traditional weddings, I’m with you for more like 8-10.

I know that seems like SO MUCH time, but it really goes way faster than you think. So I’m going to share some real timelines from recent elopements and weddings so you can get idea for what your day might look like.

A couple things to keep in mind: too much time is wayyy better than not enough. Things run late. Almost universally. And you don’t get do-overs with your wedding photography.

Or a second chance for your wedding. So instead of packing the day from one event to the next, build in space to enjoy one another and enjoy this day of celebration. Breathe, take it in, steal a few moments to take in the view (either literally if you’ve eloped on a mountain) or figuratively if you’re hiding away in the bridal suite before making your grand entrance.

Six Hour Elopement Timeline – One Photographer

This couple had approximately 12 guests

3:00 Kara arrives at salon to capture end-of-hair arranging and makeup. We then head over to Airbnb to do detail photos

4:45 Head to restaurant (mostly dressed but likely not in wedding dress yet)

5:00 Dinner at restaurant

6:30 Head to ceremony location on Blue Ridge Parkway

7:15 Ceremony

7:35 Family Photos

7:50-9 Couples photos


Seven Hour Intimate Wedding Timeline – One Photographer

This couple had approximately 30 guests at an eco-village for a long-weekend

2:00 Getting ready and detail photos (couple gets ready together)

3:00 Kara takes candids of guests gathering for ceremony 

3:30-4ish Ceremony 

4-5 Group photos

5-7 Couples photos (two different locations)

7:30 Dinner is served

8:30 Lawn games and jam circle

9:00 Kara departs

 Nine Hour Traditional Wedding Timeline – Two Photographers

This couple had approximately 120 guests

11:00 Bride begins the getting-ready process.

12:00 Photographers arrive, get end-of-hair and makeup and detail shots

1:00 Second shooter heads over the church gets for getting-ready photos of guys and ceremony space. Kara gets bridesmaid and bride getting-ready photos at Marriott. 

1:45 First look with dad

2:00 Head to church for first look

2:15 First look

2:30 As many family formals as possible at church (prioritizing older and younger folk first)

3:30ish Retreat to rooms to wait for ceremony (photographers retreat a little sooner than we might otherwise because we’ll be taking family photos in front of the church)

4:00 Ceremony

4:30 Rest of family formals if needed and, if not, bridal party heads over to Capitol 

5:00 Bridal party heads over to Capitol 

5:30 Bridal party heads to cocktail hour with second shooter – second shooter gets candids of cocktail hour. Kara takes some couple’s photos.

5:45 Drive to Marriott 

6:00ish Entrance

6:15 Dinner is served

7:00 Toasts

7:15 First dance, father/daughter, mother/son

7:30 Dance floor opens

8:00 Cake cutting

8:10 Head out to the roof for some sunset couple’s photos 

8:40 Bouquet/garter toss

9:00 Dancing 

9:40 Night photo (couples shot)

9:50 Last call for dance

9:55 Exit