Wedding day timings

Dec 21, 2017 | Wedding advice & ideas

As you draw closer to your wedding you’ll notice your wedding vendors will begin to ask you for your wedding day timeline. A wedding day timeline is a document highlighting the times of all the important events happening throughout the day. The timeline is essential for many reasons but mainly for the following: to know what’s happening when, keeping the day flowing smoothly and allowing time for things that are important to you on your wedding day.

I ask for your wedding day timeline to be returned to me one month before your wedding so I can review and make sure we have the time we need to achieve the photos you’d like. Once I’ve reviewed all the information I love to book in some time to chat through all the finer details, we can do this via phone/Skype/Facetime, just let me know when works for you both and we can get a date booked in.

Throughout this blog post, I will be chatting in-depth about different parts of the day from a photography point of view and how much time to allow in your timeline. Also at the end of the post, I have written a sample timeline so you can see an example of the sort of thing you’ll end up with. 

Where to start with your wedding timeline?

When starting your wedding timeline it is easier to put the fixed times in first, for example, what time you are getting married. Once all of the fixed times are in place you can easily work out how you would like to fit everything else in. You’ll be amazed by the peace of mind you’ll get from creating a timeline.

Detail photos

One of my favourite things to photograph on a wedding day is the bridal details, a lot of time goes into choosing the items and often they have sentimental meaning too. I see the details as an important part of your wedding story, so I like to spend my first 20-30 minutes photographing the dress, invitation, shoes, jewellery, perfume and other accessories that are important to you. Quick tip – I advise keeping all your details together so that when I arrive it is all ready for me to take photographs. More often than not when I arrive you’ll likely be busy with the start of hair/make-up so you don’t want to be rushing around trying to find everything.

Bridal preparations

After all of the wedding details are photographed I spend time photographing what I see happening in front of me. Usually, during this time the bride/bridal party are having hair and make-up done. When it is time for the bride to be getting into her dress I usually ask whoever is helping her, to be dressed in their wedding outfit, as this ensures everyone looks great in the photos. I would advise aiming to be ready at least 45 minutes before the ceremony if you’d like any photos of you and your bridal party. Doing this saves time later on in the day and is just a great opportunity to get some lovely photos of team bride.

I usually arrive at bridal prep about 2-3 hours before the ceremony dependant on location and if there is any travel involved. Quick tip for couples having a civil ceremony – on your wedding day, you will have a meeting with the registrar 15 minutes before the ceremony and your partner will be doing the same 30 minutes before the ceremony. It is very important that you’re ready for your meetings as registrars sometimes have multiple weddings to attend on any given day. If there are delays on your wedding day this affects the weddings of others and registrars can leave to go to their next event (this hasn’t happened on any weddings I have worked at but this isn’t unheard of).

Want some top tips for acing your bridal prep photos, check out this blog post.

Groom preparations

If groom prep is at the same location as bridal prep I can go between photographing bridal and groom prep. If they are in two different locations you can have a second photographer join them to capture the wedding build-up. More often than not 60-90 minutes is more than enough coverage for groom prep, speaking from previous wedding experience grooms don’t usually take that long to get ready.

Guys have a couple of options:

  • Have the second photographer join them at groom prep for getting ready photos
  • Meet at a pub for more chilled vibes and candid photos
  • Or meet at the ceremony location 

What I find works well is meeting at the ceremony location/pub the groom and groomsmen putting on their buttonholes, maybe having a quick pint before the service, a couple of group photos with the guys and some candids of what’s happening in the ceremony build-up.

The ceremony 

The official part! On average, the ceremony takes about 30 minutes (for religious ceremonies allow 60 minutes). It’s always super handy to have both a start and finish time on the timeline you will be about to find this out from your registrar/celebrate/priest. 

If you’d like confetti on your wedding day then I would advise scheduling this in the timeline after the ceremony. It is always lovely if the newlyweds have 5 minutes to themselves whilst myself and the bridesmaids/groomsmen organise a confetti line for you to walk through.

After the ceremony but before dinner

The official part is over and you’re officially wed (ekk!) now it’s time to grab a drink, mingle, eat all the canapés, have your group and couple photos taken.

As a standard, I find that after the ceremony finishes there is usually a window of 90 minutes to allow time for couple/group photos and most importantly mingling with your guests. As you can imagine that time goes very fast! If you want extra time here it might be worth speaking to your venue and caterers to see if you can have an extra half an hour. Couples that opt for a 2-hour drinks reception often have a more chilled afternoon as they are not rushing between different things. 

If you stick to the standard 90 minutes your drinks reception may go something like this:

14.00 – ceremony finish 
14.10 – confetti and mingling 
14.30 – group photos (roughly 30-40 minutes based on 10 groups)
15.10 – couple photos (15/20 minutes, we can do this whilst your guests are being called in to give us a bit more time on location if need be)
15.30 – guests called in for wedding breakfast

If you would like to make more time for mingling in the above timeline here is one way to do that: nominate helpers (usually bridesmaids/groomsmen/siblings) to assist in rounding up people needed in the group photos (always helps if they are slightly bossy). Surprisingly, rounding up people usually takes longer than taking the photo, it’s like people magically disappear when it is group photo time (more on group photos in the next section).

Know that the above times are only guides, if we finish groups early that means more time to mingle.

Couple photos

I know that couple photos are really important to the couples that choose me as there wedding photographer but I understand I can’t take you away from your wedding for hours on end for photos (as much as I’d like to). I keep the couple photos to roughly 15/20 minutes after the ceremony and another 10/15 minutes at sunset (as the light is softest at the time).

If you’ve had an engagement session you’ll know what to expect and you already know how beautiful you look in front of the camera. If you haven’t had an engagement session don’t worry just trust the process and we will create some magic.

Group photos

Roughly allow 30 – 40 minutes for group photos, this is based on having 10 groups. Naturally, the more groups you have the longer you’ll spend taking photos. If you need more help and advice when it comes to group photos head on over to this blog post as it goes into more detail on the subject.

Guest call-in

There are a few things that determine how long this part takes, the first is how many guests you have, and the second is if you are opting for a receiving line. Obviously, with more guests, the longer it’ll take to round everyone up. One way to make this a little easier for yourselves is to ask someone to make an announcement to go through to wedding breakfast, this could be a groomsman, friend with a loud voice or a toastmaster (if you’re having one). Once the announcement is made, have bridesmaids/groomsmen show the way to the reception and take people through. People love to chat and catch up on wedding days so this can sometimes take a while to get people moving.

If you are opting for a receiving line this makes call-in take a little longer. A receiving line is where the wedding couple (and sometimes parents) greet guests into the wedding breakfast room, it is incredibly useful for larger weddings to ensure you have taken time to speak with every guest on your wedding day (albeit quickly). The receiving line makes for a nice opportunity for candid photographs.

For a normal call-in, I would allow 10/15 minutes to allow guests to go through and get seated and with a receiving line, I’d say it’d be more towards 30 minutes.

Speeches

Speeches can happen before or after the wedding breakfast and can last anywhere between 20-60 minutes, depending on the number of speakers and how long the speeches are. If your speakers are nervous about doing a speech I would recommend doing speeches before dinner, this means they can enjoy their meal without the worry of public speaking dawning upon them. 

I always find it really helpful to know the following:

  • When speeches are taking place
  • How many speeches (if you have a videographer, it is vital you tell them this too as often they have to mic up the speakers)
  • Roughly how long the speeches will be 
Channels wedding Chelmsford

Wedding breakfast

Not egg and bacon ;-), the wedding breakfast as I’m sure you already know is the first meal as newlyweds. Usually, the wedding breakfast is about 60-90 minutes, but it is always best to double-check with your venue/caterers.

During this time I will also have something to eat and take a break from photographing. No one wants a camera pointing at them whilst they are enjoying their meal, trust me on that.

Sunset couple photos

There is a time of day when the light looks magical and this is at sunset, which is also referred to as golden hour. I love taking couples out for 10/15 minutes as their portraits look dreamy in the warm setting sun. I don’t like to take you away for any longer than this as I understand that you may have evening guests to welcome and of course a party to get started! Read more about the magic of golden hour here.

Getting the party started

From experience, it is great to cut the cake and go straight into first dance as this creates a good flow and all of your guests are already gathered. Asking your band/DJ to announce this makes things a lot easier. If you are planning on doing a confetti cannon during the first dance please give me the heads up, so I am prepared for the moment. 

I usually stay for about half an hour after the first dance to capture dance floor photos. After this, I leave you both to enjoy the party and continue making lifelong memories.

Things I haven’t mentioned

If you are planning any surprises, gifts, first look, sparklers, or anything a little different and you’d like these moments captured chat with me on how we can achieve this for you. If the surprise is for your partner you can always give me a call/drop me an email to not spoil it. It is always super handy to know things in advance. 

Sample timeline

Below I have created a sample wedding timeline, based on full-day coverage with a second photographer. Obviously, every wedding is totally different so just use this as a guide.

10.30 – I photograph bridal prep (2- 3 hours before the ceremony)
12.00Second photographer photographs groom prep (60-90 minutes before the ceremony)
13.30 – Ceremony (usually 20-30 minutes, for religious ceremonies allow up to 60 minutes)
14.00 – Ceremony finish
14.10Confetti/ mingling 
14.30Group photos (roughly 30-40 minutes based on 10 groups)
15.10 – Couple photos (we can do this whilst your guests are being called in to give us a bit more time on location if need be)
15.30 – Guests called in for wedding breakfast
15.45 – Speeches
16.15 – Wedding breakfast
18.30 Sunset couple photos (dependant on sunset time, allow 10/15 minutes)
19.00 – Evening guests arrive
19.30 – Cake cut
19.35 – First dance & dancing
20.00Sparklers (dependant on sunset time)

Couples that follow and stick to a timeline find that their day runs a lot smoother and they get time to fit in everything they want. Obviously, it goes without saying that on a wedding day anything can change the flow of the timeline (more often than you’d think), whether that be down to delays, weather, travel. Your wedding venue/wedding coordinator will be working with you on the day to keep everything running to time as best as they can to allow you not to worry. If you are doing a marquee wedding I would highly recommend booking a coordinator to allow them to deal with organisation and timekeeping on your day.

Thank you for taking the time to make your timeline, you’ll be amazed the peace of mind you’ll have knowing when everything is happening. I can’t wait to hear from you with your timeline and if you need any help putting yours together I am always more than happy to help.

GG