Creating your wedding day timeline is essential to make sure you leave enough time to get all of the photos that you hope to capture, and also for letting other vendors (hair and makeup, florist photographer, videographer) know where they need to be and when. You are going to want to make the most of every second on your big day so it’s essential to get your timings and wedding day schedule right.
Your makeup and hair stylist will let you know how long they need to get you and your party ready, and what time they need to start. Whether you are doing your own hair and makeup, or are having professionals, always make sure that you allow plenty of extra time to allow for some unexpected delays. It is better to be ready an hour before you need to be to enjoy some extra spare and relaxed moments with your bridesmaids, to enjoy a glass of champagne before you leave, rather than being stressed and panicking about time at the very last minute.
From a photography point of view, your photographer will prefer if you are ready early, to get all the shots he need and then head over to the church or ceremony venue well in advance, to capture photos of guests arriving and the groom looking nervously waiting. No one wants to arrive at the church or ceremony venue late.
Pro Tips: Find a space with plenty of natural light and neutral colors for you and your bridesmaids to get ready in. Preferably a large room so it won’t feel cramped. There has to be suitable space for hair and makeup, but also enough room to have your bridesmaids help you get into the dress. As a photographer, I want to be able to move around and get photos from several different angles if possible.
Keep a space clean as you don’t want to be surprised to see a mess in the background of your photos. Usually photographer will clean background if needed but keep in mind, that is not photographer’s duty.
Make sure your bridesmaids are ready and changed before they help you with the dress. Bride to be dressed the last.
TRAVELING TO THE CEREMONY
Before the wedding day you will be closely communicate with all of your vendors including your wedding transport provider. Your wedding transport provider will let you know how long they need to get you to the church or ceremony venue. If you know the local area better, make sure you let them know about any traffic delays that might be likely on your route and time. It is traditional for the bride to be a bit late, but the ceremony officiant might not be too happy about this! Also, if you are very late, it will set back your timings for the rest of the day, and you might miss out on time for photographs later, so don’t keep your groom waiting for too long!
Pro Tip: I always meet by beautiful bride arriving at the wedding ceremony. I always advice to add some extra 5 minutes for photographs in the car. Take a moment and do not rush to get out of the car. Enjoy this moment and photographer will take care of beautiful shots.
If you decide having a church ceremony, this can take from 45 minutes to 1 hour. Of course, depending on the number of readings you are planning. If you decide having a registry office or civil ceremony, this can take around 20 to 25 minutes. I think that the perfect timing of ceremony is around 12noon or 1pm. You and your guests will be able to have a light early lunch before heading to the ceremony and it also allows a nice amount of time for an enjoyable, stress free afternoon reception hour, before you start wedding breakfast.
After the ceremony usually it can take amount of time just for everyone to exit the church or registry office and congratulate a newly married couple! I suggest you to put an extra time into your timeline for guests to congratulate and hug you. This is a time for photographer to take a nice candid photos too, so please enjoy this time. If you are planning a confetti shots just after the wedding ceremony, it can take up to 15 minutes to get everyone organised and prepared.
ProTip: Yeah!!!! Congratulation! You are now married! When walking down the aisle as newly married, I always want to see my beautiful couples to look happy! Take a few seconds before walking down the aisle with your new husband to observe all your loved ones around you. The day goes by so quickly. Don’t forget to take it all in!
TRAVELING TO THE RECEPTION VENUE
Your wedding reception might be at the same place as your ceremony and you don’t need to worry about this! But if your wedding reception is in a different location, remember to plan your journey time. It will also take extra time for your guests to get to their cars and reach the wedding reception venue. If you would like to stop, in he middle to the wedding reception, at a pretty location for some beautiful couple photos, chat about it with your photographer well in advance, and allow extra time.
Let the celebrations begin!
I would recommend two hours of reception time, from when you arrive at your reception venue, to when you are called to sit down for your wedding breakfast. These two hours might seem like a long time, but believe me, time will fly fast, and in the end of the day you will be happy that you allowed some extra time to talk to all your lovely guests.
You’ve put a lot of hard work into planning your wedding, and sometimes you will not always get to see the reception area until guests have come in and set their bags and coats down! This allows your photographer to capture the untouched reception details… to be 100% sure you’ll be able to see all your thoughtful planning beauty!
This is also time when photographer will probably want to do your formal group photos, if you are planning any. Photographer will also take a newly married for some beautiful couple photos.
For the rest of the reception, photographer will capture lots of lovely informal shots of you chatting with all your guests, and capture the atmosphere of your reception – this is the best time of the day to get all the relaxed, natural, unposed and candid photos that everyone loves. If you are worried that your guests will be bored or hungry in this time, have some drinks available, provide canapés for them to taste, and consider having some entertainment, such as live musicians or some games.
THE WEDDING BREAKFAST AND SPEECHES
Reception time ends when your venue or caterer calls you to be seated for the wedding breakfast.
It is up to you whether you choose to have your wedding speeches before your meal, or afterwards. Some couples choose to have speeches between each meal course. But bear in mind that speeches could be distracted by caterers, when they are trying to clean up all plates. If you decide to have speeches before your meal, I suggest to plan your time as the caterers may be waiting to serve a first course, especially if it is a hot course. If you decide to have your speeches after your meal, bear in mind that sometimes it can be longer than planned and don’t want your evening guests waiting to come into the room. Speeches work better when they are shorter. A maximum of ten minutes per person is usually plenty.
Talking about having a cake cutting- this is usually planned before the first dance. But sometimes it can be planned after the speeches or even before the dessert. Your venue will be happy to advise you of doing this.
FIRST DANCE AND REST OF THE EVENING
The first dance usually opens the evening’s dancing started. If your wedding evening guests arriving from 7:00 pm, you may want your first dance to start at 7:45 pm, for example. After that, everyone can join on the dance floor and let their moves out! You can ask your venue for advise on the time for the music to finish and guests to depart at the end of the night.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN MAKING YOUR TIMELINE
Always allow extra time to get ready than you think you’ll need. I guarantee something unexpected will come up : )
Have ALL your details (dress, shoes, rings, other jewelry, invitation suite, any other keepsakes you’d like photographed) in one place at your getting ready location. This will save you/your photographer time gathering everything together.
Include travel time from getting ready location to ceremony and from ceremony to reception in your timeline (as well as travel time to any portrait locations you’d like)
Ideally you’ll need to allow for 30-45 minutes for bride & groom portraits, and another 40 minutes for bridal party portraits / family portraits.
Communicate when family portraits will be happening with all your family members so they are ready to go when we need them.
Allow your photographer ~15 minutes to capture reception details untouched (meaning, before guests enter and hang their coats and purses on the chairs).
Allow yourself a cushion of at least 30 minutes before the ceremony to relax and soak in the moment.
Consider the sunset time. This is especially important if you’re not doing couple and formal shots before wedding breakfast and have an evening wedding ceremony. Portraits are best taken when it’s still light out, so we want to make sure to not lose the sun!
Things will happen and the timeline will get messed up.. and that’s TOTALLY OKAY. We’ll figure it out. Relax and enjoy your day : )
SAMPLE WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
This sample wedding timeline is a suggested guide. Every wedding is different and not everything will apply here. Lot of details can be added and changed based on your own wedding, needs and situation. This timeline is based on an 10 hour wedding day.
8:30 Photographer arrive and start photographing all the details such as the invitation stationery, rings, shoes, jewelry, the dress etc.
10:00 Finishing detail photos photographer capture bride getting ready (hair &make up) and other candid moments.
12:00noon Bride puts dress on. Photos of her getting ready surrounded by her bridesmaids.
12:20 Bridal portraits
12:45 Photographer heads to ceremony to take candid moments of guests arriving and the groom nervously waiting.
13:10 Bride departs for ceremony venue
13:30 Wedding ceremony
14:30 Congratulations outside ceremony venue
14:45 Confetti Shots (if planned)
14:50 Depart for reception venue
15:10 Welcome drinks and canapés at the reception venue
15:30 Formal group photographs
16:00 Bride & Groom photographs and Wedding Party photographs
16:40 Candid photos
17:00 Call to be seated for dinner
17:10 Wedding speeches and wedding meal afterwards
19:00 Evening guests to start arriving
19:45 Cake Cutting and First Dance
20:00 onwards music and dancing!