WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
So you’re having a WEDDING (yay!). But unless you actually plan events for a living, it’s going to feel a little overwhelming. So many things have to happen on a wedding day – there’s getting ready, and the ceremony, and drinks & canapes, and family photos, and couple photos, and speeches, and dinner, and dancing, and of course you actually want to find time to hang out with all your guests somewhere in the midst of all that! So how does it all come together?
I’ve written this article to help you plan your wedding day timeline, as I’ve photographed over a hundred weddings and I’ve seen what works, but it’s just a guide – every wedding is different, and the most important thing is doing things your way (and having fun doing it!). But with that caveat out the way, this is my “How long stuff actually takes” Wedding Day Timeline.
Brides, if you’re having a hair and make-artist, they’ll be able to advise you what on time you need to start getting ready. But from a photographic point of view, you definitely don’t need me there for the entire time! You’ll be getting hair and make-up done for a while before I get there. An hour or 90 minutes is plenty of time to capture the hustle and bustle of the morning prep, and get photos of you and your family or bridal party eating toast and dancing around to some Motown hits while getting your hair done! I also use this time to take photos of the wedding outfits, shoes, and any other important details.
Remember, if your dress is lace-up or has lots of tiny buttons, it can often take a lot longer than you expect to get it done up, so make sure to allow a good 20 minutes for this.
Guys usually need a little less time (45 minutes to an hour), but usually it’s only possible to cover groom prep if I have a second shooter. However, if you’re in the same building, I can do a bit of both!
WAITING TO LEAVE FOR CEREMONY
I recommend this partly as a buffer in case things run late, and partly because it’s a nice time for you to calm down, have a drink with your friends or family, and take some photos!
TRAVEL TO CEREMONY
As long as it takes! Try to add some extra time in, just in case of traffic. Of course, if you’re getting ready at the same venue, you’ve just eliminated the need for this. 🙂
This is very dependent on the type of ceremony you’re having (for example, a full church service or a short registry office ceremony), so chat to your officiant well beforehand to find out.
At least 20 minutes
Getting people to filter out of the ceremony can take surprisingly long, especially as they’ll all want to stop and hug and congratulate you on the way out! This is a lovely moment to take happy photos, though. Confetti usually happens here, too (my favourite!).
It’s up to you how many of these you’d like, and where, but I recommend getting them done after the ceremony before people have wandered off and started drinking. I’m quite quick with these, as no one wants to hang around for ages while these are being done. I recommend up to eight groupings, as these can take 3-5 minutes each, usually because someone has gone AWOL!
DRINKS & CANAPES
Usually the rest of the guests get going on this while we do the group shots, and then you and your family can join in and have a bit of a chat with everybody. This is when I wander around surreptitiously and get photos of everyone laughing and having fun! If it’s outside, garden games (giant jenga, spacehoppers, etc) go down a treat.
20 minutes – 1 hour (during the drinks reception)
This is my favourite part of the day – I just LOVE taking photos of just the two of you together – but it’s also completely up to you how many couple photos you’d like. I’m completely open to popping down the road to get pictures in a pretty field, but if you’d only like 5 minutes right near the venue, that’s fine, too! The closer we stick to the venue, the more limited the photos will be, whereas if we go for a bit of a wander we can use more backgrounds and different light and get more variety. So have a think about this!
Remember, it can take a good 20 minutes for the guests to get into the reception room and find their seats, so even if we only do 20 minutes of photos at the same time, you won’t be missing out on anything!
We can also divide up the time, and do 20 minutes before dinner, and 20 minutes afterwards (if it’s still light! You might find me babbling about the beautiful golden light and asking if you want to do photos in it at some point here!)
Depends on how many courses you have, and if it’s plated or buffet, but I will say that dinner has run overtime at 90% of my weddings, so I’d allow at least an extra 20 minutes on top of what your caterers tell you, just to be safe!
Totally variable depending how many you have, and how long they are, but I’d recommend giving people a time limit so that you at least have a rough idea of how long they’re going to take! Again, every wedding is different, but I’d say you’re looking at 35-45 minutes for the traditional three speeches (Father of the bride, groom, best man). But please don’t be limited by tradition! If you want different/more people to speak, but you don’t want speeches to run on too long, just give them a shorter time limit to stick to. Sorted!
CHANGING THE ROOM OVER FOR DANCING [venue-dependent]
If you’re using the same room for dinner and dancing, the venue staff might need to get rid of all the tables, or possibly just the front few. This can take longer than you expect! Usually the guests go into another room for tea and coffee while this happens, so it’s another good time to chat to people you haven’t managed to catch up with yet, but it generally does take 30-45 minutes.
Most of this is taken up with getting the guests into position. The actual cutting only takes a minute or two!
Same as the cake! Everyone loves this moment, so they’ll all be trying to get a good spot on the edge of the dancefloor. The actual dance won’t take as long as getting them into position.
I find 30 minutes is more than enough to get the guests having a blast on the dancefloor. Often it’s the same few people dancing, so make sure your DJ plays some crowd-pleasers right at the start so that I get the most variety of people on the floor!
And that’s how a wedding day timeline adds up to 9+ hours! Again, every wedding is different – I’ve photographed ones where everything is over within 5 hours – but this is how a standard day generally runs!
Make sure to check out my other Wedding Planning tips!