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The Importance of your Wedding Day Timeline

More often than not, my couples are planning a wedding for the very first time, and it can seem incredibly overwhelming—so many decisions!


There are a lot of unknowns.


How do you fit in everything you want? What are the best practices for the timeline of the day? How do you get the most out of your wedding investments? What are some common mistakes to avoid? There is so much to consider, and I'm here to help you make the best decisions for your day!


As a professional wedding photographer, I've witnessed firsthand how a well-crafted timeline can ensure the day runs smoothly and, similarly, how a poorly planned schedule can lead to unnecessary stress and disappointment.


If you want to focus your energy on really being intentional about one main thing in your planning process, direct that intention towards the timeline for the greatest impact! 


Let's get started!


The Foundation of Your Wedding Day


If you want your wedding day to go off without a hitch, you need a detailed schedule. It's not only about the timing of events, but also about the way they unfold (trust me, you want to plan for the unexpected as best you can!). From the start of the day to the very last dance, every part of the wedding requires careful planning and timing. If you have a wedding planner, its likely they’ve got this all in hand for you, so be sure to talk it through with them. If you don’t, then let's keep going, and I’ll share the tips I’ve picked up along the way.



Getting Ready


The ‘getting ready’ time is more than just slipping into your dress or tuxedo. It's an event in and of itself. It’s the build-up of anticipation and emotions, shared with close friends and family. Depending on the number of bridesmaids you have, you’ll likely need to start getting ready early morning - even as early as 6am onwards!  Double check with your make up artist and hair stylist how long they predict it’ll take each person, and work from there.  But definitely add buffers in! It’s better to have 30 minutes to spare before having to get to the altar than stressing you’ll be late.



First Look 


While this is more of an American thing, as with a lot of traditions, it is slowly making its way to the UK.  You may be considering a ‘First Look’'—a private moment where the couple sees each other before the ceremony. Allowing for some stunning, intimate photos but also helping to dissipate some of the nerves before walking down the aisle, make sure to allocate around 20 minutes for this.  


Or, you may be planning a first look with dad - these ALWAYS get my emotional!! For this, you’ll only need 5 minutes, but again, think about a buffer, and have your makeup artist on hand in case of tears!! 



Portraits


Portraits normally happen straight after the ceremony, before any meals, or cocktails, - Ensuring the people you want in the photographs haven’t wandered off and can’t be located. You really do want to plan enough time for these, as they’ll be the photographs that you’ll likely treasure the most as the years pass by.  I always recommend allowing 30 minutes for this to ensure they don’t feel rushed - trust me, they’re worth it.  


And finally if you’re considering couples portraits (which you really should!!) set aside around 20 minutes for these.  If you’re having canapes or a cocktail hour before the wedding breakfast, your guests will be busy interacting with each other and will likely not even notice you’ve slipped away.



Ceremony to Reception


The actual ceremony might last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, but what happens immediately before and after is just as important.


Allowing time for guests to arrive and settle, as well as for post-ceremony congratulations, ensures that the day progresses smoothly into the reception. During the reception, the timeline becomes more flexible, yet it’s important to have structured times for speeches, meals, and the first dance to maintain momentum. 


Be sure to check this with your wedding planner if you have one, or if not, the person at the venue who is managing your day, should be able to help to get these times in place.



Example Wedding Day Timeline for Photographs



Bridal Details

10:30am - 11:15am


Every bride loves having those beautiful shots of her bridal details. It’s an important part of the story, and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewellery, invitations, etc. These shots allow me to get warmed up for the rest of the big day. I normally like to allow at least 30 minutes for this part of the day. While I’m shooting details, I’m also capturing some shots of the bride and her girls candidly! 


If the groom is getting ready nearby, or I have a second shooter, they begin photographing the men around 60 minutes before the ceremony since it always takes them less time to get dressed!



Bridal Party Portraits

11:15am - 12pm


Now it’s time for pictures with your besties. This time can go SO quickly, so  to make sure we stay on schedule if we can have someone designated to make sure all the girls are ready for your reveal! I try to get some great shots of you and the girls both separately and together. Once these are complete, we can get into the dress- exciting



Bridal Portraits

12pm - 1:15pm


It’s time for you (the bride) to get into your dress! This is a big moment, and I usually ask the mother of the bride to be dressed by the time you're ready to get into your dress. This ensures that everyone will look photo-ready in those images whilst helping the bride.


After you are in your gown, you can put on jewellery, veil, shoes, etc., and I will shoot some additional bridal portraits!


Then, once the bridesmaids are dressed too, we can either do a first look with the girls, or capture some bridal portraits in a group.



First look with dad

1:15pm - 1:30pm


This is one of my favourite parts of the wedding day! I will find the perfect location for the dad's First Look prior to leaving for the ceremony. Don’t stress about your location being away from your guests. I will make sure the location is private, has great natural light and is as secluded as possible.



Guests Arriving/Candids

1:30pm - 2:00pm


If the reception is at the same location as the ceremony, I will use this time to capture guests arriving and greeting each other and wait for the Bride at the top of the aisle for the ceremony to begin. You'll likely be getting lipstick topped up, meeting the registrar and containing your nerves.



Ceremony

2:00pm - 2:30pm


It’s time to get married!! Most ceremonies are 15-30 minutes long. If your ceremony is longer than 30 minutes, we’ll be sure to make adjustments to the timeline. Cherish these moments! Your ceremony will pass by so quickly!



Family Portraits

2:45pm - 3:15pm


Family formals normally take place  following the ceremony. It’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time.


I'll need about 30 minutes for family formals, and I will send a questionnaire before the wedding where you can list out the shots that you want. I recommend shooting portraits outdoors if possible so that they resemble more of a natural family portrait style, especially if the ceremony location is dark!



'Just Married' Portraits

3:15pm - 3:30pm


Let's take you off quickly to get some just married photos! In case we don't get chance later in the day, it's best to do this now. Especially before you eat and drink so you are still camera ready!



Speeches

3:30pm - 5:30pm


This is the part of the day that I definitely do not intrude. I will scout the room for the best locations for photos and ensure I'm capturing the raw emotions of the speakers and guests.


Wedding Breakfast

5:30pm - 6:30pm


By this part of the day, my timeline isn’t as strict. I work off of the natural light and let you and your guests mingle, have nibbles, sip your fizz and hug it out! I'll be creeping in the room, getting candid photos from afar, ensuring I'm capturing the loudest laugh on camera or the tightest hugs from your guests. Once your guests are seated for a meal, or wedding breakfast, I'll hang around a while until food is served. When food is served I'll be taking my break.



Downtime/Break

6:30pm - 7:30pm


After the meal and speech'ing', you'll have a "lull" in the day, where people either get changed for the evening do, or just sit around and chat/digest before the party begins.


During this time, I'll be mingling with your guests, getting some nice group shots and documenting the day.


If we haven't had chance to nail your couple portraits, we can also use this time to take some more of the two of you at Sunset!



Party Begins

8pm - Late


I include 10 hours of coverage so that I can be present for the main events of the reception, the cake cutting, the first dance and about an hour of dancing! All of this is done candidly and you'll often find me on the dancefloor, getting right in on the action!




I really hope this has helped open your eyes a little to how important having a structured timeline to your day is. If you're booked with me, know that I will always be on hand to help guide with timings and anything else that you need on the day. Yes, I'm your photographer, but I'm also so much more.


And, if i'm not currently your photographer and you're reading this thinking 'I need her!!', head over to my contact page and get in touch, I can't wait to chat.



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