Many couples tell us that one of the most intimidating aspects of the wedding day is planning the timeline. In the same way that many couples have never been photographed together before, most people have never organised an event for 100+ people before, so are understandably a little apprehensive about planning their wedding! Anxious about having enough time for everything whilst worried that their guests will be standing around waiting – one of the most frequent things we get asked for is advise on wedding day timings.
We’ve shot a whole lot of weddings and the timings on your wedding day can often make or break the images we create. Your wedding day photographs capture your memories and as such are really important. You have invested in our time as professionals to capture the story of your day – in order for us to do that – to get the creative, stand-out photos that you have asked for, we do need adequate time.
There are many other elements to the day that also require time; make-up, hair, ceremony, drinks reception, speeches… Your other suppliers should be able to advise you how long it will take them to do their various jobs and the co-ordinator at your venue will be able to advise you too.
So, here is our advise on perfecting timings for your wedding day!
We’re basing our guide on a 1pm Church wedding, with the reception being at a different venue to the ceremony. Your timeline will vary depending on whether everything is at one venue or various different ones and so, as well as giving an actual time, we’ve tried to indicate how long key elements of the day take so that you can apply them to your own specific wedding day plans.
Bridal Prep 09:30-12:30 (Photographer to arrive at 10:30): Time Needed 3 Hours
From hair and make-up to putting on the dress, Brides tend to need about three hours to get ready. Your hairdresser and make-up artist will be able to advise how long it will take them to do their job (and if you’ve had a full hair and make-up trial you should have pretty a good idea yourself). With your closest girlfriends around you, you always want to allow a little extra time for champagne and conversation – you want to enjoy this morning as much as you can. This time together can also be a great opportunity for some relaxed candid photos of you with your bridesmaids.When it comes to getting dressed, I usually ask the Mother of the Bride and all of the Bridesmaids to be dressed before the Bride puts on her dress. This ensures that everyone looks good in these ‘getting ready’ photos! Remember to allow plenty of time to put on your dress – especially if it is a corset or has hundreds of fiddly buttons!
We ask brides to be ready 30 minutes before you need to leave for the ceremony. This allows time for some beautiful bridal portraits of you in your dress, some photos with the bridesmaids and a few minutes with your Dad before he walks you down the aisle.
Bridal Details, Time Needed: 45 Minutes Photography time
Every element has been carefully chosen for a wedding and the details are a really important part of the day. Couples love having beautiful shots of the the dress, shoes, jewellery, flowers, invitations & wedding stationery. As the Bride is getting ready, Ally will spend some time photographing these key components alongside capturing spontaneous shots of the bride and her bridesmaids.If possible, we ask for the wedding rings to be with the Bride on the morning of the wedding so that these can be captured alongside the other details. Ally usually arrives at the Bride’s hotel 90 minutes to two hours before the Bride needs to leave for the ceremony. This gives plenty of time to capture all the details, get some candid shots and also some Bridal portraits.
Groom Prep 10:45-11:45 (Photographer to arrive at 11:00): Time Needed: 1Hour
AJ will start photographing the guys getting ready about 45 minutes before they need to leave for the ceremony. Guests often start arriving 30 minutes early. We advise Grooms to arrive at the ceremony venue at least 45 minutes before the start of the ceremony. This should allow time for some photos with the Best Man & Ushers before the guests start arriving.Because there are always two of us photographing every wedding, there is no need for us to split our time between the bride & groom – meaning all those spontaneous moments are going to be immortalised for you to remember. Travel to ceremony
If the whole wedding is all under one roof then this is a part of the day that you don’t need to worry about.
If you’ve hired a professional driver and car they will be able to advise you how long the journey from the hotel to the ceremony will take. If you have a friend or family member driving you, you may want to do a test run a couple of weeks before the wedding to check the route and traffic.There are always some events that are unavoidable. We had one Bride whose wedding car broke down on the way to the Church – she was an hour late which meant that we were playing catch-up for the rest of the day and unfortunately lost most of the time planned for Bride & Groom portraits.
We advise brides to arrive five minutes early so that we can take some photos of her outside the ceremony venue with her Dad.
The Ceremony 13:00
If your wedding is in the winter months we would not recommend starting your ceremony later than 1pm so that there is still some daylight to do your portraits and group shots.
Church ceremony 13:00-14:00: Time Needed: One Hour
A Church ceremony will generally last up to an hour. Check with your vicar how long the service will be, especially if you are having Mass as part of your ceremony.
Please do remember to also check with the Church what photography is allowed during the ceremony.Civil Ceremony 13:00-13:30: Time Needed: 30 Minutes
Civil ceremony’s usually last 20 – 30 minutes (although the shortest we have covered was a mere ten minutes!). Remember to allow time for the five minute interview that both the Bride and the Groom have to have with the Registrar before the ceremony starts.Leaving the ceremony + The Confetti Shot 14:00: Time Needed: 30 Minutes
Everyone, and we mean everyone, will want to congratulate you after the ceremony, there is never a quick getaway for the Bride and Groom!
This is where a timeline can fall apart as couples think they will quickly leave the ceremony but unexpectedly get held up by their guests congratulating them. We advise couples allow 30 minutes after the ceremony.
Plus, If you want the classic confetti shot, this usually takes 5-10 minutes to organise.Just after the confetti with all your guests gathered around you can also be the perfect time to get a large group photo of everyone!If your ceremony is more intimate with only a handful of guests then you might not need to allow as much time here.
Travel to Reception 14:30: Time Needed: 30 Minutes
Don’t forget to schedule in the time it takes to travel from the ceremony to the reception and make sure you allow for weekend traffic if need be.Drinks Reception 15:00: Time Needed: Two hours
The drinks reception is where the party begins – for everyone not giving a speech at least. If your reception is at a different venue to your ceremony, it will usually start about an hour after the ceremony ends.
A lot happens during the drinks reception, we recommend allowing two hours between arrival and sitting down for the wedding breakfast to ensure there is plenty of time to capture everything!
Whilst you and your guests are arriving and being served drinks and canapes we will run into the room where you are having your wedding breakfast to photograph all the details. Similar to the Bridal details in the morning couples love having beautiful shots of their reception; the flowers, favours, place cards, table plan and all those other details you’ve spent the last few weeks planning in minute detail.We will also shoot some natural, candid photos of your guests, some as the action happens and some camera aware. It’s a lovely way of capturing as many of your guests as possible without having everyone in formal group shots. If you are wanting candid photos it is important that we have time to do this. Great candid images are not just quick snaps, we still need to work with the light to ensure the images are well lit, composition is important and it can sometimes takes a little while for your guests to relax!We then suggest starting your Bride and Groom photos about 30 minutes into the drinks reception, by this time you will have spoken to your guests, they will be relaxed and will probably be enjoying a glass or two of champagne – so won’t miss you whilst you’re being photographed.
Bride and Groom portraits 15:30-16:00: Time Needed: 30 Minutes
The Bride and Groom portraits are one of our favourite parts of a wedding day. We ask for 30 minutes of your time to create some beautiful and artistic portraits of you as you celebrate your first few hours as husband and wife. Many couples love this time as it gives them a few minutes to relax and reflect on the day away from their guests – and always results in some stunning photographs.At the end of the day you will only have a few things that can help you reflect on your wedding day; each other, the rings you wear and your photos. We aim to help you cherish the memories of your day by capturing and curating all those unique moments. Remember the light determines where we shoot so we can’t fully decide on the portrait location/s until the wedding day. If we’ve not shot at a venue before we always try to visit beforehand so that we are familiar with the physical layout – but the most important element to great photography is the light, without it there is no photo!
If you are getting married during the winter months and are wanting your portraits in the natural daylight then it is always worth bearing in mind what time the sun sets.
Sometimes, during the winter, we may shoot some Bride and Groom portraits at the Church or ceremony venue to make the most of the daylight hours.
Group Photos 16:00-16:30: Time Needed: 30 Minutes or 5 Minutes PER Group
We are predominantly documentary photographers – capturing the events as they happen but with modern families spread far and wide, group photos definitely have their place and so are often an important part of the wedding day for many couples.
We take a very relaxed, natural approach to the group photos and encourage people to group together, smile and joke together. We try to make them fun and always allow a few moments when we’ve got our shot for your guests to snap a quick shot on their smartphone!We will send you a questionnaire a few weeks before the wedding where you can list the group photos you want. It’s important that you allow enough time for theses photos and we really recommend keeping to a maximum of about eight groupings. Each photo takes 4-5 minutes and so the more you have, the longer you will be away from your guests!
We also recommend doing the group photos at the drinks reception so that your guests have something to do and aren’t just standing around waiting and watching – making everyone in the photos feel more self conscious. Whilst it can be easier to ‘round people up’ at the ceremony venue, people do tend to get bored.
We always ask for an Usher or family member to help us with the group photos. We don’t know your family and friends by name – so if they can be rounding up people for us, having them ready and waiting this really helps to make the group photos run much smoother. Which means that you are not standing around for too long and can go and party with your guests all the sooner!
Consider posting a list of group shots for you guests in advance so that they know who will be photographed and in what order (therefore people in photo number six know can tell if they still have time to pop to the bar!)
Wedding Breakfast 17:00: Time Needed: 90 Minutes (your venue or caterer will be able to advise)Speeches 18:30: Time Needed: 30 Minutes
The traditional format is Father of the Bride, then the Groom, closing with the Best Man – although it is becoming more common for Brides to give speeches or for people to vary the order these days.Try to keep each person to a maximum of ten minutes if possible to keep your timeline on track and ensure your guests don’t get too restless.Evening Guests arrive 19:00
If you are welcoming Evening guests they will want to congratulate you as soon as they arrive so it’s important to allow a little time for this.
By this point in the day the timeline isn’t usually so strict. We take a much more reportage approach – capturing you and your guests in a natural and informal way.
Cake cutting 19:45: Time Needed: 15 Minutes
Cutting the cake is one of the photos that ALL your guests usually want to take! We recommend that we do a pretend cake cut with you first to get ‘the official’ photo, we then step to one side to allow your guests to capture the moment as you actually cut it for real! (What they don’t realise is that we will be photographing them and their reactions then!)First dance 20:00
This is when the party really starts!Sunset portraits: Time Needed 10 minutes
Just before sunset, the sun is a glorious golden globe and produces the most gorgeous light for portraits. If possible we love to have a few extra minutes with just the two of you to dash off together and capture some wonderful golden-hour portraits.Finish 20:30
Our collections include between eight to ten hours coverage so that we can be present for all of the main events during your wedding day.If you are interested in having your exit photographed or if you are planning something special for late in the evening there are options: You can either add additional coverage, or plan a faux exit mid-way through the evening. Depending on your ceremony time and where the venues are in relation to each other there may also be leeway to start the photography a little later in the morning.
For the shorter collection we adjust our start and finish time.Download a handy timeline guide here A Guide to Your Wedding Day TImeline | © Stonelock Photography