Planning the Perfect Wedding Timeline
Wedding timelines – doesnt sound like the most exciting bit of wedding planning that you’re ever going to do but my biggest tip for couples planning their wedding is to put together the perfect timeline in advance. It’s something that most couples don’t really start thinking about early in their wedding planning journey but after photographing 200+ weddings I know a well thought out timeline can help make your wedding day run smoothly and achieve that perfect relaxed vibe. You’ll have time to spend with friends and family, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful venue that you’ve chosen and you’ll get all the images you want from the day. The alternative – a wedding day that feels rushed, or one with huge lulls where your guests starting feeling a bit fed up and the energy seeps away. (We’ve all been to weddings like that!) They also help make sure all your suppliers are on the same page so we can work together like a well oiled machine.
Here’s my top tips for planning the perfect wedding timeline.
Check with your hair and make up team what time they need to start on the morning. Brides if you’ve chosen a big bridal squad be prepared for an early start! I usually advise my couples I’ll be with them for about 2 hours of prep in the morning. If you’d like some photographs taken before the ceremony then you need to factor timing in for this. I always aim to leave at least 15 minutes before you do – to make sure I’m parked up ready to rock and roll when you arrive at the ceremony.
It’s very important to choose a good time for your wedding ceremony. Too early and the day feels dragged out. Too late and you’ll find everything is smushed into a few hours and is over before you know it! If you’re having the whole day in the same venue then a ceremony time of 1 or 2 p.m. is perfect. If you’re travelling between church and venue then you might want to go for a slightly earlier ceremony to accommodate for the extra travelling time.
It’s really important to get to your ceremony on time. The whole ‘it’s the bride’s prerogative to be late’ doesn’t cut it any more I’m afraid! Registrars in particular will have more than one ceremony to perform on a day so they don’t take kindly to be kept waiting for no reason. Plan to be ready 30 minutes before you need to set off and plan on setting off early too. The last thing you want is last minute panic and fluster because time has run away from you. Check to make sure there’s no events or planned road closures on your route that might affect your timings. If you find yourself with time to spare it’s the perfect opportunity for a glass of fizz with everyone before you head out.
After the ceremony
This is the first danger zone for wedding timings going astray. If you’re having a church wedding you might be planning to head out of church and dash straight to your wedding venue for the drinks reception. This WILL NOT HAPPEN! Unless you are completely militant and ignore everyone, you will find that all your guests want to hug you, kiss you and congratulate you at this time. It often turns into something of an impromptu receiving line as you greet guests as they leave church and this can easily add another 20 minutes onto your timeline. If that’s not been factored in it can knock everything out of schedule. My tip – add this into your timeline and ENJOY it. It’s one of my favourite parts of a wedding day – you’ve just got married! Emotions are running high, everyone is beaming and hugging you and each other. It’s an absolute treat to photograph and some of my favourite natural wedding images usually come from this part of the day.
The good news is, if you’re planning to hold your wedding ceremony at your reception venue then this part of the day naturally becomes part of your drinks reception which makes it even smoother. All the above happens – the kissing, the hugs, the smiles – it just takes place whilst everyone has a glass of fizz in their hands! 🙂
Before Your Meal (also known as the drinks reception)
This is a busy busy part of the day for your wedding photographer. During this time we’ve usually got a lot of images to tick off the list – your family group shots, your portraits, lots of lovely natural and relaxed images of your guests enjoying themselves and some pictures of your wedding breakfast room all set up. All these shots are important to you – we know that – which is why you must make sure you’ve factored enough time into your timeline to make sure they happen.
I always advise my couples to make sure there is at least an hour and a half set aside for the drinks reception when you arrive at your wedding venue (or from when your ceremony finishes if you’re having everything in one place). The last thing I want to do is rush you off straightaway for portraits and group shots. If you want beautiful, natural, informal shots of you and your guests at your wedding, this is where a lot of them will happen. Make sure you factor in enough time for this. Not only do you get a lot of beautiful images – you also get the chance to actually enjoying spending time with your guests!
The Group Shots
Back in t’day, wedding photography was dominated by formal and stuffy portraits. No more! Hooray. But group shots and family shots are still an important part of your day for sure. Although I advise my couples to keep them to a minimum (we’ve all been to those weddings where the group shots take 2 hours – snoreville!) I do still encourage them to have a few important ones. If you’re planning 6-8 different groups (which is ample) then make sure you put aside around 30 minutes for those. To make sure they get done quickly and smoothly pre-warn people that they will be needed for pictures so they don’t disappear just when they are needed and ask your bridesmaids or groomsmen to be on hand to help round people up. Quick as a flash, you’ll be finished and back to enjoying your day with your friends and family.
Most of my couples want some cracking pictures of just the two of them, but don’t want to turn the day into a huge and elaborate photoshoot. I ask for two 10-15 minute sessions with my couples to create some magic! One just after we’ve finished group shots and one in the evening. Having two shorter sessions means we can take advantage of different light, both sessions feel very short and sweet and you never real feel like you’re at a photo shoot!
Portraits might be your ideal of hell – I mean it’s not the type of thing most couples do naturally! But having that 15 minutes away from your guests, just the two of you, is wonderful. The day is so busy that you’ll barely get chance to speak to each otherwise. Making sure you’ve factored some time into your timeline for portraits is super important. If we’re rushing for time, you’ll feel rushed and that will reflect in your images. Give me 15 minutes and you’ll get images of you both looking chilled, relaxed, love up and having a great time on your wedding day.
The ceremony, drinks reception, groups shots and portraits are done, the meal has been demolished, speeches have been spoken. Everyone is fed, watered and ready to dive into the evening. Timings at this point are still important. You want to leave enough of a gap between the end of the meal and the start of the first dance to allow guests to go and refresh themselves, the staff at the venue to prepare the room, the DJ or band to set up and for that second set of portraits to happen. But you don’t want to leave toooooo long that people start feeling dozy or the energy seeps away. Aim to have your first dance at around 8 p.m ish so that guests can get on the dance floor straight after and the party will start! If you’ve booked a full day of wedding photography this means that most photographers will stay for a while after the first dance to get some cracking images of your guests partying.
I hope you find this post useful! There’s loads more wedding planning tips on the blog here!