AN IDEAL WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
As you plan your wedding, many vendors will be asking you for your timeline, so your timeline is an essential thing you will need to layout in the very early stages. Why, so that all your wedding vendors know where and when whey need to be.
However you might be struggling to pin down certain elements of your day, like what time should you host your speeches? how much time should you allocate for hair and make up, or how much time should you allocate for group photos? With so many things to think about, that it can be a bit overwhelming to plan your timeline without any guidance, so I am here to help you build the backbones of your timeline based on my experience of photographing weddings.
To start off with I will go about saying that all that all that I will be saying here will be based on summer weddings with longer daylight hour days. If you wanted to learn more about scheduling your winter wedding timeline, then you can read about it here. What is the biggest difference? It is Daylight hours, which will have a massive impact on the overall aesthetics of your photos. But enough gibber gabber, and let's dive in.
All vendors will be different and will have their own required time, however as a rule of thumb, Hair can take from 1 hour to 1.5hours to complete, while makeup from 45mins to 1hour. Ideally, you want to start with your (Bride) makeup and hair to be done first (in that order). So that you are looking your best in your candid photos. However your stylists will be able to advise you better.
Whether you have a stylist or doing your own hair and makeup, it is always advisable to allocate for any last minute delays (30mins to 1hour at least). These delays will always happen, and it's better to have allocated for them.
So how is a morning of preparations commonly photographed? Your photographer will arrive anytime from 8:30 to 9:30am to make their introductions and start to photograph your venue, decor and details. I love to photograph the details in a space close by, so that whenever I see a beautiful candid moment during the preparations I am ready to capture it. Once the details are finished I will be scouting for lovely candid moments.
Pro Tip 1: Choosing a room with ample light and keeping your room free from clutter will allow your photographer to capture your morning more naturally and beautifully with less intrusion.
Pro Tip 2: Buy yourself and your bridesmaids some lovely pjs so that you can all be photographed beautifully durning this stage.
At around 11:30am, ideally, you and your bridesmaids will all be ready from hair and makeup, and we can capture you having a casual laugh together with a glass of bubbly. This should take about 15mins max, after which point your bridesmaids can get into their dresses.
We will then get you into your dress around 12:00 where we will get either your mum, sister or bridesmaids to help you into your dress. Followed by you putting on your shoes, jewellery and final little touches.
Other things that can be fitted into your morning are Groom Prep (which can be fitted in 30mins with one photographer), First looks, bridal portraits and bride & bridesmaids portraits, which each individually can take from 5 to 15mins or so to complete all after, you the bride has gotten ready.
Remember to allocate enough time for you, your photographers, videographers and guests to travel in between venues. If you want a stress free affair, it is always best to minimise the amount of travel you will have to do in between venues, so choosing one venue where all preparations, ceremony and reception can happen is always ideal. If not, calculate the travel times, and allocate an additional 10 or so minutes for traffic, and parking.
Ceremonies are pretty straight forward and your registrar, celebrant or vicar will be able to guide you better in terms of timings.
Church Weddings: 45mins to 50mins
Registry Celebrations: 20mins to 30mins
If you are having a registry celebration, remember that you will need to be present for an interview around 15mins prior to the ceremony start time. You might also want to mention to your registrar if you will want to have your interviews together or separate. In most cases registrars can hold separate interviews to allow you a first look down the aisle. however if this is not possible, speak with your photographer to plan your first look to be captured on camera in a convenient location prior to you going in for your interviews.
Now what are the best times for Ceremonies to be held? Usually it's between 12pm to 2pm. For a Summer weddings, you can even push your ceremony time to a later time for a more gentile morning.
Drinks O'Clock / Group Photos
Following the Ceremony, this is the time for your celebrations to begin. Now, it is up to you to plan this time as you see fit. Think about how you want to your day to flow, maybe you want to start with a drink and allow yourself to connect with your guests first, or maybe you want to get the group photos out of the way. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, there is only what feels right for you.
Here is an example of the different layout option you can schedule the drinks o'clock time:
Confetti exit / 15 to 30minute Mingle / Group Photos / Couples Portraits
Confetti exit / Group Photos / Couple Portraits / unlimited Mingling time
Confetti exit / Group photos / 15 to 30minute Mingle / Couples Portraits
A consultaiton with your photographer will help you understand what is the best layout for your wedding day. As a photographer, the questions I get asked the most, is how long do group photos take. My answer is always to allocate 2mins per grouping, and to limit the groups to 15 group max. This will bring the total group photo time to about 30mins. This is what I recommend, only because any longer than 30mins, and you will start to feel tired, tired from smiling and tired of standing. Having said that, there are occasions where more groups are required, so just factor in 2mins per group to calculate your timings for that.
Now let's talk about your couple's portraits. The optimal time for taking stunning portraits is around the Golden hour time, however it is not ideal to put all your eggs in this one basket. Why? only because the golden hour will probably happen after your meal time, so your make up might not be at its best, and both will have had a couple of drinks and not everyone can handle their drinks in equally the same way, and the celebrations might be running behind schedule for whatever reason. For these reason, it is always ideal to split your portrait session in two parts, a 15 to 20minute session during drink o'clock and a 15 to 20minutes session during the Golden Hour.
In conclusion, the fact of the matter is that you will be spending at least 45 to 60mins of your drinks o'clock away taking photos, so you want to make sure that you are allocating 2 to 3hours for your drinks reception. Your venue co-ordinator will be able to advise you best.
above: drinks o'clock portrait
above: golden hour portrait
The Wedding Breakfast & Speeches
The time you will allocate for your wedding breakfast will be determined by your catering team or venue co-ordinator. But usually it will follow your drinks reception and will last from 1.5hour to 2hours (maybe even 3hours depending on the number of courses and or speeches).
Photographer during a consultaiton: "so, when are you guys planning to have your speeches? "
Groom : "Oh I always thought they happened after the main course"
Bride: " Oh I always thought they happened after dessert" turning towards the photographer "what do you recommend?"
I have this conversation with my clients, time and time again. The truth is that, I've seen speeches done before, so as soon as everyone has found their seats, I've seen them done after the starters, after mains and after dessert... Again there is no right or wrong answer here, but there are a couple of things to consider.
I would start by the number of speeches and the length of speeches. For shorter smaller speeches, they can fit nicely being done at the start to conclude with a toast followed by the starter. For longer speeches, I would recommend hosting them after dessert. There is also the option of hosting your speeches right after the main course, however there is one main thing to note; that servers clearing plates or serving drinks can be distracting so make sure that all service halts during speech time (and you are thus factoring in this in your timings).
First Dance / Champagne Tower or Cake Cutting
Plan for your evening guests to arrive just after speeches, usually around 7 or 7:30pm. This is then the optimal time to invite your evening guests into opening the evening celebrations with the cutting of the cake followed by the First Dance. Now a days, champagne towers are proving to be an extremely popular alternative to the traditional cake cutting and an elegant way to offer your evening guests a drink.
Whether you are a traditional or non traditional bride, one thing is certain, that the first dance is an exciting moment eagerly awaited by newly weds and guests alike. The first dance marks the opening of the evening festivities where you can let loose and uncle bob can bust his epic moves.
When planning the timings of your evening festivities, it is good to understand if the venue has a curfew for music or drinks to be served, so that you plan your evening accordingly.
& remember that your DJ or band will need some time to set up and sound check, so it is always good practice to allow 30 to 60mins in between speeches and the opening of the evening festivities. This might also be carried out sooner if your evening festivities are happening in a separate room.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN PLANNING YOUR WEDDING TIMELINE ?
Your wedding day is yours to plan as you see fit, there is no right or wrong.
Always allow a buffer time for last minute delays especially during the morning preparations or travel times.
Allow 30mins of group photos for a max of 15 groups.
Allow for 15 to 30mins of couple's portraits during drinks o'clock and an additional 15 to 30mins during the golden hour (click here to uncover the golden hour on your wedding day or speak with your wedding photographer). Pro Tip: The golden hour happens 45mins before sunset, but anytime from 1.5hours before sunset will produce a similar golden effect.
Speak with your wedding vendors and ask about their process and long they would require to serve your best.
You can use the guide down below to help you create the backbones of your timeline and refine it according to your needs and your vendors' needs
I hope that this guide has been a great asset in helping you to start planning your day. Go ahead and save the below example of a wedding timeline to your Pinterest board and start drafting your own timeline. If this is still very overwhelming, then do get in touch, we can have a chat about the lovely wedding you are planning and I can draft out a tentative timeline for you.
If you want to learn more about my Fine Art Wedding Photography you can go to the info page here: