How to Time Your Wedding Day for the Best Possible Photos.
The key to a wedding day timeline that runs smoothly, is planning ahead. Breaking down your entire wedding day into an organised timeline helps to keep everything on track when the big day finally arrives. Timings actually also play a huge part in how your wedding photos turn out, so it’s really handy for me to get a good idea of how you would like your day to run, ahead of time. I’m always available to my clients to help them with this part of the process, as it can sometimes seem a little overwhelming!
The more detailed you can make the plan, the better. It’s a good idea to write up your timeline and send it to all the vendors and key people in your wedding party, so that everyone is on the same page and can plan their day accordingly.
I’m going to give you a very rough idea of how a typical wedding day usually pans out and how your wedding photography comes into play.
Try and get as organised as possible in the days leading up to your wedding, so that all you need to do on the day is show up! Take a look at my blog – The Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist – to help with this.
When deciding what time to get things started, take into account the following –
The size of your bridal party.
The complexity of your hair and makeup.
How much you have prepared in advance.
Last minute things you need to do in the morning (try and keep this to an absolute minimum)
The time of your ceremony.
The distance between where you are getting ready and your ceremony location.
Whether you plan on having any photos with your bridal party prior to your ceremony.
The best starting point when it comes to working out how much time to allow is to ask the experts! If you are having your hair and makeup done professionally then ask your hair and make-up artist how long they think they will take (as a general rule, I would allow a couple of hours for bridal hair and make-up and an additional 45 to 60 minutes for each member of your wedding party).
Work back from the start of your ceremony and factor in travel, putting on your dress (this takes longer than you think so give yourself at least 30 mins!) and timings from your hair and make-up artist. This will give you a rough idea of your starting time.
Aim to be ready to leave 1 hour before you actually need to go. This will ensure that you are ready in plenty of time and allows a margin for error. It also means you can relax, enjoy your morning and have some portraits done if you wish.
Don’t forget to eat and drink!
Stay off your feet as much as possible.
Stay zen by playing some of your favourite music.
If your bridal party are doing their own hair and make-up, ask them how long they think it will take them to get ready, then double it! Seriously.
Try really hard to keep the room as tidy as possible, so that there is no distracting clutter in the background of your images.
Your photos will look best in a spacious, tidy room with lots of natural light. It may be worth hiring an Airbnb if this isn’t something you have at home.
Lay out any special items that you would like you to be photographed and have it all in one spot so that it is easy for your photographer to find. This can include things like the jewellery you’ll be wearing, your perfume, something borrowed, veil and shoes etc.
Have your bridesmaids get dressed first so that they can help you get into your dress. It just looks better in the photos this way.
Firstly, what time should everyone arrive at the ceremony?
As a general guide I usually advise the following:
Groom, Best Man / Men and Ushers – 45 minutes before the ceremony.
Guests – 30 minutes before the ceremony.
Groom’s parents – 15 minutes before the ceremony.
Mother of the Bride and Bridesmaids – 10 minutes before the ceremony.
Bride and Father of the Bride – 5 minutes before the ceremony.
Secondly, how long should you allow for your ceremony?
This will ultimately depend on whether you are having a Religious Ceremony, a Non-Religious Ceremony, or a Civil Wedding / Partnership…
Non-Religious Ceremony – 20 to 45 minutes.
Civil Wedding / Partnership – 30 to 45 minutes.
Religious Ceremony – 60 to 90 minutes.
Consider asking that your guests don’t take any photos or videos during the ceremony. Your hired photographer only has once chance at getting those important shots, so it’s super annoying if a guest steps out into the aisle to grab a snap on their phone and blocks the photographer. It happens! I also just think it looks a bit rubbish, for lack of a better word, in your professional wedding photos when everyone is looking at you through their phones, rather than just being there in the moment with you. Not only this, but it’s a sure fire way to make your photos look outdated much quicker.
You can put a sign up to remind people, but the most effective way is to ask your celebrant or best man to make an announcement before the ceremony begins.
I absolutely love confetti shots. If this is something you would like, then I recommend that you have 5 minutes alone together immediately after the ceremony, so that your photographer can get your guests into the optimum confetti throwing position!
Check that your venue allows confetti.
Confetti used outside should be biodegradable.
Give your guests sh*t loads of confetti in order to get the best photos!
It works best if your guests can grab a handful or two of confetti each, rather than trying to throw it directly from any packaging.
Your photographer should tell your guest to throw the confetti up high above you, rather than directly into your eyeballs.
Immediately after the confetti shots is the best time to get any group photos that you would like. Organising group shots can be like herding drunk cats if left too late in the day. Doing the group photos before the reception starts, ensures that your guests haven’t started wondering off to the bar and the toilets!
I recommend 5 to 10 group photos maximum. Allow 5 minutes per group photo.
Your photographer should prioritise flattering light when it comes to your group photos. Group photos typically happen in the middle of the day, so if it is really bright and sunny, your photographer should either find a shaded spot, or face your backs to the sun. This is to avoid everyone squinting and sweating in your photos! The backdrop your photographer uses will be dependant on the sun’s position.
Assign someone that knows most of the guests to assist the photographer in rounding people up for their photos.
Give your photographer a detailed list of the group photos you would like.
Make your photographer aware of any awkward family dynamics, such as family members that may not get on, so that she doesn’t stand them next to each other!
Allow 1 ½ to 2 hours for your drinks reception, as this will give your photographer time to grab detail shots around the venue and take some portraits of the two of you. It will also give you enough time to mingle with your guests and enjoy your canapés and bubbles. Your photographer will be able to take some lovely candid shots of you and your guests during this time too.
If you want a longer drinks reception, then it may be worth looking into providing some entertainment for your guests.
Allow up to 30 minutes for guests to move from the drinks reception to the location of your Wedding Breakfast and for them to then find their seats.
Designate at least a couple of your Bridesmaids or Ushers to direct guests and speed up any loitering guests!
This is a perfect opportunity for you and your partner to steal some time together before making your entrance.
Allow no more than 30 to 40 minutes for your speeches, with each speaker allocated up to 10 minutes. It is important to try and stick to these timings, as speeches that take any longer normally result in fidgety guests and your evening may lose momentum!
I would strongly advise you do your speeches before the wedding breakfast a few reasons. Firstly, any nervous speakers will really appreciate this as they can get their speech out of the way and can then relax and enjoy their meal. Secondly, your tables will look at their best before everyone starts eating and drinking, which will result in better wedding photos. Finally, I tend to find the guests pay more attention when things are done in this order, which probably has something to do with the wine they enjoyed with their meal!
I strongly advise against speeches between courses for many reasons. Firstly, it puts a lot of pressure on your caterers in regards to timing. Secondly, it means your photographers and videographers don’t get a chance to have a break, backup their files and charge their batteries. We work very long days on our feet doing a high pressure job – so pretty please give us a little chance to re-energise so that we’re on top form for the rest of the evening!
Ask that they time themselves doing their speech and don’t run over 10 minutes. Let’s keep ’em short and sweet people!
Feel free to give your speakers some ground rules! For example, ask them to watch their language if it’s not that kinda crowd. I once witnessed a drunk groomsman drop the c-bomb in his speech when there were children in the room! Suffice to say that went down like a lead balloon and there were some very unhappy parents – it was pretty awkward for everyone involved.
The best starting point when it comes to working out how much time to allocate for your Wedding Breakfast is to once again ask the expert! Your caterers will be able to give you a guide on how long they think their service will take depending on the number of guests, choice of food, number of courses, number of catering staff and type of venue etc.
As a general guide allow around to 2 hours for a 3 course meal.
Ask about a separate menu for any children at your wedding and think about how to entertain them during the wedding breakfast. Paper, crayons and perhaps even a table magician can work perfectly.
If you are having children sat separately from the adults, be super vigilant when it comes to possible choking hazards on their table. I once had to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a child at a wedding I photographed, who was choking on a sweet. It was bloody terrifying.
Ask your venue whether they have images of previous weddings. These can often give you inspiration and show what works particularly well.
Don’t forget about your lovely vendors and their dietary requirements. Most vendors in the wedding industry have being fed included in their contract. Your venue or caterers may offer a ‘vendor meal’ at a lower cost if you wish. Most vendors are more than happy to be sat in a separate nearby room so that they can unwind a little and back up their files etc.
Personally, I like to spend a total of an hour with my couples in order to deliver the best portraits possible. I usually like to break this up a little bit, by having two 10 minute photo shoots at some point during the day, with the main portrait session taking place later in the evening. The ideal time for this is the hour before sunset, as this gives the most beautiful lighting conditions.
Most of my couples appreciate getting away from all their guests for a bit by this point! It’s a great opportunity to have a bit of alone time(ish).
Allocate yourself 10 minutes before the portraits take place to freshen up, top up your makeup and fix your hair etc.
If you’re apprehensive about having your photos taken, I strongly suggest you have a pre-wedding photo shoot with your photographer so you feel more relaxed and comfortable on the day.
Trust your photographer! You hired them for a reason, so try and relax into it.
Once the evening reception has begun, timings kinda go out the window! However, there are some key elements that need to be factored into your schedule as otherwise they can easily be forgotten in the excitement of the evenings festivities!
I therefore normally advise my couples to factor in their first dance, cutting the cake and throwing the bouquet no later than 45 minutes after the end of their wedding breakfast (this will also ensure that their photographer manages to capture everything before they leave).
If you have invited evening guests, ask them to turn up at least 30 minutes after your wedding breakfast – if for any reason your wedding breakfast overruns, the last thing you want is to have evening guests turning up whilst people are still eating!
Think about your positioning when it’s time to cut the cake, so that the backdrop looks good in your photos.
Each wedding is unique and timings will vary drastically between different celebrations. Please feel free to use the above as a loose guide, but don’t feel like you’re doing it wrong if you want to deviate – it’s your day after all! This covers lot’s of the traditional elements of a wedding and you may want to skip parts of these to suit you as a couple!
Are you looking for a wedding photographer? Talk to me!