Organsing and planning your wedding day timeline can be somewhat stressful, after all, you have never done this before so how do you even know where to start?
I have a timeline call about three months before the wedding with all of my couples but in many cases alot of the timings are already decided, so I thought I would put something together to give you an idea of how much time to allocate to each section of your day. Of course you don’t need a minute by minute run through, and in many cases the actual timings of the smaller events listed will vary on the day but it is so useful to have an idea of timings so your suppliers know what they are working towards.
Below is an example timeline from one of my weddings last year, this included a second photographer with morning activities for the guys.
These getting-ready photos are some of my favorites, this is the time in the day when everyone is buzzing with the excitement of the day and it is a rare occasion when everyone is getting ready together. How long you will need for your prep on the wedding morning will vary greatly on how many of you are having hair and makeup done. Take your cue for this from your hair and makeup artists because they will know how long roughly they will need per person.
It is always good to allow yourself time before you are due to leave for the ceremony to actually just be ready. By this, I mean plan to be in your dress about 20 minutes before you need to leave or meet with the registrars and give that time to your hair and make-up artists so they can work backward from there.
If the wedding is between two men then perhaps you won’t need to allow quite as much time for prep in the morning but that isn’t always the case, you may have members of your wedding party getting ready with you or you may decide that you want to go out and do an activity in the morning before getting into your wedding attire, in which case it is always great to capture that too, just be sure to let your photographer know.
Don’t forget to allow time for driving between locations if you are getting ready at home and then heading to the venue. It is always wise to allow extra time for traffic too.
How long your wedding ceremony takes will play a huge factor in organising and planning your wedding day timeline. If you are having a civil ceremony these can take as little as 10-15 minutes, maybe slightly longer if you choose to have a few readings.
Religious ceremonies take 45 minutes to an hour usually and include hymns, readings, and an address from the vicar. Catholic services can be much longer, up to an hour and a half if they include mass.
Typically group photos will take place directly after the ceremony, the guests are already all together and you are less likely to lose anyone disappearing off for a toilet break and children are generally still in good spirits. I strongly advise keeping your group shots to a minimum where possible, only because they can take a long time to arrange and after a while of standing in the same place you will (trust me on this) get bored, as will your guests. Of course, group photos are important to have because it isn’t often you have everyone together just don’t go mad with a shot list of 15 groups. Allow about 30 minutes for these.
Every photographer will do this differently but for me, I like to try and split up the couple’s portraits when I can. This saves you from getting bored, it keeps your smiles real and it also gives you a bit of variety. Depending on the location of the ceremony I like to allow 25/30 minutes after the group photos and then another 20 minutes at ‘Golden Hour’, I will also aim to capture an evening portrait for you.
It is always good to allow at least an hour and a half between the end of the ceremony and the wedding breakfast, this will need to be a little longer if you are traveling between locations. If you are having canapes this can stretch to 2 hours and means you will have time for all of your photographs as well as time to actually enjoy your wedding rather than going from photos straight into the wedding breakfast.
Traditionally speeches take place after the wedding breakfast and you would allow about 20 minutes for them. I am however seeing more of a trend towards speeches taking place before dinner. This allows those giving a speech to actually enjoy their meal rather than sitting there for the entire thing worrying about how well their speech is going to go down. It also means that the more nervous drinkers don’t have time to down a few shots beforehand.
Your wedding breakfast usually lasts approximately 2 hours depending on the type of meal you will be having. If you are having street food vans for your wedding breakfast for example rather than a three-course meal then this won’t take as long. Evening guests should arrive after the meal has been eaten and cleared away though so it is always best to allow 2-2.5 hours for this in your wedding day timeline.
These typically take place once the evening guests have arrived but a lot of couples are choosing to cut the cake now before dinner so that it can be enjoyed as part of the desert. You don’t need to allow very long at all in your wedding day timeline for this, 10 minutes should do it.
It is always good to make it clear on your invites what time your guests are expected to leave, not only does this help with booking taxis it also means you don’t have to worry about ushering guests out at the end of the evening, especially if your wedding is being held on the family property because you may not have staff there to help you.