Your Wedding Day Timeline – Industry Insiders for a Relaxed Wedding day

I adore my job as a wedding photographer, I mean who doesn’t love a wedding right? I’m privileged enough to get to go to a lot of weddings, I have been to a fair few over the years!  Wedding days come in all shapes and sizes and I love watching them unfold before me.  Every wedding day has its own vibe with its own little touches and it is a joy to capture every single one.

In this blog, I will give my top tips for the perfect wedding day timeline to help you plan your special day in advance.  You could say I have a little insider knowledge and I have seen what works well and what could be improved, with a little forward planning. You may have hired a wedding planner who can organise your wedding day timeline for you, or you may be planning your wedding day yourselves.

Either way, you want to get the most from your day and you want it to run as smoothly as possible. Grab a cuppa and enjoy my blog.

1. Wedding morning timeline

Your wedding day will always start with the preparation stage in some form. You should allow plenty of time for this as it will set the tone for the rest of the day.  If you take your time, you will undoubtedly coast into the wedding day much more relaxed.  Choose your squad well and spend some quality time together on the wedding morning, before things get going.  If you are in a hotel, order room service and have a lovely breakfast with a glass of bubbly.  At home? get some food and snacks the day before and spend some time chilling out and enjoying being pampered. 

If you have a hairstylist and make-up artist booked, ask for their timings in advance. This will depend on the number of people they have to get wedding ready.  Hair and make-up for a large bridal party can take longer than you would think and you will have an early start. Speak to your hair and make-up artist and tell them that you need to be ready an hour before you leave for the wedding ceremony. This might sound like a long time but we will need the time to get you into your wedding dress or suit. There will be accessories to put on, portraits to take and you might want some first-look photos too. We really don’t want this part of the wedding morning to be rushed, if possible.

2. The wedding ceremony timeline

What time you choose to have your wedding ceremony will play a big part in how the rest of the day runs. For a summer wedding, a 2.30 pm ceremony is ideal. This allows plenty of time to get ready in the morning, without rushing. With a summer wedding you will have lots of daylight to play with so other aspects of the wedding day can run into the evening. If you opt for an early wedding ceremony, the afternoon can feel quite long as you may not sit down for food until early evening. If you have gaps in the day, make sure you have things on to entertain guests and ensure they are fed and watered.

For a winter wedding, you ideally want your ceremony to be earlier. We will run out of daylight quite early and we need to factor in group photos and your portraits.

Roughly speaking, a civil ceremony will last around 20 minutes. A church ceremony can be anything up to an hour.  Make contact with the church or registrar well in advance to book your ceremony time slot. Summer slots especially can get booked up quickly.  Allow plenty of time to get to your wedding venue so that you are not running late. If the wedding ceremony runs late, it may have a knock on effect for the rest of the day.

3. Wedding confetti

If you’re having confetti you may want to think about whether you are going to do this at the church or the wedding reception.  If you decide to do it at the church you will need to check with them that this is allowed.  Confetti walks are big at the moment and I absolutely love them!  A lot of places will stipulate that you use biodegradable, real flower confetti so as not to damage the environment.  If you are allowed, biodegradable paper confetti looks best as it lingers in the air for longer. I have written a blog all about confetti, check it out for my top tips.

4. Wedding reception timeline

You may have to factor in travelling time to the wedding reception venue if it differs from the ceremony venue.  Bear this in mind when discussing your timeline with your wedding venue.

Your drinks reception will be your first time to relax a little and mingle with your friends and family after the wedding ceremony.  Canapés are a great idea, especially if you have a big gap between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast, and a couple of glasses of your tipple of choice always goes down well.  Garden games are always a big hit! Allow at least an hour and a half for your drinks reception, two if possible. This is when we will do your group photos and your portraits. Plus you want to relax a bit and speak to your guests.

I normally recommend no more than ten group photos so that they don’t eat into your drinks reception too much.  If you have a big family or want lots of shots with friends then we will absolutely do them, you just need to be aware that this will take a little longer. 

5. Couples portraits

My favourite part! Once your group photos are done, that is when we will go off together for your portraits.  Please ensure you factor in enough time for this in your wedding day timeline so it is not rushed. Portraits fill some couples with dread but please do not fret.  This is your first opportunity to spend some quality time together as a happily married couple and I want you to enjoy it.  This part of the day will be relaxed and natural. This is all about you two and not me and my camera.  I encourage all of my couples to concentrate on each other with no cheesy posing or awkward smiles. 

I will always give a small amount of guidance just so that we get the best out of this session but everyone always says how relaxed they felt afterwards.  Plus it will be well worth it for the end result.

If the weather is bad we will do our best to work around it.  It may be that we head indoors and dash outside if we get a chance.  Or you could bring a pretty umbrella and we could get some cool photos with that if you are happy to brave it.  If your wedding is in the winter months, we will do our best to get all of this done before the early sunset.  Failing that, most wedding venues are geared up for this and have equally beautiful spots indoors that we can utilise. I also try and steal you away from the wedding reception for a brief time later for some golden hour portraits. Golden hour is a beautiful time to capture some more gorgeous pictures of the two of you.

6. Speeches and wedding breakfast timeline

You may choose to do your wedding speeches prior to the wedding breakfast, or you may do them after. Either is fine, there is no right or wrong here. My only bit of advice would be that if you choose to do them before the meal, try to not let them run on too long or you and your guests will be super hungry. Aim for speeches to last no longer than around 30 minutes so you hold everybody’s attention. We chose to do our wedding speeches before our wedding breakfast as my dad was really nervous. I wanted him to relax and enjoy his meal so that was our reasoning. Some couples choose to do speeches between courses. This can cause havok for the catering team if speeches overrun and they are having to try and serve hot food. It is also the only time of the day that your suppliers, me included, get to sit down and have a break. If speeches are between courses then I don’t get a break. Before or after work best.

7. Cake cutting and first dance timeline

Everyone has been suitably fed and watered and now it is time to move on to the evening reception.  There can sometimes be quite a gap between the wedding breakfast and the evening reception. This is a great time to relax a bit and work the room.  Everybody will want to have a chat with you so this is the perfect opportunity to mingle.  You may have invited evening guests and they will probably now start arriving in time for the party. 

There is no set time for the cake-cutting but most couples will do this just before the first dance.  Your venue may need to turn the room around or you may have a DJ or band that needs to set up so this will need to be factored in beforehand. 

The evening party will start with the first dance. You may choose to sway together to a love song, dance your socks off to an Ibiza anthem or you may give strictly a run for its money and Rhumba your way into married life.  Whatever you choose, enjoy the moment and don’t worry that all your guests are watching and cooing.  After the first dance, your guests will all join you on the dancefloor. Then the party starts and you can let your hair down.  I like to stay for a bit of the evening party and believe me I will be in there with you. Dancing my little socks off and snapping away.  When it is time to go I leave you to it and say my goodbyes. Generally followed with a big congratulatory hug!  

8. Above all…….have the best wedding day ever!

I hope you have enjoyed my wedding day timeline blog and have gotten some useful tips. However you choose to run your wedding day remember that your venue and all of your suppliers will be there to ensure everything runs smoothly. If you have hired a wedding planner you can relax completely, they will sort your wedding day timeline and running order for you. If not then do not get overwhelmed, with a little planning everything will fall into place. Above all make sure you relax and have the best day you can

If you would like to discuss your wedding photography I would love to hear from you. Please contact me here and we can book a call or meet up for a cuppa