Planning your wedding day for many for couples is an exciting time but can also be a daunting one. At first, it may feel hard to know where to begin when creating your wedding day timeline. Too many decisions and guesses on how long things may take.
As a wedding photographer I have been to lots of different weddings and can help with giving advice on how to plan your wedding day timeline. The running order of your wedding day can have a huge impact on the feel of your day. From experience, I know what timings work well to ensure that your day runs smoothly, avoiding any rushing around or long times of waiting in between the different parts of your wedding day. My first piece of advice is to have a wedding day timeline on show. This lets all your guests know what to expect and avoids any questions on the day… plus they look pretty!
Your Wedding Morning
When photographing your wedding morning I tend to arrive 2 hours before your wedding ceremony. The first hour I capture your hair and make-up being done, you having fun your bridesmaids and close family, along with photographing your wedding dress hung up, bouquets, shoes and giving any gifts.
I would advise having your hair and make-up complete 1 hour before you want to leave for your ceremony. This allows enough time to have bridesmaid photos in your gowns before putting on your wedding dress and having portraits before you leave.
To help your wedding morning to feel relaxed I would advise having a clear space to get ready in, too many people and too much clutter will make the morning feel very busy. Often brides will be getting ready in their own home, a hotel room, or a suite at their wedding venue. I would choose somewhere that is close to your wedding ceremony to avoid any unexpected traffic delays.
If you’d like further Bridal preparation tips then take a look at my advice in this blog – https://aimeejoy.com/wedding-morning-advice/
If you would also like Grooms preparation photographed, then take a look at this blog for some photo inspiration! –
Your Wedding Ceremony
Your wedding ceremony will most likely be the first part of your wedding day that you will book. Often the ceremony is scheduled for around 12.30-1.30pm. This allows you enough time to get ready in the morning along with your guests to travel and have some lunch before they arrive.
The length of a wedding ceremony differs depending on the type of ceremony you are having. A civil ceremony can be as short as 20 – 30 minutes, whilst a traditional church ceremony can be between 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours! Wedding ceremonies are a very personal event so it’s important to organise a ceremony that reflects you.
One little tip… think about parking. If your ceremony does not have a car park of its own I would pre plan where to park and let your guests know in advance on your invites.
Lots of couples love to throw confetti straight after their ceremony. It’s great fun and an awesome photo opportunity but also needs some orchestrating. After your ceremony your guests will want to congratulate you and there will naturally be lots of hugs and greetings as they leave the church. To quickly organise your confetti, it is ideal for you to both exit your ceremony first and go somewhere away from your guests. This could be the other side of the church or another room in the venue. This allows you to have a few quiet moments together as a married couple whilst your confetti is being handed out and your guest gathered. You can then enjoy your confetti and celebrate with your guests afterwards.
During your wedding reception there are lots of great opportunities for some lovely candid photographs. I would recommend having two hours between your ceremony and your wedding breakfast to allow for all the fun to be captured. Within this time, you can have canapes and entertainment for your guests such as garden games, bubbles, live music, and a drinks station along with your choice of group photographs.
Half an hour into your drinks reception I start capturing your chosen group photographs. I recommend between 10 – 12 groups as this usually takes around 30-45 minutes to complete. It always takes longer than expected for friends and family members to gather. You will have given me a list of group photographs prior to your wedding day via a wedding questionnaire and assigned 2 members of your wedding party to help gather guests too.
Once the group photographs are taken, I will try and document your wedding breakfast room and details before your guests sit down.
Bride and Groom Portraits
Whilst your guests are being seated is a great time for you two both have a few quite moments alone and have some photos taken. I recommend a minimum of 20 – 30 minutes of couple photos which can be split up throughout your wedding day. For example, 10 minutes before your wedding breakfast and 20 minutes at golden hour.
If you are going to a different venue for your reception then another option for your couple photographs is to have them before your drinks reception whilst your guests are travelling between locations. The amount of time spent on your couple photographs can be extended should you wish to go to another location or have a great variety of photographs.
Wedding food comes in all different shapes and sizes from the traditional 3 course sit down meal, to custom made stone baked pizza buffets and ice cream karts. Always communicate with your caterers to see how long the service will take though if you are having a traditional 3 course meal then as an estimate allow 1 and a half hours for this. The wedding breakfast and clear up afterwards can often take longer than expected.
Speeches can range from as short as a 5 minute thank you from the Groom to a full 45-60 minutes and can provide a great opportunity for some amazing candid photos! Speeches can happen either before, after or during your wedding breakfast. There are pro’s and con’s to each option.
BEFORE – Planning your speeches before your food means that those who are giving the speeches can relax and enjoy their meal (and drinks) without the nerves of speaking afterwards. However, if your meal is later in the day are you are having a lot of speeches your guests may get hungry. Also, if the speeches are longer than expected, and the caterers may be delayed with serving your starters.
DURING – Some wedding parties like to split up the courses with their speeches. If you are considering this, I would recommend having speeches before your starter and then after your meal rather than in between your 3 courses. This way, the speaker/s who are most nervous can go first. Having your speeches in between each course isn’t ideal for the timings of your caterers and plates may still be getting cleared whilst the speech is happening which can cause distraction. Also, the wedding breakfast is the time when your photographer/s recharge their batteries, literally. It’s when we have a break, eat, back up the photographs the have taken so far, check our equipment and prep for the evening.
AFTER – After everyone has eaten, most people are at their merriest and therefore more likely to focus and enjoy the speeches. The main disadvantage is if the speakers are nervous. They may not have been able to fully enjoy their meal or may drink too much beforehand.
Whichever option you decide if right for you just inform your caterers and photographer know so they can plan accordingly. Also, let the speakers how long their speeches can be.
Side note. Entertainment during the wedding breakfast is also a great option! Mr & Mr’s Quizes, disposable camera competitions and Surprise Singing Waiters are an awesome addition to a wedding breakfast! Take a look at my recommended suppliers list for my personal favourites – https://aimeejoy.com/dorset-wedding-suppliers/
The evening part of a wedding day often starts at around 7/7.30pm, with evening guests arriving just before the first dance. After your first dance all your other guests can then join the dance floor.
Alternative entertainment is a great option should your guests not be ‘the dancing type.’ You can hire casinos, photobooths, magicians, pool tables, or go DIY with glow sticks, face paints, and even dance floor limbo competitions. I’ve even seen pub quizzes, board games. It’s your wedding so make it your own!
Cutting the cake is also something that can be done just before your first dance, if not just after the wedding breakfast. This can then be cut up and served with your evening food. Finally, if your venue allows and it is a nice evening then sparklers, firepits and even fireworks are ways to add a wow factor to the end of your evening. Who doesn’t love roasting marshmallows around a fire!
I hope you’ve found this blog helpful and now feel a lot more confident in creating your wedding timeline along with being inspired by some wedding ideas! Check out my other blog posts for even more wedding advice.