How to plan your wedding day timeline
You’ve got one day! You’ll want to make sure every second counts on your wedding day, so it’s crucial to get your timings and wedding day timeline spot on!
There’s no wedding day timeline bible or spot on guide to help you with your schedule. Having photographed a lot of weddings over the last several years. I’ve experienced many different weddings, some on time, some behind time and others having to cut moments short – It happens and no matter how much you’ve planned to have your day run so perfectly, often timings are quite loose on the day. Hopefully you can consider the below points; To help make sure you’ve got time to enjoy your wedding day without feeling rushed or you missed the chance to speak to guests.
As a wedding photographer some moments simply can’t be photographed due to time constrictions which is unfortunate and totally out of our hands. By considering adding extra ‘buffer time’ between each event you can be more confident that all the photos you’ve requested can be captured naturally and in plenty of time!
Make-up & Hair (3 Hours) – The bridal party will be up early, depending on how many bridesmaids are needing to be seen to. MUA and hair dressers are often attending multiple weddings on the same day and there may need to turn up a little earlier to ensure they can make everyone look incredible before they need to leave… On average they can turn up around 7am and last several hours.
Bridal preparations (1 hour) – Now the hair & make-up are done, it’s time for some pictures in your lovely dressing gowns with some prosecco in hand as you enjoy the last quiet moments before the ceremony and celebrations. Next the dresses and accessories are to be worn. This can easily take up an hour. As a bride, you’ll need your bridesmaids ready before you to help you into your dress which can take around 20 minutes. Once ready, you’ll want your dad to see you for the first time in your wedding dress. Following that, photos with him and photos with your bridesmaids… And some time for selfies too! It’s then onto your ceremony!
The groomsmen will arrive around an hour before to welcome guests and to ensure everything is set for the ceremony. Don’t forget, brides family sits on the left and the grooms family on the right.
Ceremony time (1 hour) – If your ceremony is a different location to your bridal preparations then please consider your wedding photographer would need to leave at least 10 minutes before you do. This is to ensure they are there to document your arrival and check in with the registers / vicar. Usually your ceremony will last around 30 minutes in your wedding day timeline but most couples forget to schedule in a ‘meet and greet’ time with guests and this is the first place the schedule will likely overlap. You’ll want time to actually talk to each other too. It’s the first time you’ve really had chance to speak since the night before, and well, you’re both looking incredible!
Group photos & Portraits (1.5 hour) – This is the most underestimated time on the wedding day timeline. “20 mins will be ok right?” – NO!!! Please consider scheduling in a WHOLE HOUR for your group photos, it is very time consuming and simply put, people don’t like to be in group photos. In the industry, we compare it to that of herding cats. You’ll want to assign the ushers and groomsmen to help arrange this. They are the best people to know who should be where and help arrange people into the groups.
Portraits (30 mins) – The portraits are one of the best photographing and arguably the most important. These become your official portraits of your wedding day. Some Cardiff wedding photographers opt to take the couple away for an hour others like me, I prefer to stick to the venue grounds and limit it to no longer than 20-30 minutes. This will give time for you as the couple to relax away from everybody but also to take it all in. You really want to make sure this time is scheduled into your wedding day timeline as these images will ultimately become your main images, the ones you share on social media and hang up on your wall.
Time to actually celebrate (1 hour) – It’s a celebration of your wedding day, don’t squeeze everything into a tiny section, spread it all out! Make sure there’s time for you to actually have a drink and catch up with your guests, this is always forgotten when the couple realise they’ve spent all day going from pilar to post without stopping! Make the most of your day and your guests. I’d highly suggest setting aside 3 hours between the end of the ceremony and the start of the wedding breakfast so that everything fits in with room to spare.
Wedding Breakfast (2.5 hours) – Caterers really don’t like to be kept waiting, this is why it’s important to schedule plenty of time for your portraits as its often the group photos that delay the wedding breakfast. The venue will also like to introduce you to the room and have everyone seated 15 minutes before the wedding breakfast is due to begin. I’d highly suggest adding 30 minutes of free time before the wedding breakfast is due to begin to have time to chat with guests and to relax and enjoy your wedding! Whether you’ve decided to have your speeches before or after they ALWAYS over run. 30 minutes of speeches is average but they can easily go on for an hour. Your wedding breakfast 3 courses usually last around 1.5 hours to 2 hours but you’d want to double check this with your venue.
‘The lull” – Known in the industry as the lull. This is the time between the wedding breakfast and speeches end and nothing begins until the first dance. This time is usually utilised as a time to relax and chill out with your guests, catching up on news, the celebrations and congratulations. By now the pressure of timings are totally loosened but it’s always good to keep a schedule for this part especially for your evening guests to know what time to arrive… You wouldn’t want them to arrive as you’re still in the middle of your speeches.
First Dance (1 hour) – This is the gateway to the party! You’ll want to have a firm time in place in your wedding day timeline to ensure your evening guests get to witness your first dance. Usually evening guests turn up an hour before this. If you’re having a summer wedding you’ll want to have your first dance a little later in the evening so that the light outside isn’t too bright, 8pm is a good time. If you’re getting married in the winter season well, anytime after 5pm is great as it’ll be very dark outside and you’ll benefit from a more atmospheric scene.
Buffet / evening meal – With all that dancing you’ll begin to work up an appetite. The mistake here is to arrange it within 30 minutes of your first dance. Just as the part has just begun and serious shapes are being thrown on the dance floor. Consider holding out your buffet until at least an hour after your first dance. Your South Wales wedding photographer will thank you for it and you’ll get some fantastic dancing photos (if they do stay beyond the first dance, like me). As soon as the buffet is open everyone flees the dance floor for at least 40 minutes which then takes a while to get going again. This is usually when the photographer will end their service, so make the most of it while they are there!