On your wedding day, the last thing you want is to feel like you’re rushing or not having enough time to enjoy yourself. Your wedding day will go by quick enough as it is and so planning your wedding day timings can help this. Wedding day timings can differ for everyone. It depends on a lot of things which we will look at.
So as a wedding photographer, this is my view on what works well for your wedding day timings.
If you are having a professional hair and makeup artist, they will be able to advise you on how long they will need. So do take their advice. As a photographer, I will usually arrive 1.5 to 2 hours before you are set to leave. This is a good amount of time to capture the final touches of makeup going on and your outfit and accessories before they go on. I don’t like to come too early as it’s unlikely you will want photographs of your hair in curlers or when you haven’t got your makeup base on yet.
You will also want to give yourself plenty of time to get into your outfit. If you are wearing a wedding dress, does it have a zip or are there a lot of buttons? Ideally give yourself about 20 minutes. And perhaps have a practice run with the person who will be helping you into it. Do they know how to help you get into it and then lace/button/zip it up?
Give yourself half an hour between the time your outfit is on until you have to leave. This will allow your body to adjust to having the dress on if you are wearing one, particularly if there is a lot of material. You will also have that little bit of time to have a drink and make sure you have everything you need. Plus if time gets away from everybody whilst you’re getting ready (these things do happen), you also have that bit of time to allow for some breathing room if things were running a tiny bit late.
The length of your wedding ceremony will be determined by the type of ceremony you are having. Catholic wedding ceremonies will last longer than a civil wedding ceremony in a registry office. The person conducting your service will be able to talk you through this. Other elements that will add extra time to a ceremony are readings and hymns.
Sometimes more than one venue is involved at a wedding. Your reception may be somewhere different to your ceremony. So let’s focus on timings from when you start your drinks reception. I believe about 2 hours is a good amount of time. During this period, most of your formal photography will take place.
I like to give you 15 minutes after your ceremony to be able to say hello to your guests and for them to congratulate you. Then after that, I like to go straight into group shots whilst everyone is in one place and before guests may head off to the bar/toilets etc.
I always suggest to my couples that they have 8 – 10 group shots and that they write out the list of groups they would like. Within each group, I ask for names of everyone in them so I can call these names out. I also ask for a helper or two, sometimes someone in the bridal party or a family member, to help round people up. All of this can shave minutes off each group shot and I like to get these done within 30 minutes. Group shots are important but I also don’t want you to be stood around for ages when you could be mingling with your guests.
During this time as well, I will do a set of portraits. I usually try and time this just before the meal, so when everyone is called in to sit down for the reception. As generally you will be announced into the room once everyone is settled, it is a good chance for you both to take some time out to get portraits done. Generally I try and do 15-20 minutes then and then do more after the meal.
After the group shots, this will be the time that I will photograph your reception room before anyone enters it. So you have your decorations and details captured before your guests enter the room. As well as doing that, getting candid natural shots of you and your guests during this time is important too. This is when your guests get a first real chance to speak with you and congratulate you. So this is always great for photos too.
As you can see, that is a whole lot of stuff to fit in during that time. If there are two photographers, then this obviously helps as each can focus on different parts so that different bases are covered. But having a good amount of time between the ceremony and sitting down would be ideal. If you think of it like this, if you have 1.5 hours, you have 15 minutes to speak to your guests. Then 30 minutes for your group shots. 30 minutes to grab a drink and speak to more guests before we head off to do portraits for 15 minutes before you go sit down. I don’t want you to feel like all you’re doing during this time is being photographed so having 2 hours can really help you have more time to mingle.
The amount of time that is between you finishing your meal and the evening entertainment kicks off also depends on a number of things. Are you having a sit down meal or a buffet/barbeque/food trucks? Are you doing speeches? When are you having your speeches? Before or after your meal?
It also depends on your reception venue. Is there a separate room or area for the dance floor? Do your tables need to be cleared away if it’s in the same room? Are you going to have a band or DJ? How long do they need to set up?
Sometimes it can be as quick as half an hour before you’re cutting the cake and hitting the dance floor. Or it can be more like an hour, or maybe even two. Think about what is going to happen during this time. Do you want to keep your guests entertained? Have something like a magician to wow them? A photobooth? Something different like one of my couples Karen and Dave had Inflate-a-Belles make balloon headpieces for the guests. Having something happening during this time will also help include any evening guests you have coming. It is a great way of including them into your day. This also helps us photographers so we have a different element to photograph before the dance floor.
Once the cutting of the cake and the first dance are done, I like to be around for 30 minutes to 1 hour to capture you and your guests throwing out your most favourite dance moves.
Wedding Day Timings
These are all from my own opinions. I have photographed weddings since 2010 and so I have a good idea of what works well for me as a photographer in terms of ensuring I get the photos I need. But also to not feel like my couple feel like all they are doing is having their photo taken. It’s your wedding day and your main focus should be having the most amazing day. Not worrying that things are running over a little so now you have hardly any time to mingle as we need to do group shots and portraits before you sit down for your meal.
So as a rough guide, I believe these are ideal from a photographer’s point of view.
Getting Ready: 1.5 – 2 hours
During This Time
Putting Outfit On: 20 minutes
Breather Before Leaving: 30 minutes
Ceremony: depending on type you are having but your registrar/celebrant/vicar can give you an idea
Drinks Reception: 1.5 – 2 hours
During This Time
Congratulations: 15 minutes straight after ceremony
Group shots: 30 minutes
Portraits: 15 – 20 minutes before sit down
Meal: your caterer will be able to advise you on this
Speeches: depends on how much the speakers like to public speak
Room Turnaround: your venue will advise you on this
Cake cutting: 5 – 10 minutes
First dance: 5 – 10 minutes
Hitting the Dancefloor: 30 minutes – 1 hour