Wedding Day Timings – A Guide to Help You Plan Your Wedding Day

        Wedding Day Timings – A Guide to Help You Plan Your Wedding Day

        With around 10 years in business I’ve photographed so many weddings that I’ve long since lost count! I’ve shot weddings of various styles and sizes in a whole range of venues and countries and along the way I’ve learned a lot about the things that can make a wedding day run smoothly.

        Getting the timings of the day right plays a massive part in reducing unnecessary stress and making sure the day goes to plan so today I’m sharing my thoughts on timings that will reduce stress and allow your photographer to fully document the day.

        The Preparations – I like to allow two hours to cover your preparations, this may sound like a long time but you certainly don’t want to start the day feeling hurried. Two hours allows me time to photograph all the details, your beautiful dress and shoes, flowers, gifts etc., as well capture make up being applied, first looks, fun moments with your bridesmaids and much more.

        One thing I’ve learned is if there are lots of you having hair and make-up done don’t be first or the last! I might just miss you if you are the first and you will feel under pressure if you are last.

        Getting into your dress is going to take longer than you expect, it may not have taken long when you tried it in the bridal shop but don’t forget they are experts at dressing brides and your bridesmaids are likely to be doing it for the first time! Allow an absolute minimum of 20 minutes to get dressed.

        If your ceremony is a different location I will need to leave 20-30 minutes before you so that I can capture your guests arriving and be ready and wait for your entrance so do make sure to factor this into your plans. You’ll want to have your dress on before I leave.


        Bride and sister laughing whilst getting ready


        Groom Preparations/Ushers Lunches – It’s becoming increasingly popular to also photograph the groom’s preparations and ushers lunches. Generally speaking the men don’t take as long to get ready so depending on locations and timings it may be possible for me to pop along and capture those moments too. However if the locations are quite spread out, or the plans for the day don’t allow much time to spare, it is worth considering using a second photographer for this part of the day. I have a number of trusted second photographers that can work alongside me whenever required.


        Groom preparations

        Ushers lunch, groom writing speech


        The Ceremony – Your wedding ceremony could last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the type you have chosen. Civil ceremonies tend to be around 20-30, humanist ceremonies are usually around 45-60 minutes and church ceremonies can sometimes be over an hour. Whatever the length of ceremony I’ll work discretely to capture all the special moments. It’s very important that I’ve arrived early so that I can speak to the celebrant before the ceremony and find out the best positions and whether they have any restrictions on photography.


        Ceremony at Dartmouth House

        Hackney wedding ceremony


        The Group Shots – I generally suggest to allow 30 minutes for group shots but you will need an usher who is good at organising people to get them done in this time. With the usher gathering everyone together it should be possible to photograph ten groups in this time which I generally find is more than enough. The best time for the groups is directly after the ceremony before everyone wanders away.


        wedding group portraits outside st Pauls cathedral


        The Portraits – for your own portraits you need to allow at least 30 minutes and up to an hour, if you’ve chosen a venue with some fantastic photogenic surroundings it’s worth making sure there is plenty of time to make the most of them. I also suggest sneaking away for a further 10 minutes before the wedding breakfast, your guests will all be busy finding their seats and there can often be some beautiful golden light at this time.


        wedding day portrait lit with flash

        St Pauls Cathedral wedding


        Reception – I find that many couples only allow an hour for the drinks reception but after allowing for traveling time, greeting guests, group shots and portraits you may not be left with enough time to relax and enjoy this time. I would suggest it’s better to allow 1.5 to 2 hours for the drinks reception if possible. During this time I will be capturing your guests enjoying themselves, picking out faces and documenting spontaneous moments. I’ll also be photographing the details of the venue and the beautiful decorations you have no doubt spent lots of time choosing and setting up for the wedding breakfast.


        Wedding receptions

        guests during wedding reception


        Wedding Breakfast & Speeches – Most weddings will have 3 or 4 speeches but I’ve been at one that had 24! Regardless of how many it’s difficult to predict how long they will take but you have plenty of options of when to have them. Some couples choose to have them before they sit down to the wedding breakfast and this always seems to work well for an outdoor wedding. Some have them before the meal so any nervous speakers can relax after and enjoy the food, others spread them throughout the courses. It’s worth remembering that photographers need to eat to and most will chose to sit down and eat at the same time as your meal. If you are spreading the speeches throughout the wedding breakfast it’s a good idea to have a place at one of the tables for me so I don’t miss anything.

        Of course none of guests will want to be photographed while they are eating but I will photograph them relaxing and chatting between courses.


        wedding speeches in the gardens of Hatch House

        bride and mother during speeches

        guests during wedding breakfast

        wedding breakfast with beautiful flowers


        The Party I usually stay for one – two hours of party time, this generally allows plenty time to capture your guests relaxing and enjoying themselves and letting down their hair on the dance floor. However if you are planning a sparkler exit or making a getaway in a cool car like the Reliant Robin form Only Fools and Horses (as one of my couples did recently) it’s worth bearing in mind that I do have an end of night package available to capture your amazing exit!


        grandma blowing inflatable trumpet

        End of wedding departure in a reliant robin


        Of course every wedding is different but hopefully this guide will help you plan your day. If you are starting to plan your wedding and would like to chat further about your photography please head over to the Contact Page and get in touch!

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