happy couple celebrating at their wedding

Timings for outdoor wedding. Wedding day timeline advice.

Timings for outdoor wedding

This year we have seen a massive surge in outdoor weddings. Not just outdoor wedding ceremonies, but celebrations hosted almost entirely outdoors. More than ever, couples are opting for relaxed, outdoorsy celebrations that allow them to spend as much time as possible with their guests. At least, that’s the plan. Sadly it doesn’t always go that way as timings for outdoor weddings are usually shocking! This usually stems from the fact that couples do much of the planning themselves and aren’t really sure how long things will take.

Even so, festival themes are popular. Tipis are popular. Marquees are popular!

We’re huge advocates for these types of wedding. What’s more fun than a super relaxed day with your nearest and dearest? Out in the open air, enjoying food, drink and music in celebration of your marriage. What could be better?

But even the most relaxed of weddings require some kind of time management or coordination if you’re to achieve all of the things you’d like to throughout the day. If you’re still hoping to include some traditional elements to your day such as group photos, couples photos etc, then your timings need to be sufficient to ensure you get everything you’d like.

Unfortunately, as above, lots of outdoor weddings are not planned with timings in mind. People think “oh an hour, that’ll be plenty” without realising just how long some things take.

tipi wedding in norfolk
For this reason, we’ve put together a little guide to wedding day timings. They can apply to both outdoorsy weddings and wedding that take place at a wedding venue. We have just put this information together with our outdoor couples in mind primarily as often there will not be a coordinator or planner on hand to help with timings along the way.

These timings are based on relaxed, reportage coverage with TWO photographers as this is how we work. It will not necessarily apply to more formal or fine art style coverage, or coverage with a single photographer. If you have not booked us,  please check with your own photographer if in doubt.

We hope it helps!


When planning your prep timings, work backwards!

If you are not getting ready at your venue, what time do you need to leave? Plan to be ready to walk out the door 15 minutes before this time. If you need to see the registrar at the other end too, make sure you have factored arriving 15 minutes before the ceremony into your travel plans.

If you are getting ready at your venue, will you need to see the registrar before the ceremony? Plan to be ready to walk out the door 15 minutes before the registrar is due to visit you. This is usually 30minutes before the ceremony for grooms, 15 minutes before for brides.

tipi wedding in norfolk

So when should your photographer arrive?

3 hours before the ceremony if hair and makeup is to be applied, around 1.5 hours beforehand if there isn’t. Remember- it’s finishing touches we’re after really so there’s no need to ask your photographer to be present at 6am when your MUA arrives.

Example: Getting ready at the venue

2pm ceremony

1:45 pm – Registrar to see bride

1:30pm – Registrar to see groom

1:30pm – Bride is ready

12pm – Photographer arrives with groom

11pm – Photographer arrives with bride

Example: Getting ready away from the venue

2pm Ceremony

1:15pm – Bride leaves for ceremony

1pm – Bride is ready to leave

12:45pm – Groom arrives at ceremony location

12:30pm – Photographer arrives at ceremony location ready for grooms arrival

10:15pm – Photographer arrives with bride

On average, a civil ceremony will last 20ish minutes. Although you should allow for up to 30 minutes in case of over run. A church service tends to last around 45 minutes, but you should allow up to 1 hour in case of over run.

South farm wedding, south farm wedding photographers, sam and louise

After the ceremony

Allow 15 minutes for all of your guests to exit your ceremony. (If you have more than 100 guests, allow 20 minutes) It takes longer than you may think and people will want to greet and congratulate you. Couples often forget to factor this bit of time in but it is completely unavoidable.


Set aside 10 minutes for a confetti photo if you’d like one. The photo itself takes seconds, but the setting up and coordination of guests takes time.

Time to mingle

Unless the weather is not on your side and there’s a rush to get things moving, set aside 20 minutes not to just chill. Grab a drink and one of those canapes you’ve paid for and say hello to the people you love. Circulate, hold hands and take it all in. It’ll be non stop from here on out otherwise!

Group photos

We recommend no more than 10 group photos with smaller groups if you want to keep your day running smoothly and formality free.

10 groups of 10 people or less will take around 15 minutes if everyone is on hand.

To be safe, set aside 20 minutes.

If you are looking to have larger groups, such as a full group photo, or “all his side of the family” “all her side of the family” allow 10 minutes PER photo as calling guests back and fourth and arranging groups takes time.

Couples photos

Set aside at least 15 minutes for these before you sit down for your meal. Longer if you have a special location planned, or you want to go off for a drive for example.

South farm wedding, south farm wedding photographers, sam and louise

Receiving lines

Hardly anyone has one of these anymore. They’re formal and can be awkward- they also eat a huge chunk of time. If you’d like one though, allow at least 45 minutes for this. 30 minutes for the actual receiving line and 15 minutes for the set up etc.

Sample timeline: Civil ceremony

11am – Photographers arrive

2-2:30pm – Ceremony

Guests exit. Greetings and congratulations

2:45pm Confetti shot

3pm- Chill time! Welcome drinks, canapes, lots of hugs!

3:20pm – Group photos

3:40pm – Natural photos, photos of your room set up, details etc

Great time for garden games, sack race, tug or war and other fun stuff if you fancy

4pm – Couples photos

4pm – Guests begin being seated

4:15pm – Couple announced into room

4:20pm – Food served

6:30pm – Speeches if you’re having any

7pm – Back outside for some evening fun!

Maybe some sunset couples photos, welcoming evening guests, more hugs!

8pm – Evening celebrations begin!

Cutting a cake? First dance? Band playing?

For a church ceremony, things will be largely the same EXCEPT:

  • You’ll need to add 30 minutes for the additional ceremony time
  • You’ll need to add in an extra 10 minutes to account for the time it takes people to get back to their cars and depart
  • You’ll need to add in your travel time to the reception venue.

So add 40 minutes PLUS your travel time.

Hockering house wedding, norfolk wedding photographers

Bonus points if you look up what time sunset is on the day of your wedding and make sure there is nothing going on during this time so you can get some ultra cool couples photos!


For brides: Ask your photographer to arrive 3 hours before your ceremony. 1.5 hours before for grooms.

Plan to be ready to leave 15 minutes before you need to leave or see the registrar, whichever is first.

Allow ATLEAST 1.5 hours (plus travel time if your ceremony and reception are at different places) after your ceremony ends before you start to be seated for your food. Ideally allow 2 hours so you have some buffer time, but also extra time for fun and natural photos.

All photos by SamandLouise.co.uk

Featured venues: Helmingham Hall // South Farm // Wymondham Abbey

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