Uttoxeter wedding photographer takes photo at a wedding of bride and groom

Wedding Day Timeline Advice

As a wedding photographer, one of the most challenging aspects of your job can be contending with wedding day timings. Timings are often provisionally put in place by your venue or coordinator early on in the planning process. The timings discussed will usually be drawn up to accommodate the requirements of the venue and/or catering team.

As a result, sometimes proposed wedding day timings can sometimes be a little unrealistic in terms of things like photography. Several times a year we have to advise our couples that the timeline they or their venue have put forward will simply not work if they wish to achieve everything they have discussed with us. Sometimes this is due to necessity and sometimes couples underestimate how long things will take. Venues may suggest timings better suited to a more formal wedding, when you’re hoping for a relaxed and free flowing day or vice versa.

Having a realising idea of wedding day timings

If your photos are important to you, it is essential that you make sure you know and understand just how long achieving the results you want will take. This will allow you to make informed decisions when timelines are presented to you, or you’re asked what time you would like your meal served.

Remember, if things are running late for whatever reason photo time will often be the first thing to be cut. As such allowing some buffer time is always advisable too.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

Wedding day timings advice: Preparations

Things to consider

  • Are one of you, or both of you having prep coverage
  • Where are you both getting ready
  • What time do you need to leave for your ceremony

Although our service is completely tailored to you and your needs, as a guide we’d suggest that if either of you are having hair and/or makeup done, we arrive with them first.

We suggest arriving around 3 hours before your ceremony is due to begin when hair and makeup is being done.

This allows sufficient time to capture some natural moments and finishing touches, as well as the keepsake photographs such as those of the dress, shoes or gifts.

Do you both require prep?

If you’re both getting ready at the same location, such as a hotel or your venue, we can provide coverage of both of your preparations easily. If you’re getting ready at separate locations away from your venue we are happy to discuss logistics with you and see what is possible.

Things to keep in mind

  • If you’re getting ready away from your venue, we will need to leave at least 20 minutes ahead of you. This allows us enough time to find parking, unload our car and get our equipment (and ourselves) in place prior to your arrival. Please factor this into your timings and aim to be ready 30 minutes before you need to leave. This applies in particular to brides who are getting ready away from their ceremony venue.
  • If you’re getting ready at your venue, we will leave you to it once the registrars arrives to speak with you. Aim to be ready half an hour before your ceremony.

We are often contacted by brides stating that their hair &/or makeup artist needs to know when we’d like them to be ready for photographs. We do not require you to be ready by a particular time. Our coverage is totally natural. We do not interfere, set up or pose photographs ahead of the ceremony at all.

In the case of the groom(s) preparation is usually a bit quicker. 90 minutes prior to the ceremony is usually plenty of time with a groom. Coverage from the time he arrives at the ceremony for some informal shots and guest arrivals is also usually ample.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

The Ceremony

If you’ve booked a wedding car or bridal carriage, aim to arrive at the ceremony location at least 5 minutes before you would have done ordinarily. It should only take a moment or two to capture some lovely natural shots of you arriving. If you’re early you can always drive around the block a couple of times if need be. Being late isn’t something that you should ever plan for however as it will set you back for the rest of the day. Contrary to popular belief it is not common, expected or favoured for a bride to intentionally arrive late. More often than not it just makes your guests uncomfortable, puts your suppliers on edge and registrars/celebrants will not be happy bunnies. On numerous occasions we have sadly seen ceremony readings or personal vows cut because couples have run behind.

wedding day timeline

Post Ceremony (drinks reception)

Post ceremony we advise the following timings:

  • Allow at least 10 minutes for everyone to exit your ceremony, greet and congratulate you. Whether you want this or not, it’s an inevitable part of the day, so factor it in.
  • For the following 15 minutes allow your guests time enjoy drinks, canapés and nip to the loo
  • Allow around 20 minutes for group photographs (this is based on 10 small group shots)
  • Allocate an additional 10 minutes if you would like a confetti photo (this includes time to gather people, hand out confetti and time for you to shake it off!)

Make sure you allow enough time for people to actually enjoy themselves

  • Allow 20-30 minutes of time for your guests and yourselves to just enjoy yourselves! Garden games, magicians, caricature artists, ice cream bikes and similar are all great during this time as they really get people interacting! (During this time one of us will be on guest photos, the other will get your details shots of your cake, room set up and other details)
  • Allocate 15 minutes for some couples photos. All very natural and formality free of course!

That’s 1 hour 30/40 minutes accounted for pretty snuggly. If you have separate ceremony and reception venues, factor in travel time ON TOP of the above. If you have entertainment planned during your drinks reception, we’d recommend a 2 hour drinks reception. This allows some buffer time just in case anything over runs in the morning. Unfortunately things like traffic can’t be accounted for. It’s best to be safe rather than sorry after all. This also gives you a bit of wiggle room for unexpected photo requests by friends/family. If you’re having SO much fun that you don’t want to be torn away, you wont have to worry too much either.

Receiving lines and wedding day timings

Bearing in mind the kind of couples who usually book us, we strongly advise against a receiving line.  Some venues advise this as an opportunity to speak to all of your guests individually. Forced interaction doesn’t make for great photos though. We would always advise trying to circulate in a more natural way throughout the rest of the day instead. That way you have the best of both worlds. Additionally it eats up 30-45 minutes of precious reception time. This can mean that you lose out on gorgeous natural images for the sake of a brief hello. For many of our couples, a receiving line is an unnecessary forced formality.

Hertfordshire wedding at Tewinbury farm. Photo by Sam and Louise www.samandlouise.co.uk

The Meal

If you’re planning a sit down meal, these usually take anything between 2-2.5 hours. During this time we’ll be working behind the scenes. We’ll be doing things like getting photos of your venue or any details it wasn’t possible to get earlier on. If time allows, we’ll also have a sit down for a few minutes for something to eat. We do not photograph your guests whilst food service is under way. It makes for an uncomfortable atmosphere and awkward photos. It’s also important that we do not (unintentionally) get in the way of waiting staff.

If a meal is being provided for us at the venue, we will usually be served after all of your guests. Where possible we would therefore ask that speeches and other activities are not planned to take place during your meal. Otherwise we will not get an opportunity to eat or sit down at all. Hungry, tired photographers are hangry photographers.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

The Post Meal Gap

After your meal there may be  a small gap before your evening celebrations begin. This can be an ideal time to take a short breather with your new husband or wife. We can use this time to capture a few relaxed couple photos. An ideal time of day for this is the 30-40 minutes approaching sunset. The gorgeous, soft, golden light allows for sun-kissed images that so many of our couples love. You can find sunset times below so you can factor this into your timeline if these photos are important to you. Sunset times

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

The Evening

By this time, most, if not all of the formalities will have been taken care of. For the most part you can forget about timings and let the evening happen naturally. Unless of course you have anything specifically planned for this part of the day. Please consider though that unless otherwise agreed, our cut off time for evening coverage is 9pm. This is due to the fact that we have 2 little dogs at home who need caring for. We therefore advise that if you’re planning a cake cut and/or first dance, they are scheduled to take place somewhere between 8pm and 8:30pm. This allows sufficient time to capture the key moments in addition to a good amount of shape throwing and disco dancing!

If you do require coverage beyond 9pm this is not a problem at all. Our additional evening coverage is currently charged at £150 per additional hour and allows us to arrange doggie daycare so we don’t have to rush back.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

Our top tips

If you’re planning to give each other gifts on the morning of your wedding, (or to your bridesmaids etc) consider waiting until we arrive to open them. You probably wont be present when your husband or wife to be opens their card or gift, so having us document the moment is a really sweet addition to your gallery

If you love natural photos where guests seem to be full of life, we cannot recommend that you provide some form of entertainment during your drinks reception enough. When guests have something to do, they forget the cameras and inhibitions are lost. Laughter, funny faces and joy are all evident when people are having a great time. It can help to bring shy guests out of their shell. Entertainment doesn’t need to be anything costly- a few garden games from places like home bargains go down a storm! Sack racing, space hoppers, random props and accessories, magic 8 balls with a few cheeky prompt cards, giant badminton and swing-ball are all super cheap, but really effective things we’ve observed over the last couple of years.

More specific tips can be found in our dedicated blogs which are linked below

And finally, if you have any questions at all, or need any advice regarding your photos or timings please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always happy to help and have 5 years of timeline planning experience. We want your day to be perfect and will help however we can.

Be excellent to each other