How to plan your wedding day timings

As a wedding photographer, one of the most common questions I get asked is around wedding day timings. They are always the part that causes stress, but most weddings will never run to time! Here are some of my top tips to time your wedding day right:

1. Give yourself plenty of prep time

Am I the only one who thinks part of the enjoyment of a big girls night out is getting ready? I think the same applies to your prep in the morning! Start early to avoid a mad rush at the end and factor in time for distractions. Inevitably you’ll have people popping in and out to say hello/check on final preparations. The last hour always flies by, so I suggest aiming to be in your dress around 45 minutes before you plan to leave. It my not happen, but at least you’ve allowed for some contingency time! Most importantly, make sure you eat as it’s a long time before the wedding breakfast and that bubbly will be in full flow after the ceremony.

2. Consider ceremony timings

Your wedding day timings really all begin with your ceremony. A great time to have your ceremony is around 1.30 – 3pm. This gives you enough time in the morning to relaxed and just enjoy the prep as it happens. It also means the rest of your day will run at a good time too. Most people are surprised, but legal ceremonies only take around 15 minutes, depending on readings etc.

3. Leave time for you and your new spouse

This may sound obvious but you would be surprised at the number of couples who tell me their day went by in a flash and they hardly saw each other! Try and enjoy some time out together, even if its just a 10 minute walk after the wedding breakfast. I also always think your portrait time is a perfect opportunity to get some quality time together and step back from the day.

4. Plan your group shots

The drinks reception is the perfect time to get your couples photos and group shots done. If you would like group shots, make a list before the day, and chat with your photographer beforehand about timings. I suggest keeping the list fairly short as they can eat into a lot of the drinks reception and I don’t want to steal you from the fun for too long. Most drinks receptions are around 1.5 hours. For perspective, if you’d like a shot of everyone, this alone can take 10 minutes to organise everyone. When coming up with your list, work on the assumption each shot may take 5 minutes (this allows for gathering people). I don’t like my couples to spend more than 20 minutes on their group shots, but they have been known to take 40 in some cases! I suggest having your ushers or bridesmaids on hand to round up the troops.

5. Allow for buffers

Allow for little time buffers through the day! For instance, if your ceremony is in a different location from the reception, don’t forget to work out how long it will take people to get there. Allow an extra bit of time for the dawdlers or people potentially getting lost. If you don’t factor this in, this period is when your wedding timings may slip. The other common time for things to slip is during dinner service. Service might run late, so leaving a little gap before evening guests arrive is a good idea. Most dinner services will allow 1.5- 2 hours if it’s a 3 course sit down wedding breakfast.

6. Do the cake cut and first dance together

If you choose to do a cake cut and a first dance, I always suggest doing them at the same time. Gathering everyone for the cake cut means everyone is already in the same place for the announcement of the first dance. This helps keeps things moving and create a good atmosphere too. You don’t want an empty dance floor when the party starts!

7. Take 10 minutes out for evening couples portraits

The standard time for portraits is during your drinks reception. However, photographically this isn’t the best time to do it. Light is harsh in the middle of the day, particularly if it is a completely clear summer afternoon. Light in the evening will be a lot softer and frankly, gorgeous! I always suggest to couples to pop outside for a few minutes to do some couples photos then too. You’ll be more relaxed too! Sunset portraits would depend on your timings and time of the year, but it’s always worth it.

8. Go with the flow

While it’s amazing to plan out your wedding day timings, most days will not run to the schedule! Go with the flow and know that is OK 🙂 Your wedding planning team will have everything under control, and I always help keep times where possible. Just enjoy your day and let whatever happens happen 🙂

I hope this helped with your planning 🙂 For more wedding planning advice follow me on Instagram. If you’d like to enquire about your day head over to my enquiry form. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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