Putting together the timeline for your wedding day is probably one of the biggest headaches for any bride. Sure, you may have been to a few weddings as a guest, but that doesn’t mean you have a clue when everything should happen or how long it takes.
Being a wedding photographer means I’m in the unique position of having seen many weddings from start to finish; meaning I have a good grasp on when things normally happen and how long they take. The following is a handy timeline guide based on that experience to show just how long each little aspect of your wedding day takes to happen and photograph. Please bear in mind that this guideline does not include travel time between locations, something that should be factored in to your timeline.
The Wedding Timeline
It’s important to remember that the more bridesmaids and groomsmen you have, the longer it will take to get ready and to get to the ceremony; something that should be factored into your timeline planning. Also be sure to ask your hair stylist and makeup artist how long it will take to complete one look for each of your bridesmaids and how long your bridal look will take to complete.
- Styled photos of shoes, belt, cologne, jacket, tie etc . . . . . . 10-15 minutes
- Getting dressed . . . . . . 10-15 minutes
- Photos of the groom and his groomsmen . . . . . . 20-25 minutes
- TOTAL . . . . . . 40-55 minutes
- Styled photos of dress, shoes, perfume, rings etc . . . . . . 15-20 minutes
- Makeup & Hair . . . . . . 10-15 minutes
- Getting dressed . . . . . . 20-25 minutes
- Photos of the bride and her bridesmaids . . . . . . 20-25 minutes
- Bridal Portraits . . . . . . 15-20 minutes
- TOTAL . . . . . . 80-105 minutes
- Ceremony Venue . . . . . . 10-15 minutes
- Reception Venue . . . . . . 15-20 minutes
- TOTAL . . . . . . 25-35 minutes
As a general rule of thumb to ensure you have enough daylight time for photos after your ceremony, it’s best to schedule your ceremony to start at least 2 and a half to three hours before sunset. Luckily there are plenty of free online calculators you can use to see when this will be on your wedding day.
It’s also become something of a tradition that the bride is expected to be late, however you should let your officiant know beforehand in case they have another ceremony to get to on the day and to not throw out your timeline completely. Also bear in mind that getting guests to enter the ceremony venue and leave takes time, and that you will be swarmed with them after your exit the ceremony as everyone rushes to congratulate you.
- Guests arriving . . . . . . 10+ minutes
- Groom arriving . . . . . . 10+ minutes
- Bride arriving . . . . . . 10+ minutes
- Ceremony . . . . . . 30-45 minutes
- Signing the register . . . . . . 5-10 minutes
- Throwing confetti . . . . . . 5-10 minutes
- Being greeted by guests . . . . . . 15-20 minutes
- TOTAL . . . . . . 85-130 minutes
Family and guest group photos are best done directly after the ceremony at the same venue before key guests wander off. Please ensure you have a guest/bridesmaid/groomsman appointed to help your photographer find key individuals for these photos. Also remember that if your venue has a host of areas you’d love to use for your couples session, to then up the time to at least 90 minutes or more before the sun sets and to adjust your ceremony time accordingly.
- Group photos with family and guests . . . . . . 15-20 minutes
- Couples Session . . . . . . 30-45 minutes
- TOTAL . . . . . . 45-60 minutes
Your reception is made up of traditions and nowadays, fun games for you and your guests; all of which take time to happen and photograph. What’s not included in the estimations below is all the time in between where your guests are mingling, dinner is being served and waiting for your guests to take their seat- it’s usually those moments that take the longest and could leave you running out of time with your photographer. To prevent this from happening, try to schedule all the traditions to happen quickly at the start of your reception.
- Grand entrance . . . . . . 5-10 minutes
- Speeches . . . . . . 30-60 minutes
- Table Photos . . . . . . 30+ minutes
- Cake Cutting . . . . . . 5-10 minutes
- First Dance . . . . . . 10+ minutes
- Father & Daughter Dance . . . . . . 5-10 minutes
- Bouquet Toss . . . . . . 5-10 minutes
- Garter Toss . . . . . . 10-15 minutes
- TOTAL . . . . . . 100-150 minutes