Every wedding day should have a timeline, but it should be a good mix of structure and freedom – enough scheduling to let everyone know what’s happening and when, but plenty of flexibility to make sure you aren’t stressed and running around all day. This guide will give you some tips for creating an ideal wedding timeline!
What to Put on a Wedding Day Timeline
Of course, your wedding won’t be exactly like anyone else’s – so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all timeline that works for everyone. But, we can give you some tips for when and why everything should happen, so that you can personalise your day and create an ideal wedding day timeline for you! Here are some things that might be included in your timeline.
Getting Ready: 2-3 hours
A wedding day timeline typically begins with getting ready. We definitely recommend checking in with your hair and makeup artist to see how long it’ll take, but around two hours is usually ideal. Then, after hair and makeup is done, you’ll also need some time to get into your attire. Suits are pretty quick, but if there’s a dress involved, those get a little more complicated – so schedule at least 30 minutes to change if it has hooks or corset laces! Otherwise we guarantee this will stress you out. It’s better to sit in your dress for 25 minutes than be hot and stressed 5 minutes before leaving for your wedding!
Photography-wise, if you’re getting ready at a location that’s tricky to get to (like a city that involves parking and lots of walking to the location) we recommend having your photographers (us!) meet you at the ceremony location about 30 minutes before it begins instead of at prep. That way, you won’t have us travelling for ages while on the clock. We’d prefer to use our time taking photos!
First Look: 30 minutes
If you want to do a first look (where you see each other before walking down the aisle) before the ceremony, this needs to go on your wedding day timeline too! Around 30 minutes gives you time to set up, do the first look, and get a few couple’s photos afterwards. Doing a first look allows you to hang out before the ceremony, and you can hide together as guests start to arrive! Sometimes the first look is just a couple of minutes and then you simply walk into the ceremony together. The benefit to a first look is that you get to see each other without everyone staring at you too, and it can help you feel relaxed to see each other right before the ceremony.
Lunch Reception (not usual in the UK but something we love the idea of!): 1 hour
One fun, unique thing that might be included in your wedding day timeline can be a lunch reception for you and your close family before the ceremony! They do this in the Netherlands and we think it’s a fab idea. This gives you an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones, and also to eat – something many people forget to do with all the hustle and bustle.Ceremony: 30 minutes
If you’re including cultural traditions or personalising your ceremony, it might last longer, so be sure to consider your unique plans when you make your wedding timeline! A wedding ceremony usually lasts about 30 minutes.
Group Photos and Portraits
We like to keep things relaxed when it comes to group photos and couple’s portraits. Instead of taking you away from guests at an inconvenient time, we try to wait for when the time is right – like when you need a breather and want to be away from everything for a little while or when the lighting looks amazing.
For group photos, we’re mindful of the time and don’t leave them for too late in the day – while midday sun is harsh and lighting isn’t ideal early on, we don’t want people wandering away and getting too drunk, so we do group photos before that happens!
We like to quickly do a big group shot of all your guests before everyone goes in for dinner, or straight after confetti if they photo gods are in our favour and everyone is in position and the light is good in that moment right after confetti. It just means getting it over and done with straight off the bat so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. But if people disperse or the situation isn’t quite right (eg a super long confetti line in a less than picturesque location) then we’ll do it before dinner. What we don’t like to do is do it randomly in the middle of the afternoon reception – it breaks up everyone’s chats and then just kinda throws everyone back to “where were we” conversations, and we don’t want to make the photos jarring!
Reception: 3+ Hours
The reception is usually the last thing on the wedding day timeline, but it’s broken up into different events, like speeches, dinner, dancing, and more!
Speeches always take a bit longer than expected, so make sure to give plenty of time for those. It’s also best to schedule them before dinner begins, because if some of your speakers are nervous, it can make it worse to put them off and they won’t be able to eat due to nerves.
For first dances, if it’s still light outside – usually in the height of summer it is still light by this time – we love when couples go outdoors for their dance! The lighting will usually be much better outside, and if you plan it for shortly before sunset, you can have a romantic dance together before it gets dark.
Some other events that might be included in your ideal wedding day timeline during the reception are flower tosses, cake cutting, and the time that the dance floor opens up to everyone. You can also play some games to fill the time!
With every part of your wedding timeline, but especially with the reception when there are so many events going on, make sure to add extra time to everything, and not to plan too meticulously! Over planning and over scheduling will just lead to stress, so keep the timing relaxed to ensure that you’re able to enjoy it all instead of feeling like you need to rush and run from place to place.
An Ideal Wedding Day Timeline
Here’s a sample wedding day timeline for an August/Sept wedding. Remember, if you’re getting married in the winter and the sun goes down earlier, you’ll need to have everything happen earlier in the day.
The prep timeline will differ depending on how far away your prep location is from the ceremony. The below timeline assumes you’re getting ready onsite at the venue.
11:30 Hair and makeup begins
12:30 Photographers arrive
1:00 Hair and makeup ends, couple changes into wedding attire
2:30 Reception, group photos and portraits
5:00 Dinner is served
7:45 Couple’s portraits at sunset
8:00 Cake cutting
8:05 First dance
Onwards: Dance the night away!
How Long Should Your Photographers Be There?
When you make your wedding timeline, you’ll need to decide how long you want your photographers to be there. We think 8 hours is ideal – it gives you coverage from the beginning of the day to the bit before people get too wasted. Have your photographers arrive as you’re finishing up getting ready, and have them leave shortly after the dance floor opens up! This way, your photos begin once hair and makeup is almost finished (no one wants photos of them with one eye done and one eye naked), and at the end, you won’t have millions of photos of the dance floor that look pretty much the same.
When you create your wedding timeline, we definitely recommend checking with your photographer to make sure there’s plenty of time for everything, that it won’t feel too rushed, and that everything looks good! We’ve got over 300 weddings under our belt, so we’ve truly seen it all – and we’ll help you avoid any mishaps and make sure you’ve got an ideal wedding timeline!
Ready to start planning? Contact us!