Ideal wedding timeline for a laid back & relaxed wedding day
Creating a timeline for the day that enables you to fit everything in, and actually spend time with your guests is essential to enjoying yourself! Drawing on my knowledge as a Shropshire wedding photographer I've put together all the things I've learnt over my years shooting to help you plan the best timeline for your day.
If you're thinking of having an early ceremony (pre-midday) think about what time that will mean you'll need to get up and also bear in mind that you will then have to feed everyone at least twice. Food can push the cost of a wedding up hugely so getting married later in the day means only one meal!
If you’d like some formal photos leave at least 5 minutes per group. It sounds like a lot but trust me once you’ve rounded everyone up and got them to stand straight and not pull silly faces…the time soon ticks away!
I always let my coupes dictate how long they want to spend doing photographs together, but as a guide I like to do 10 minutes just after the ceremony during the reception and 10 minutes later just before the light changes.
You want at least an hour for mingling with your guests after the ceremony, the time goes SO quickly. Plus you need to make sure you have something to eat!
Your caterers will tell you how long you can expect for a meal but if it’s a 3 course sit down you’re looking at least 3 hours, including clearing up time. Another reason for an informal buffet is more time to mingle and sit with everyone!
I really regret not cutting our cake at the wedding, it wasn’t a tradition we wanted at the time but it’s actually very useful as it tells people when they can start eating it, plus makes sure you get a photo of the inventive creation you've gone for. Think about serving the cake at the reception instead of after the meal - it'll get eaten more and goes very nicely with a glass of fizz! Plus you'll save on canapés costs.
It’s a good idea to have an idea how long they’ll be before hand, so ask for a rough time and then add some extra to it. I often see it where the caterers are dying to get the food out and the best man is well over time, which pushes the whole timeline back. I don't have fixed hours but a lot of photographers will agree to be there to a certain point and if you're running late you may get charged extra. I find having the speeches before dinner can be a great idea too, it gets the nerves out of the way and as long as everyone’s had a little nibble at the reception no one will be starving either.
If you’re opting for a first dance 7-8pm is a pretty good time, not too late that everyone’s tired or too drunk and early enough so you have plenty of boogying time after too.
This is totally up to you, most people will be leaving 11/12 but if you’re party animals there's nothing, except maybe a noise restriction, to stop you from partying all night.
If I’m booked for a full day, I like to start about 2 hours before the ceremony to meet everyone important, settle in and make sure I capture all the excitement. I leave a few songs after the first dance when I’ve got enough dance floor shots to deliver a full set of the day, and then leave you to party. If you only have a photographer for a half day or a few hours, think about what’s most important for them to cover. If you specifically want the whole of the evening party captured I offer extra hours coverage to make sure none of the hilarities are missed.
IDEAL WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
11am – Photographer arrives
1-2pm – Ceremony
2-4 pm– Reception
Formals - 30 mins
Couple photos -10 mins
Confetti throw - 10 mins
Drinks & nibbles – 1hour
4-5pm - Speeches
5-7pm - Dinner
7-7.15pm – Couple photos
7.30pm – Cake cutting
8pm – First dance
8.30pm – Photographer leaves
Read on for more in my wedding planning guide...