A PHOTOGRAPHER'S TOP TIPS FOR A RELAXED AND STRESS-FREE WEDDING TIMELINE
TIPS FOR A RELAXED WEDDING TIMELINE
Other than working out your guest list and poring over the seating plan, deciding on your timeline is likely to be the thing that will cause you the most stress when planning your wedding. But it really needn’t be the case. Being a Hertfordshire photographer, I will likely have been to lots more Weddings than you (unless you are a serial wedding crasher of course) so let me share my top tips to help make your wedding timeline as relaxed as possible.
Hi, I'm Sarah!
I love being able to document the raw emotions and excitement of a wedding day and take pride in delivering stunning images that my couples will cherish for a lifetime.
I create a calm and relaxed atmosphere for my clients, ensuring that they feel at ease and enjoy every moment of their day.
Although I'm based in Hertford, I'm not just a Hertfordshire Wedding Photographer. I can travel all over the UK (and beyond) for your Wedding!
BOOKING YOUR WEDDING - DATE AND TIME
The time of year you pick for your Wedding date will have a huge impact on your timeline, as the hours of daylight you have available to you varies drastically throughout the year. Most likely one of the main reasons you chose your venue was for the stunning outside spaces so, to get the best outdoor wedding photos you will need to ensure enough hours of daylight after the ceremony for your group shots and portraits, otherwise it will simply be too dark for these shots! (Here I speak from personal experience – I was so much younger and totally inexperienced when we got married back in 2006. We booked a 2pm ceremony for a winter wedding and dusk fell shortly after our ceremony, meaning lots of our group shots were taken in the near dark. Far less than ideal!)
I would suggest a ceremony time of around 12pm for a winter wedding when the sun could set as early as 3.45pm, while in the summer you have until 9pm, so can have your ceremony anywhere up to 4pm and still have plenty of daylight hours afterwards for your photos.
I love photographing the preparations – it really adds to the story of your day. I like to arrive around 2 hours before the ceremony, when preparations are probably well underway. Remember I will be leaving for the ceremony about 20 minutes before you, to capture what is happening at the venue, so plan to complete your finishing touches and get your dress on in time for me to grab some photos before I go. If you’re having a ‘reveal’ moment, then I definitely need to be there for that too so please let me know in advance so I’m ready and waiting to capture those reactions!
TOP TIP - PREPARATIONS OFTEN TAKE LONGER THAN YOU THINK!
Work backwards from your ceremony time and decide on a start time that will be more than enough to fit everything in. I would allow 2-3 hours for preparations, but do speak to your make up artist and hairdresser etc to find out how much time they will need. Factor in travel time to the venue too and add plenty of extra time - just in case!
Try to be ready at least 15-20 minutes before you need to leave. Having that extra time means that you can relax, maybe have a glass of fizz, and enjoy the build up with your nearest and dearest – no one wants to start their wedding day stressed!
Civil ceremonies generally last no more than half an hour, church services about an hour (though some can be longer still). If you’re having a civil ceremony, you will need to arrive about 20 minutes before the start time for your interview with the registrar. You wouldn’t usually do this if you’re having a celebrant-led or church wedding, but do check this with them when you book.
TOP TIP - If you want to make the most of your day, having an earlier ceremony means that your Wedding day lasts even longer! Though as I mentioned earlier, do remember to factor in the time of year you’re planning your wedding when picking a time for your ceremony.
I just love a confetti shot! The most natural time to do a confetti shot is straight after the ceremony, though sometimes you will leave the venue ahead of your guests, so in this case, spend a few minutes greeting your guests then the confetti shot can be staged shortly after. I like to surround the couple with guests armed with confetti to maximise the effect. Make sure everyone has enough for a couple of attempts to make sure you get the shot.
TOP TIP - Check that your venue allows confetti before you order bucket loads of it. Most venues now ask that it’s biodegradable, so please do check what you use. If your venue doesn’t allow confetti, you could give your guests little bottles of bubbles to blow instead.
I like to give my couples 5-10 minutes after the ceremony to greet their guests while I capture those hugs and reactions - I love the joy in these images! But I like to quickly move on to the group shots. This means that no one has yet disappeared to the bar or to change into their comfy shoes, or moved on to the reception venue, if different.
I advise not to have too many group shots on your list, between 5 and 7 is a great number. They can be more time consuming than you’d think and your guests will not thank you for making them hang around for any longer than they have to. Let’s face it, they’d rather be enjoying the drinks reception, and so would you! I usually start with a whole group shot so that most guests can then be excused while we focus on some smaller groups.
TOP TIP - To save a load of time and stress during group photos, enlist the help of someone who knows who’s who and can help me to round people up. We all have that one bossy friend or family member who loves to organise people and is happy for their voice to be heard – I bet you already know who fits the bill! Having a list of group shots written out in advance is also a great idea, to ensure an important shot doesn’t get missed.
After we’ve sent the rest of the guests gratefully off to the bar I whisk you both away for about 20 minutes for some couple portraits. These shots don’t need to be too formal or awkward, if you’re not comfortable in front of the camera (read my blog all about that here) then just see this as a chance to have a little time together away from your guests to decompress and excitedly acknowledge that you just got married!
TOP TIP - LEAVE ENOUGH TIME BEFORE DINNER
Do plan plenty of time for your group and couples shots before your meal is served! Group shots take around 3-5 minutes each, so for 10 groups, leave around 30 minutes. You will also want time to have a drink and spend some time with your guests before you sit down to dinner. Leaving that bit of extra time means that you’re relaxed and not rushing around feeling stressed. Remember to factor in around 20 minutes for your guests to find their table and get seated too!
As an example, for a 1pm ceremony, serving dinner around 4.30-5.00pm works well. But please don’t forget to feed your guests some canapes or similar after the ceremony so they don’t get too hungry waiting for the main meal. And make sure you get some too!
Photographers just love golden hour – this is the hour of beautiful soft, warm light which occurs about an hour before sunset. This may happen long after the portraits are over, but I may still ask if you can slip away for 10 minutes to make the most of this magic moment for a few extra portraits if you’re game!
Traditionally these used to be at the end of your meal but these days anything goes. Many people have them at the start of their meal so that those having to make them can relax straight after. Though it’s worth thinking about how hungry everyone may be getting too, especially if an earlier ceremony time means they’ve skipped lunch. Having them after dinner means that everyone has a full tummy and can focus on the speeches, rather than wishing they were over so they could eat! Decide which works best for you.
TOP TIP - Keep speeches short
I’m not going to lie, I have heard some painfully long speeches. It’s a great idea to give the speakers a rough time limit to work to – under 10 minutes each is ideal. They may well be grateful for it and guests certainly will be too. (Don’t get me wrong, I have heard plenty of brilliant speeches too, but who wants their wedding to be remembered for the 2 hour long speeches – not you!)
CAKE CUTTING AND FIRST DANCE
These are both quick events. Each one will only take 5 minutes, so you don’t need to schedule loads of time for them! I’ve found that they’re best done one after the other. Cut the cake near the dance floor, then your guests are gathered ready for your first dance!
Though if you’re planning to serve cake as dessert you will need to do the cake cutting before you sit down for your meal so the caterers can portion it up in time to serve it.
You’ll also need to allow enough time after dinner for your evening entertainment to set up, particularly if the venue has to clear from dinner and move furniture about a bit.
Somewhere between 7-8pm is a popular time for evening guests to arrive, but you don’t want everyone hanging around for too long before the party gets going. Plan your first dance about 15 minutes after their arrival to kick the evening off.
TOP TIP - Don’t just think about your first dance song.
Choosing some great floor fillers to get the party started is a must! I usually stay just a few tracks past the first dance so you’ll want as many guests as you can to stay on the dance floor so I can capture that party atmosphere before I leave.
SAMPLE TIMELINE FOR A RELAXED WEDDING
10:30am – Photographer arrives for Prep
12:30pm Photographer leaves for/ goes to venue/ceremony area for guest arrival
1:30pm Ceremony ends – confetti!
2:30 – 4:15pm Drinks reception
3:15pm Group Photos
3:45pm Couple Portraits
4:30pm Guests sit down for dinner
7:00pm Downtime before evening guests arrive
8:00pm First dance
8:45pm Golden hour couple portraits* (check time of sunset as this time will vary)
I’ll end by saying that your Wedding Day is YOUR day. None of this is set in stone so don’t be afraid to do things differently. Though make sure you discuss your plans with your suppliers in advance so you’re not left disappointed by running out of time on the day.
TOP TIP – GO WITH THE FLOW!
When the big day arrives remember that you won’t enjoy yourself if you’re stressed. Things may not go according to plan, schedules may change, but remind yourself to go with the flow and don’t worry about it too much. As long as you’re married by the end of the day, it was perfect!