Example wedding day timeline or day plan

As wedding photographers, we’ve been to many many weddings. We’ve seen what makes for a fun relaxing wedding day and what makes the day stressful. In this article we go into more detail about how to plan your wedding day to be as fun and stress free as possible, and how to help your photographer take great photos.


This article builds on our article about how to plan your wedding day for great photos. If you haven’t read that yet it’s definitely worth checking out first.

One major possible cause of stress on your wedding day is not leaving enough time for everything you want to do, closely followed by not having enough free time to cater for unexpected events. We’ve seen people drive 100km round trips to fetch forgotten shirts, trips to the mall for belts or socks, a visit to a florist and a suit hire store, and last minute frantic searches for wedding rings that were stored “somewhere safe”!

Most couples spend from 7am until 3pm (8 hours) getting ready, then from 3pm until 12pm (9 hours) on everything else – the ceremony, family photos, wedding party photos, dinner, speeches, sometimes sunset photos, then dancing and a bit of a party. It does take some time to get ready, especially for the girls, but that doesn’t sound like an ideal split to us!

A photographers wedding day plan

Here’s an example plan, based on what we (i.e. Tim and my wife Jenny) planned for our wedding. Notice that the time spent getting ready is shorter than most couples allow, leaving more time for everything else. The day went absolutely perfectly, there was no rushing or stress, we had heaps of time for photos and more time with family than most couples get. We managed to spend two and a half hours on photos in four locations then still have time for a 45 minute cocktail hour before the reception started!

 

8.30am – Girls hair starts (bride first)

10am – Girls makeup starts (bride first). Make sure you do a trial so you know how long things will take, and that you have enough makeup artists to get all your bridesmaids and others (Mum etc) ready on time – see our article on what runs wedding days late

10.30am – Photographer arrives to the guys for a mock getting ready, or to photograph them playing golf, etc. Guys to be showered and ready to get dressed when the photographer arrives

11.00am – Early lunch for the girls

11.30am – Photographer arrives to the girls, bride gets into her dress, photos with the bridesmaids and family

11.30am – Guys have lunch (not wearing their suits!)

12.00pm – Guys leave for the ceremony to welcome guests

12.30pm – Girls leave for the ceremony

12.15pm – Photographer leaves for the ceremony

1.00pm – Wedding ceremony

1.30pm – Congratulations from your family and friends

1.45pm – Family and group photos (this can optionally be done at the reception venue)

2.15pm – Wedding party photos start (take a picnic). Guests can go straight to the reception venue or you can give them a time to arrive.

3.00pm – Guests arrive at the reception venue. Make sure canapes are served, to keep your family and friends happy and to stop people drinking too much too early. Organised activities are an option if you think your guests will get bored waiting for the wedding party.

4.30pm – Wedding party arrives at the reception, welcome from the guests, mingling, a glass of bubbly

5.00pm – Family and group photos (if not done earlier)

5.30pm – Mingling time

6.00pm – Entree served

6.30pm – Speeches

7.00pm – Main course served

7.50pm – Cutting of the cake

8.00pm – Dessert

8.15pm – Sunset photos for the bride and groom (time will vary)

8.45pm – First dance

 

This shows what could be a great relaxed wedding day plan – it’s well spaced out to make sure you have a relaxing day and in case things don’t go perfectly smoothly, gives heaps of time for photos, plenty of time with your guests. The main downside is  the girls start to get ready a little early, but most brides tell me they don’t sleep much the night before their wedding anyway! As well as making sure your day is low stress this timeline helps you get great photos, as a rushed stressed wedding photographer will never do as good a job as a photographer who isn’t under pressure, and relaxed people make for much better subjects!

A more normal day plan

Here’s a day plan for people less photo-obsessed, with a 3pm ceremony and 6pm reception, which is a fairly common way couples arrange their day. With this plan you spend more time getting ready and less time on photos, but most other things are very similar. This day plan leaves less time and is therefore slightly more rushed and stressful for the couple.

10.00am – Girls hair starts (bride goes first)

12pm – Girls makeup starts (bride goes first). Make sure you do a trial so you know how long things will take, and that you have enough makeup artists to get all your bridesmaids and others (Mum etc) ready on time – see our article on what runs wedding days late

12.30pm – Photographer arrives to the guys for a mock getting ready, or to photograph them playing golf, etc. Guys to be showered and ready to get dressed when the photographer arrives

1.00pm – Early lunch for the girls

1.30pm – Photographer arrives to the girls, bride gets into her dress, photos with the bridesmaids and family

1.30pm – Guys have lunch (not wearing their suits!)

2.00pm – Guys leave for the ceremony to welcome guests

2.15pm – Photographer leaves for the ceremony

2.30pm – Girls leave for the ceremony

3.00pm – Wedding ceremony

3.30pm – Congratulations from your family and friends

3.45pm – Family and group photos (this can optionally be done at the reception venue)

4.15pm – Wedding party photos start (take a picnic). Guests can go straight to the reception venue or you can give them a time to arrive.

4.30pm – Guests arrive at the reception venue. Make sure canapes are served, to keep your family and friends happy and to stop people drinking too much too early. Organised activities are an option if you think your guests will get bored waiting for the wedding party.

5.50pm – Wedding party arrives at the reception, welcome from the guests, mingling, a glass of bubbly

6.00pm – Entree served

From here it’s the same as the day plan above.

 

Thoughts or comments are welcome below!

This entry was posted in Wedding tips.

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