Planning Your Perfect Wedding Day Timeline
A really simple wedding day timeline (and background basics)
This is a really straight forward, no bullshit, stripped down, created with the intention of being a helpful guide to planning your wedding day timeline.
The first question you might have at the front of your mind is; ‘why do I need to consider a timeline?’ Well, if you want to have the least amount of stress on your wedding day, and the maximum amount of time to include all the elements to your celebration that are important to you, then it is ESSENTIAL that you plan as much as possible.
The next question you might ask is ‘why should you listen to us to help you plan the logistics of your wedding day?’ Well, honestly, there is nothing that qualifies us to do so from a professional perspective, and I don’t think there is such a course or a qualification! BUT we have been a part of around a hundred weddings as a bride/groom, best men, bridesmaids, guests, wedding photographers and wedding videographers. Throughout that time we have learnt so much about planning before the wedding, and how to stay chilled and enjoy the wedding day itself. We are part of weddings most weekends in the year we hope our experiences and knowledge in relation to wedding day planning will hopefully help you.
The wedding is not just one day, it is a process of months, and years of planning. I won’t go into details reagrding venue’s, as this is a huge topic in itself. But the type of venue and location you choose is probably the most important part of your wedding as it will influence many other decisions throughout your wedding planning. Make sure you make a shortlist, visit them in person, and take your time to weigh up the options before deciding on your venue, the wedding venue you choose should reflect your personalities and create the vibe you want from your celebration. You also need to think about the time of year you are having your wedding, the available light, the weather, the destination, all of these things will impact how possible it is to fulfil your wedding day vision.
It is your day. Hmmmm, thanks for stating the obvious dude!
Well, actually, I can almost promise you that there will be times during the planning of your wedding that will actually make you not want to be getting married. How awful right?! It is ok, it is natural, and it is because not only are you unlikely to plan anything as difficult in your life. You are about to bring all your family and friends together into one place, and those people cover a huge range of ages across generations. Imagine going to your favourite restaurant for a meal, followed by a big night out with your mates, but you invite your 80 year old grandma along too. It would be impossible to please everyone and that is pretty obvious, but for some reason when it comes to weddings we all try to pull off the impossible and we worry about it not being something that all these people enjoy. The reason I start with this point is that you REALLY need to make your plans based around exactly what you want and do things exactly the way that will make you happy.
So you have decided on your venue, and you know what you want it all to look like, and how you want it to feel - because it reflects exactly who you guys are. Now its time for the no bullshit, straight to the facts timeline stuff you should consider, in a succinct and step by step approach.
As a general rule of thumb women will take longer than men. Depending on the individual and the size of the wedding party the time allowance will be different. When appointing a make-up artist and hair stylist you should ask them how long they advise when you book them, this way you can start to plan your day. This will be very different than getting ready for work or a night out, it is a long process, and if there is a large group of people getting ready together it could take a lot longer than you think.
Setting the tone of the day with a relaxed timeframe and environment for your preparations is key. Rushing during the prep can make you feel flustered for the rest of the day, remember to factor in travel times, and build in a little contingency so you have more time than you need. One of the most common things to do is leave getting into your wedding outfit until the last minute. I suggest doing this earlier than you think, this way you have the opportunity to take stock, have a glass of fizz or a beer and have a few photographs with your wedding party before you go through the formalities of the day.
This is simple. Civil ceremonies are typically pretty quick, the quickest ceremony we have been part of was just over 5 minutes! A typical civil will be 15-20 minutes, and this depends on aspects such as readings from guests during the ceremony, but the great thing about civil wedding ceremonies is the ability to completely customise it to reflect you.
Christian church ceremonies vary depending on the denomination of religion, but you should factor in a minimum of 30 minutes up to around an hour. Again this depends on the number of hymns, and readings etc, be prepared for religious ceremonies to be less flexible and personal than civil ceremonies. Other religions vary even more, and can last for hours. We have been part of ceremonies that have lasted for hours, and much of this will be ritual based - if you are having one of these ceremonies you will likely know much more than we do about timings etc!
The bit before the meal
This will definitely depend on your venue, the setting, the time of year etc. As wedding Photographers and Videographers we think it would be helpful to give you a good way to plan this part of the day, as this is when we will be helping you capture the bulk of your formal memories. Everyone wants to get a drink (or a few drinks), and chat. Most people dislike posing for photographs at a wedding. This is why we always try to smash through the group shots just after the ceremony, before everyone breaks off into their social groups and start swigging back the booze. By getting the formal group photos (if you want them) and day time couples portraits done as soon as possible you group all the formalities together and then leave everyone to get on with the day in a relaxed way.
Our approach is to encourage a limited number of group photos, and then pre-plan the couples portraits so we can turn it into a walk with purpose. This time of the day is great for you as a newly married couple, as you get to spend a little time alone and take stock of the day so far. Our couples always comment on how much they enjoy this time, and as well as being a break from the social aspect of the day we get to create some amazing photographs and capture really important clips for the wedding video.
We suggest arranging some snacks or canopies, everyone is usually hungry. We also suggest appointing a sensible person or couple of people who can help the photographer organise your family and friends for the group shots. This just helps speed up the process and prevents this section of the day becoming stressful for everyone.
The meal (and the speeches)
What you eat and how it is served is an individual decision. Some venues make you have their catering, others let you choose your own external caterer. We cannot advise you on this as it is an individual preference, but it is definitely connected to your choice of venue, so you should consider this very early on.
Traditionally the speeches were after the meal, but nowadays you can have them before, after or scattered throughout the meal. Do them before means they are out of the way and all of the speech givers can relax for their meal (this is becoming more popular). Whenever you choose to have them it is important to think about who will give them, what order they will go in, and where will they be positioned to deliver them. This is a topic in itself - our advice would be before the meal, this seems to be a better option from the experiences we have collected, but there is no right or wrong.
The bit in-between
This is definitely that bit that very few people think about. The only thing we suggest about this period is - if you are going to pay for entertainment like a magician, photo booth etc, then this is the best time to ask them to do their thing.
Cake and First Dance
Maybe you don’t want to do either of these things. But typically everyone will be expecting them, so if you don’t want to do norm or be traditional then let your guests know what your plan is! The cutting of the cake and the first dance typically, officially, kick off the evening do, and picking that second song for after the first dance will set the tone for the dance floor so pick a banger!
DJ, Band or Both. You decided, but research them a bit before hand because if you want an awesome party the music will be the catalyst. Fireworks? Sparklers? Something else? It is important to consider the flow of the evening, this will depend on the time of year, the venue, and what time you are planning to have your evening food served.
We imagine right now you are feeling a little overwhelmed by this basic list of considerations. This isn’t going into the details, but hopefully you can already see how important it is to figure our priorities and preferences as early as possible if you want a stress free day.
Real times to work with!
Here is an example timeline. You might not be planning a day that reflects this, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what you need to consider to create your own perfect wedding day timeline.
I am using the term’s women and men, rather than bride and groom because I want to make this planning guide appropriate for same sex couples.
0800 - 0900 hrs - Women start getting ready, hair and make-up arrive. This will usually depend on the size of the bridal party and how many people are going to be having their hair and make-up doing.
1000 hrs - Photographer/Videographer arrive to capture preparation. 3 hours before the ceremony is a great time for us to start documenting your day as you haven’t just got out of bed and have had time for the hair and make-up artists to make a start with the bridal party, and it allows your photographer/videographer time to capture details like your dress, shoes and jewellery as well as the atmosphere in the room.
1030 hrs - Men start getting ready. Groom and groomsmen are usually together at this point, and typically men only want to have a quick shower and maybe a shave before they start getting their suits on. Some men would prefer not to have a photographer/videographer around, and that is absolutely fine - it is the groom’s day too, and it is important they are comfortable and enjoy themselves. If the groom does want to have some photos and video footage of them getting ready included in the wedding video or gallery then it is important to consider the logistics of where both sides of the bridal party are getting ready, how long the journey would be between the two sides of the wedding party.
This is where you may need a second photographer/videographer so that they can travel and work separately to capture both sides, and the great thing about the way Your Story Studios work is that Lyndsey and I can work independently of each other to make sure we capture both sides of the wedding party.
Once the blokes are ready a typical thing would be to go and grab a quick drink at the bar or the pub near the church to try to relax, and calm those nerves. This is also a great time to get a few shots of the guys before the ceremony.
1145 hrs - 1200 hrs - Women (Bride) gets in her dress. It is really important that you factor plenty of time for the bride to get into her dress, do any last minute touch ups to hair and make up, and try to create a relaxed build up to the ceremony. Leaving it too late can make things a little manic and rushed, and it doesn’t need to be stressful if you make sure you allow enough time it won’t be. Once the bride is in the dress it is common to want to do a reveal to the bridal party, or whoever is giving the bride away as they have probably not seen the bride in her dress before.
This is a really lovely moment to look back on, and in order for the photographer/videographer to capture it for you they usually need 5-10 minutes to prepare and organise people in a suitable location. This part of the day is one of the most emotional, and it is one of our favourite to capture. Usually the bride will want the photographer/videographer to capture a few images of her and her bridal party. If the women are getting ready in a location which is some distance away you need to factor in the amount of time it takes to travel. Make sure you allow a little extra time for any traffic, or unexpected delays!
1230 hrs - Guests start to arrive for the ceremony - the grooms side of the wedding party will usually be in place to greet guests.
1300 hrs - Ceremony
1330 - 1400 hrs - End of ceremony - confetti shot.
1400 hrs - Drinks reception
1430 hrs - Group shots
1500 hrs - Couples portraits
1545 hrs - Guests sit down for wedding breakfast
1600 hrs - Couples entrance and speeches begin (before - because you will enjoy your food more!)
Depending on type of food will done meals take long.
1800 hrs - Wedding breakfast is coming to an end. At this point of the day the venue will be preparing for your evening reception, this may mean they need to transform the room from the day set up to the evening set up.
1900 hrs - Evening/sunset photos.
2000 hrs - Cake cutting (not for everyone)
2005 hrs - First Dance
At most weddings there will be some dancing here….
2045 hrs - Depending on the time of year this could be the evening/night time photos.
2100 hrs - 2130 hrs - Evening food is served
2100 hrs onwards - Photographer/Videographer leaves
Hopefully this helps with your planning, and if you would like some more help with your timeline or to ask us any questions then please get in touch, we would love to help you figure out the best timeline to make your wedding the dream day it ought to be.