Wedding Day Timings

wedding day timings bride coming down stairs

Some Tips for Your Wedding Day Timings

Your wedding day will be unique. Even if you follow a more conventional timeline (whatever that is!), there will still be little differences that set it apart from every other wedding. So this post may fit in with all, some or none of your plans. Hopefully there’ll be something in here to help you out though.

I’m a documentary wedding photographer, which means I won’t ever interrupt the flow of your wedding day for a photo. Instead, I capture things as they happen, to create a natural and genuine record of your day.

That being said, you’ll probably be wanting to think about timings for the day. If you have your heart set on plenty of photos of your guests playing lawn games in the afternoon soon, but have only left 30 minutes between the ceremony and sitting down for food, it could be tricky.

This post will give you a few things to think about for the various stages of a wedding day. As a photographer, I’m there for most of the day, from the morning preparations to the flailing limbs on the dancefloor in the evening, so this comes from experience.

bride in dressing gown having fun

The Morning of the Wedding

If you’re having the morning preparations photographed (and if you’re not sure, I personally think it’s a great way to start your wedding photographs), I would normally suggest that I get there 90 minutes before you head off to the ceremony.

This allows enough time to get some great shots of you with your bridesmaids or groomsmen, relaxing, drinking, getting ready, laughing, crying, getting nervous, being reassured…wedding mornings usually run through all of the emotions! It’s also a good time for some of the most important people of the day to get to know me a little.

bridesmaids laughing in dressing room

Putting on your Wedding Outfit

If you’re rocking something pretty simple, then chances are, it won’t take you long to get into it. However, if you need lacing up or strapping in, then it may take a little longer. If someone’s going to help you get ready, then maybe arrange a dry run so there are no surprises on the day.

Getting into wedding dress

Father of the Bride

I’m all for putting your own spin on things and not paying too much notice of tradition, but one that I always enjoy witnessing and taking photos of, is when the bride’s father sees her in her wedding dress for the first time.

If you’re the same and want this to be a part of your wedding day, keep it in mind when working out your timings. If there’s travelling involved to get to the venue, then I’ll leave a little before you, so allow time to get your dad all teary eyed while I’m still there.

Father sees bride in dress for the first time

After the Ceremony

You did it! Your first walk as a married couple will sometimes be followed by confetti, but it will ALWAYS be followed by all of your guests wanting to hug you, kiss you, shake your hand and pinch your cheeks! So whatever happens next, make sure you allow up to 20 minutes. More if you have Italian family like mine. They LOVE the cheek grabs!

guest holds groom's cheek

happy bride in confetti tunnel

Group Photos

Yes, despite being a documentary wedding photographer, I still take a few relaxed group photos. This usually happens between the ceremony and the wedding breakfast. People usually select 5 to 8 groups, and this will take me around 15-20 minutes. Though this does depend on things like weather, venue and how many of your guests do a disappearing trick. Usually to the bar, loos or the car park for a crafty ciggie. If we do them sooner, it tends to be easier for everyone, and you guys can relax with your guests.

informal wedding group shot

Relaxed Portraits

Most people who book me prefer the natural photographs, but still would like a couple of portraits to remember how they looked on their wedding day. And for mum to put on the mantelpiece. If portraits aren’t your thing, then this part of the day will take precisely zero minutes. If you’d like a few, then we can take 5 to 10 minutes, and have a wander around the venue grounds, or find somewhere indoors, to make a handful of relaxed portraits. No cheesy poses. Just you guys basking in your newly wedded glory!

relaxed outdoors wedding portrait

Drinks Reception (aka ‘That bit between getting married and the food’)

If you’re wanting to have group shots, portraits AND some time to hang out with your family and friends, then you’ll need to give yourselves enough time. One hour for drinks, once you’ve had your formals taken, might not leave you with as much time as you’d like to mingle.

There are, of course, a few ways of doing things, so if you really can’t squeeze a bit more time out of the drinks, then we could move the portraits until later in the day. During summer, the light is often much softer and warmer in the evening anyway, and can result in some fab portraits.

guest popping champagne corkyoung guest drinking cokewedding guests laughing during reception

Getting Bums on Seats

By the time the dinner gong is rung, it’s not usually too much trouble to get people seated. A well-earned sit down, some delicious food and a glass of wine is a serious motivator! Still, depending on the number of guests and your seating arrangements, this could still take up to 15 minutes. And if you’re having a receiving line, add another 25.

guests looking at seating planguests sat around table

Food, Glorious Food

The three-courser was once standard wedding procedure. These days, there are so many more choices. Buffets, hog roasts, pizza trucks, chip vans, barbecues, afternoon tea, troughs of sandwiches, tapas, the list is seemingly endless. Venues and wedding planners will usually allow 1 to 2 hours for this though.

tapas served at a wedding

The Speeches

Similarly with speeches, the timings are difficult to pin down. I photographed a wedding in the Netherlands once, where they opened the floor up for speeches after the couple had given theirs. So if you fancied getting all continental, your speeches could take a while. But they’d probably be brilliant!

wedding speeches with a monkey

bride laughing during speeches

Turning the Room Around

This will vary from venue to venue, but usually, if they have one dedicated room, once you and your guests have finished eating, they’ll politely kick you out while they turn the room around ready for the evening do. This is quite often when bands or DJs will set up. It usually takes no longer than an hour.

wedding reception room

Cutting the Cake & First Dance

A couple more traditional elements of the modern wedding day that are becoming less frequent. If you’re having either or both, then they’ll usually take 5 minutes each. Unless you’re planning something really extravagant, in which case, tell me more!

In my experience, cutting the cake and then going straight into the first dance, works well. The DJ or MC will alert everyone to the imminent cake cutting, so everyone is already gathered when you walk straight into your first dance.

cutting the cake in a barn

first dance in a marquee

The Dancing

This is when your friends and family will (hopefully) take the opportunity to let their hair down and hit the dance floor. An hour of this is usually plenty of time for me to capture all the action. After this is usually when the evening buffet or wedding cake is brought out anyway, so it’s a handy place for me to end my day. Though, if you have other plans such as fireworks, or just want me to stay a little later to capture even more drunken shenanigans, then just let me know.

inflatable guitars on dancefloorfancy dress dancing


So that’s my take on how wedding timings work from a photographer’s point of view. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that wedding days are fluid. Timings will change. Things will run over. Stuff will happen earlier than planned. For the most part, there’s not much you can do other than sit back and enjoy as much of it as possible!

Feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions about timings.