The last thing you want on your wedding day is to feel rushed or feel like you’re running late the whole day! From my experience as a wedding photographer, I’ve come up with 8 tips to help you build a wedding day timeline that will help you have a relaxing, rush-free day.
Build in ample time for hair and makeup
In my experience, hair and makeup always take longer than scheduled! And that is okay because you and your bridal party want to look perfect for your big day.
Hair and makeup can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half (sometimes longer!) So make sure to take that into account, plus a buffer time, for everyone in your bridal party.
Always plan for longer than you think you’ll need. It’s much better to have some extra time to lounge than to feel rushed and flustered if you’re running behind.
Time for getting into your dress and your dress reveal
One thing I’ve seen a ton of couples forget to plan for is the time to actually get dressed! After your hair and makeup are done, make sure to plan for some time between getting ready and leaving for your ceremony. You’ll want to make sure you have time to take those fun robe pics with your girlfriends, have a special moment with your mom getting into your dress, and of course some gorgeous bridal portraits.
With hair and makeup always tending to run late, make sure you plan lots of time for this portion of your day!
Give yourself lots of buffer time for driving to locations
Ah traffic! The bane of everyone’s existence, and it can be a nightmare on your wedding day. If you are travelling between locations on your wedding day, then make sure to factor in your travel time, plus a little extra in case of traffic.
Even if you don’t have far to go, make time for walking between locations too, especially in heels!
Deciding on a first look
Having a first look can be a really special moment between you and your partner. There are a lot of pros and cons, so making the decision will be up to you.
From a photography perspective, first looks can be tricky to capture as they usually happen at mid-day when the light is the harshest, even if it’s cloudy. This is why, I’ll always recommend a location with ample shade. But it's a great private moment between you and your partner.
If you do decide to do a first look, remember it is a moment that you don’t want to rush. You and your partner are going to look incredible and you’ll just want to savour this moment!
First looks also tend to be a time where we can do couples photos together before the ceremony, which is great if you’d like to enjoy your cocktail hour with your guests.
Whether your ceremony is on time or runs longer, you’ll want to give yourself a buffer time immediately after the ceremony. This is because unless you hide in another room, your guests will always want to come and congratulate you, no matter where you are!
If you factor in some breathing room to your post-ceremony moments, you won't find yourself caught up in the well-wishes.
Pro tip: Have your officiant announce pre-ceremony that your select members of your family and your wedding party are to meet at a specific location as soon as the ceremony is over. It can cut down on your post-ceremony time and wrangling family members for photos.
Plan ahead for family photo time
Family photo time is one of the most important times of the day for your VIP guests. These are the photos that they’ll want to keep and display. But it can be a hectic time for both the couple and the photographer if we don’t plan ahead.
There are two ways to make this super efficient so that it goes smoothly for everyone.
First, we plan who will be in those photos. In my wedding questionnaire, I always ask who the group photos will be of, plus their relation to you. Then I take those groups and come up with a list of everyone involved for photos for you to review.
For example, Bride and Groom + Bride mom (Jane) and Bride dad (Joe), Bride with Grandma (Joanne), Groom with brother (Jack)
This list will help me take these photos as quickly as possible so that everyone can go enjoy the cocktail hour!
Second, will be giving your guests a heads-up about the family photos. It helps immensely to let your VIP guests know that they are needed for family photos at a specific time and place. You can also ask your officiant to remind your guests to meet at a certain place
We can work together to find the right place for family photos. It helps if the location is shaded so that no one is squinting into the camera!
Give speakers 2 min, plan for 10 min
I can’t tell you the amount of times speeches run over their “2 min” speaking time. That’s because the people you’ve chosen to speak during your reception are trying to sum up their love for you, which is a hard thing to do!
Parents get emotional and pause for tears, siblings love to roast and pause for laughter, and best friends tell all the best embarrassing stories and pause for groans and chuckles. Reducing those moments down to two minutes can be really tricky!
This is why you should give your speakers two minutes for their speeches, but plan your time for ten minutes.
Bonus tip: If you want people to pay attention during the speeches, the best time to do them is between courses! Otherwise, during dinner, you’ll get a lot of clanging dishes and people chatting (at least in my experience!)
Get everyone on board for golden hour photos
If having amazing photos of you and your partner is important to you, I highly recommend getting your couple photos done during golden hour - the one hour before sunset - and blue hour - the half hour after sunset.
Well, this time of day is arguably the most beautiful when it comes to lighting. The pastel hues, the warm tones, the soft light. It’s a photographer’s dream. And it makes for the best wedding photos of the two of you.
Because golden hour usually happens around the dinner and speeches portion of the night, it’s easy to miss if not everyone is on board.
The first step is to find out when sunset is in your location on your wedding day (it’s super easy to Google). Your photographer will likely recommend 30m-1hour around the sunset for these photos.
Next, if you have a wedding planner or venue coordinator, make sure you connect with them on the importance of this time. It’s one thing that can’t run late, because when the sun sets, it sets. Having you, the photographer and the wedding coordinator on the same page will mean this time won’t be missed and you’ll get those incredible wedding photos!
Ideal timeline for a wedding
There are so many websites out there that have great examples of a wedding timeline. My advice, from my experience as a wedding photographer, is that everything takes longer than you think it will, so give yourself extra time so you don’t feel rushed throughout your day.