planning your wedding day timings

One of the top factors that can cause stress on a wedding day is lack of time. Things are often running a little behind schedule, or sometimes it was planned too tightly to begin with. Having reasonable expectations can make a huge difference to your comfort levels and your photos.

I recommend setting the time you enter the reception first. Then, use the times alongside the headings below to work backwards or forwards from there.

getting ready  ~  variable

The best people to give you an accurate estimate on your prep time will be your hair stylist & makeup artist. You should aim to have everyone finished with hair & makeup 20-45 minutes before you want to leave for the ceremony, depending on the dress timing. Having a playlist ready to run through this time is a great idea as well. 

dress  ~  5 to 30 mins

Some wedding dresses can go on within 10 seconds. Fantastic. The vast majority, do not. Give it a test try before the wedding, and time yourself. If possible, have whoever is going to be there with you on the day help out - they're the one who really needs to know what they're doing. Many dresses are easy in-store when you have the professional fitter to help you out, but can take a little longer if you forget the precise way it buttons or laces together.

photos  ~  15 mins before leaving for ceremony

Before we leave for the ceremony, I love to squeeze in a few photos, especially if you have family around. These won't usually take the full 15 minutes, but having a little buffer time is always helpful.

travel to the ceremony

Take your regular transit time and add 20% for potential traffic/delays. If you're in a vintage car, Hummer, limo, Kombi etc - remember that they'll probably travel a little slower than usual as well.

ceremony  ~  30 mins

If the ceremony is particularly religious or cultural, this may be longer. Chat to your celebrant/priest/official marriage-maker to confirm. If your ceremony is held in a church, also ask if they have any restrictions on photography. Some don't allow flash, some don't allow photographers to stand in certain areas, and a limited number don't allow photography at all.

hugs & congratulations  ~  15 mins per 100 guests

One of my favourite parts of the day!

family photos  ~  2 mins per group

I usually end up shooting around 10 groups, which means about 20 minutes. I've written a bunch more about organising this part of the day here.

location photos  ~  60 to 90 mins, plus travel

Ideally I like to only use one location, as travel time is dead time. Loading/unloading, finding a park etc is a significant time sink, moreso the larger your bridal party is.

If you're having a bridal party and you're bringing them with you, I assume you want photos of them. Standard group & individual shots usually take around 20-30 minutes.

After that, I'll leave the bridal party behind and focus on getting some shots just of the two of you. This usually goes for around 30 minutes.

Of course, these times can be condensed/expanded as you like. It can be nice to add some time to hang out and have a snack and some drinks - it's often just about the only time you'll have to yourselves through the entire day.

sunset photos  ~  15 mins

I can't emphasise enough how much the sun affects the look of outdoor photos. Unless it's raining or overcast, 99% of the time the best light will be at sunset. I'd rather have 5 minutes of photos at sunset than 10 hours in the rest of the day. Making sure you're available at this time is the single best thing you can do to help your wedding photos look awesome.

If your wedding is in April to September, daylight savings is likely not in effect. That means that these will probably be combined with your location photos before you enter the reception. Super easy.

If your wedding is in October to March, daylight savings probably is in effect. With receptions often starting around 6PM and sunset not until 7:30-8PM, you'll have to carve out a little section of reception time to get the best possible photos (depending on your venue). If you're having a three course meal this is usually between entree and main. If you're serving cocktail style, just try to avoid scheduling your speeches across sunset. If you have a set of speeches directly before your sunset photos, let your MC know what time you need to duck out so they can postpone speakers if necessary. I love listening to speeches, but they can happen at any time - if you miss the sunset, it ain't coming back.

reception

Most reception venues will have a recommended timeline for you to work from or adjust. If you're planning it yourself, it's mainly a matter of co-ordinating with your caterer to make sure things go smoothly.

- If you're having more than 4 speeches, consider breaking them up into multiple sections.

- If you're running your own music, have someone other than you assigned to manage it. It's common in this situation to have music run across speeches, play at the wrong volume, commit the cardinal sin of changing song mid-track etc. Having a DJ solves all these issues if you can fit it into budget.

- It may sound obvious, but if your reception is largely outdoors, make sure there is adequate lighting. It helps your guests out, and also means I don't have to pop my camera flash right in guests' faces! If your wedding is outside of Nov-Jan, it's worth considering some heating options as well (fire or portable gas heaters).

- If you're planning a sparkler exit, get the double-length sparklers.
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