Tips on how to plan your wedding day timeline for photography
One of the most important things to consider when planning your wedding day is your timeline or schedule.
You can definitely ask for advice or feedback from wedding planners, wedding coordinators and even your friends and family that have already experienced the hectic day. Bear in mind, everyone has their own specifications on how a wedding day should go.
The information I provide are based on my own experiences, considering as wedding photographers we are quite literally present with you, every step of the way from the beginning of the day (getting ready), to the wedding ceremony, all the way to the end of the reception.
Here is a guide for a typical wedding day timeline, that should allow sufficient time to photographing your wedding day. Remember, this is a guide through the eyes of a photographer, because our goals are different to all of the other wedding vendors, it may differ slightly to all of the other timelines of schedules you see on Pinterest, Google, wedding blogs etc.
When providing advice on how your day could look, my priority is to ensure that there is enough time for you to enjoy and celebrate your day with your family and friends (without the rush), while documenting the day and capturing the beautiful moments with your friends and family.
The last thing we want to do is create a timeline that does not give you the time to savour the moments with your bridesmaids, your groomsmen, and your family and friends. If you are in a rush, and are stressed, how you feel at that moment in time will show physically in your photos, and it is the last thing we want.
This guide is based on an afternoon ceremony start. It can always be adapted to the schedule you hope to achieve.
What we photograph during a wedding day
Generally, we photograph everything. Like, EVERYTHING, from the jewellery, the earrings, the wedding dress, the suits, the shoes, the smiles, the tears, the first kiss, the family photo...you get the idea right?
As a guide, here is an idea, of the events that can occur during a typical wedding day.
- Getting Ready for Bride and Groom
- First look with family
- First look with Bride/Groom
- Wedding Ceremony
- Group Photo
- Family photos
- Wedding party and Bride and Groom portraits
Traditional wedding day timeline guide
Just as a reminder, this is only a guide. If you were to start you schedule from scratch, what I would do is begin from your wedding ceremony start time, then work backwards. This will give you an idea on how early and what time your hair and make up artists need to start and all of the other things that need to be considered.
9am -Hair and Make- up artist (if you have 3 bridesmaids, 1 bride)
10am to 11:30am - Grooms Getting Ready Coverage (First Look with Family and/or with bride)
11:30 to 12:00pm - Travel to Bride Location
12:00pm - 2:00pm - Bride Getting Ready Coverage (First Look with Family and/or with groom)
2:00pm - 2:30pm - Travel to Ceremony
2:30pm - 3:30pm - Ceremony
3:30pm - 4:30pm - Group Photo and Family Photos
4:30pm - 6:30pm - Photography with wedding party and Bride and Groom.
6:30pm - 12:00am - Reception
As a photographer, a likely estimate on the amount of time to document and cover a wedding will be approximately 8-12+ hours.
Factors to consider that may delay your wedding day
Even though I am conscious of being present in the moment of your entire wedding day, and celebrating it with your friends and family. We still have to stick to the timeline. From my observations, the wedding timeline will always be in some way, shape or form, late. It is inevitable. Because I am based in Melbourne, traffic can be horrendous on a weekend, and with such a diverse multicultural society, wedding customs may differ to traditional weddings as well. But we’re human, we can only our best to organise and prepare and not over extend the delays that can happen.
- Hair stylist (on average time of 40-45 minutes/person)
- Make up (on average of 30-45 minutes/person)
- Flowers, bouquets or boutonnieres may not arrive on time.
- Formal wear gets dirty or is not ready before hand.
- Family or friends may be late to your getting ready photos or even the ceremony
- Packing up everything needed for the wedding ceremony
- Traffic especially in densely populated cities
- Distance between getting ready locations, ceremony location and reception venue.
- Cultural customs which I explain a little more below...
Cultural wedding customs to consider
When it comes to ethnic or asian weddings, there are quite a few customs that are completely different to the typical Australian wedding.
Chinese Wedding Door Games
In chinese tradition, the Groom is expected to pick up their bride at her family's home. It is one of the most important chinese wedding traditions and is still being conducted today.
Chinese Tea Ceremony
Once the Groom has received his bride, the Chinese tea ceremony is normally conducted at the Grooms house first, and the Brides house second. The purpose of this is to pay respect and gratitude to their parents, welcome the bride and groom into the respective families and in return receive blessings from the parents and relatives.
From my experience, these ceremonies are typically held on the same day as the wedding. It usually starts first thing in the morning (7am?) and continues all the way until the ceremony itself and then the reception.
Indian weddings in general are huge. But one of the most recognised is the Mehendi, which is where Henna is conducted on the hands and feet of the bride.
And then there is the Haldi Ceremony, where the families gather and bless the couple by spreading oil, water and turmeric over the couple.
Questions to consider when planning your wedding day that could save you time
- Will you be getting ready at the wedding ceremony venue? or will you book a hotel room, get ready at that location and hire wedding cars to take you to the ceremony location?
- Will the ceremony location be the same as the reception venue? (i.e. are you going to get married at a church and then have your reception at a vineyard?
- Will transportation be provided to your guests if the location of the ceremony and reception are significant different?
- Will I have a first look with my family when I am getting ready? or will I have time to have a first look with my significant other? or both?
- Will you want to have your Bride/Groom portraits before the ceremony? or after?
- What time will you start your reception? When will speeches start? When will you have your first dance? Will you dance with your parents?
- Will you play wedding games at the reception?
- What time will you cut your cake?
Let's face it, we're not born to know how to plan a wedding, but with my experience, and these are just some things to consider when planning your wedding. It's better to be prepared and be aware of the things you may not have thought about.
The biggest problem for any wedding day checklist is time. For us photographers, time is a key factor to ensure all of the aesthetics and details you chose for your special day (this includes your flowers, bridesmaid dresses, wedding venues, wedding cakes etc.) are immortalised in your wedding album.
Many photographers will provide a collection or package with a wedding time line of 4-8 hours coverage. The collections we provide are a full day coverage (up to a point) and normally starts from 10+ hours
Why do we do this? We provide unlimited wedding coverage because we want to take time out of the equation. By taking time out of the equation, this will allow you to focus more on the day. You won't have to worry about me having to charge you extra (unless of course it goes beyond midnight), you won't have to worry about me rushing to take your photographs. Most importantly you won't have to worry about where we should be going because everything will be planned well in advanced at the pre-wedding meetings.
The only problem you'll have is knowing you'll get to enjoy your wedding day with your family and friends. At the biggest problem of all is knowing that you're going to be given so many amazing photos that look natural (because you're no longer stressed out), look authentic (because everyone is having fun), and look like a fairytale (because you got to live and experience the wedding of your dreams).
As the saying goes: "a wedding lasts a day, but a marriage lasts a lifetime".
What is it about your marriage you want to remember on your wedding day?