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How to schedule your wedding day timeline and photos

I always say your wedding day isn't about the photos; your photos are about the wedding day! And although I swear by this statement it is also a great idea to have a little think about your wedding timeline and the photos that you would like. Your wedding is likely to be a whirlwind of emotions from laughter and excitement to nerves and tears of joy. The reality is when the day is over everything will be in a bit of a blur and you'll be desperate for the photos so you can relive the moments again.


bride and groom being congratulated on their wedding day

Firstly, to make things easier let's break the wedding timeline into sections, this is a great way to think about the shots you would like within each section of your special day.


There are six main parts of the day

  1. Bride / Groom preparations

  2. The Ceremony

  3. Drinks reception

  4. Wedding breakfast/speeches

  5. Comfort break

  6. Party


Not every wedding follows this order and each year that passes that I am working within the wedding industry I notice that more and more couples are choosing to have their wedding timeline a little differently, which I personally embrace. However, for the nature of this article I will refer to the timeline above and how you can incorporate the photos that you would like.


Bride/ Groom preparations


I usually allow a couple of hours before the ceremony takes place to capture bride/ groom prep photos. I always start the day with detail shots. Prior to the big day I like to meet with my couples or have a video call with them and make sure they are aware that I like to photograph all the detail shots on my arrival. I love to capture the Save the date cards, order of service, perfume, shoes and outfits for the day. I always encourage my couples to include anything that they have carefully considered for their day so that it is all documented. I once had a bride that had her dress designed for her so I encouraged her to include the original sketches of the dress design so she was able to have that in the final wedding gallery collection. Once I have photographed the details I will make sure that I photograph all the make up and hair preparations that are going on. You'll also want to consider whether you and your partner both want to have getting ready photos? If so, will you both be getting ready in the same location? If not, then you may need to factor in a little extra time so that your wedding photographer has enough travel time to get to you both.


Next, the exciting part. Time to get into your beautiful wedding dress (or trouser suit)! I encourage brides to get into their dresses about 45 minutes to 1 hour before they have to leave. Certain designs of dresses take a lot longer to put on than you think. Your wedding photographer will no doubt take photographs of everything that is happening around them but additional photos that you might like to consider are reveal photos with your Dad and or parents as well as pictures of you in beautiful lighting with the all the details and flowers that you have chosen , you make also like pictures with your bridesmaids and other important family members.



flat lay of wedding details


The Ceremony


Depending on where you are getting married will determine how long the ceremony will be. Typically a civil ceremony will be approximately half an hour where a church wedding can last on average an hour. This will differ of course depending on whether you are having readings and hymns but it is certainly the part of the day where your photographer will be photographing in documentary manner (candid, natural photos), your photographer will be as discreet and as respectful as possible so not to disrupt any part of the ceremony. I have known a couple of churches exempt any photographs to be taken during the ceremony period but only the more staged photos of signing the register, so make sure you check with the vicar/priest that photos are permitted on the big day so not to have any disappointment.

Straight after the ceremony I love to carryout a confetti shot. They are always my favourite moment and I cannot express loud enough THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH CONFETTI! So talk to your wedding photographer about factoring this in to your day if this is something you would like. They will be thinking about space for your guests and the best lighting at this point and if you want a really special photo then stop in the middle of you confetti aisle to have a kiss. I promise you won't regret it.


bride and groom exchanging vows at an outdoor wedding

Drinks reception


This is the part of the day where the wedding day can feel very chaotic. It is often about 1.5 hours long. There is a lot for your wedding photographer to capture at this point of the day from all the lovely candid photos of your family congratulating you on your marriage, to group photos of your guests, portrait session of you and your new husband/wife as well as the table settings, favours, cake and details that you have chosen for the day.


When it comes to group shots I normally recommend between six to eight in total. I know that this doesn't seem like many but it often takes quite a long time to congregate your guests for each formal shot and you will be bored and fed up with more shots than this and I can guarantee your guests will be too. If I have a longer drinks reception then I certainly do try and capture more group shots but remember the more group shots you have the less candid photos there will be. So make sure you give your photographer a list of names of the vital group shots that you would like and buddy them up with a bridesmaid or usher who knows what the guest looks like so you aren't standing around longer than you have to. Allow approximately half an hour for group shots.


Factor in this part of the day to have some couple portraits too. Unfortunately, lighting wise this part of the day isn't the best time to have photos taken particularly when it is very sunny; nonetheless it is good time to have a some portraits taken whilst you're both looking your best. If your photographer has lots of experience they will be able to advise you as the best place to walk, spin, cuddle and embrace so that they can work with any difficulty lighting situations. I always allow approximately twenty minutes for couple portraits. Let you photographer know if there is a location that you would absolutely love to have some photos taken other than at your venue too.


Don't forget all the lovely detail your photographer will want to capture for you. All the table settings, flowers, favours and intricate details which you have carefully chosen for your special day. I need approximately ten to fifteen minutes for this.


bride and groom on their wedding day under pink flowers at Larmer Tree Gardens

Wedding breakfast/ speeches


If you are planning on having a sit down meal then this is normally two hours. If you are having a BBQ, high tea or, buffet then this can be a shorter period of time. Your photographer is likely to take their break at this point too as let's be honest none of your guests will appreciate their photos being taken as they eat their meal. At this part of the day I can often be found doing some stories of the day for social media, scouting areas for evening shots and preparing my lighting for speeches and the evening party too.


It is becoming more common for couples to choose for their speeches to take place before their meal so that feel relaxed during the meal but traditionally, speeches were always held after the wedding breakfast. I am always happy to shoot the day as it unfolds but give your photographer the heads up as to when the speeches are likely to take place so they can have any extra lighting they may need at the ready. On a side note, couples have started doing speeches in between courses; I can assure you that there are more negatives for this than positives and the impact on your suppliers is monumental. In fact I could write a whole blog post on that one alone, I will save this for another day.


Traditionally at wedding the three speeches carried out are Father of the Bride, the Groom and the Best man but it's great to see more women giving speeches these days. Always make sure that you let your photographer know how many speeches will be taking place. Allow approximately 30 to 45 minutes for speeches depending on how many people are delivering a speech.



bride and groom entering their wedding breakfast


Comfort Break


There is normally a little break after your wedding breakfast so that catering staff can turn the rooms around ready for the evening but also give you and your guests the time to let their meal go down and relax before the evening party begins. It is at this point of the day where it is ideal to nip off with your photographer again to have some evening shots. The most beautiful time to shoot is during golden hour which is when the sun sets or as the sun rises. It offers the dreamiest natural light for portraits and every photographer will be chasing the sun at this point of the day. The sun will set at different times throughout the year so it is worth thinking about the season you are getting married in so that you can arrange the perfect time for golden hour shots.


If it is dark or miserable weather (let's face it in in the UK the weather is always unpredictable) I always try to incorporate some lovely evening shots with my couples under festoon lights or with some off camera flash so that they have some lovely evening shots too. Express to your photographer if this is something that you would like. Golden hour or evening shots normally take up to fifteen minutes.


bride and groom being photographed at the Larmer Tree gardens at goldden hours

Party


If you didn't cut your cake before speeches then it is normally takes place once the evening guests arrive and just before the first dace. Make sure that you discuss the best timing for this with your photographer and wedding venue. Let your photographer know if you are planning on going straight into the first dance after the cake cutting as once again, they'll need to make sure that they have the lighting they like to use all set up. I am very keen on using a two or three lighting set up for the dance floor pictures as it gives me great coverage and the look I love for dance shots and this takes a little time to have all my equipment in place.


Usually the first dance is approximately three to four minutes. and then after the first dance many of your guests will join you on the dance floor. For some reason or another the dance floor can often go quieter after a few dances whether it's because there hasn't been enough alcohol consumed or simply the evening just hasn't got started yet, I am not sure? So make sure that you have booked your wedding photographer long enough to capture lots of dance pictures if this is something that you would really like. I usually recommend a couple of hour's coverage for dance shots.


If you are planning on a sparkler shot, fireworks, or champagne spray I suggest that you do these when the dance floor is quieter. So make sure that you schedule some time in for that too and you'll need to consider how dark it is outside as well.



bride and groom enjoying their first dance at Abotts Court Dorset

So here is a sample ten hour wedding timeline and what photos to think about for your special day.


12pm - Getting ready photos and details

1pm- Getting into your dress and first look or dress reveal to important people

2pm - Ceremony

2.30pm- Confetti shot

2:40 pm -Drinks reception , candid photos, group shots, portrait shots and details

4pm - Wedding breakfast

6pm - Speeches

6.30pm - Comfort break - evening, golden hour photos

7.45 pm - Cutting of cake

8pm - First dance and guests dancing

9pm -Sparklers/ fireworks/ champagne shots

10:00 End of coverage



I hope that this article helps you with how to organise the timeline of your wedding day as well as think about the photos that you would really like to incorporate during your special day.

If you are still looking for your wedding photographer for your wedding then please do get in touch it would be great to hear from you. Contact me.



 

Photography by Louisa Jane Logo


Dorset wedding photographer Louisa Jane

Hi, I am Louisa! I am based in Gillingham, Dorset but I photograph weddings all over the UK.


 I  have been a wedding photographer for nearly a decade. My journey into wedding photography began with a profound desire to capture authentic moments and tell unique love stories. Fuelled by a deep passion for creativity and love for working with people,  it was then that I found my love for wedding photography.

My work has been featured in various online publications I have won awards within  documentary photography competitions. I am known for having a natural photography style,  but equally love to push the  boundaries of my creativity with  more curated images too.

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