Wedding timelines can be tricky because every wedding is unique to the couple. With that said though, most weddings do tend to run to similar times; so I want to help you simplify your job when creating yours. Bare in mind this is a longer post because there are so many variables.
I remember when I started to write our timeline, the only thing I had was the ceremony time, I felt so lost! Unless your hiring a wedding planner who will organise the majority of it for you; timelines are one of those important aspects to your day that often gets left to the last minute. Its true it can be difficult to sort out a timeline if you havn't organised many of your wedding details yet, but if your well on your way and have the large majority of the day organised then it is probably time to start on your timeline. Even if your in the beginnings of your planning its good to get a general idea of what you want your timeline to look like.
Before I talk about the general logistics of it all, I just want you to keep in mind a couple of very important points. Add a Buffer - As a wedding photographer I see a lot of weddings, and I can tell you this, MOST weddings run late at one point or another. For this reason its a good idea to always add a 10 minute buffer (at least) onto anything you put on your timeline. This will give you approximately 1 hour by the end of the day just in case anything runs over time, this also puts less stress on the bride! And allow for travel times - This is a biggie, I see a lot that don't include travel times to/from locations, please add this in or you may not get all the lovely photos you would like.
Ceremony Time - Start with your ceremony time, this is very dependent on the time of year, what sort of wedding you would like (morning, afternoon, sunset etc) and also location of your wedding. If you are getting married overseas its a good idea to check out local sunset times so you don't plan your wedding right when the sun is setting, or your group photos/bridal party photos/creative photos could end up in the dark - unless thats the look you are going for! And remember to allow for the ceremony time, most are around 30 minutes, unless you are having a religious ceremony - often they are a bit longer.
Hair & Makeup - This is very dependent on the size of your bridal party, how many Hair & Makeup artists you will have, and also how quickly they work. If you have a small party (ie. 1 - 2 bridesmaids), you should be fine with 1 person who does both and should be able to get through all of you in around 2 hours. If you have a larger bridal party then I would highly recommend hiring a separate Makeup Artist and Hairdresser; or even 2 of each if you have a very large bridal party. Check with with them to see approximately how long it will take with your chosen style and size of bridal party. I have seen the hair and makeup take 6 hours in the past!
Note: Depending on how many hours you have your photographer for ideally you will want them to arrive when your hair is done (or nearly done) and makeup about to be applied. Usually the bride is done near the end.
Getting ready - After the bridal party has their hair and makeup done usually its the bride getting into her dress, then those special first look with mum and dad, and then a few photos of the girls together - this will save time getting these photos after the ceremony and you can spend more time with your guests.
If you are wanting photos of both bride and groom getting ready and you only have 1 photographer then please make sure you allow at least 45 minutes at a minimum for the men, plus travel time. Usually the men want a few images of them just hanging out after they are ready also. I have been to a wedding where the bride and groom were getting ready 40 minutes apart. If you have 2 photographers then this isn't usually so much of an issue.
First look (optional) - A first look is getting very popular now, I will write another blog post on the pro's and con's of this another time. But for now, if you decide to have a first look and have your Bride & Groom portraits done before the ceremony this will also allow more time for spending time with your guests afterwards. Allow at least 1 hour for these images.
Note: if you are getting ready extra early you can also do the bridal party photos before the ceremony which will give you even more time with your guests.
Ceremony - As mentioned above, times will vary - your celebrant will be able to give you a basic rundown and approximate time.
Note: give your photographer approximate timing of the ceremony so they don't get surprised and miss any shots.
Family/Group Photos - Allow 3 minutes per group for Family and group photos. Keep groups to a minimum, these photos always take longer than expected. 15 groups = 45 minutes of shooting time. Most people will generally keep these photos to immediate family and very close friends only. Remember if you want photos with every guest then its ideal to have a friend or family take photos during cocktail hour or after the reception, otherwise it will eat into your time to do any creative and bridal party photos, you don't want to spend good money on a photographer to have them take group photos for 2 hours.
Note: I understand not everyone sees their photography this way, if group photos are more important to you than Bridal Party/Creative shots then let your photographer know. Remember its your day!
Bridal Party & Creative Photos - These are the images that everyone loves, some couples place a lot of importance on these, some don't. Either way is perfect, you just need to decide what is most important for you and your day. If you decide to be traditional and not have a first look then ideally allow at least 2 hours for these images, this is also very reliant on locations you want your images. A lot of my bridal parties will travel to a different location so travel time is a must. If these aren't so important for you then allow as much or little time as you want.
If you had a first look and bridal party photos then you may just want a few creative images before the sun goes down (the best time of the day!), or for a different look and location then around 30 - 45 minutes is a good amount of time.
Reception - Remember if you have young kids at your wedding then you may want an earlier reception ie. 6 - 7pm as we all know kids tend to get tired and a bit over it any later. If its mostly adults then you can start any time you want.
I've been to a couple weddings where it started at 8pm. If you are having a later reception ensure that you have enough food during cocktail hour to tide people over.
Speeches, Cake Cutting & First Dance - Normally speeches will last anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes. Cake cutting & First Dance its good to allow 15 minutes each for these. After this I would normally stay another 30 minutes maximum to capture images of your guests dancing and having a good time, then its my cue to go home. However...
Night Creative Shots (optional) - Normally after the first dance and everyone is mingling I like to pull the Bride & Groom away for a couple of final shots in the dark for some creative night images. These can be with a flash, or sparklers (or both) and usually are the favourites out of the whole gallery of images. You can also include your bridal party in these! Allow anywhere from 10 - 30 minutes depending on how many images you want.
And thats really it! Remember this is just a guideline, times and events will vary hugely but this should at least give you a starting point on the main events. I have attached below a sample wedding timeline which might also help you simplify things a bit. If you have any questions then don't hesitate to ask on Facebook, comment below, or send me an email.
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