I often get asked by couples when things happen and how long they take so they can plan their wedding day accordingly.
So I've put together a rough timeline to give you an idea of when the key moments take place and how long they take to happen. I've included my role is this as well to give you an idea of where the photographer will be and how long their roles takes.
For this example, the wedding is going to take place at 1pm with the bridal preparations taking place close to the ceremony venue and the reception venue being the same location as the ceremony.
The bridal preparations start early, however, you likely won't need the photography to begin at this time because until most of the hair and makeup has happened, it's unlikely that you'll want the photographs to be taken. So, I usually recommend the bridal prep photos to start a couple of hours before the ceremony, so in this case 1030/1100.
I always like to arrive at the ceremony area at least 30 mins before it starts so I can get shots of the guests arriving and also the Groom looking nervous!
The time this takes can depend greatly on what type of ceremony you're having. For example, a church service with a couple of songs and readings can take 45 mins. However, a non-religious ceremony with a Registrar can take 20-30 mins.
After the Register has been singed the couple leave the ceremony room and normally head outside followed by their guests. This creates a natural receiving line where everyone congratulates the couple. This normally takes about 20 mins depending on how many guests there are.
This is also a good time to capture lots of the background story - guests having a drink and chatting to friends they haven't see for a long time.
It's during this period that we will do the the confetti shot, the whole group shot as well as the lineups. How many lineups are taken is always up to the couple, although, I do recommend keeping it fairly simple by sticking to the wedding wedding party and immediate family members. Often you find that group shots with friends happen a bit later during the evening reception.
Guest are asked to find their seats for the wedding breakfast.
This always takes longer than you might think - a good 20 mins. I find this is the perfect time to take the bride and groom photos because the guests aren't there to distract the couple and also for the venue it's helpful not to have the couple there to distract the guests as they want them to sat down.
For me, the couple shots don't need to take too long and I always time it that we're done after 20 mins so the guests are seated and the couple can enter the room.
This also works well because it maximises the time the couple have with their guests: I never want to take the couple away from their guests for ages when they're all socialising and having a good time. This is precisely the time when the couple should be with their guests.
Everyone sits down to eat.
A three-course sit down dinner for 70+ people will take at least 90 mins.
This is my quiet time. I never take photos of guests eating - I'm not sure anyone wants to see photos of Uncle Pete eating his main course!
Father of the Bride. Groom. Best Man is the traditional order, but it's always great to see the bride or the maid of honour making an appearance too.
Speeches over and everyone moves to the bar or sits outside with their teas and coffees etc, so the room can be turned around.
This is also when you might have some more impromptu lineups with friends.
Evening guests begin to arrive
Cutting the cake
I always recommend to couples to cut the cake just before the first dance. This works for two reasons because it allows the evening guests to be a part of the event and it also allows a smooth and non disruptive transition from the cake cutting to the first dance.
Once the first dance has happened, then the party starts! Everyone on the dance floor having fun and getting snapped.