The How To Guide: Organise Your Wedding Day Timeline

It’s highly likely that if your reading this blog post you share two things in common: you are about to get married (congrats!! This is amazing news) and you haven’t a single clue where to begin when it comes to event planning!
That’s ok! Guess what?

The majority of couples planning a wedding share the same nervous feeling you do when it comes to planning out their big day. It is easy to look at the entire day and think “Dear Lord! Where do I even begin!”
From our experience, the key is to break things down into the most basic schedule of events, once you have your timeline written down you can begin working on the details for each segment.

Having a detailed timeline for your wedding is not only helpful for you, it is a lifesaver for any staff or vendors working together to make your wedding day a truly magical experience. Not to mention, having everyone on the same page will save time and unnecessary associated stress.

In our experience, the couples who spend more time planning before their wedding day, end up with a celebration that runs like clockwork. The best part about doing all your planning before the wedding?
You get to spend all your time enjoying one of the most beautiful moments of your life with the people you care about the most!

Pro Tip 1: Be realistic. When it comes to timelines, it is important to make realistic predictions on how long things will take. In our experience, things tend to take longer than initially expected. Be liberal with your time allocations, if you end up with spare moments throughout the day, that’s great! Those spare moments will allow you to stop, breath, and take in the moment.

Pro Tip 2: Just ask. Getting married isn’t something we do every week! To expect that you will be an expert after reading a few blogs like this one is unrealistic, and puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on you. Talk with your photographers, planners, and venue hosts, chances are they have been asked the questions you need answers for before!

An overview of how your timeline should look:

  • Bride prep photos
  • Groom prep photos
  • Guest arrival at ceremony
  • Bride arrival at ceremony
  • Ceremony commences
  • Ceremony concludes
  • Group photos
  • Family photos
  • Bridal party photos
  • Couple portraits
  • Guests to be seated at reception
  • Bride and groom to enter reception
  • Cutting the cake
  • The first dance
  • Speeches
  • Father/daughter dance
  • Sunset portraits
  • Meals
  • Dancing
  • Exit

What Should You Consider When Creating Your Schedule?

How long it actually takes to get ready

Getting ready before the Ceremony commences often takes longer than expected especially with larger bridal parties. This can be especially time consuming if everyone is getting their hair & makeup done. The good news?
The fixes are really simple.

  1. You can just allow way more time than you need. If you have a larger bridal party and you just know your prep time will be filled with laughter, conversation, and toasts that will slow down the work of your make-up artists & hair stylists. Allowing more time is the easiest fix. This works well if you have selected a photography package that does not limit your time.
  2. If time is a concern, you might want to consider hiring additional stylists/make-up artists. With larger parties, having additional staff on hand will ease the stress of sticking to a pre-planned timeline. This is also a great choice if you are less excited about waking up at the crack of dawn to ensure your hair is down before the ceremony begins!

Pro Tip 3: Get your hair and make-up done last so you look fresh & feel confident as you walk into your ceremony.

Pro Tip 4: Make sure you coordinate times with your photographers so they can also capture the groomsmen getting ready.

When organising your timeline communicate frequently with your make up artists & stylists, they will be able to give you a more accurate estimate on time. For peace of mind, add some padding onto those estimates so that getting ready is stress free, full of smiles & champagne.

During The Ceremony

When it comes to your ceremony it is important to consider what time of the year you are getting married, and whether it will be held outdoors or indoors. The ceremony is beautiful, but your guests (and you) will be spending a lot of time in this location. Comfort is an important consideration.

Summer wedding?
If you are planning a summer wedding we would recommend having your ceremony later in the afternoon (especially if you are outdoors), the light will much softer resulting in the best possible photos. A later wedding will also mean cooler temperatures resulting in more comfort for you and your guests.

Winter wedding?
Winter weddings are the opposite (depending on where you are in the world of course), with the Sun setting earlier and putting out much less heat, an earlier start to your ceremony is probably a better option. This would only apply for outdoor settings of course, if your ceremony is heated and indoors timing is less of a concern.

If you have opted for an indoor night time wedding then you don’t need to worry to much about light or temperature. Lastly, when planning your timeline, it is important to allow one and a half too two hours in between your ceremony and reception. This time will be used for your group shots, family portraits, bridal party photos, and couple shots. We have found that two hours is enough time to get all the photos without any stress, but also, not too much time that your guests start wondering about when the party begins.

If you have any concerns about how long the ceremony will take, talk with your wedding planner or venue host. They will be able to give you a clearer idea on how much time you need to allocate.

Pro Tip 5: Add some padding time in. No doubt you will be flooded with guests wanting to congratulate you just after.

Onto The Portraits

Make sure you don’t forget to include portrait taking time in your schedule. This is also a great time to escape and just be in love with one another, sharing laughter and joy before heading in to celebrate with friends and family at the reception. We recommend allowing 15 – 25 minutes for group and bridal party photos (aim for the bigger allotment of time if you have a large bridal party), 15 minutes for family photos, and 45 minutes for portraits. Some photographers will be faster or slower, but these times are a good starting point. When you sit down to plan with your photographer/s they will be able to give you more guidance depending on your group sizes/numbers.

There are some additional factors to take into consideration when planning out your portrait session. We recommend allocating a time for portraits closer to sunset, the light is softer and will result in much better images. It is also important to factor in your mood. You want to be feeling stress free & filled with love as you go into your portrait photos. This is why we recommend you plan portraits after your ceremony, and directly after some quality time spent with your bridal party (the one’s that keep you calm and laughing).

Time & travel are two more important factors. If your photos are taking place offsite, or your ceremony & reception are at two different venues, make sure you plan this into your schedule. Buffer time is a huge help in these situations! Imagine something unplanned (like traffic, or an event) slows down your transport, what kind of mood would that put you in?

Always. Always! Allow that little buffer & feel at peace knowing you can focus on being present during this beautiful celebration of love. We would recommend adding an extra 15 minutes to your travel time. If you are planning offsite photos then consider planning for parking time, driving time, and walking to locations.

Time For The Reception

The key to a smooth reception is details. Make sure everyone who is a part of your reception is on the same page when it comes to the timeline of formalities like speeches, cake cutting, first dances, or sunset portraits. When you have a detailed plan communicated far in advance you can let your hair down and take in the atmosphere, knowing the formalities are in the hands of your vendors.

Make sure you include 10 – 15 minutes to shoot some sunset portraits with your photographers (it is important to factor in when the sun is setting of course). Every couple we have shot has not regretted leaving the celebrations for 15 minutes to capture some stunning sunset photos.

Another consideration is timing of formalities. If you paid for a smaller photography package, consider getting all of your formalities out of the way first (who knows how long the dancing will go on once it starts?). This means your photographers can capture all the important moments before leaving you to dance the night away with your closest friends and family. We love doing “Sparkler Exits” or “Confetti Exits” before the night is over, if you plan these in ahead of time you can be certain all these special moments will be captured before your photographers leave.

Detailed planning before your wedding is an absolute game-changer! Low stress = More joy… it’s a simple step to take but will completely change how you feel going into the day. It is important to remember that no matter how much planning you put in, some things will still go wrong. It is hard to control the weather right? Don’t feel anxious in these moments, you have planned for them by hiring great photographers, planners, caterers, and professionals who will work with you to turn a troubled moment into a magical opportunity.

In the end, no matter what, we will make things work; just keep talking with your photographers and the other professionals you have hired so everyone can make any last minute changes if required. Buffer space is a big one! Leave yourself plenty of time for those “Oh Shoot!” unplanned moments. You can spend that extra stress free time cuddling loved ones and toasting with Champagne. Planning ahead, with your wedding timeline in hand, enables you to sit back, relax, and enjoy every minute of your special day!

Do you have some additional tips or questions?
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