I’m not sure whether it’s just the timekeeper in me or the fact that I know just how important a wedding day timeline is to guarantee that you have the best wedding day experience possible… I mean, I never like being rushed on any day, let alone on your wedding day! I always help my brides with their timeline 3 months out from their wedding (as I have pretty good idea how long everything takes these days!) BUT I thought I’d share an example with all of you, just in case your photographer hasn’t.
Please keep in mind, this timeline has been based on a traditional wedding day with a 3pm ceremony, however if you have decided to do a first look, join your guests at cocktail hour or you have booked your photographer for less than 8 hours, some of these segments might not apply to you. Trust me though, regardless of what your wedding day may look like, getting your timeline just right can make all the difference to the experience you have on your wedding day… and I want you both to have the very best time!
1. WEDDING DAY: GROOM COVERAGE – 45 – 60 mins
When I arrive at the location where the groom is getting ready, the first 20 minutes is all about his details. I always ask my grooms to have the following items assembled and put aside before I arrive:
– Suit, Cufflinks, Cologne, Shoes, Wedding rings and any gifts/letters that the bride might have given him are not to be opened until I’ve arrived (you want those moments documented!)
Depending on the timing of the ceremony, I generally don’t ask all the groomsmen to get ready (as it can be hours before they have to leave for the ceremony.) Instead, I’ll just get the groom and his best man to get dressed for me, consider it a practice run. This enables me to document the groom looking his best: his suit uncreased, his nerves not yet kicked in and his accessories all on point. Later in the day when I get to the ceremony, I’ll make sure to take some photos of the groom with all his groomsmen dressed in their suits – greeting guests and waiting for the girls to arrive. Keep in mind, if you want a photographer to be there for the entirety of the groom prep, you can always add additional hours to your package to make that happen – then there doesn’t have to be any getting ready practice runs – as it’s all documented as it unfolds naturally.
* remember to allow travel time to bride coverage if required
2. WEDDING DAY: BRIDE COVERAGE – 1.5 – 2 hrs
The first 30-45 minutes of coverage when I arrive is dedicated to the bride’s details, much like earlier at the grooms. I always ask my girls to make sure one room is left tidy, which will possibly be the room that I use to take photos of all her details, as well as when she is getting dressed into her wedding dress. Her details include:
– Wedding Dress (on a hanger – I bring wooden hangers with me in case they are needed), Florals, Shoes, Engagement ring, Perfume, Copy of invitation suite, Jewellery and any gifts/letters that the groom has given her or that she is giving to her bridesmaids – again, I ask that they aren’t opened until I’ve arrived!
By this time, the hair & makeup artists are usually doing their final touches – which is perfect for me to document candids of the bride & her bridesmaids (remember, no girls I know like to have photos taken before this time when their makeup isn’t on!) Also, keep in mind that coordinated PJ’s or robes make these pictures oh so much prettier!
The last hour is all about the bride getting dressed into her wedding dress, with the help of her bridesmaids and/or mum. Keep in mind that if it is a lace up gown, it can take 15-20 minutes just to ensure that the lacing is even (I used to work in a bridal store, so I know this all too well!) Then I document the bride putting on her earrings, jewellery, shoes, perfume & veil (sometimes the hair stylist may attach the veil before she leaves, which means it goes on a little earlier). With the remaining time, we take some portraits of the bride and some with her bridesmaids & family if time allows (if not though, don’t worry – we will get more of these after the ceremony too!)
* remember to allow travel time to the ceremony if required
3. WEDDING DAY: PRE-CEREMONY – 20-30 mins
Before the ceremony starts I document any ceremony decor or environmental factors (it all helps to tell the story of the day). I also photograph guests arriving and greeting the groom and I take some portraits of the groom & groomsmen in their suits. Normally for the groom, this is when it all starts to feel quite real, so I’m also there to settle his nerves (and quietly document them!)
4. WEDDING DAY: CEREMONY – 30-45 mins*
*This is controlled by your wedding officiant (celebrant/priest/pastor) – make sure you confirm this prior to the wedding so that your timeline can reflect this appropriately.
As a general rule of thumb, the suggested time for your ceremony to start is around 2-3 hours before sunset. This allows for the ceremony, congratulations, family portraits and the time with your bridal party for the bridal portraits, all to be done before the sun goes down… click here to read more about how to schedule your Ceremony time!
You might notice on the timeline above that I have allocated 45 minutes for the ceremony… even if your ceremony will be shorter than this, I recommend you still leave that amount of time on the timeline… Why? For two reasons, one being that it gives the bride a little time up her sleeve to be fashionably late and two, it also allows time after the ceremony for your friends & family to congratulate you both!! I love getting candids & natural reactions during these moments…
5. WEDDING DAY: GROUP PHOTO & FAMILY FORMALS – 30 mins
Some photographers don’t organise a group photo (which I totally get as it can be challenging) BUT… it is the one photo that you will have all your guests in all at once! I think it is a must have :) I will often organise with the wedding officiant (celebrant, pastor, priest) to announce it on their microphone so that it saves my voice a little – but if need be, I have a step ladder and can project my voice, so we will get it done for you easily & quickly.
After the group photo while I have everyone’s attention, I announce that family photos will be next. A few weeks before the wedding I always obtain a list of photos from the bride & groom, which means I can just call them out and we can get through them as quick and as easily as possible. Generally this will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on the sizes of your families.
* allow travel time to bridal portraits location if required
6. WEDDING DAY: CREATIVE BRIDAL PORTRAITS – 60-90 mins
I always discuss location ideas in detail when I meet with my couples in their pre-wedding meeting (read: catch up before the wedding, which generally involves a glass of wine and lots of wedding chit chat!) Then I always location scout each & every wedding location before the big day to ensure that I am fully prepared to capture the very best images of your day that I possibly can!
I like to shoot this portion of the day in 2 parts – starting with the bridal party and bride & groom for some fun photos to make sure everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves… then I generally leave the bridal party to have a few drinks while I steal the bride & groom away for some more intimate, romantic photos. This also allows the newlyweds some time to themselves to reflect on the day that they have just become husband & wife!
* allow travel time to the reception venue if needed
7. WEDDING DAY: PRE-RECEPTION – 30 mins
I always allow this time on a wedding day timeline, especially if you have to travel from the bridal portrait location to the reception venue… if it is all in one location, this time can be reduced a little. Generally though, the bride & her girls use this time to freshen up before entering into the Reception (this is especially important if you’re having a summer wedding), it also allows me as your photographer time to sneak in and document the decor & details of the reception (remember all those decisions you made about the styling and how your reception would look, they are the things that you need documented to remember in the years to come!)
8. WEDDING DAY: WEDDING RECEPTION – 3 hrs*
* This does depend on the collection & the amount of coverage you choose for your wedding day. Generally, my couples are choosing for me to document up until the end of the formalities which is around 9-9:30pm
Well this is it – I like to think of your reception as your wedding party!! Now, you get to really relax with your friends & family and just have fun. You get to eat cake, you get to dance until your feet ache and you get to celebrate with all of your loved ones, now as newlyweds. That’s exactly how I like to document it… my time will be spend focusing on candids – photos of your guests naturally having a good time. I’ll also be there to document the more formal aspects, such as your entrance, speeches, cake cutting, first dance… and then I always stay to get some of the crazy dance floor antics… I mean, how can I not!! Also, if my couples are up for it, I love to steal them away for 10 minutes for a quick sparkler photo before I leave. There is something just so romantic about a good sparkler photo and I’ve seen many of them on my couples walls of their home years after the wedding… which always makes me smile!
If you have arranged to make a grand exit, like a sparkler exit, and want that photographed, you can either upgrade your collection with more coverage or pay for an hourly rate for extra coverage, which means I am there until the very end, which is normally around 11pm!