How To Plan A Wedding Day That Works For You
A Wedding Timeline can make or break your wedding day. This timeline always varies between couples because each person has a different vision of their day. As a Wedding Photographer and Wedding Videographer working across Vancouver Island (located in Victoria BC and Campbell River BC) I have seen over one hundred weddings and all the different timelines. I’ve seen timelines that work amazing, and timelines that were honestly pretty terrible – so I’m here to help you avoid that! This blog shares my top wedding day timeline tips so you can stress less on your big day!
When I am hired as a Wedding Photographer or Wedding Videographer, I plan a 30-60 minute call with my wedding clients so we can discuss the timeline in greater detail! I give you all the advice, tips and tricks I can think of when planning a wedding day timeline. Here are the wedding timeline planning details we discuss on every call!
When booking a Wedding Videographer or Wedding Photographer for a larger wedding (25+ people with multiple plans happening), then the standard is around 7-10 hours of wedding coverage. This is for a great reason. Having wedding coverage for these hours allows you to have memories and images from each of the big moments, and all the little ones.
I hear two regrets from almost every single client.
- I wish we hired you for more time
- I wish we would have had you film the ceremony / speeches / entire day
The Best Wedding Day Timelines Tips From A Wedding Photographer and Videographer are…
Getting Ready Photography Coverage: 75-100 Minutes
Time Allotment: 75 – 100 minutes for Getting Ready Coverage
Getting Ready photos and videos are important. Like way more important than people think. This time isn’t just “oh, a picture of you getting your makeup done and a picture of someone doing your hair,” it’s all the little details. The dress, the rings, boquets, jewellery, your parent writing/reading their speech for the evening, you and your wedding party sharing laughs, your best friend helping you into your dress, the beautiful details of how you look the moment you are officially a bride, the look on your friends faces when you come out in your dress, and much more.
During the getting ready portion, as a wedding photographer I visit both the bride and the groom. If everyone is getting ready near by, it makes life pretty easy for the photographer to go back and forth, but if you are getting ready in separate locations then it is important to take that into consideration.
Bride’s Getting Ready Location
As I mentioned above, it’s the wedding photographers job to capture all the details (flowers, rings, invitations, food, dresses, bridal makeup, shoes and more) but my personal favourite moments are the calm before the storm. Everyone feels at peace in the morning, sharing laughs and bonding. This is a great time to spend with family as well since it can be hard to visit them for long periods of time during all the excitement on the wedding day. The pictures with parents during this time are always some of my client’s favourites.
Tip: Keep all your details in one place to make it easy for the photographer! A few minutes for some detailed shots then it’s back to getting ready
Tip: Do a bridesmaid first look or a Father-Daughter / Mother-Daughter first look to get some fun reaction wedding photos.
Groom’s Getting Ready Photography Location
Same Location as bride = doesn’t take much time so getting ready photo time allocation doesn’t need to change.
Different Location as bride = take the drive time into consideration when allocating time to photograph this portion of the day
Photographing or Filming the guys getting ready is a quicker process than the ladies typically, but it is equally as important. As a wedding photographer I like to focus on the detail shots of shoes, ties, getting the suit one, laughing with friends, the candid moments, having a drink, sharing gifts or surprises, and relaxing before the celebrations start.
This time includes photographs of the groom alone to get those sharp, classic wedding portraits. I also highly recommend having a parent come by to help. Nothing makes a mom or dad happier than having photos of a nice moment of them and their son together. These are the moments worth cherishing because you get to be really present with your parent.
Back to Bride’s Getting Ready Location
Going back to the Bride’s location may or may not happen.
If you are located at the same resort / property on your wedding day then a Wedding Photographer can go back and forth between the Groom and the Bride.
If you are located at different properties, then it is best for the Wedding Photographer to start with the Groom and finish with the Bride.
At the end of the getting ready session for the bride, the Wedding Photographer will take more creative images of the bride grabbing her dress, the dress being put on, the first look reaction from her friends or a parent!
This is also a great time to take photos with the Bridesmaids when everyone is ready. The wedding day can get quite busy and exciting, so it’s nice to do these photos first thing in order to ensure they get done.
Advice: Take photos of the bride with each of her bridesmaids when everyone is ready! That way there will be no forgetting those photos, and it frees up time later in the day.
To recap, the final part of the getting ready portion will include
1) The dress being put on, and portraits of the bride
2) A ‘First Look; with Bridesmaids, the Bride’s Mother, or the Bride’s Father
3) Photos with each individual bridesmaid and the group as a whole. Again this frees up time later in the day when the big celebrations begin.
Next Step: First Look vs. Ceremony
Option 1: Ceremony First Look
Depending on your Wedding Day Timeline, you will likely do a ‘First Look’ before the Wedding Ceremony or right before!
A Ceremony First Look is when the couple sees each other for the first time that day, during the actual ceremony itself. This is usually the more traditional approach and is a really amazing moment. The build up is intense, and the reaction is always something special.
As a Wedding Photographer and Wedding Videographer, I like to have at least 15 minutes at the wedding ceremony site before it begins. This time ensures that I capture the groom mingling with guests, people arriving, the set up, setting the scene, and showing the excitement on peoples’ faces beforehand.
Option 2: Private First Look Before The Ceremony
A Pre-Ceremony “First Look’ is when the couple sees each other before the actual Wedding Ceremony. This is something I like a little bit more, and for good reason! There are PLENTY of upsides to seeing your partner before the Wedding.
Why Should We Plan A ‘First Look’?
- The Couple can get rid of any nerves ahead of time. In my experience, people can get very nervous/anxious before a big ceremony. They’ve spent all morning without their person and they just want to see them. If the nerves are really intense, sometimes it makes people ‘black out’ most of their ceremony because of how intense the emotions are. If a couple plans a first look ahead of time, they can decompress together, get rid of any stress, and ensure they are much more present during the ceremony.
- It makes for a much better Wedding Day Timeline! If you do a ‘first look’ before the ceremony, you can get all of your wedding portraits done ahead of time. You can get the photos done when you are looking your best / most fresh, and then free up time after the ceremony to just be present.
- The beautiful thing about a first look ahead of time is that it opens an extra 30-90 minutes of photo taking after the wedding ceremony. For example, if you wait to see each other until the Wedding Ceremony, then typically we will spend 30 minutes after doing family photos, and another 60-90 minutes doing Wedding Party Photos and Wedding Portraits. Therefore, if you do a first look beforehand, you can get these Wedding Party and Wedding Portraits shots out of the way before the ceremony. This way, you can go right into the celebrations afterward!
The last thing I will note is that if you plan on having an earlier Wedding Ceremony then it’s totally fine to do photos after since we will have all day. But if you plan on having a late Ceremony (around 4-6pm) then I highly recommend a first look so you two can actually see each other on your wedding day!
Option 2: Best Wedding Day Timeline
Let’s say you decide to do a First Look. You open your schedule up so much more! This way, you can get all of those ‘must have’ photographs done with your wedding party and your partner. It would look something like this:
75-90 Minutes Getting Ready
30 Minutes First Look + Wedding Portraits
30-60 Minutes With The Wedding Party Pictures
20-40 Minutes Wedding Ceremony
30 Minutes for Family and Friends to Congratulate you + Family Pictures
60-90 Minutes Candid Cocktail Hour + Friend Photos
30 Reception Intro and Excitement
90-120 Minutes for Dinner and Dessert
10-45 Minutes of Speeches and Reactions
90-180 Minutes of First Dances, Guests Dancing, Games, Cake Cutting, any extra celebrations
Let me explain a few of these things in more detail here:
20-40 Minutes is the industry average. When it comes to more religious ceremonies, those can last around 30-60 minutes, whereas non-religious ceremonies can be quicker! As a Wedding Photographer and Wedding Videographer, I typically see about 25-minute ceremonies.
Post Wedding Ceremony
At every wedding I have attended, the family and friends are eager to congratulate the couple after the ceremony! I usually give 10-30 minute buffer time here depending on the size of the wedding. It’s the perfect time to hug and say hi to all your guests, and potentially have a champagne toast with the whole crew.
My goal as a Photographer and Videographer is to let these moments breathe. I don’t want to be in your face bossing people around the whole time. Once there is a natural lull, I will gather everyone for Family Photos.
Family Photos On Your Wedding Day
Family Photos should take no more than 30 minutes. This is the absolute longest they should take. I go as quick as possible to shuffle family members in the photos.
Tip #1 Another big regret I hear from couples is that they missed certain family members that they wish got in the photos. I recommend making a list of people you have to have in the photos. A Wedding Photographer can easily call out the names of people and get things moving.
Tip #2 Take the Family Photos at the CEremony site – that way, people won’t go wandering or to the bathroom. As soon as one person goes missing, it is game over and the photos become some what of a nightmare for the couple. It is painful to just stand and smile forever, so let’s avoid this.
Best Wedding Day Timeline (Ceremony First Look)
If you decide that you want to wait to see each other until the ceremony, then this is the ideal Wedding Day Timeline for that kind of set up:
75-120 Minutes of Getting Ready
- This includes photos of all the groomsmen variations, bridesmaid variations, natural photos with the bride/groom with their parents, and more. It’s important to get as many of these photos done in the morning to limit the photo taking time after the wedding ceremony
30-50 Minute Wedding Ceremony Coverage
- This includes the groom and groomsmen arriving to the ceremony site, greeting guests, some buffer time for the Wedding Photographer to prep for the big reveal, etc.
- Tip: Have a ceremony before 2pm so that you can see each other sooner in the day and open up more time for photos and mingling afterward
30-50 Minute Post Ceremony Congratulations with Fiends, Family + Family Photos
60-90 Minutes Wedding Party Photographs and Wedding Portraits
- This timeline depends on how much walking we have to do, or travel to get to a great outdoor setting. Wedding Party Photographs typically take 30-50 Minutes, while Wedding Portraits can add another 20-30 minutes. Take travel time or walking time into consideration here!
60-90 Minutes Candid Moments during Cocktail Hour
90-150 Minutes of Dinner and Speeches
- In my experience, dinner usually lasts at least 1 hour by the time everyone gets served. I highly recommend doing speeches before, during dinner or just at the end of dinner!
60-120 Minutes First Dances, Gusts Dancing, Games and Cake Cutting
Tip: Sneak away from your Reception for 10-20 minutes of Sunset Wedding Portraits or just private time to decompress from all the excitement
Wedding Party Photo Details
Wedding Party Photos and Wedding Portraits go hand in hand. When it is time for this kind of photographs we will likely go to a few different locations together. As a wedding photographer, I will mix up the variations of people in different locations.
For example, if we are at the beach I might do photos of the entire wedding party in front of the ocean. Then I might do photos of the couple alone in front of the water too. THen we might move to a different ‘background’ like the trees to take photos of just the bridesmaids or just the groomsmen. We will mix photos of everyone, just the guys, just the gals, just the couple, just the wedding party, and so on!
Wedding Photographer Tip: This is my best tip I can give. Bring a cooler with food, drinks, and a speaker to this part of your wedding day. Some people aren’t super comfortable in front of a camera, but nothing pumps people up like music, drinks and food. Let’s not leave anyone ‘hangry’ for this part of the day. This way, if I am just taking photos of the Couple, then the rest of the wedding party can enjoy some snacks and relax for a bit!
One the Wedding Party Photos, Wedding Portraits, and Family Photos are all done, it’s time to really celebrate! The pressure is gone and it’s party time.
For the most part, as a Wedding Photographer and Videographer, I think some of THE BEST candid moments come at the Wedding Reception. This is where all the natural moments happen with EVERYONE. The bursts of laughter during the speeches, the tears, the love and intimacy during the first dance, the glances between the two of you, and of course the joy, connection, and realness. This is when some really quick, fleeting, yet impactful and memorable moments take place.
You might be wondering..
Why do we need so much coverage and time allocated to the reception?
60-90 Minutes Candid Moments during Cocktail Hour
These timelines are of course just a rule of thumb. I find that couples like to have at least a bit of time to mingle with their guests, enjoy the appetizers and drinks, do touch ups on their hair and makeup, sneak away for alone time with each other, and much more.
Usually if you wait until the ceremony to see each other, then you will likely skip cocktail hour and use this time to take photos!
90-180 Minutes Dinner and Speeches
If you have more than 40 guests at the Reception, then dinner is always a minimum of one hour. It takes time for every single person to get food, get seconds, and then potentially grab some dessert.
Tip: Start your wedding speeches before dinner if you have a big gap between the cocktail hour and dinner.
Tip: If you are getting right into dinner early (5pm or 6pm) then start the speeches just before dinner is completely finished.
60-180 Minutes First Dances, Guests Dancing, Games and Cake Cutting
I always allocate bout 20 minutes for the First Dances because it takes time for people to gather, a couple first dance, a father-daughter or mother-son first dance, and then a dance for all the guests to join in on!
Time will literally be FLYING at this point in the day. Every 30 minutes goes by and it feels like 5 minutes have passed. This is likely going to be the most upbeat, funny part of the day, but it will go by in a blink of an eye. Hence why I spend so much time at a reception.
Things I love to capture after the reception dinner: First dances, the guests really getting after it on the dance floor, moments between family on the dance floor, hilarious jokes being told, funny last minute speeches, the shoe game, fun cake cutting, drinking games or wedding games, clinking glasses to make the couple kiss, sharing stories, big group pictures with old friends, bouquet tosses or garter tosses, limbo, picking the groom up on a chair on the dance floor, funny relatives getting down on the dance floor too, and many many more moments
Remember This When Planning Your Wedding Day Timeline
When you are deciding on what to do on your Wedding Day and which moments you want to have, I always recommend you think to the future. Pretend you are on your 10 year wedding anniversary going through your Wedding Album. Which images do you want to see? What do you want to remember most? What do you want family and friends to see? Which moments will be most meaningful to you? Really think on this.
For someone who wants ALL their memories captured on their wedding day, I recommend you hire a Wedding Photographer and/or Wedding Videographer for 8-11 hours.
For someone that plans to have a smaller, shorter wedding day, then perhaps a 6-7 hour timeframe would be best. But just keep in mind which moments you think you will value most in the future and whether or not you will get that on camera.
Either way, in my experience as a Wedding Photographer, about 90% of my clients extend their package time. So if you have any questions about a timeline please reach out, I am happy to help regardless of where you are located!
When Couples Book With Me, my packages include a planning session to go over all of these details and figure out what is most important to them.