Wedding Day Timeline Advice

As a wedding photographer, one of the most challenging aspects of your job can be contending with the wedding day timeline. Timings are often provisionally in place before you’ve even had time to consider what “must have” photos you’d like.

As a result, timelines can sometimes be a little unrealistic and aren’t always structured with achieving the best photographic results in mind. Sometimes this is due to necessity and sometimes couples underestimate how long things will take. Venues may suggest timings better suited to a more formal wedding, when you’re hoping for a relaxed and free flowing day.

If your photos are important to you, it is essential that you make sure you know and understand just how long achieving the results you want will take. This will allow you to make informed decisions when timelines are presented to you, or you’re asked what time you would like your meal served.

Remember, if things are running late for whatever reason photo time will often be the first thing to be cut so allowing some buffer time is advisable too.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography


Things to consider
  • Are one of you, or both of you having prep coverage
  • Where are you both getting ready
  • What time do you need to leave for your ceremony

Although our service is completely tailored to you and your needs, as a guide we’d suggest that if either of you are having hair and/or makeup done, we arrive with them first.

We suggest arriving around 3 hours before your ceremony is due to begin.

This allows sufficient time to capture some natural moments and finishing touches, as well as the keepsake photographs such as those of the dress, shoes or gifts.

If you both require prep

If you’re both getting ready at the same location, such as a hotel or your venue, we can provide coverage of both of your preparations easily. If you’re getting ready at separate locations away from your venue we are happy to discuss logistics with you and see what is possible.

Things to bear in mind
  • If you’re getting ready away from your venue, we will need to leave at least 20 minutes ahead of you. This allows us enough time to find parking, unload our car and get our equipment (and ourselves) in place prior to your arrival. Please factor this into your timings and aim to be ready 30 minutes before you need to leave. This applies in particular to brides who are getting ready away from their ceremony venue.
  • If you’re getting ready at your venue, we will leave you to it once the registrars arrives to speak with you, so aim to be ready half an hour before your ceremony.

We are often contacted by brides stating that their hair &/or makeup artist needs to know when we’d like them to be ready for photographs. We do not require you to be ready by a particular time. Our coverage is totally natural. We do not interfere, set up or pose photographs ahead of the ceremony at all.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

The Ceremony

If you’ve booked a wedding car or bridal carriage, aim to arrive at the ceremony location at least 5 minutes before you would have done ordinarily. It should only take a moment or two to capture some lovely natural shots of you arriving. If you’re early you can always drive around the block a couple of times if need be. Being late isn’t something that you should ever plan for as it will set you back for the rest of the day. Contrary to popular belief it is not common, expected or favoured for a bride to intentionally arrive late- more often than not it just makes your guests uncomfortable, puts your suppliers on edge and registrars/celebrants will not be happy bunnies.

wedding day timeline

Post Ceremony (drinks reception)

Post ceremony we advise the following timings:

  • Allow 10 minutes for everyone to exit your ceremony, greet and congratulate you
  • For the following 15 minutes allow your guests time enjoy drinks, canapés and nip to the loo
  • Allow around 20 minutes for group photographs (this is based on 10 small group shots)
  • Allow 10 minutes if you would like a confetti photo (this includes time to gather people, hand out confetti and time for you to shake it off!)
  • Allow 20-30 minutes of time for your guests and yourselves to just enjoy yourselves! Garden games, magicians, caricature artists, ice cream bikes and similar are all great during this time as they really get people interacting! (During this time one of us will be on guest photos, the other will get your details shots of your cake, room set up and other details)
  • Allow 15 minutes for some couples photos. All very natural and formality free of course!

That’s 1 hour 30/40 minutes accounted for pretty snuggly. If you have separate ceremony and reception venues, factor in any travel time ON TOP of the above timings. If you have entertainment planned during your drinks reception, we’d recommend a 2 hour drinks reception. This allows some buffer time just in case anything over runs in the morning. Unfortunately things like traffic can’t be accounted for, so best to be safe rather than sorry. This also gives you a bit of wiggle room for unexpected photos that may be sprung on you.

If your venue has suggested a receiving line, we’d advise against it. It eats up 30-45 minutes of precious reception time meaning you lose out on gorgeous natural images for the sake of a brief hello with your guests. Most couples choose to circulate during the reception and/or meal anyway, so for most people, a receiving line is an unnecessary formality.

Hertfordshire wedding at Tewinbury farm. Photo by Sam and Louise

The Meal

If you’re planning a sit down meal, these tend to take anything between 2-2.5 hours. During this time we’ll be doing things like getting photos of your venue, any details it wasn’t possible to get during the drinks reception and if we’re lucky, we’ll get to sit down for a few minutes. We do not photograph your guests whilst they’re eating. It makes for an uncomfortable atmosphere and awkward photos. If a meal is being provided for us at the venue, we will usually be served after all of your guests, so where possible we would suggest that speeches and other activities are not planned to take place during your meal (if you’d like them photographed that is) otherwise we will not get an opportunity to eat or sit down at all.

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

The Post Meal Gap

If, after your meal you have a small gap before your evening celebrations begin, this can be an ideal time to take a short breather with your new husband or wife to get a few more relaxed couple photos. An ideal time of day for this is the 30-40 minutes approaching sunset, so you can get the gorgeous, soft, golden images that so many of our couples love. You can find sunset times below so you can factor this into your timeline if these photos are important to you. Sunset times

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

The Evening

By this time, most, if not all of the formalities will have been taken care of, so for the most part you can forget about timings and let the evening happen naturally. The only thing to consider is that, unless otherwise agreed, our cut of time is 9pm due to the fact that we have 2 little dogs at home who can’t be left alone for too long. We therefore advise that if you’re planning a cake cut and/or first dance, these are scheduled to take place somewhere between 8pm and 8:30pm. This allows sufficient time to capture the key moments in addition to a good amount of shape throwing and disco dancing!

Suffolk wedding photographers, wedding photographers Suffolk, Sam and Louise Photography

Our top tips

  1. If you’re planning to give each other gifts on the morning of your wedding, (or to your bridesmaids etc) consider waiting until we arrive to open them. You probably wont be present when your husband or wife to be opens their card or gift, so having us document the moment is a really sweet addition to your gallery
  2. If you love natural photos where guests seem to be full of life, we cannot recommend that you provide some form of entertainment during your drinks reception enough. When guests have something to do, they forget the cameras and inhibitions are lost. Laughter, funny faces and joy are all evident when people are having a great time. It can help to bring shy guests out of their shell. Entertainment doesn’t need to be anything costly- a few garden games from places like home bargains go down a storm! Sack racing, space hoppers, random props and accessories, magic 8 balls with a few cheeky prompt cards, giant badminton and swing-ball are all super cheap, but really effective things we’ve observed over the last couple of years.

More specific tips can be found in our dedicated blogs which are linked below

And finally, if you have any questions at all, or need any advice regarding your photos or timings please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We are always happy to help and have 5 years of timeline planning experience. We want your day to be perfect and will help however we can.

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