Amy Taylor Photography | Wedding Day Timelines

Wedding Day Timelines

March 22, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Wedding Day Timelines

Creating the PERFECT one for your SPECIAL day

Amy Taylor - Kitchener wedding photographer


When it comes to planning your wedding, your timeline, is quite possibly the least fun thing to plan.  However, if you want your day to run as smoothly as possible, it is definitely worth sitting down and figuring one out.  A timeline will vary for a lot of people based on what is more important to them on their big day, these are just some of the things you will want to take into account.




Everyone does things differently, sometimes the bride is the first to have her hair and make up done, other times she is the last to have her make up done.  Make up and hair often takes longer than you think so keep that in mind when planning the day.  How does your dress do up?  Corset back? Buttons? Zipper?  Putting your wedding dress on and making sure it is perfect also takes longer than you think it will, especially if you have a corset back and no one knows how to do up a corset!  If having a button up dress, make sure you have one of those handy little button aids to help speed up the process.  



I'm a photographer, lighting is super important to me, but here's why you should care about it too. As I'm sure many of you know, the best time of the day to take photos is the two hours after the sun rises and the two hours before sun sets.  If you are wanting golden hour lighting for your portraits, then keep this in mind.  Also keep in mind that the time the sunsets in July is not the time the sunsets in November.  Take a look at the time the sun sets on your wedding day.  Now when planning your ceremony time, keep in mind you likely don't want to get married in the dark (or maybe you do!), and if you are planning on doing portraits after the ceremony we need there to be light still.  Ideally we won't be doing the bride and groom portraits in the middle of the day when the light is harsh either, something in the middle is perfect.  Your photographer will be more than happy to help you out with this!



Unless everything is all in one place, you will also have to account for the time it takes to get between places.  How long is the drive from where you are getting ready to the ceremony location?  Ceremony to photo locations? Photo locations back to reception?   Also keep in mind what traffic may be like on that given day as well.  Build this into your timeline.



There are a lot of different types of weddings out there, the most popular seems to be the 3-4pm ceremony start time.  However, there are some really fun options out there, Brunch weddings, sunset weddings, each has their own advantage and have disadvantages as well.  Maybe you have booked a venue that does multiple weddings a day and your ceremony time is set in stone and you will have to base your day around that.  Length of ceremony is something to factor in as well, is it a quick 20 minutes ceremony or a long traditional ceremony that takes an hour or more.



Another thing to consider when planning out your timeline.  Will you be doing a first look before the ceremony?  If you haven't heard of this, it's when the bride and the groom see each other before the wedding, usually a private moment between the couple (and photographer). These can be great for a few reasons.  First, it can be really relaxing for couples who may have some nerves about public appearances.  Second, you can make it super romantic!  Spend some time together talking, exchanging gifts perhaps, or sharing a few special words that you might not want to share with all your guests at the ceremony.   Also, it gives you the opportunity to do the portrait part of the day before the ceremony, so when the ceremony is over you can join your guests and enjoy cocktail hour and get to the party!  A first look may or may not be for you, there certainly are some benefits so give it some thought.




Many bride and grooms like to do family photos on the wedding day.  It is usually easiest to do them directly following the ceremony while all members of the family are still all in one place. Make sure you ask everyone ahead of time to hang back for family portraits, so they don't go skipping off to the bathroom or off to the cocktail hour.  Depending on how many family groupings you are doing, family photos can take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, averaging around 30 minutes. I always start with the large groups and work my way down in size.




I personally like to start with the large wedding party photo. From there I like to do the groomsmen and then the bridesmaids.  Girls, unfortunately in this case it's best if you go last, the guys lose interest in doing photos a lot quicker than women do and it's super hard to get men motivated to pose for photos when what they really want to be doing is getting to the party.  Ladies, you are much more tolerant, so thanks for making the photographers job a little bit easier!  Usually the wedding party photos can be done in as little as 20 minutes.


Now for bride and groom photos, I prefer to work with just the couple so we can get these done as quickly as possible and get you to your guests as fast as possible.  These photos will take at least a half hour, ideally we will have an hour or more together and will have some time to go around to different locations to get some variety in the images.  When figuring out timing for this portion, consider location of where images will take place.  Are we going to be out in the open or are we going to be in the shade,  if we are going to be out in the open then you will want the prettiest , softest, most flattering light possible and will want to avoid doing these portraits mid day, in the middle of the summer that time range would be from 11am until 5:00 pm, in the spring or fall that time would be 11-3:30.  That's not to say that we can't do them during that time frame, it's just that the lighting won't be as ideal as it would be later (or earlier) in the day.   If your timeline doesn't allow for you to do the bulk of your portraits during the more ideal lighting times, consider scheduling 15 mins or so after dinner that you can sneak out for some gorgeous evening light portraits.  It's a nice chance to again have a few minutes away from the crowds to enjoy your new spouse and sneak in some kisses and cuddles.  Check what time the sunsets that day and ideally schedule your break away at least 15 minutes before the sun sets. (keeping in mind that it takes longer to escape your party than you think it will).  




What time will the meal be served?  Will there be appetizers during cocktail hour?  If you are doing appetizers you won't need to be in such a rush to start dinner and may be able to push it back a half hour if you need to if you are choosing to do your portraits after the ceremony.  Serving and eating dinner will take longer than you think, if you have a large number of guests and are doing buffet style, it will take a while for everyone to go through the line.   Ask your caterer how long they think the meal will take for the number of guests you are serving.  PRO TIP  If you feed your photographer at the same time you are eating, they will be done eating and they will be ready to get back to work in time for speeches.  




Before dinner, after dinner, during dinner, during dessert, there are so many options these days of doing things  Do what works best for you!  Depending on the group of people, these may be short and sweet, or they may be long winded filled with slideshows, or maid of honour rap tributes.  Just keep in mind they may take longer than you think they will.




If you are getting a cake and want people to watch you shove cake in each other's faces, consider cutting the cake while everyone is seated and you already have their attention, either after your entrance or after dinner and before toasts.  This way you could use your wedding cake as dessert as well! 




Wedding day's can be really hectic, it may feel as if there are so many things to do that you don't get to enjoy your time with your new spouse on the first day of your new journey together.  Make sure you set aside some time where you can have a few private moments to enjoy each other's company. Whether you have the DJ play your second favourite song for you to dance to during the reception.  Or even sneak away with the photographer for those sunset shots and take a few extra minutes to make your way back to the party (this of course is the photographer's recommendation lol).  Whatever you do, make sure you have time to enjoy your new spouse!




How many hours have your hired your photographer for?  What are the most important parts of the day you want captured? Not really into the getting ready photos, that's fine, have your photographer start once you are dressed and ready.  Love those getting ready images?  Fabulous, so do I!  Ideally, I would show up when the bride is having her hair done, this will give me lots of time to photography all the accessories and dress in time for the finishing touches with makeup.  I will ask for all the accessories that are going to be photographed - bouquet, jewellery, ALL wedding rings, purse, perfume, an invitation, anything special that is pretty!  (For the guys, I ask that they would have shoes, tie, special socks, cufflinks, watch, anything of that nature ready for me to quick photograph.)  First I shoot the details and then I will check in with the bride and see how she is coming along, we won't start photographing until the finishing touches usually.   Keep in mind that if there is only one photographer they need time to be in both places to capture both bride and groom getting ready, if there are two photographers, great, maybe they can split up.  Is there a time when the photographer can get to the reception hall for untouched detail shots, keeping in mind the time that the reception room will be fully decorated, flowers delivered and set up. That beautiful head table, the beautiful place settings, the cake, all the little details you have been obsessing about for months, is there time in your photographers schedule to go and shoot those things without having the room filled with people?  Cake cutting, first dance, are these things you want photographed?  If so make sure you schedule them in to be done before your photographer is done for the night.  Are you planning a sparkler exit that you want photographed?  You don't have to do it at the very end of the night, twilight is a really nice time to do it so there is a bit more natural lighting.  Also if planning a sparkler exit, please let me know ahead of time, I have lots of tips for you!



All in all, there are a lot of things to consider when planning your wedding day timeline, if you have hired a wedding planner for the day, they will certainly have lots of great ideas to help you out.  Your photographer will have some suggestions as well.  Just remember, the most important thing is that it is your wedding day, and you are marrying the person of your dreams, make sure it's a day that you will enjoy! 







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