Planning your wedding day timeline can seem like a confusing task at the beginning. You may have only been to a handful of weddings before and aren’t sure how long things take so it can be tricky to start to create your own wedding day timeline.
Fortunately, I’ve been to a lot of weddings and I can help you with my advice on planning your UK wedding day timeline.
Having a great wedding day timeline ensures your day has a good flow to it, there’s no rushing around or really long lulls in the day where nobody knows what to do. I strongly recommend having the wedding timeline either written on a board somewhere around your venue or included in the order of service.
As a photographer I can advise on your timeline from a photography point of view. But your wedding venue will also have their own advice and help and they know what works well at their venue. Other suppliers will also have certain time requirements and they will tell you this from experience. It’s a good idea to take everyone’s advice into account but above all, make sure you’re happy with the flow of your day.
This guide is for your inspiration and is just a suggestion- although hopefully gives you an idea of what your timeline could be. Your wedding will not fall to pieces if your timeline runs a little behind, none of your guests will even realise- I promise.
1.Your wedding morning
You’ll probably be awake in the early hours because of all the excitement and anticipation but if possible, aim for 8 hours of sleep the night before. If you’re well rested, your skin is healthier, you’ll have more energy and your mood will be better too. Start your day with a big glass of cold water and a filling breakfast too as it can be a long time until you eat again.
Usually you’ll be getting ready with your bridesmaids either in your home, a hotel or your venue’s bridal suite. If possible, try to avoid having too many people in the room – only your bridesmaids, photographer, make-up artist/hairdresser and maybe your mum should be in the room with you. Too many people can create a stressful environment and create a lot of clutter. As a photographer, I tend to arrive around 2 hours before your ceremony and the best thing for your photography on the morning of your wedding is to have a clean and tidy room when your photographer arrives.
Aim for all of you to have hair and make-up finished 1 hour prior to when you want to leave to go to your ceremony (or interview if you’re getting ready in the same location). By allowing an extra hour, if anything runs over you have that time as a buffer and it also allows for your to give gifts to bridesmaids and have final photographs taken before you put on your dresses too.
If you only have one photographer on your wedding day, your photographer will appreciate it if you are ready early. This means that they can head over to your ceremony venue early to capture your Groom looking nervous and your guests arriving. If you’ve opted for two photographers, your second photographer will be at your ceremony venue already.
Wedding morning tip- Before you head down to your ceremony, have a quiet moment with your Dad or whoever you have chosen to walk you down the aisle. This is a big moment for the both of you.
2. Your Ceremony
A traditional church ceremony in the UK can take anywhere between 45-90 minutes depending on how many hymns, readings or speeches your vicar does. A civil ceremony takes around 30 minutes with readings or as short as 15 minutes without readings!
Tip: If you’re going traditional, remember the bride’s family sit on the left and the groom’s sit on the right.
Personally, I think the best time for your wedding ceremony in the UK is around 12pm or 1pm. This allows your guests to have a light lunch beforehand and gives you enough time after your ceremony to fit everything else in.
After your ceremony, it can take a lot longer than you expect for all your guests to exit your ceremony venue if every person is stopping to hug and congratulate you on the way out. A way to speed this up is for you both to exit first and take yourselves away from where your guests will exit. This gives you the chance to have some time together whilst your photographer will gather your guests and organise everyone for the confetti shot. You both can then emerge, enjoy your confetti aisle and be greeted and congratulated by your guests afterwards.
Once at your reception venue, after you’ve walked through your confetti, it’s time to greet your guests and mingle with everyone. I recommend around 2 hours of reception time here. It sounds a long time but it will fly by. If you are worried about your guests being bored or hungry in this time, provide canapés, a drinks station and consider having some entertainment. You could have garden games, live music or even a magician.
Whilst this is happening, your guests are enjoying themselves and it gives your photographer some great opportunities to capture informal, documentary style candid photographs of your guests enjoying your day and unaware of the camera.
Every photographer will
divide up your drinks reception time differently. I normally let you
chat for half an hour or so before starting your family formal
photographs. You’ll have given your photographer a list of your
family photographs prior to the day and we also assign a member of
your family or a friend to gather the next group of people to make
the process quicker too. I normally limit it to 10 different family
groups and this can take around 45 mins but again, it depends on how
quickly we can gather the correct people for the photos.
After this, I let you guys be with your guests again and usually check on your wedding breakfast room to see if I can photograph it laid up before your guests get in there. Next, I’ll take you for couple portraits about 30 mins before you sit down for your meal. I’ll also take you away again at sunset but this time depends on the time of year you get married in. By taking you for your couple portraits just before your wedding breakfast, it allows your guests to be seated before you come into the room. Plus they won’t notice you’re gone as they’ll be busy finding their seats! I’ll bring you back in time to be entered into your breakfast room as newlyweds!
If you’re having a 3 course wedding breakfast, allow around an hour and a half for service. Traditionally, the speeches are after you’ve eaten and the order they go in is: Father of the bride, Groom, and then Best man. Although it’s becoming increasingly popular to have your speeches before your food is served or even in between mains and desert. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you tell your caterer because they’ll need to adjust timings accordingly and tell your photographer as they take a break whilst you eat and they want to make sure they’re around when your speeches start!
At most of the weddings I’ve attended, the evening guests arrive around 7:30pm. The first dance is what opens the dance floor for the evening party to start so it’s a great idea not to leave it too long after your evening guests have arrived. If your nervous about dancing in front of everyone, ask the band or DJ to announce everyone else onto the dance floor mid way through the song. I suggest they come in at the second verse to give your photographer enough time to capture the two of you dancing first.
Once you’ve had your first dance, all your guests can let their hair down! Every venue has different rules about what time the music must end and guests to depart so have a chat with your venue about that.
Example timeline for civil ceremony wedding at one location
8am: Bride and Bridesmaids start to get ready
10:30am: Photographer arrives
12pm: Bride is ready- gifts to be given
1:30pm: Confetti and greeting guests
2.00pm: Drinks reception and entertainment
2.30pm: Formal Group photographs
3.45pm: Bride & Groom Couple portraits
4.00pm: Guests to be seated in wedding breakfast room
4.30pm: Bride and Groom enter breakfast room and dinner is served
6.30pm: Speeches start
7.30pm: Evening guests to start arriving
8.15pm: Cake Cutting and First Dance
8.30pm: Music and dancing!
I hope these 6 secrets to planning the perfect timeline has been helpful for you. My best advice for your wedding day is to make sure that you take a moment together to just take in everything which is happening around you. Everyone says that your wedding day goes so fast and it truly does, by taking yourselves away for a moment to reflect on the day, it puts everything into perspective and you can really appreciate your wedding day.
I wish you an amazing wedding day!
If you enjoyed this click here to read 4 Secrets to Nail Your Confetti Photos!