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Today I wanted to give you all an overview into the timings of a typical wedding day. Now I know that not all weddings may follow this same format, but its a good starting point if you are struggling to work out how long you’ll need to get ready or when to tell your evening guests to arrive. In general I always think adding in ‘buffer time’ to all of these aspects of your wedding day is a good idea, as that way you wont be rushing or disappointed if you have to make amendments to your plans on the day.


I usually like to arrive around 2 hours before you plan to leave for your ceremony to photograph you getting ready. During this time I’ll capture the little details such as your jewellery, shoes etc and also photograph what’s happening around me. If you want coverage of both the bride and groom’s morning prep factoring in more time is essential to ensure I can get to both of your in plenty of time (if logistics don’t work out for this I will send my second shooter to the boys, but I am a control freak and if I can do both – I will!). I’ve found the guys generally take about 30 minutes to get ready so its ideal if you’re staying in the same place as I can pop over to them and come back to bridal prep afterwards. Alternatively I can always do a ‘mock-up’ getting ready of the boys before heading to see the bride.

Other things to consider in this time is that it will usually take around an hour for make-up and another hour for hair, make sure you factor this time in, and work out a schedule and order if your hair and make-up artists are getting other people ready too.


I always recommend you allow an hour to get into your dress. This may seem excessive but having some buffer time here is important as I guarantee things ALWAYS run over. The last thing you want to feel is flustered and stressed whilst rushing to put you dress on. By allowing an hour you can get dressed slowly, have your hair and make-up retouched. Have a glass of champagne and even have some time for photographs of your all ready together before you need to leave for the ceremony. This is also the ideal time to set up for your Dad to see you in your dress (a reaction I love to capture).

Depending on the location of your ceremony I will have to leave at least 20 minutes before you to ensure I have time to park my car, chat to your vicar/registrar and get prepared for your arrival.


Ceremony times differ depending on the type of ceremony that you have chosen. Typically civil ceremonies last around 30 minutes, and church ceremonies last about an hour. Of course timings can always differ and depend on the amount of readings and hymns you choose as well.

A Northern Ireland photographer captures a lit stage with the words "Mr. and Mrs." displayed prominently.


Allow 20 minutes here as understandably your guests will want to congratulate you as they exit your service. Once this has happened I like to set up your confetti shot (if it is allowed) or go straight into your group photographs whilst all your guests are still nearby.


When it comes to the more formal group portraits I recommend you pick 5-8 groups maximum. This will take about 40 minutes and I promise you will be bored if we try to do too many more (as will your guests!!) As a general rule each photo will take at least 5 minutes as guests will wander off, pop to the loo or back to the car. The more time we spend on groups, the less time there will be to capture the more natural candid photographs of your guests.


Now as I’m sure you are aware for viewing my work, I love the couple portrait part of the day and ideally would like to borrow you for as long as I can. Ideally 30 minutes or if we can one set of 30 minutes during your drinks reception and then perhaps another 20-30 minutes later in the day (weather depending). For these photos we can stay at the venue or travel to a nearby location such as a beach or field, you just need to factor in the time.

For summer weddings there is the luxury of longer days and more natural light (and hopefully nice warm sunshine!) so by doing your photos in two sets we can use your later slot to capture the golden hour sunshine in the evening. Also in winter having a second set planned means we can use some off camera flash for some striking portraits too.


Once your guests have arrived at the venue for your reception after your ceremony I recommend you allow between 1.5 and 2 hours before your guests are seated for your wedding breakfast. During this time your group shots will happen (unless we took them at the church) as well as your couple photographs. I will also use this time to capture candid documentary style photographs of your guests mingling and chatting to each other.  (in some cases the ceremony and reception will be at the same place, which buys you lots more time!)


I’m sure you’ve spent lots of time creating details for your wedding day, and I want to be sure they are never forgotten by grabbing a few photographs for you. I like to dash into the wedding breakfast room before your guests are seated to photograph your hard work (before it gets untidy!) This only takes 15 minutes so letting the venue staff know you’d like this done before seating guests is great. I usually manage to do this quickly during the drinks reception, as long as the room is set up ready.


When it comes to your guests being seated for dinner times can differ depending on your plans. If you’re not planning a receiving line (where you two plus your parents greet each guest as they enter the room) then it will normally take about 10-15 minutes for your guests to be seated. If you do opt for the receiving line these can take up to 40 minutes, they always take much longer than you think!!


Check with your caterers beforehand but in general a traditional 3 course sit down meal will take roughly 2 hours. Less traditional plans such as barbeques, or afternoon teas may take less time.


Speeches vary from wedding to wedding depending on who is giving the speech. Some are over in 20 minutes and others will last for hours! Have a think about how much time you realistically will have left after finishing your meal to slot in your speeches. A great tip is to let those who are giving speeches know that their speech must fit within a certain time frame. Ask them to practise ahead of time so that this part of the day doesn’t delay the proceedings for your evening festivities (there is nothing worse than your evening guests arriving, whilst your speeches are still going on!)


This again will depend on your venue and the plans you have in place. If your wedding breakfast is taking place in the same room that your evening plans will be in the venue staff will need to turn the room aorund. This is best done straight after speeches as tables will need to be cleared and moved around. Plus your DJ will need to get set up. If you are having a live band play your evening reception they can often need up to an hour to bring in, set up and sound check their equipment.


Cutting your cake doesn’t take long at all, and is best done just before your first dance. By now all of your evening guests will have arrived and your band or DJ will be ready to go. Cutting the cake can be the start of kicking off the evening fun!


If you head into your first dance straight from your cake-cutting your guests will already be assembled and their attention will already be on you. Which means once you have wowed them with your funky shapes they will all be right there ready to pounce onto the dance floor straight away. (always ask your DJ or band to encourage your guests to dance too! No one likes wallflowers!!)

I usually stay for about 30 minutes after your first dance to capture lots of fun shots of your guests before I’ll head off for the evening and leave you all to dance into the small hours of the next day.

Hope this post has helped you get a grip on your wedding day time plan! Now you have you timings sorted check out this post on how to write a wedding day timeline

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