How to plan the timings for your wedding day


Why it’s important to plan properly

Before jumping into the schedule, lets take a moment to ask ‘why bother?’. So what if the day runs late? Here’s just a few reasons:


  •       Your guests get hungry!
  •       Your hotel has to keep the food warm
  •       Your photographer needs time to capture your day perfectly
  •       You want time to chill out with your guests


Decide what’s important to you!

Decide what is important to you and plan for it. For example, if your priority is amazing photography, then plan some extra time for that. If you want to spend time with guests, make sure you have it scheduled!

It’s certainly no-one’s desire to be very regimented on a wedding day – but a good plan with lots of ‘wiggle room’ can really help everyones enjoyment of the day. It is often good to put someone in charge of the timings – perhaps your photographer or one of the bridal party.

1.    The Bridal Preparations


Hair & Make-up

Hair & Make-up can take time! Liase carefully with your hair and make-up artists as to how long it will take them to get you ready. Add in an extra 30mins for any unforeseen hick-ups! Ideally, you want to have your hair and makeup complete about 1hr before you need to depart for the service.

Photography and videography

Chat to your photographer beforehand about when they should come to your preparations. You probably don’t want them there to capture you getting out of bed(!) – yet most photographers will want to arrive before you get into the wedding dress. It’s lovely to have photographs of the details (shoes, dress, flowers etc).


Each photographer will be different. At Peter Thomas Photography, I usually aim to stay at the brides preparations for 45-60mins. While the bride is getting dressed  we do lots of detail shots!

Top Tip: Have you a dress with lots of buttons? Purchase a crochet hook to speed up the button process!

2.    Men’s arrival at the service location

We recommend that the men arrive at the service 45mins before it is scheduled to start. This should give you sometime to ensure everything is ok at the church and get some photographs.




Check with your photographer and videographer as to when they want you there. I would normally aim to be at the service 30mins before it starts to get a few men’s photographs and to capture guests arriving.

Top Tip: Ensure an experienced person is there to put button hole flowers in! Men tend to be useless at this!


3.    The Brides Arrival

Don’t be early, don’t be late! Nothing surprises like a bride arriving early – it’s actually better to arrive a few minutes late! Aim to be on time! Ask your photographer how long they need before the service and communicate this realistic start time to your officiant.


I always schedule for the service to start 15mins late – that’s the bride arriving 10mins late and 5mins for photographs. If the bride arrives on time – then the schedule is 10mins ahead before we even start!

4.    The Service

If it’s a church service, schedule 1hr. If it’s a civil ceremony, schedule 30-40mins. Liase with your officiant (and then add 15mins to whatever time they give you!)



5.    After the Service

This is often one of the most underestimated timings. You can’t just walk out of the service and leave!


The formal approach

Some couples like to shake their guests hands as they leave the service. This ‘line-up’ can be rather lengthy. I’d recommend keeping it to just the bride and groom – and schedule 12seconds for each guest. If you have 100guests, that’s roughly 20mins. Do be conscious not to spend too long!



The informal approach

It’s  nice just to mingle for a while after the service. This is often great for reportage photography of the hugs, smiles and laughter. If you have 100guests, I’d allow 15-20mins for this.



You may wish to get some photographs taken at the service. I would often just spend 10mins doing this unless there are special requests for family groups.

6.    Travel

Use Google Maps to estimate travel times – then add on 10mins for traffic. If you are in an old wedding car add an extra third to the timings!



7.    Photography

Every photographer will request a different amount of time. I think an anecdotal average would be about 1.5hrs for photography, but some may require less and some more. Either way, it’s better to overestimate incase it rains for a period or you can’t locate some people required for photographs.

8. Band / DJ

Your firstdance kicks off your wedding party – ensure you schedule a generous allowance for your band to setup and for the hotel to prepare the room. Many bands can take 1hr to setup.


Putting it all together

To build your schedule, take your desired service time and work from that. Check to see if it works out and if not move the start time! Ensure there is time for what is important to you – but also make sure you are not putting your vendors under pressure by creating an impossible timetable!

Here’s an example:

–       8.30pm – hair & make-up
–       1130pm – photographer arrives at bridal preparations
–       1215pm – men arrive at church
–       1230pm – photographer at church
–       1pm – scheduled start time
–       1.15pm – more realistic start time
–       2.15pm – service ends and mingle
–       2.35pm – photography
–       2.45pm – leave service location
–       3.15pm – arrive reception & photographs
–       4.45pm – photography ends – chill –out!
–       5.30pm – call for meal
–       6pm – speeches
–       6.30pm -meal
–       8pm – Band arrives
–       9pm – First Dance
–       1030pm – Evening buffet

Communicate communicate communicate

Finally, once you have developed your timetable send it to the key vendors to ensure it works for them. The hotel, photographer, car company and church would be key vendors to send it to.

And finally…

Remember it’s a wedding day. Relax, soak up every moment and have lots of fun!

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