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Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline advice from professional wedding photographer.

Are you wedding planning without a wedding planner? All power to you then, because Planning Your Wedding Day Timeline is overwhelming at the best of times. Plotting your wedding day timeline drives even the most resilient round the bend, fraying nerves and testing our commitment to the big day. It’s a topic I often help couples to plan, so –  

Are you wondering how to plan your wedding day like a pro? Here’s my basic wedding planning timeline for your wedding day with an example of times and events. My advice is to create your wedding day timeline around the time of your wedding ceremony. Also, put in cushions of time, then share your schedule with your hair and make-up team and wedding photographer. 

In fact, talking with your wedding photographer can make wedding day logistics a cinch and guarantee oodles of time to shoot the must-have wedding photos. Once we’ve planned your wedding like a professional wedding planner, your day will be seamless, and you’ll be on the dancefloor right on time—no stress.

Easy Steps to Planning Your Perfect Wedding Timeline

There are a couple of simple measures you can keep in mind as you plan your day. 

Step 1: Create Cushions of Time

Like cushioning your new shoes, you want to do the same with your wedding day timeline. When you don’t have decent lining in your designer wedding shoes, you’re bound for sore toes and a world of pain long before you hit the dance floor with wrecked feet. The same is true with your wedding day. 

Cushioning protects against slippages. It acts as a much-needed buffer, so allow for more time than you think you’ll need. This way, you’ll have moments for a time out with your loved one or for a cheeky half after you say, “I do.”

Jimmy choo green shoes bouquet Jo Malone perfume

Next, when you’re planning your wedding day, ask:

Step 2: Who’s Monitoring The Time?

Unless you have a wedding planner (gently) clock-watching (which I do recommend if you want to alleviate even more stress) to ensure everything ticks along, appoint someone to keep an eye on the time. Of course, you can assume this task, but delegate to lighten your load.  

Chat with your photographer to discover where they stand on helping you stick to your wedding day timeline. You want to achieve a wedding photographer who’s not so Gestapo that your day will be ‘Grrr’ and also who’s not so relaxed that… You get the picture. 

Now we know who’s making your day run like clockwork; what time are you working to? 

The answer to the question is:

Step 3: Build Your Wedding Timeline Around the Ceremony 

The wedding ceremony is officially the most important part of your day, so we have to get you there right. on. time. The time of your wedding ceremony sets when everything else must happen. 

In the next section, I’ll show you how to get yourselves to the church with time to spare for must-have family and friends wedding shots.

How to Arrange Your Wedding Day Timeline: An Example

Let’s imagine your wedding ceremony is at 1.30 pm. Your timeline works backward from this point, and it’s your mission to arrive at the altar at 1.30 pm. 

Ideally you arrive on time, but factor in an extra 15 minutes/half an hour for delays/malfunctions etc. Most guests are on time or late, the bride is still expected to be late for weddings even when you don’t want to be. So ensure to add that late time into the timeline. E.g 1.30 ceremony won’t kick off until 1.45 or 2pm.

Ceremony ends at 3pm, 20 mins for thank you’s, hugs (when we can do that again) at the receiving line. Finish church at 3.30 then family photos at the church for 20 minutes/half an hour. 4pm we leave the church for the couple/bridal shoot and the drinks reception. Dinner bell at 5.30. One hour and a half to play with for the portrait session, informal candid photos etc., 

At dinner bell we have 10-15 minutes for bridal portrait session. This is a perfect time to get some portrait shots if you want want to go anywhere for photos and want to spend all your time at your drinks reception.

Qunita Bonita Algarve wedding venue bride

What to Factor Into Your Wedding Timeline

Once you’ve set the arrival time at the church, work back from this point. Factor in time for:

How Long It Takes to Travel to The Church 

Is there a soul on this planet who hasn’t turned to Google Maps or an AA route planner to work out travel times? If you’re unfamiliar with Irish roads, expect teeny roads with high-hedges and slow-moving tractors in rural parts. 

I suggest that rather than trust the route planning Apps entirely, it’s better to err to the side of caution. As much as a lifesaver Google Maps is, it can’t guess how many tractors there’ll be en route, so remember to cushion a few extra minutes of travel time. Also, where possible, keep travel distances to a minimum. 

Make A 90 Minute Cushion for Hair and Make-Up Finish Time

Tell your wedding hair and make-up artists you absolutely categorically must be in the car to your wedding ceremony 90 minutes before the real-world departure time. 

Yes, an hour and a half before you really sincerely need to leave is a very generous cushion to your wedding timeline. However, hair and make-up sometimes overrun. Unexpected guests drop in to wish you well. There are bottles of Champagne to open, buttons to do up, final touch up’s and toddlers to entertain. 

Time melts away like non-water-resistant mascara, and you’ll be thanking me that I told you to white-lie about the actual time you must leave. When they overrun, you can be like, “Yeah, that’s okay. We’ve got a few extra minutes.”

Eyeliner being painted onto a bride by make-up artist

Here’s What Adding 90 Minutes Looks Like

Let’s say you’ve done your route planning. To get to the church at 13.30 means leaving your house at 13.00 pm. 

Tell your hair and make-up artists that you absolutely categorically must have your hair and make-up finished at 11.30 am. That’s a full hour and a half before when Google Maps says you should go.

Whew, that’s a lot of time to allow. You’ve got four bridesmaids and yourself, so you’re looking at an early start. As I said, this part of any wedding day takes longer than you expect. You will want that hour and a half. Make sure that you get ready in the middle of the group, not the last one, it’s very unfair to have all the bridal prep morning pics with you not wearing any make-up!

After the First Round of Hair and Make-up: Your Crucial Last-Minute Moments 

This is where your additional 90-minute cushion comes in super handy. You’ve had your hair and make-up done. You’ve had all the Champagne you can consume. The butterflies in your belly are doing circuits. 

You pop to the loo, grab your bag and head upstairs. Your wedding day is about to get Very Real.

You put on your dress. Your maid of honour helps you into it (you’ve rehearsed already, so it goes on like a dream). You step into your shoes. Put on your jewellery. You spritz your perfume and pin on your veil. You catch sight of yourself: you are one bride who’s nearly good to go.

This is when your parents lays eyes upon you.

Invariably there are tears. 

Invariably I’m welling up. 

Your hair and make-up artists step in for a last-minute spritz. 

You are immaculate.

Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline to make sure you're in your dress on time.

In an ideal world, you’ll have twenty minutes to play with for photographs. We’ll grab those pictures of you outside of your home, with your dog, your chickens, your child, etc. And while this is going on, reality (this is when shit gets real) sinks in, and you realise, “I’m getting married today!”

The next thing you know, you’re in the car. You’re breathing easy, and you are on your way.

I would have already left 20 minutes before you are ready to leave to ensure I get pics of your spouse meeting and greeting guests, pics of them and their bridal party etc. 

 Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline to ensure you arrive on time.

Before we get to the church…

Let’s Talk About Rehearsing with Your Wedding Dress

It’s fabulous. You’ve made a perfect choice. But can you put on your wedding gown in a fail-safe way?

I ask because I have pockets full of safety pins and an uncountable number of occasions when I’ve had to step in and help a bride slip into her wedding gown. There are buttons hooks at the back that are tricky, crochet hooks are handy. Rips sometimes happen. So while we’re talking about wedding timelines, let’s talk about an often overlooked hindrance to your day: The Dress.

When you’re shopping for your dress, take your Maid of Honour with you. Insist that your MOH learns to help you get into your dress without issue. It might sound unlikely, yet Putting On The Dress rehearsal time will be a boon.  Also, ensure she knows how to tie it up later on for the dancing. 

Plotting Your Wedding Timeline In Time for The Dinner Bell

To ensure you and your beloved sit down to dinner right. on. time., take some steps after the wedding ceremony (Most Important Time of Your Wedding Day Number 1) to guarantee your food reaches you as it should. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Set Aside: Time for Family Formal Photographs

Your family formal photography session needs to be pinned into your timeline. They’re a staple part of nearly every wedding day. Expect to set aside 20 minutes for your formal family photographs. 

How to Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline Like A Pro with time for family photos.

When Should You Have Your Family Formal Wedding Photographs?

In our imaginary wedding example, formal photographs take place anywhere from after the ceremony at the church or at the end of the drinks reception at the venue. between 2.45pm and 3.15pm. I try to keep this section of the day down to a minimum because the word formal makes people anxious. This is the time of the day when your guests scatter to the wind, so let them know when your group shots will happen. 

Whatever your guests choose to do after the ceremony can have a knock-on effect with sitting down to eat. After all, your hotel has got your dinner time set. Therefore, choose whether to have your photographs at the ceremony or at the end of the after the drinks reception. Then tell your guests to guarantee they’re there for the shots.

Where Should You Have Your Family Formal Wedding Photographs?

You may choose to have the formal family photographs immediately after the church or registry office ceremony. Alternatively, and often this is the nicer option, plan to have family formals (not as formal as they sound!) at your wedding reception venue. You’ll discover more options at the venue and, coming at the end of the drink’s reception, everyone’s nicely loosened up to play in front of the camera.

Wondering How to Save Time with Family Formal Photography Sessions?

Immediately after your wedding ceremony is a part of your wedding day where time slips away. Some guests are eager to do a sneaky and drop into a local pub to grab a bite to eat or sink a glass or two. Guests sneaking away can mean they’re not available for shooting the family or bridal party photographs. Just like your veil or buttonhole, pin your guests down. Let them know when pictures will be happening. It saves on corralling later in the afternoon.

If your family are like herding cats for these pics I recommend having their formal family photos at the church. Keeps it simple, everyone is still fresh and you know you have those all important family photos that will inevitably end up on a mantle piece.  

What Our Example Wedding Day Timeline Looks Like

With your imaginary wedding ceremony happening at 1.30 pm, with travel times calculated, and cushions of time padding against slippages and last-minute moments, here’s what our timeline looks like:

Time of DayWhat’s Happening?
07.30 – 11.45 Hair and Make-up, First Wave
11.45You’re popping to the loo, glass of water, getting into your wedding dress with help from bridal party who are already in their dresses, grabbing a glass of Champagne, having a moment with your folks, and getting final touches from your MUA & hair stylist
12.35You’re in the dress, glass of bubbles ready and family pics with folks, bridesmaids and anyone else at your home place.
13.00Photographer leaves for church to catch people arriving.
13.15You are in the wedding vehicle on your way to the wedding venue.
13.30You emerge from your wedding car graceful and calm. Final few pics featuring you as Miss with your bridal party, dad or mum or family member giving you away.
14.45You’re out of the ceremony (MARRIED!) and grabbing some family formals and bridal party photographs. You’re on your way to the drink’s reception. 
15.00-15.20Family photos at the church
15.30-16.30Bridal party portrait time, grab some bubbles, picnic and enjoy your crew having some time alone.
En route, your photographer and your newly wedded selves check out incredible locations for your couple’s photographs. We won’t go too crazy; I know you want to get to that drink’s reception. However, this is a time of day that couples love, especially if you’ve eloped to Ireland. What a perfect chance to explore the scenery and take time out—all for the good of your wedding album.
16.15/16.30Drinks reception. This is an ideal time to shoot photographs with your college friends, work colleagues, and the wonderful messers in your life. 
17.30The dinner bell will ring. 
18.00Sitting for the meal
Golden HourVaries according to the time of year. Chat with your wedding photographer to discover how to pinpoint your golden hour couple’s photographs on your timeline. 

 

Plot Your Wedding Couple’s Photographs After The Dinner Bell

Once you’ve placed your food order, you’ve got plenty of time to duck out with your photographer for your couple’s shoot. This is when you can breathe easily away from the madness of the crowd. These are the moments for the two of you—the best moments in the day as it’s when you have time to catch up with yourselves.

How to Plan Your Wedding Timeline for Golden Hour Sunset Shots

Your wedding photographer will have the golden hour in mind. They’ll be able to let you know when to duck out for golden hour sunset shots. In July 2022, for example, sunset happens at ten to ten in the evening, so you’ll want to plan to keep your wedding photographer on for a long day. 

Will the investment be worth it? You bet. 

During the golden hour, you’re luminous. There’s spellbinding magic to the light that makes you look gorgeous. The light is flattering, and all’s right with the world. It shows up in your photographs.

Of course, if you have a winter wedding, expect to plot golden hour anywhere between 16.30-18.30. The golden hour for spring and autumn weddings typically occurs between your main course and dessert. Worried about leaving your wedding dinner? Don’t be. You’ll be grateful for twenty minutes away from the dinner table. You’ll also come back with an appetite for your dessert.

How to Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline Like A Pro plan time for sunset photos

Can You Plan Your Wedding Day with Your Wedding Photographer?

Naturally, you can plan your wedding day with your wedding photographer. We’ve been around for a long time, and we know weddings inside out. The chances are that we’re familiar with your wedding venue, the West Cork roads, travel times, and last-minute photo opportunities. So, reach out with questions because talking about your day is exciting and reassuring-for both of us. 

One Last Wedding Timeline Tip: Keep It Simple

It’s tempting to go all out with your wedding, especially if you’re eloping to Ireland from America. You want to cram in every gorgeous romantic site and vista. While it’s fun to explore the Irish countryside for jaw-dropping photo opportunities, it’s exhausting jumping in and out of a car or rattling around West Cork’s (in)famous roads. For these reasons, keep your wedding travel plans as simple as you can. 

The best way to manage your wedding timeline and a sure-fire way to guarantee loads of time with your friends and family are to combine venues. Why not have your wedding ceremony within the same site as your wedding reception? These are often some of the most effective, trouble-free wedding days. 

Final Thoughts

Wedding planning is overwhelming, despite the best wedding apps and the sagest advice in the world. I suggest you keep it simple. Cushion, cushion, cushion, and then, when the day comes, relax. Every wedding has its own rhythm. Give yourself time in the morning to ground, drink loads of water, and trust that you’ve got a wedding day timeline that means your day will be glorious. And it will be. 

Vienna Woods wedding photo
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