planning your wedding day timings

The most common question I get from couples is 'what time should we do xyz?' Weddings often run a bit behind, or sometimes they were planned too tightly to begin with. Making a good plan makes a huge difference to your stress levels and your photos.

I recommend setting the time you enter the reception first. Then use the times below to work from there.

getting ready  ~  variable

The best people to give you an idea on your prep time will be your hair stylist & makeup artist. Aim to have everyone finished with hair & makeup 20-45 minutes before you want to leave for the ceremony, depending on the dress timing. Having a playlist ready to run through this time is a great idea as well. 

dress  ~  5-30 mins

Some wedding dresses can go on within 10 seconds. Fantastic. The vast majority, do not. Give it a test try before the wedding, and time yourself. If possible, have whoever is going to be there with you on the day help out - they're the one who really needs to know what they're doing. Many dresses are easy in-store when you have the professional fitter to help you out, but can take a little longer if you forget the precise way it buttons or laces together.

photos  ~  15 mins

Before we leave for the ceremony I love to squeeze in a few photos. These won't usually take the full 15 minutes, but having a little buffer time is always helpful.

travel to the ceremony

Take what you think, and add a chunk in case of traffic/delays. If you're in a vintage car, Hummer, limo, Kombi etc - they'll probably travel slower than usual as well.

ceremony  ~  30 mins

If the ceremony is particularly religious or cultural, this may be longer. Chat to your celebrant/priest/official marriage-maker to confirm. If you're in a church, ask if they have any restrictions on photography. Some don't allow flash, some don't allow photographers to stand in certain areas, and some don't allow photography at all.

hugs & congrats  ~  15 mins per 100 guests

My favourite part of the day!

family photos  ~  2 mins per group

I usually shoot around 10 groups (20 minutes). I've written about organising this part of the day here.

location photos  ~  60 - 90 mins, plus travel

I like to only use one location - travel time is dead time. If you're having a wedding party, standard group & individual shots usually take around 20-30 minutes.

After that, I'll leave them behind and focus on getting shots just with the two of you. This usually goes for around 30 minutes.

These times can be condensed/expanded as you like. It can be nice to add some time to have a drink and a snack - it's just about the only time you'll have to yourselves through the entire day.

sunset photos  ~  15 mins

I can't emphasise enough how much the sun affects outdoor photos. Unless it's raining or overcast, the best light will be at sunset. I'd rather have 5 minutes of photos at sunset than 10 hours in the rest of the day. Making sure you're available at this time is the single best thing you can do to improve your photos.

If your date is in April to September, daylight savings is likely not in effect. That means that sunset shots will be combined with your location photos before you enter the reception. Super easy.

If your date is in October to March, daylight savings changes things up. Receptions usually start around 6PM, but sunset isn't until 7:30-8PM. You'll have to carve out a little reception time to get the best possible photos. If you're having three courses, this fits between entree and main. If you're serving cocktail style, just avoid scheduling speeches across sunset. Let your MC know about sunset photos so they can juggle timings if necessary. I love listening to speeches, but they can happen at any time - if you miss the sunset, it ain't coming back.


Most reception venues have a timeline for you to work from. If you're planning it yourself, it's a matter of co-ordinating with your caterer to make sure things go smoothly.

- If you're having more than 4 speeches, consider breaking them up into multiple sections.

- If you're running your own music, have someone assigned to manage it. It's common to have music run across speeches, play at the wrong volume, change song mid-track etc. Having a DJ solves these issues if it fits into budget.

- If your reception is largely outdoors, make sure there is adequate lighting. It helps your guests out, and I don't have to pop my flash right in guests' faces! Think about heating options as well if you need (fire or portable gas heaters).
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