How to put the timings together for your wedding day

Getting married is something we don’t do every day, it’s new territory and there’s so much to plan and that includes allowing enough time to fit everything in. 

  1. What time is the best time for the ceremony? 
  2. When should the meal be served?
  3. How long do you need your photographer for?

Naturally, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ as every couple will have their our own ideas and we’re all different. Having said that, there are similarities and this blog will help you to understand how important the timings are on your big day.

Stunning wedding dress

What makes a wedding day?

  • Bridal preparations
  • Arrival of the groom, groomsmen and guests at the church or venue.
  • Arrival of the bride
  • Pre-ceremony interviews with the Registrar.
  • The ceremony
  • Post ceremony congratulations, photographs, drinks and canapés
  • Bride and groom portraits
  • Group photographs
  • Wedding meal
  • Speeches
  • Cutting the cake
  • Arrival of evening guests
  • First dance
  • Evening food
  • Fireworks

Wow! That’s quite a list but you may not want to include everything, or indeed you may have extras in mind.

How much time should do these things take?

  • Bridal preparations – about two hours but can be longer, depending on the number of bridesmaids.
  • Getting to the venue – between two minutes and an hour, congestion/parking can be a problem.
  • The ceremony – between 10 minutes and an hour, depending on the number and length of readings, poetry and music etc.
  • After the ceremony – allow at least 20 minutes (it can take longer) for hugs and congratulations.
  • Bride and groom portraits – 15 – 30 minutes, depending on what you want.
  • Group shots – 30 – 60 minutes, depending on how many group shots you would like.
  • The wedding meal – an hour or two, depending on the type of meal you have planned.
  • Speeches – five minutes to half an hour, or even longer!
  • Cutting the cake – five minutes
  • First dance – ten minutes
  • Fireworks – 10 – 30 minutes.

For weddings that include more than one venue, timings will vary according to distances travelled between venues and things can be slowed down by traffic congestion, parking issues and even guests who struggle to find the venue itself!

Stunning bride having her hair done

Example 1: Three location wedding day

09.00am Arrival of your hairdresser and makeup artist.

10.30am Arrival of your photographer.

11.15am Zipping the dress – can be a ‘mock zip up’ as the photographer may need to leave.

11.30am Photographer departs for the church/venue.

12.00pm  Photographer arrives at the church/venue.

12.05pm The bridal party leave for a civil ceremony venue.

12.15pm Arrival of groom and groomsmen at the church/venue.

12.25pm Church wedding – bridal party leaves for the church.

12.30pm Civil ceremony wedding – groom’s interview with the Registrar.

12.30pm Arrival of guests.

12.35pm Civil ceremony wedding – arrival of bridal party.

12.45pm  Civil ceremony wedding – bride’s interview with the Registrar.

12.55pm Church wedding – arrival of the bridal party.

1.00pm Your ceremony.

1.30pm Congratulations and photographs.

2.00pm Confetti throw.

2.15pm Everyone leaves for the celebration venue.

2.30pm Arrival at the celebration venue.

2.30pm Drinks and canapés.

3.00pm Bride and groom portraits.

3.30pm Group photographs.

4.00pm Guests take their seats for the wedding meal.

4.10pm Bride and groom are announced and take their seats.

4.15pm Your wedding meal is served.

5.45pm Speeches.

6.15pm Cutting the cake.

6.20pm Time for some mingling.

7.00pm Arrival of your evening guests.

7.30pm First dance.

8.00pm Evening food is served.

9.00pm Maybe fireworks

Family together at a wedding

Example 2: A single location wedding day

10.00am Arrival of your hairdresser and makeup artist.

11.30am Arrival of your photographer.

12.15am Zipping up the dress.

12.20am Photographer moves to the ceremony room to photograph the groom’s party.

12.20pm Arrival of groom and groomsmen at the venue.

12.30pm Groom’s interview with the Registrar.

12.30pm Arrival of guests.

12.40pm The bridal party leave for the ceremony room.

12.45pm  Bride’s interview with the Registrar.

1.00pm Your ceremony.

1.30pm Congratulations and photographs.

2.00pm Confetti throw.

2.15pm Drinks and canapés.

2.45pm Bride and groom portraits.

3.15pm Group photographs.

3.45pm Guests take their seats for the wedding meal.

3.55pm The bride and groom are announced and take their seats.

4.00pm The wedding meal is served.

5.30pm Speeches.

6.00pm Cutting the cake.

6.15pm Time for some mingling.

7.00pm Arrival of evening guests.

7.30pm First dance.

8.00pm Evening food is served.

9.00pm Maybe fireworks?

Of course, my outlines are approximate, but will give you an idea of how time rushes by as your wedding day unfolds. As the principal wedding photographer at Angela Fitch Photography, I’ve photographed a lot of weddings and experience tells me that timings can slip for all sorts of reasons, most of which are out of your control but there are ways to minimise the risk.

Stunning wedding venue gardens

Remember – there are two fixed points in any wedding day:

1. The time of your ceremony.

2. The time your wedding meal will be served.

These two anchor points help you to plan your timings and do bear in mind that the more guests you invite, the longer things take. Also, speeches can throw a spanner in the works; it’s worth getting an idea of how long people need, especially if they will speak before your meal or between courses as your caterers will need to get the food out when its at its best.

Beautiful bride arriving at her wedding

Do the seasons make a difference?

A summer wedding, with its long daylight hours and strong shadows will look completely different to the honeyed tones of autumn, the cool, crisp blue hues of winter or the vibrancy of spring. 

On a practical level, a 3pm December wedding ceremony will definitely need artificial light, this can look stunning, but if you prefer natural daylight an 11am December wedding ceremony will give you the natural light that you’re after. If fireworks are part of your plan a summer wedding means that you and your guests will be waiting until after 10pm to get the full impact of this very expensive extra, whereas the early nightfall of winter means you could have your firework display as early as 5pm. 

Bride with her father on her wedding day

How do you get good value out of your photographer?

Value is a very different thing to price. Engaging an unrealistically cheap wedding photographer may mean that they’re new to wedding photography or maybe they don’t have the camera and other equipment to cope with the low light of a church wedding or an overcast sky. 

Professional wedding photographers use a wide range of kit, but we all have cameras that take two memory cards, which means that every time we hit the shutter button the image is saved to both cards. We do this because experience across the sector tells us that on very rare occasions a memory card can become corrupted and having everything 100% backed up means that you won’t lose you wedding photographs. It’s also worth checking that your chosen wedding photographer is fully insured for Public Liability and Professional Indemnity as the majority of venues ask for proof of insurance as part of the Terms and Conditions of your booking.

When it comes to price there are ways to book a professional wedding photographer without breaking the bank. First, shop around for the style of photography you like best and whilst you’re at it check recent reviews. Make a short list of three and talk to them. The best ones will be as interested in your wedding as you are as they want to do a good job for you. 

And how many hours do you need? The best professional wedding photographers don’t push you to book a longer day just for the sake of it. I talk to couples to find out what’s important to them and we work together, your day, your way with all the benefits of my experience.

Wedding clock

Are there ways to cut the photographer’s bill without cutting the quality?

Yes, there are but it all depends on what’s important to you. 

1. Ask a reliable friend to take candid shots of the bridal preparations, first dance and fireworks (if you’re having them). These images rarely make it into a frame so may not need the skill or top end camera a professional will bring with them.

2. Arranging a mock cake cutting during the day will allow your photographer to leave earlier.

3. Have pre-meal speeches and let your photographer go after that.

Bride and groom cutting the cake

Exactly how can I find the right photographer for our big day?

The best wedding photography comes from good communications. When you book Angela Fitch Photography you get so much more than a wedding photographer. Our risk management policy is second to none, however, it’s our communication skills that are key to creating beautiful images of you, your family and friends. I will meet up with you, either in person or virtually, to discuss what you’re looking for and to give you the benefit of my experience when it comes to timings and other practicalities of your day. As we get to know each other a special sort of trust develops between us; that’s when the magic happens and we get to make some fabulous wedding photographs for you to treasure forever. 

This blog can’t cover everything and, as I’ve already said, every couple is unique, every wedding different. If you would like to talk to me all you have to do is email or give me a call on 07585 904636 – no obligation, just a friendly chat to see if we’re a good fit for each other.

Firework display

Thanks for making it to the end of the blog and I do hope that we get to talk soon!



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