Lake District & Broadoaks Wedding Photographer

Guide to Wedding Day timings

Guide to Wedding Day timings

One of the wonderful things about being a Lake District Wedding Photographer or even a Wedding Photographer in Barnsley is getting to watch your whole Wedding Day unfold, and recording your Wedding Story as it progresses. At our initial Client Meeting I always ask about your plans for the day and then take you through the most likely timings and opportunities for photos

This guidance is based on having shot over 170 Weddings in the last 8 years (to date as of January 2015), and assumes a full day shoot from the transformation of ‘Pyjama Babe‘ to ‘Wedding Princess‘ in what’s referred to as Preparations, your Wedding Ceremony, Reception, your Bride & Groom Wedding Photography session and right through to your 1st Dance where your Wedding Day’s coverage usually ends

Here’s some helpful guidance on how most Wedding Days run their course, the likely timings for you to calculate your own Wedding Day timings, and the likely timing issues to watch out for !!!


A typical church Wedding Day (Civil Ceremonies tend to involve little or no travel)…

Preparation begins at your home or your parents’ home, the Ceremony venue being a local church 15 minutes away. Preparation has a Hairdresser coming to the home, and a Make-Up Artist (MUA), both aiming to work on you as the Bride and 2 adult Bridesmaids

Ceremony at 1.00 p.m.

The Wedding reception being a local hotel 15 minutes away

Wedding Breakfast at 3.30 p.m.

Your Wedding Breakfast & Speeches lasting 1½ hours followed by an hour to ‘turn-around’ the room for your Evening Reception

Evening Reception (night-do) and DJ or Band starting at 7.30 p.m. with 1st Dance scheduled for 8.30 p.m.

That all seems simple enough, but there’s a lot of detail missing and a lot of things need to happen, so lets take a look in more detail and see where the photo opportunities, or timing problems, arise



Hair & Make-up

It is VITAL that you are certain not only of the style of hair & make-up you will be adopting for your Wedding, but also that you have had at least one real-time practise and timed it. I have seen hairdressers do amazing work in 10 minutes, and many who aim for completion in 20 minutes taking an hour due to unforeseen issues. Similarly, the MUA is sometimes lightning quick and at other times they can also take an hour with the Bride alone. Your Wedding Day is not a time for uncertainty, both your Hairdresser and MUA alike must know what they are aiming for and you must know how long it will take them

It is also well known in the Photography world that Hairdressers & MUAs are not noted for being especially punctual; my Top Tip – however long you think, or have been told, that your Hair & Make-up will take ADD at least an hour, preferably two hours and have them both arrive well before the timings suggest they need to

Why? Primarily because your Wedding Day morning’s preparations should be a relaxing and jovial time, full of girly fun & laughter and at least one bottle of Champagne! This should NOT be a time of clock watching and stressing over being ready on time


Your Wedding Dress

Unless you have a zipped dress then you will need to allow at least 20-30 minutes to get in it. This seems ridiculous I know, but its likely you’ve only had it fitted in the Bridal Boutique and by people who are expert in fastening you into it, your Bridesmaids may not have a clue and it may take lots more time than you imagine

If possible, have at least one of your Bridesmaids go with you for a final fitting so they can see and practise how to fasten your dress

Experience suggests you should allow that 20-30 mins as you need to take your time here to ensure you are comfortable in it, that you look the best you can, and that you are not stressing; this can be a highly emotional part of the morning and may lead to tears, which then leads to retouching by your MUA; all of which eats time


The Wedding Ceremony

Church ceremonies tend to have the formalities out of the way prior to your Wedding so all you need to do is arrive, ideally on time but a little late is rarely a problem

Civil Ceremonies require that the Registrar confirms details prior to the Ceremony so you must be prepared to arrive 10-15 minutes BEFORE your Ceremony; arriving late can mean the Registrar will be late for their next ceremony, and arriving more than 20 minutes late may mean they have already gone !!!

Allow 30 minutes for your Ceremony; longer if you have readings and longer still for some church ceremonies

At the end of the Ceremony you will be asked to sign the Register with your Witnesses, it is then usual to have a pretend shot of you signing; photographers are generally not allowed to photograph the actual signing

Exiting the service, whether church or hotel, is not a sprint! Walk slowly down the aisle and say ‘Hi’ to your guests, I will be tracking backwards to capture your & their interaction

Once outside it is common for you to spend 10 minutes or so greeting your guests while I prepare for your Group photos. If at a church, this also gives us time for the bells to stop ringing as no-one can hear over the noise


Group photos

For efficiency, these are usually in the order of largest to smallest, your guests may already have an Order of Photography to let them know when they are needed, but the key is to have enough groups to capture everyone in the main parties, but not so many that everyone is bored and uncooperative. My personal record was a Bride’s wish list of 64 Groups which is totally unworkable and would have taken well over 2 hours to shoot

Ideally aim to get all your main groups shot in 9 images or less; the more intimate Bridal Party, parents etc. can be moved to one side and shot in various orders much more quickly than the larger groups

Allow at least 30 minutes for your Group photos


Private time as the Newlyweds

This is your first time together as the new Mr & Mrs, and my aim is to capture the fun, excitement & love between you; it is NOT about cheesy grins to camera. I will use my years of experience to coax & cajole you into the best positions and tweak posing to avoid ugly hands, squinting etc. while you both relax and chat about the day so far

This is not a 4 hour fashion shoot where you are poked & prodded into unimaginable shapes; my aim is to capture you at your best making the best use of your venue in the shortest time possible to deliver you back to your guests & your partying


Wedding Breakfast

Typically your Wedding Coordinator will want you all ready to go in for your meal 15 minutes prior to it actually being served. Part of the reason for this is that many photographers run-over their expected time and so the venue has a little latitude built-in; I will NEVER run-over and so you will always been delivered on-time for your meal



It is entirely your choice on whether Speeches come before or after your meal, but please bear in mind your guests’ likely hunger levels, and all will have eaten their bread prior to the soup arriving if the Speeches are first

The most common format for Speeches is

Father of the Bride followed by the Groom, and lastly the Best-man

I’ve seen all three Speeches completed in less than 5 minutes, with the longest so far taking one hour 45 mins !!!

Please ensure that you have a rough idea of the length of the Speeches, and especially so if they are first as your food may have to be kept waiting with an increasingly frustrated chef

The photography of Speeches is essentially to capture the expressions & emotions of the main parties. I do this with a longer lens usually from 20-30+ feet away so as not to interfere nor obstruct any guests’ view if possible. But this does mean we may need to remove Top Table ‘furniture’ such as large stands of flowers etc. to have a line of sight at you all, and if you give your mothers bunches of flowers as gifts, make sure they put them back on the floor for the same reason


Post Wedding Breakfast but pre Evening Reception (night-do)

There is often a period of an hour or more while the venue turns-around the room from your Wedding Breakfast into your night-do. This is when your guests will typically book themselves into their rooms, freshen up or hit the bar

You of course can do the same, but if there is good light or any earlier problems re weather/timings meant we didn’t get a good set of images of you as the couple, now is a second chance to do so. You will normally now be at your most relaxed and a stroll for more photos can really be a fun thing to do, capturing a little more of your venue, beautiful late aft clouds or even a sunset if earlier/later in the year


Night-do & 1st Dance

Your guests will typically be arriving anything from the 7.00 p.m. time you said to an hour or more later, and this is why most couples keep 1st Dance back to around 8.30 p.m. but it should always take place BEFORE your evening Buffet is put out

The successful 1st Dance needn’t have the Dirty Dancing ‘lift’, nor need it be a Strictly Come Dancing roar around the floor but there does need to be movement. If you are really not into dancing, then the most effective ‘dance’ is simply to hold each other close and chat/kiss as you slowly rotate a few times during your song

To end your 1st Dance with a ‘dip’ of the Bride always raises applause from your guests, and we can practise this earlier in the day during the Private time if you like

If you are planning on anything more fancy than turning slowly on the spot, and even including a dip at the end, PLEASE TELL ME prior to your 1st Dance so that I can be prepared to best capture it for you


Coverage ends

For most couples coverage of their Wedding Story ends with 1st Dance and that’s normally where I leave. Just before leaving I’ll normally have a last look around and if there’s a potential ‘Killer shot’ available (perhaps due to a sunset or your venue being floodlit) I may ask you for one last session


How to work out timings for how your day begins…

Look at the Ceremony timing and work backwards

Ceremony start time


Time to be there if Registrar needs you beforehand (usually 15 mins)


Travel time to Ceremony venue (Wedding cars usually drive slower than you might)


15-20 mins if I need to go shoot the guys prior to the Ceremony too


Allowing for Bridal portraiture (ideally 20 mins)


Time estimate to get into Wedding Dress (allow 20-30 mins)


Time taken to have your hair and makeup done, timings from your practise sessions (add on an hour to whatever their timings suggest, so ask them to come an hour early at least)


Enough time for you to have a proper breakfast, shower and chill before the mayhem kicks off


How to work out timings for your photos

(both group and Private time as Newlyweds)

work forwards from your Wedding Ceremony

Wedding Ceremony start time


Estimated length of service including all songs & readings, your Vicar can guide you on this, but for a typical Civil Ceremony allow 20 mins


10-15 mins to sign the Register and have ‘pretend’ Signing shots taken


15 mins to walk down the aisle and meet guests outside


2-3 mins per larger Group Photo (try for no more than 9 Groups, ask for our helpful document… Order of Photography as both guidance on this and as a measure of keeping your Guests under control for when needed)


Ideally 30 mins for some Private Time shooting you as the happy Newlyweds


Time to travel to Reception for your Wedding Breakfast (if not in the same hotel as your Civil Ceremony)


15 mins to be available to be seated for your Wedding Breakfast by your Wedding Coordinator


Wedding Breakfast start time

PLEASE NOTE: it is not unusual at the initial stages of planning your day to find that there simply isn’t sufficient time between the end of your Ceremony to do all of your intended Group photos and a Private Time shoot too before you need to sit for your Wedding Breakfast. If this seems likely, ask your Wedding Coordinator as soon as possible if they can put your Wedding Breakfast back by an hour

If they cannot do this (usually as they are catering for another Wedding too) DON’T WORRY we’ll simply work around the time we do have for your photos and schedule some for later

The length of time taken for your Wedding Breakfast largely depends on 3 things:

1 – the number of guest that have to be fed

2 – the number of courses that need to be served

3 – the length of your Speeches

It is a good idea to allow at least one hour for your Reception venue to clear the tables and prepare the room for your Evening Reception, allow them to guide you on this and then add 30 mins. This then gives your guests plenty of time to book in and freshen up prior to your night-do commencing

If you are feeding your evening guests too, with such as a buffet or Hog Roast, feed them by 9.00 p.m. latest, and schedule your 1st Dance for 30 minutes beforehand; so typically about 8.30 p.m.


I hope you’ve found this Guide to Wedding Day timings useful

We’ll be discussing your exact timings nearer to your Wedding at our pre-Wedding meeting where we both plan how your day will unfold and take a walk around your venue(s) planning for your Wedding Photography too; but like all good photography plans we have to be flexible and be prepared to change or even abandon part of the plan at a moments notice!!!

I look forward to shooting you LOTS on your FAB Wedding Day and presenting you with hundreds of photos to remember it all by

If you haven’t already booked your Lake District Wedding Photographer or your Wedding Photographer Barnsley then please feel free to CONTACT ME for a no-obligation chat about your Wedding plans, your dreams and desires for your Wedding Photography

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