By guest writer Fiona Kelly, wedding photographer
I originally wrote this piece a while ago, pre-2020 when weddings weren’t restricted in numbers or style of celebration. This year has been a changeable year for weddings with many, many challenges. It’s been amazing and humbling to see so many couples roll with all the punches, keep positive and hold on to their dreams of getting married. Many have moved dates to 2021 and onwards, but many kept 2020 as their year to get married. I have been lucky to photograph a number of wedding this year and they have all been truly lovely days. Just a bit different from what was originally planned
Sometime soon, however, we will be able to return to larger celebrations, with dancing and hugging… and no masks
When that time comes you will be ready to have the time of your lives and that’s where these top tips come in. They will help you plan perfect timings on your wedding day, so you can do it all AND have the best time celebrating with your loved ones
I have photographed over 300 weddings and witnessed all sorts of wedding days, from sunset ceremonies to early morning ‘I do’s’, from outdoor blessings to small legal ceremonies a week before the big party. And I’ve also seen what a huge difference the timings can make to your enjoyment of the day
In order to have a relaxed wedding day where you can enjoy spending quality time with your guests, it’s worth really thinking about and planning the timings in advance. You want to be able to have time for yourselves, get relaxed photos of the two of you, get lots of natural light photos, not be rushed from one place to the next and be in the moment to take it all in so it doesn’t feel like it flew past
Here is a guide for perfect timings on your wedding day:
THE WEDDING MORNING – GETTING READY
Start the day as you mean to go on with a special breakfast with your friends or something to get you feeling relaxed and excited about the day ahead. Your hair & makeup artist will help guide you on their start times as it will depend on how many people are being made up. In order to capture the main events of the morning and all the excitement and buzz of the getting ready time, I like to allow for between 90 minutes to 2 hours. This makes for a relaxed morning and gives plenty of time to ensure everything is captured. If your wedding is more intimate or you are getting ready in the same place as the ceremony, for example, you may not need so long
If the groom is getting ready at the same location then I may be able to capture photos of both of you. If you have chosen to have a second photographer for the day, they will be with the groom in the morning, so there is no need to split my time and I stay with the bride
A civil ceremony will generally last about 20-30 minutes, while a church ceremony can be around 45-60 minutes. An early afternoon ceremony time works very well, maybe around 2pm, this way you have the whole day to celebrate with your guests
If you are choosing an early wedding then make sure to have some canapés to go with the Prosecco, or you may have a few guests who are worse for wear before the meal! If your ceremony is in the Winter months (October to March) I would recommend not starting your ceremony later than 1pm to ensure an hour of daylight afterwards to allow for your portraits and group photos
There is one golden rule for confetti… there is no such thing as too much! If you are having confetti check about any restrictions as to where you can throw this (often those places that allow it, still insist on fresh or dried petals and many churches don't allow it because of the mess for ceremonies that follow yours Liz)
After the ceremony, it takes about 5-10 minutes to arrange guests so they are in prime throwing position. There are a couple of way to do this... either wait at the exit to greet your guests as they leave and they can then line up for confetti throwing This is a nice way to say hello to everyone but does take a little longer
Or, tuck yourselves away somewhere after walking down the aisle and stay hidden, or use another exit, while your guests leave. This way you can then exit to confetti and big cheers from your guests - always fun and makes for great photos!
Why not have bubbles instead of confetti, no mess to clear up and the adults love it as much as the kids!
This is when you get to hang out with your guests, have a drink, a canapé or two and enjoy the celebrations on your big day. This is the perfect time for me to mingle and get lots of lovely natural, candid photos of you and your guests. We will do your group photos, photos of the two of you and it’s also the perfect time to capture all the details in the room where you are having the wedding breakfast. I recommend allowing a minimum of 1 hr 30 minutes but ideally 2 hours from arrival at the reception to calling for dinner.
During Winter it’s useful to find out what time the sun sets if you are wanting photos in daylight. If we time it right, it’s possible to get beautiful winter sunset shots earlier in the day.
One really helpful thing I do with all my couples is to send out an online final information form about a month before the wedding day. This helps me to put together a schedule for the day to ensure the best use of time during the reception.
Wedding group photos don’t need to be overly formal or take forever, I like to work quickly and make them fun and easy. There are things you can do to help with this, like agreeing on the group shots in advance, so I know who is needed for the photos
Secondly, nominate a family member (or two) and a couple of people from the wedding party to assist in rounding up those who are needed in each photo, just ahead of their big moment and allow enough time for these shots. For groups of 6 people or less, you should allow 2-3 minutes to round up, arrange and take the photo. For larger groups allow for 4-5 minutes
A photo of everyone at the wedding can easily take 10-15 minutes to sort out. It is also a good idea to allow another 5 minutes for any unexpected things, such as family members going awol! It happens…a lot! I recommend 10 group setups, which should take about 30 minutes total (or less hopefully).
Depending on your time plan for the day we can either do the group photos straight after the ceremony or during the drinks reception.
I love this time! It’s an opportunity for you to escape the hustle and bustle of the ceremony for a short while and spend a little time together. This is often the first chance you get to really chat and let it all sink in that you are married!
I often like to do two portrait sessions, one during the drinks reception and another in the early evening, hopefully capturing some beautiful sunset photos during golden hour. For Winter weddings it isn’t always possible to capture a sunset, but I’m always happy to do a second little portrait session around your venue or outside with a few lights
For each session, it’s nice to allow about 15-20 minutes. Sometimes it might be a little longer depending on the venue and how much wandering we do. There’s nothing to worry about with these photos, it won’t involve a lot of posing or anything overly formal. We can walk, chat and I will guide you so as to create the lovely, natural photos you see on my website.
During the drinks reception, I take the time to pop into the room where you are having the wedding breakfast to photograph the room set up and all the details, such as flowers, cake, table plan, favours. All the things you have spent the time planning, making and creating will be captured before your guests sit down. You want the photos before there are drinks all over the place and coats on every chair!
I normally like to allow about 10-15 minutes so I can capture everything. If there are other areas around the venue these can probably be photographed while you are eating
The speeches are a great time to capture candid photos of you and your guests and are great images to look back on. These generally happen before or after the meal, it is up to you, both have their pros and cons. It normally takes about 30-40 minutes for 3 speeches
If it’s before the meal it’s worth trying to keep the speeches short, or your guests may be thinking of food and not listening! Or you could have them in between the courses...
EVENING – CAKE CUTTING & FIRST DANCE
After the meal and speeches its time for the evening part of the celebrations. Depending on your venue set up they may have to turn the room around and make ready for the evening and the dancing. Even if they don’t have to do this you will generally have about 30-40 minutes to relax and chat with your guests. This is also the time when we can squeeze in a second little portrait session and get that early evening light at it’s best. Most people are milling around, getting drinks and letting food go down, so it’s fine to slip off for 15 minutes
You can cut the cake straight after speeches or wait until just before the first dance. Either way, it will only take about 5 minutes, to give your guests time to get their cameras ready. It's then time for the first dance. This is the bit that kicks off the evening party and is the last of the ‘official’ parts of the day, after that its time to relax, let your hair down with your guests and party!
You can probably work out from this there is a lot that goes on during the wedding day! If your wedding day is short on time it can end up being stressful and not the fabulous, fun and relaxing day you would like. Without enough time it can really limit the photos that can be captured, especially the natural and candid ones of you and your guests. These are the ones most couples want, but without plenty of time during the reception, it’s hard to do justice to these images.
Most couples will never have organised such a large event, so feeling in the dark about timings and how to plan the day is normal. I hope this gives you some guidance on finding those perfect timings on your own wedding day and an idea of how to make the most of your day, your photography and most importantly, enjoy yourselves! If you want more information, I’m always happy to help, just ask!
Fiona is a brilliant photographer, that goes without saying and you can see that for yourself here... but she is also a very friendly, easy going and super professional person to have around... if you are still looking for a photographer to capture your day, check out Fiona's availability soon as the good ones go fast! x