Okay - so you’ve locked in a wedding date, secured your venue, and started booking your dream team of suppliers. But before you send out those invites, you’ll need to figure out a timeline for the day!
Your wedding timeline will have a big impact on how your day flows from start to finish, so it’s something you’ll want to think about carefully. From choosing the right ceremony start time, to getting those dreamy golden hour portraits, read our photographer’s guide to creating the perfect wedding day timeline below.
1. Work Backwards From Sunset
When it comes to building your wedding day timeline, one of our best pieces of advice is to work backwards from sunset. This means you can allocate enough daylight hours to fit in everything that needs to happen prior to your reception (e.g. your ceremony, family photos, wedding party and couple portraits). The last thing you want is to be feeling super rushed trying to squeeze everything in before it gets dark!
From a photography perspective, working backwards from sunset also means we can schedule your wedding portraits during “golden hour” - that beautiful hour before sunset where everything is drenched in soft, warm, golden light.
Sunset times vary throughout the year, so do some research to find an approximate time window for your wedding date, then work backwards to schedule your ceremony accordingly. For winter weddings, a ceremony start time of 2.30pm/3.00pm can work really well to ensure you have enough light for photos after the ceremony. But in summer, having a late afternoon ceremony tends to work best so we can shoot your couple photos a little closer to golden hour (plus, your guests won’t get too hot and sweaty).
Wouter Kleynhans Tip: We recommend avoiding midday or early afternoon ceremonies if possible during summer, as the lighting can be quite harsh - unlike that dreamy golden hour glow!
2. Consider Your Hair and Makeup Times
One of our most common questions from couples is when they should schedule their hair and makeup to finish. We recommend organising your hair and makeup to be complete around one hour before your photographer needs to depart for the ceremony (with enough time for them to arrive 15 minutes before the ceremony commences).
We usually allocate 90 hours for your photographer to capture bridal preparations, so an example timeline for this would be:
- 12.30pm - Photographer arrives to capture bridal prep
- 1.30pm - Hair and makeup finishes
- 2.30pm - Photographer departs for ceremony
- 3.00pm - Ceremony begins
Wouter Kleynhans Tip: Appoint one of your bridesmaids to keep the room clean. This will save time when we have to do photos in the room.
3. Allocate Time For Family and Group Photos
After your ceremony, we recommend allocating some time for your family and group photos, before we head off for your wedding party photos and portraits.
In the early stages of planning, you don’t need to think about this in too much detail. But when it’s a little closer to your wedding date, we’ll touch base with you and ask for a detailed family photo list. This list should include all of the different combinations of family photos you’d like us to capture.
Once we have your list, we’ll be able to determine exactly how much time we need to put aside. We recommend sticking to around 10 different combinations so you aren’t spending all afternoon getting family photos. Trust us - it’ll make this part of the day way more enjoyable for you! We can always snap some photos of you with any friends or extended family during the reception.
We also like to give you some time to say hello to everyone and greet your friends and family with hugs and kisses before we whisk you away for some location photos. So, be sure to allow at least 15 minutes for this straight after the ceremony.
4. Stay Close For Your Location Photos
Now it’s time for your location photos, yay! One question we get asked regularly is how much time we allow for wedding party and couple photos. We usually like to base this around the 1-hour mark, but it depends on whether we need to travel off-site, if you’re wanting to use multiple locations, and the size of your wedding party.
We definitely recommend staying within close proximity to your venue and choosing one location for portraits, as you don’t want to spend too much time travelling to and from the photo location. We want to get you back to the celebration as soon as possible!
With all of the above in mind, an example timeline for your wedding could look like this:
- 3 - 3.30pm: Ceremony
- 3.30 - 3.45pm: Greet and mingle with guests
- 3.45 - 4.15pm: Family photos
- 4.15 - 4.30pm: Travel to location for photos (leave a good buffer for this!)
- 4.30 - 5.30pm: Portraits on location
- 5.30pm: Sunset
5. Don’t Forget The Reception Details
When it comes to your wedding reception, your venue or caterer will be the best people to help you with timing the formalities (e.g. entrees, mains, speeches). However, we definitely have a few tips of our own.
If you’re planning a summer wedding, it’s pretty likely that sunset will be part-way through your reception - which is prime photography time! If this is the case, we’d suggest trying to squeeze in a 15-minute window during your reception run sheet to pop out for some sunset photos. This could be while everyone is being seated, while you’re waiting for the main course, or even between meals and speeches. You’ll probably really appreciate the chance to step away from everything and have a moment together to reflect on your incredible wedding day.
Another tip would be to maximise the time your photographer is at your wedding. For example - instead of asking your photographer to stay until the end of the night to capture your cake cutting or sparkler exit (which can get expensive!), consider organising a “mock” sparkler exit or cake cutting earlier in the evening.
Last, but definitely not least, make sure you allow enough time to enjoy the party after the formalities are over so you can let loose on the dance floor. We love capturing those epic party photos!