One of the most useful bits of help we offer our couples is to go through and draw up a wedding time plan for them. The functions coordinator will do a similar job for the reception, but from a catering perspective. Our plan will look at the logistics of the day from preparations through to the dancing. We help our couples plan every detail of their wedding schedule and our involvement on their day, with the aim of identifying potential problems as early as possible instead of waiting for them to happen.

Ceremony Time

The ceremony time is crucial as this is the element that holds all others in place. If the wedding ceremony is too early, even by just one hour, it can disrupt the flow of your day dramatically. Let me show you what to look out for with these wedding day timeline examples…

Scenario 1 — Ceremony at 1pm

1pm Ceremony

2pm Drinks reception

3pm Wedding breakfast

5pm Speeches

7.30pm Evening guests arrive

8pm Cut the cake

9pm Evening meal served. Perhaps a hog roast or fish and chip supper

10pm Dancing

Between 6pm and 7.30pm there is a hole in the day where guests will slope off to their hotels etc. The day will become disjointed and potentially awkward for some of the day guests who are too far from home to travel back and without rooms to go to. Each of the ‘day’ guests will need two meals, greatly adding to your catering costs.

Bride Arriving at Wedding Venue

Consider this…

Scenario 2 — Ceremony at 2pm, Wedding Breakfast at 5pm

2pm Wedding ceremony

3pm Drinks reception

5pm Wedding breakfast

7pm Speeches

7.30pm Evening guests arrive

8pm Cut the cake

9pm Evening meal served. Perhaps a hog roast or fish and chip supper

10pm Dancing

With this timeline scenario there is more time to get ready in the morning, guests will have had a late breakfast or brunch, there is just enough time for photographs during the drinks reception plus some milling time to get to see your guests, and there is also no hole in the proceedings.

Maybe better still…

Scenario 3 — Ceremony at 2pm, Wedding Breakfast at 6pm

2pm Wedding ceremony

3pm Drinks reception

6pm Wedding breakfast

8pm Speeches

9pm Cut the cake

9.30pm First dance to DJ

9.45pm Band start two sets of 1 hr (with a ½ hour break at 10.45pm)

12.15am DJ and bacon butties

Scenario 3 has all the advantages of scenario 2, plus an hour more milling, and plenty of time for pictures and group shots as required. All the guests require just one meal (plus a snack for the survivors) instead of half the guests requiring two meals and the other half of the guests needing one. The venue might not be able to cater for a seated meal for all the guests you would like to attend so this option may not be possible. Stay creative at this planning stage and you can have the perfect day.

Bride Laying on Groom's Lap for Couple Shot

Making it Work

Let’s look at another scenario we faced for a winter wedding. The ceremony took place at 4pm at a castle in Scotland in December, ruling out the possibility of any pictures of the bride and groom together in daylight. However, we pointed out that a dusk shoot with the bride and groom before the ceremony at 2.45pm in the castle grounds would allow us to create a magical set of images. We promised to finish by 3.15pm before the guests arrived for the ceremony. This worked out well because, between us, we made it happen; where there is a will there is a way.

If parking is tight at the church, I’ll often leave my car at the reception venue and get a lift with the ushers. I’ve even taken the groom and the best man to the church in my car when it was the most convenient option. Being involved in the logistics of your photographer’s movements can help your planning issues too.

[Note] If you and your fiancé are getting ready 20 miles apart, let’s say you are at your parents’ house and your fiancé is at the home you share, then you will likely need two photographers to cover the proceedings. There will be two equally important parallel stories to capture and the photographers will need to be in two places at the same time.

If you are both getting ready at your ceremony/reception venue then just one photographer with perhaps a second shooter will suffice. A second shooter is rarely at the same skill level as the principal photographer so it’s best not to rely on a second shooter to provide main coverage.

Couple Dancing

Wedding Day Timings from a Photographer’s Perspective

Here is a typical wedding timeline from the photographers’ perspectives (names of people and addresses are fictitious)

Richard (the Groom)

10am Damien (photographer 1) to meet Richard and guys for clay pigeon shooting (1 hour from the photographer’s studio )

1.30pm Guys go to Richard’s home (15 minutes drive from clay pigeon shooting)

1.45pm All guys to get ready for the wedding and have a buffet lunch

2.45pm All guys to be ready for a few photographs and then leave for wedding venue (15 minutes drive)

3.15pm All guys at wedding venue for a few photos before greeting guests

Nicole (the Bride)

2pm Julie (photographer 2) with Nicole and the girls at wedding venue (1 hour drive from the photographer’s studio) for bridal prep photos

3.15pm All hair and make-up to be finished

3.40pm All girls to be ready for a few informal photos

3.55pm Gather in the foyer for the procession to the chapel

BOTH Damien and Julie

4pm Ceremony in chapel

4.45pm Ceremony finishes. Confetti shots and milling outside chapel — Champagne and canapés served

5pm Photos with bride and groom only, away from the guests

5.30pm Group photos as per separate list (each usher to be given a copy)

5.50pm Time to chat to guests whilst Julie and Damien photograph candidly, capture table details and terrace restaurant

6.15pm Ushers to gather all the guests on the front lawn

6.20pm Big group picture of everyone on the front lawn

6.30pm Called through to dinner. Julie and Damien seated with the guests

6.45pm Speeches and cutting the cake immediately, followed by dinner

9.30pm 1st Dance in the bar area. Rock ‘n’ Roll routine (surprise for all the guests)

9.40pm Fireworks

10pm Belly Dancer in the bar (surprise for all the guests)

10.30pm Dancing until midnight and beyond

10.45pm Damien and Julie to leave shortly after the party starts

Stay creative and open-minded at the planning stage and most problems will disappear. Be guided by the professionals you have selected but, ultimately, it is your day so have the day you want.

Photographers and caterers should work around you and deliver a professional service, but you will need to take their needs into account at the planning stage. If there are unresolvable issues at the planning stages, change your suppliers. It sounds dramatic, and it often is, so start planning your wedding day timings as early as possible to avoid last minute oversights.

Have a fabulous wedding.

Guest post by Damien Lovegrove of Lovegrove Photography

Images from Lovegrove Photography