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Updated: Jan 3, 2022

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding - I bet you swing from being excited beyond belief to daunted and totally overwhelmed at the same time! I know you want your wedding day to be all you have imagined since you were a little girl, and for those special touches to be included and not missed out. Planning for your “big day” is a “big job”, even if you want low key it still requires a certain amount of scheduling to ensure everything runs smoothly and stress free.

That’s why at West Coast Weddings, we like to give you all the help and advice we can for your big day. A recent Australian study into real weddings found these timeframes were most common for Australian weddings. So here is the no-nonsense look at what time frames are realistic to help you with planning one of the most amazing days of your life! Your Welcome!

Bride's hair: ESSENTIAL - HAVE A TRIAL RUN WELL BEFOREHAND! One hour on the day. This gives enough time to get it right and make any tweaks or changes from the trial run.

Bride's makeup: ESSENTIAL - HAVE A TRIAL RUN WELL BEFOREHAND! 45 to 60 minutes on they day, depending on the makeup style

Bridesmaids' hair: 30 minutes per person.

Bridesmaids' makeup: 45 minutes per person.

The order:

Hair - Start with the Bride, this way her make-up wont be disturbed and the hairdresser will still be around for any touch ups after the photographer arrives, eg boudoir or lingerie shots.

Make-up— Once the Bride's hair is done, she should be NEXT regardless of any bridesmaids. This ensures she will be ready when the photographer arrives - Bridesmaids can be included in photos later, but the Bride getting ready is a must! Matt makeup photographs best rather than shiny or sparkly, and mature skin needs cream make-up not powder to look dewy and minimise any fine lines or wrinkles.

When should the photographer arrive? Generally we would come directly from the Groom getting ready if they are being covered(this takes about an hour plus any travel time). We always plan to arrive at least two hours before the bride is ready to go. We time it with when the Bride is very close to being finished with hair and make-up but still in a robe, this makes for more flattering photos. This also gives us plenty of time to photograph the details — gown, shoes, jewellery, etc. — in addition to the hustle and bustle of the room and the often emotional interactions between the bride and her bridesmaids and relatives. We can also get some boudoir or lingerie shots (if wanted) and the Bride getting into the dress - which is a must have shot for most Brides.

If you have more than yourself plus four getting hair done, ask your stylist to bring an assistant to cut down on time. For makeup, add an assistant after yourself plus two.

If you're traveling to a salon, double the travel time you anticipate — better to have too much time than not enough.

Put on your veil after the dress. Consider asking your stylist to stick around until then to make sure your veil is secure.

Pre ceremony photos of the Bride with her family and attendants/groom with his family and attendants: Two to three minutes per shot; more if the groups are very large, and less if they are very small. You must also consider how punctual the groups tend to be and possibly cushion the schedule to allow for unexpected delays.

First look: 15-30 minutes - this can be with bridesmaids, parents, Dad or Escort, or in some cultures the Groom. Allow extra time if travel between locations is needed or if the couple want some more intimate portraits prior to the wedding - which can also reduce the formal portrait time after the ceremony, letting the couple get to their guests and reception sooner.

Groom and groomsmen arrive: An hour before the ceremony.

Bridesmaids arrive: 30 min before the ceremony the Bride is generally back with her Dad/Escort having leaving photographs with the car done.

Bride (and Dad or Escort) arrive 10 - 15 min before ceremony to allow for photographs of in the car, getting out of car, bridesmaids adjusting dress etc.

Ideal ceremony length: 30 minutes. It's enough time to have meaningful readings and music to make your ceremony unique and memorable but not too long that people get bored or restless.

Receiving line: For a ceremony with 100 guests or less, this will take 12-15 minutes. With 150 guests, allow 20 minutes. If you're expecting more than 150 guests, consider skipping the receiving line and visiting guests at their tables during dinner instead.

Maximum gap between ceremony and reception: Two hours. Any more than that, and you will need a cocktail hour before the reception.

Family photos at ceremony venue: Two to three minutes per shot — if your family is properly organized! Longer if you expect to have to “herd cats”. It’s a good idea to have a reliable family member to help with the herding!

Bridal party at ceremony venue: Two to three minutes per shot. ‘

Bride and Groom at ceremony venue: Allow at least 30 minutes post-ceremony for photos of you and your groom.

Also, think about where exactly you'll want to take your photos. At West Coast Weddings we always scope out the site days beforehand, at the exact time to check out the light. This is a huge time saver on the wedding day - even if the light has changed on the day we will have a number of options to access quickly for you.

Ideal length Reception Length : Six hours. This will allow an hour for cocktails, two hours for dinner, and three hours for dancing and time to get changed into “going away” clothes, or do final farewells.


Guest are Seated

Bridal Party enter and are seated

Bride and Groom enter and are seated

Welcome toast: Given by the Father of the Bride or by the Bride and Groom.

First course (salad/appetizer) served

Toasts: Ladies first! Start with the Maid of Honour followed by the Best Man

Second course (main course) served

Toasts: The Bride and Groom can give a toast here, if desired.

First dance: (Can be immediately after the bride and groom enter the reception for a short receptions coverage) or following the conclusion of dinner (or right after dessert) for an all night coverage.

Father/daughter dance: Immediately following the first dance.

Mother/son dance: Immediately following the father/daughter dance. Or, sometimes, this dance is shared with the father/daughter dance. During this song the Bridal party take the floor as well.

Bridal (bridesmaids with groomsmen) join the dance floor for part of the song, then break off and get their own spouses/partners or other important guests (eg step parents, grandparents etc).

Guests invited to dance: Open up the dance floor, and get the party started!

Cake cutting: Two hours before the reception ends. (It can be “faked” for photos if we are not staying all night for photographs). The cake will then be passed on trays or set on a table alongside other fun sweets for guests who may want a sugar boost after dancing for a while. Other couples opt to cut the cake earlier in the night, like following their introduction or the toasts. This ensures that all guests see the cake being cut and allows the bride and groom to have fewer obligations throughout the night.

Bouquet and garter tosses: Right after the cake cutting, or about two hours before the end of the reception. This is only photographed if you have chosen all night coverage for your wedding.

Late-night snacks: A popular trend now is for many couples to start passing around bite-size snacks at this point to refuel guests.

Farewell: If you're changing into “Going Away Clothes” or doing a formal farewell such as with a “Sparkler Aisle”, have guests start lining up about 10 minutes before you plan to exit. It is generally bad form for guests to leave before the Bride and Groom, so don’t leave this too late into the evening, especially if there are older family members attending.


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