Updated: Mar 29
After the excitement of the proposal and engagement, planning your wedding can quickly bog you down as you discover the million and one things that are involved and all dependant on and influenced by each other, like a game of dominoes or a jigsaw with some vital pieces missing.
One of the early major decisions that ties in with who will marry you and where, is the actual time of the ceremony. At first you might think this is simple and everything will work around it, but often couples suddenly find that other things important to them are influenced by this, and sometimes might not even be possible because of this. One of the biggies is your wedding photographs. Long after the cake has been eaten, the flowers have wilted and the dress has been stored it will be your wedding photographs and film (videos) that are all that will remain as lasting keepsakes of your amazing wedding that you spend months, even years planning at great expense and effort.
Many people have no idea how much time they will need for photographs, or when the best light will be - that’s why you hire a professionally accredited photographer. They will guide you all the way on these things, the trouble is choosing your photographer generally happens after the other critical decisions like who will marry you, where will you get married (often including a time) and where the reception will be. It’s rare, but not unheard of, for people to book their photographer first!
There are of course other essential considerations both before and after the ceremony, and there can be limitations on the ceremony times available (eg a Church Ceremony or Registry Office Wedding). However, most Celebrants will make themselves available at times that suit you.
So here are some basic heads up to consider when choosing the perfect time for your “I do’s”
1.How many people need to have their hair and makeup done in the morning?
As a rule of thumb the Bride will take 2 and a half hours and each Bridesmaid, MOB etc will take 2 hours, even with a team of stylists you need to work backwards to see when you need to get up to be ready for when your photographer arrives.The Bride should be first for hair, and timed to be NEXT for make-up as soon as her hair is done. This is because the photographer will generally want to be photographing her first when they arrive (usually 2 hrs before she has to leave for the ceremony). Bridesmaids and flower girls and MOB can be added in later, or photographed at some other point in the day but the bride getting ready is a must! Usually the photographer will need at least 1 hour with the Groom and 2 hours with the Bride before she leaves for the Ceremony.
2. Are you having a “reveal” with the FOB or the Groom - you need to allow at least 15 min to half an hour for this longer if you are going to a different location.
3. When is Sunset? You want the ideal time and best light for your photos (usually the hour before sunset but you can also get some amazing shots just after sunset). There are Apps that can tell you all this information even years ahead! If planning morning wedding, the sun is harsher in the middle of the day which can be very unflattering. If you have it too late in the day you will have low light shots which can give dramatic silhouettes or grainy effect but that might not be what you want. So know when sunset is can help you decide on the best time for your formal portraits and location shots to get the best light and most flattering romantic photographs. Sunset looks very different at different times of the year so the season of your wedding also affects the available natural light.
4.How long do you need for photos of the bridal party after the ceremony? Generally allow at the very least 90 min — longer if you are moving between locations for shots and you need to add on any travelling including to the reception venue. Maximum time is generally no longer than 2 and a half hours, even for the largest bridal party and multiple locations as you will be very tired after that and the “Gap” for your guest means they have been waiting a long time.
5. Are you having a recessional and receiving line? I have seen many a wedding day schedule spiral out of control as couples get caught up with guests congratulating them and before you know it there is hardly any time left for their bridal party formal portraits or planned family shots. That’s not to say it’s not a great idea, and it will happen to some extent anyway (guests can’t help but stop you to congratulate you) you just have to remember to stay on track within your schedule or allow a lot more time than you think for it from the start in your planning.
6.How long will you be having family photos for? Work on 3 minutes per group/shot - it sounds a lot but from experience it’s not - essential people will often disappear at critical times and need herding and it all quickly eats into your time. Most people allow around 15 - 30 min depending on the size of their wedding and number of family groups required.
7. How many locations do you want for your photos? You might have some special locations in mind for your photographs and if you don’t allow enough time between the ceremony and reception you might not be able to include them all. You also need to allow both travel time, unloading and loading time and a contingency for delays such as traffic between each location and getting back to your reception. So try not to have them too far apart or too many of them as this will quickly take up time in your schedule. Alternatively, having everything at the same location can save you time and money!
8. What will your guests be doing the “Gap” between the ceremony and the start of the reception - will there be grazing plates and drinks or will they just mingle or do their own thing? Planning this will help you relax whilst you are away from your guest knowing they are being looked after or occupied.
9.When do you want to eat at the reception? Generally after the formal photographs the couple will get announced as they enter the reception venue and depending on when the other formalities such as speeches, cutting the cake, first dance etc, will happen, you need to work out when to eat. - especially if there was no food during the “Gap”. You will also be hungry unless you have planned grazing plates for yourselves and the bridal party along the way (eg in the limo travelling). Generally its 30 min after your entrance.
10.Call the Photographer whose work and style attracts you ASAP. You don’t want to be disappointed that after all your research and planning the photographer and videographer you want are not available for your date. Checking their availability is essential, I have even known of couples who changed everything to be able to fit in with the photographer of their dreams - that’s not ideal and very stressful for you! At West Coast Weddings we offer a complimentary, totally obligation free Bespoke Design Planning Consultation where we meet with you in person and we can go over all the aspects of your wedding and advise you on all of the above and more! This is before you have even officially booked us or paid a cent - so why not take advantage of this early in your wedding planning to ensure you have the most amazing day with the most fabulous photographs.
Your Wedding schedule will be unique to your wedding, the above is just a guide to help you plan. For example I have given you tips for the formal photos being taken after the ceremony but you might do your formal bridal party shots before the actual wedding (but this means that the groom sees the bride ahead of the ceremony - not a problem if you are having a reveal with the Groom anyway).
Travel can quickly eat into your time, Wedding cars and limos usually take much longer to travel than a regular vehicle so allow twice as long that what the GPS tells you. If you want to save time, plan your portrait locations close to each other, close to the ceremony location and/or the reception venue. A good photographer will still get you an amazing variety of shots in an around a single location if you choose to have everything in the one place (ie ceremony, reception and portraits) which gives you more time for photos, less stress and less cost for hire on any vehicles.
Remember you are human, and so is your bridal party (and the photographers who will be with you all day) so plan a few breaks for a drink of water (use a straw if you want to preserve your make-up), toilets and have some snacks or food available to graze on. Brides have fainted (especially in Summer) from lack of water and sugar!
Where ever possible allow some lag time - just in case something runs over elsewhere - it will save your stress levels and sanity! You also want to enjoy a few special moments with your new husband or wife, so that not everything is rushed to military precision on the day, it is your magical wedding day after all.
You might want to do all of your planning yourself, or you might hire a wedding planner or co ordinator to help - but remember it’s your wedding and you are in charge of your schedule. Most things will not be totally set in stone until closer to the wedding day, so you can always change and adjust the schedule as you go through your planning journey. Most vendors and venues will try to work around you to ensure you have exactly what you want the way you want it so you have the flexibility to make changes if needed.
Some wedding planners are absolutely fabulous but others seem to forget that it’s about the couple not them! Some will work with your independent choices for suppliers or give you lots of different options from quality suppliers they know and trust to consider, but others are just part of collective with cheap suppliers in their network where believe me you get what you pay for - cheap and nasty. So please do be careful if you go this path and make sure you are happy with the quality of the work of the suppliers they offer or suggest. As an AIPP professional photographer I strongly suggest you independently choose your own photographer and videographer. You will spend most of your day with these people and it’s important that the fit is right and you feel comfortable with them. You also want to ensure that the person whose work you loved and attracted you is the same person you will get to take your wedding photographs, not just some underling or “allocated” photographer on the day. Many couples make this mistake and end up very unhappy with the results.
At West Coast Weddings we are a husband (videographer and drone pilot) and wife (photographer) team who are qualified and accredited professionals. We give first class service and quality products to our couples. Remember the cake will be eaten, the flowers will wilt and the dress will be stored but your photographs and film (video) will be with you forever - invest in your memories wisely.