Wedding Day Timing Tips

I am very privileged to be privy to all the key elements of a wedding day. From getting ready in the morning through to the evening’s entertainment. As an observer and recorder of the day, I get to see what works for the couple and their guests on the day. In this article I have tried to summarise some of the key wedding day timing tips I have picked up. Of course every wedding is different but the common factor I see at weddings is a lack of extra time for the bride and groom to relax and take in their day. Your wedding day will certainly fly by but with the right planning, you may just have enough time to look around and enjoy it.

After photographing over 300 weddings, I have put together some help and tips on planning your wedding day covering all the key elements. Don’t let all the info in the article worry you. It’s just a guide to help you have a bit of extra time on your special day. One thing to bear in mind is that everything takes longer than you expect on your wedding day. Dresses take longer to get into, no one knows how to tie a cravat! It’s like being famous for a day and everyone wants to talk to you. Just to cross a room can take 15 minutes. Many couples don’t realise the level of this until their wedding day itself. It’s wonderful that everyone wants to congratulate you! Just don’t expect to get to the toilet easily!

In the following pages, I have put together some key wedding tips and help for organising the timings for your wedding.

The Morning of the Wedding

Getting Ready – The BrideWedding Day Timing Tips

This is such a special part of the wedding. The whole preparation and ceremony of getting ready for your day. Wedding dresses often seem to be more complicated on the day than they were in the shop. With all the excitement, the lessons from the bridal shop can be forgotten. Whatever time you think it might take to get into your dress, double it! Corseted dresses often need to be tightened twice and no one can ever figure out what to do with the spare ribbon. Shoes are often tied by bridesmaids and veils are tricky to get in the right place.

Things to consider when thinking about the timings for getting ready:

Factor in some time when you are ready for portraits from your photographer. It would be great to have some fantastic memories of how good you look. 10 minutes is plenty. Some Make Up artists want to finish with you just before you walk out the door. This can be a risk if anything needs changing and doesn’t leave time with friends and family or give you a few minutes to gather your thoughts. Your make up should last all day so having it finished 30 minutes or so before you leave should not make much difference. You can always have a touch up as you head out.


Be ready 20- 30 minutes before you need to leave. This will give you time with the family and friends, a chance to make any adjustments of your dress or make up and to get some fantastic images. If you are not rushed at this stage, you may well be much calmer getting to the ceremony. Remember if a registrar is marrying you, they will normally need to meet with you before the ceremony. For about 5 to 10 minutes.

Wedding TipsGetting Ready – The Groom

The boys getting ready is less ceremonious than the girls however there are a few key things to remember to ensure that everything goes smoothly. In addition to making sure that someone has the rings, there are a few other items to remember that may be overlooked. If you are hiring the suits, make sure that you have everything you need before the day itself.

I have seen fathers of the bride driving 50 mile round trips because they assumed that there was a shirt in the suit bag for them! Check you have cufflinks, ties and shoes as well as suits. If you are being photographed, leave the tie and cufflinks off for when the wedding photographer gets to you for a few GQ or ‘cool’ images before being photographed with best man, groomsmen, etc.


Make sure you have everything, have directions to where you are going; accessories such as shoes, ties and cufflinks are all looked after. Try and look as calm as possible for your photographs!


Ceremonies can last from 6 minutes to 90+! But one thing that is common is that they rarely start on time! From a few minutes while late guests arrive to brides arriving in an AA lorry 40 minutes late, it can all happen. It’s good to get an idea of how long a ceremony will last when planning your day.

Here are a few rough timings:

  • Registrar wedding either at a venue or the registrar office: 6 to 40 minutes.The average with 2 readings is about 25 minutes
  • Church of England Wedding: Normally 25 to 40 minutes
  • Roman Catholic Wedding: Normally 40 minutes to an hour although if you are having a full Mass as well this can extend to over 90 minutes.
  • Jewish Weddings: Normally 20-30 minutes


After a wedding, everyone wants to congratulate you! I have spent time with couples that foresee that everyone will leave the ceremony and either head straight for the reception venue or go and enjoy the canapés. What normally happens is that all of your 40, 80 or 200 guests want to congratulate you. Lots of hugs, kisses, etc. this is a fantastic part of your day. Often impromptu receiving lines start. This is great for you and for the photographer that can capture all your guests’ reactions. These can last for anything from 15 to 30 minutes so just think about factoring in a bit of time if this happens. If you want to organise some confetti throwing as well, this should only really take a few minutes.

Reception DrinksWedding reception drinks

After the ceremony is a lovely time to mingle with family and guests and enjoy the afternoon. If I were to say that there should be one part of the day to allocate time to it would be this. I would recommend at least 2 hours. 2 and a half if you can. There are a number of reasons for this. In this space of time, you want to talk with friends and family, possibly spend some time with your new spouse, see the venue decorated for the wedding breakfast, etc. You may have also organised for a big group photograph as well as family shots (all the key people have a habit of disappearing at the wrong time!) and some time to get some portraits of the two of you by your photographer.

If your ceremony has over run, this can eat into your reception drinks time. Venues also normally call about 15 minutes before the wedding breakfast is scheduled to start. This can mean loosing 20 – 30 minutes from the time you have allocated. By having 2 to 2 and a half hours, this will not really make an impact but should you have allocated say 90 minutes, a 20 to 30 minute reduction can make that time feel pressurised. Believe me, none of your guests will get bored drinking free champagne and eating canapés at a lovely location.

Laughter at Wedding Day SpeechesSpeeches

Speeches are normally better after the wedding breakfast. For those that are speaking, they do have to sit through dinner knowing they have to stand up at the end and entertain. However, an audience that is well fed and watered is a much, much more responsive one. I often ask a groom or best man how long their speeches are. The most common answer is ‘not long, only a few minutes’. This normally stretches to 15 or 20 minutes without realising it.

When practised at home, a speech is read like a book but delivered to your guests, there are pauses for laughter, tears and presents. Having the speeches after dinner will take the pressure off how long they end up being. People are more relaxed and the chef won’t loose their cool over the starters being delayed as the best mans speech enters its 2nd hour!

First Dance / Evening

The only thing I will say about first dance is to not have it too early in summer. If it’s still daylight, your guests may well enjoy the first dance and then go outside to enjoy the evening air and sunset leaving you with an empty dance floor. Time your first dance when it’s starting to get dark so guests stay in and hopefully join in the dancing.

Sample Timings for your wedding

Sample Timings for a multi venue wedding (Church and reception venue)

Church Wedding  with 30 minutes travelling from the preparation / to the reception venue with a 2pm ceremony

12.05 finish with hair and make up with retouching after your dress is on.

12.06 go to the loo. It might be the last chance you get for a while!

12.15 start to get into your dress

13.00 Portraits of you when you are ready and in your dress.

13.15 A few minutes to relax

13.30 leave for the church

14.00 arrive at church (don’t be early!)

14.00 Ceremony

14.40 congratulations

15.00 travel to reception venue

15.00 cocktail hour / mix with guests (slightly less time mingling than a venue wedding)

15.15 Big Group shot followed by a selection of family images

15.45 Couple portraits with your photographer

16.15 call for wedding breakfast

16.30 entrance of the bride and groom 3 course meals are normally about 2.5 hours

19.00 Speeches

19.45 Speeches finished and room cleared / change of room for evening entertainment

20.15 first dance and dancing

Sample timings for a single venue wedding

Single venue wedding, all in one place like a hotel or designated wedding venue with a 2pm ceremony

Morning: Make sure you have a good breakfast and drink plenty of fluids.

12.20 finish with hair and make up with retouching after your dress is on.

12.21 go to the loo. It might be the last chance you get for a while!

12.30 start to get into your dress

13.15 Portraits of you when you are ready and in your dress.

13.30 A few minutes to relax

13.45 Meeting with the registrars

14.00 Ceremony

14.30 congratulations

14.45 cocktail hour / mix with guests

15.15 Big Group shot followed by a selection of family images

15.45 Couple portraits with your photographer

16.15 call for wedding breakfast

16.30 entrance of the bride and groom 3 course meals are normally about 2.5 hours

19.00 Speeches

19.45 Speeches finished and room cleared / change of room for evening entertainment

20.15 first dance and dancing

I hope all this is useful. Thank you so much for your interest in my wedding photography. Based in Bristol I capture weddings across the UK. I offer a true mix of reportage and classical photography to tell the story of your day. I am always available if you have any questions.

If you would like a brochure about my wedding photography or find out if I am free on your wedding day, please call me on 07903 798 755 or complete the form below.

Wedding Photographers Bristol

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"One of the best wedding photographers in the business" - BBC One Show

I am a Natural wedding photographer offering photography across the UK and Internationally