The timeline and flow of your wedding day is such a big part of your wedding plans and it's an aspect that I often get asked about. You're newly engaged and friends are busy asking about your wedding plans, but unless you've been a bridesmaid a few times or you've helped a friend plan their wedding, it's not unusual for you to be unsure of how a wedding day should flow or even where to begin with plans. Most couples start with setting a date, finding a venue and the photographer you want to capture the day. These three often go together because venues & photographers are primarily the first to book out so far in advance.
TRADITIONAL VS FIRST LOOK - Traditionally the day flows with prep in the morning before the very important ceremony where you walk down the aisle to the man of your dreams & speak your vows in front of family and friends, generally group photos follow, then the bridal party head away to chosen locations for portraits for an hour or so before arriving to their reception.
A popular alternative that a lot of couples are choosing these days is to have what is called a 'first look'. This means the couple see each other before the ceremony and the bridal portraits are done at this time also, meaning after the ceremony the couple don't have to leave their guests for photos & can go straight into the celebrations. When we got married I didn't know about the idea of a first look, but had I known we would definitely have done it that way so we could have enjoyed more of the party we organised & paid for, had more relaxed informal time with our loved ones AND I just love the idea of the intimacy you get when you see each other for the first time doing a first look.
SPEECHES - Another aspect that we often see done a variety of ways is speeches. We've photographed a wedding where speeches were all done during the informal cocktail hour of the evening, before the reception. Probably more traditionally some do all the speeches straight after the entrance to their reception, meaning anyone that's nervous about speaking can get it done and relax for the rest of the evening and sometimes it means the groomsmen haven't had too many beers before they speak ;) Another layout for speeches we've seen is spreading them out over the evening with some at the start, some after the first course and the remainder before dessert or cutting of the cake. Spreading the speeches out is a way of providing entertainment and structure to the whole evening.
CEREMONY & RECEPTION TIMES - Your celebrant will step you through all the finer details of your ceremony and how long the service may be. Couples sometimes wonder what time their ceremony should be. The most popular time seems to be about 3pm, however we've seen 1pm weddings and 5pm weddings! It's all personal preference. If you are having a first look your ceremony might be later because you don't need to allow time for the bridal party portraits afterwards. Some couples want their bridal portraits closer to the golden hour so they take this into consideration when setting time for the ceremony too.
Reception entrances are often about 6pm giving the bridal party 1-2 hours to go away for portraits between the ceremony and reception, but we've seen some start at 5pm and others start closer to 7pm. It's all your choice & however you wish to prioritise your time.
GUEST ENTERTAINMENT - This leads to questions about what the guests may do in between the ceremony and reception if the bridal party go away for their portraits. Some couples organise drinks and nibbles for guests at the ceremony location or perhaps a musician to play while guests enjoy the afternoon, some even organise transport for their guests to the reception if the ceremony & reception are at two different venues.
Some wedding venues even have garden games & entertainment for the guests such as croquet or pétanque. Other ideas for entertaining guests could include a DIY photobooth, a creative guest signing book, a candy bar or a s'mores kit for both the children and adults!
BRIDAL PREP - I am often asked about how much time we need for photos and how this may affect what time the girls need to start getting ready. I always work backwards from the ceremony time chosen or the reception to explain time allowances for certain aspects depending on how you want to structure your day and I always say to give yourselves plenty of time in the morning to get ready. It's nicer to have more time than you need, so you can sit back and enjoy your day, rather than rushing around, pushed for time which leads to stress.
Your makeup artists and hairstylists will give you an idea of how long they require for each person in the morning, from there allow more time into your morning for a light brunch or lunch, for getting into your dress and for popping a bottle of bubbly with your girls too!
The most important piece of advice I can give, as a bride and a photographer, is to make the day your own, do it the way you both want and don't worry about whether it's the 'right' way! I can guide you with consideration for your photography coverage of the day but ultimately it's my job as your photographer to capture your day naturally & organically, no matter which way you choose to structure the timeline.x