Not many people can call themselves an expert when it comes to planning their own wedding. After all, it isn’t something that you do very often! There’s a lot to think about, and it can seem overwhelming trying to organise all the little details. So it comes as no surprise that I’m often asked for advice on how to plan the wedding day timeline, and I’m always happy to help. Here then, are a few tips based on my own experience of shooting A LOT of weddings over the years!

1.) Your hair and makeup will probably take longer than you think. Build in some contingency. If you think that the whole thing will take two

Allow a little extra time for those morning preparations.

hours, give yourselves three. There’s nothing worse than feeling panicked and stressed on the morning of your wedding because you’re running late! As a rule of thumb, it’s good to keep your other half waiting patiently at the end of the aisle for five or ten minutes, but you run the risk of losing your registrar, vicar, or even venue if you are more than twenty minutes overdue!

2.) Allow 2 minutes for each group portrait. Group shots are important. Some people (including photographers) don’t like them, and they can be a hassle to organise, but in my opinion they’re a tremendously important record of all the wonderful people who made your wedding day so special. Anna and I were married in 2011, and already it’s amazing to look back at some of those groups and see how they’ve changed. Yes, I love capturing moments, and will work all day long to make sure that I’ve caught as many people in natural shots as I possibly can. But, even though organising group shots can be a little like trying to herd cats (thirsty cats, who keep going to the bar), they are worthwhile. Just allow a couple of minutes for each one, don’t go overboard on the numbers, and have someone available who knows the guests and can round them up quickly. No-one wants to spend an hour of their wedding waiting around for Great Aunt Mable to be fetched from the bar again.

3.) Consider hiring in a wedding planning or coordinator, if your venue doesn’t include one. They are, frankly, brilliant, and will keep your wedding running to time if they possibly can. They also look after all the little details that you don’t want to be worrying about on the day. If you’d like some recommendations, then just ask. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant wedding planners.

4.) Allow twenty to thirty minutes for portraits before the meal. I’ll work with you to figure out the best time to do this, but twenty minutes really is the minimum amount of time we’re going to need in order to get some beautiful portraits of you both. I always recommend that we get these completed before the meal if possible, just in case the meal and the speeches run over – as they nearly always do! This is particularly crucial for winter weddings, as we will only have a very limited amount of useful daylight. We’ll then probably try and pop out again for ten minutes at around sunset, where possible.

5.) Don’t plan your first dance too late. The party doesn’t really get started until you two have taken to the floor! So, take advice from your DJ, but I’d recommend not having your first dance any later than 8:15pm. Then everyone can pile onto the dance floor, and your Uncle Ted can really start throwing those shapes that he’s been dying to let loose all evening.

6.) Take a moment to breathe. Everyone says it, but it’s true: your wedding day will be a whirlwind – so many people to see and talk to, so many things to do, everything planned and happening like clockwork. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up just trying to get to the next item on the itinerary. I always encourage the couples that I work with to take five minutes at the end of their portraits session to just be with each other. I’ll head back to the reception, and they can follow on a couple of moments later. Don’t lose sight of the fact that your wedding is about the two of you! Allow yourselves a little time together, just the two of you.

And finally, remember that if things don’t quite run to plan, it doesn’t matter! As long as the two of you are married, and everyone is able to celebrate with you, then your wedding has been a success.

I hope that these tips have been useful – if there’s anything that you think I’ve missed, or something you’d like to know, ask away in the comments below.

I’m Jon and I’m a wedding photographer based in Derby, covering weddings across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and around the UK. I chose to specialise in weddings because each one is unique and special to the couple. If you’re getting married and would like to know more, get in touch!
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