Feb 15, 2024


Tips to Structure Your Wedding Timeline

Ida Irvine

Chances are this is the first time ever that you’re planning a wedding (unless you are a wedding planner, or you’ve been the maid of honour). So of course you have no idea where to start when it comes to structuring the timeline for your day. Luckily I have done countless weddings and I’ve had the opportunity to see every kind of timeline – what works best and what definitely doesn’t! So here’s a breakdown of how I would approach the structure a wedding timeline:

Plan back from Golden Hour

IF you want your couples photos taken during golden hour (which I would recommend) I usually check the golden hour times on your wedding date and plan around it. For example, in the summer (in Namibia and South Africa), golden hour is usually around 7h00/7h30pm. I would then recommend having the ceremony from 3 – 4pm, take the family and bridal party pictures directly afterwards and then enjoy some canapés with your guests (you really don’t want to miss out on this for the sake of photos). Then I would start the reception at 6pm and once the speeches are done and people start eating, I would slip out with my couple to take a few breathtaking bridal couple portraits when you’re drenched in the last golden light of the sun! This usually only takes about 30 – 40 minutes – your guests won’t even notice that you’ve left!

In the winter, I would also recommend having the ceremony from 3-4pm (with family portraits and bridal party photos directly afterwards), but golden hour would be around 6/6:30pm, so I would recommend you have canapés with your guests, and we will slip away for bridal portraits at around 6, while the guests slowly head over to the reception area.

A Namibian Couple Eloping in the iconic Namibian Moonlandscape

Don’t Do Your Makeup Last

Brides – ask your makeup artist to have you done second or third to last, and make sure you are done at least 90 minutes before you have to leave for the ceremony. If your ceremony is at 3pm and it’s a 10 minute commute to the ceremony area, make sure you are done at around 1:20pm. Keep in mind that you might want a few photos with your bridesmaids (if you have cute outfits), then you have to get dressed. I capturing moments of you getting into the dress, spraying perfume, getting your shoes on, etc (without feeling rushed). Then we usually take a few beautiful bridal portraits wherever we find a beautiful spot. If your makeup only gets done 10 minutes before you have to leave, everything will be rushed and there will be no time to stop and take a breath (and beautiful photos) before you head down to the ceremony. It does have the potential to make the whole day seem rushed – you’ll feel stressed, and that’s the last thing you want on your wedding day!

Have A Family Shot List

This is great to save some time that you can use to spend with your guests. I typically don’t recommend having more than ten family combinations – and also, keep it to the family! Your friends can have photos with you at a later stage (we usually like to take candids during canapés or a few posed group shots with your friends, but once friends start wanting to take photos during family portraits, you’ll end up having sore cheeks and no time left to enjoy the canapés, have a drink and relax). So have a shot list of combinations ready that are important to YOU. A lot of people assume that I have a standard shot list (and sometimes I do), but I have caused some family drama by trying to pose two people together that clearly did not want to be near each other… It would also be great to have someone reading the names off the shot list and making sure those people are there and ready to pose. This really does save heaps of time!

Get All the Formalities Done Before the Party Starts!

It’s never a good idea to call people off the dance floor to go watch you cut the cake. Make sure the speeches, games, father-daughter dance, first dance, garter- & bouquet toss, cake cutting, etc. is all DONE before getting the party going. It can seriously ruin the vibe when you decide to cut halfway through a song to announce that a game will be played at that moment. You might struggle to get back into the vibe and as photographers, we might not be able to get all these important moments, unless you pay for extra hours.

Have Canapés With Your Guests

So many past brides have told me how upset they were that they missed the live band and the good food (that they paid a lot of money for) during cocktail hour, because they had to go take photos. In some cases it’s understandable if you plan for the photo venue to be quite a drive from where the cocktail hour will be, but I don’t recommend this. Your wedding day happens once, people come from far and wide to celebrate with you and then you don’t even get to spend that much time with them. I’ve explained how I structure a timeline to make sure you join in on the cocktail hour. And if you have another venue that you want your couples photos to get taken, schedule it for another day. Why not?

Did you find this helpful? I have a full blown wedding guide with a timeline template that you can download any time! Send me an email and I’ll forward it to you.

Have a good one, Lovers!

A Namibian Couple Eloping in the iconic Namibian Moonlandscape

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