queenstown wedding day timeline sample

How to Create Your Own Wedding Day Timeline in 3 Easy Steps

Boooooooooooooring…..Why do you even need a Wedding Day Timeline anyway?

In this blog post I’m going to walk you through the 3 simple steps to help you Create Your Own Wedding Day Timeline. “But why do I even need a Wedding Day Timeline?” you ask… Your wedding is going to be small and relaxed, why worry about a Timeline, am I right? (It sounds so formal and “wedding-y”!) I mean, you’ve got a ceremony time, you’ve told people to turn up bit before that., you’ve got a reception time. People will get hungry – they’ll figure it out, right?

I reckon every Wedding needs a Wedding Day Timeline – and I mean a GOOD Wedding Day Timeline. A Good Wedding Day Timeline helps you do the following;

  • Figure out which/how many Locations you have time to take Location Photos at on the day.
  • Work out how many family/group photos you have time for. It also really helps you to focus on which family/group photos are “must haves” and which are “nice to haves”.
  • Decide whether you have time to do a helicopter flight (and drive to/from the heliport, do a safety briefing, load/unload etc).
  • A good Timeline will help your photographer wrap their head around what the sun is likely to be doing at each venue/location (eg is there even going to be any sun at Location X by the time you get there?).
  • Calculate whether the Ceremony Start Time you have chosen will give you enough time and sunlight to do all the things/photos you have planned and still get to the Reception on time.
  • Figure out what time to serve the meals/start the Reception. (This is especially important if you’re doing your own catering or going to a restaurant).
  • Remember to eat and drink between Ceremony and Reception (and remember to bring some food/drink AND allow time to eat/drink/breathe/be human on your wedding day).
  • Help you figure which Photography Package is likely to be the best fit for the parts of the Wedding Day you want captured.

Why You NEED a Wedding Day Timeline

The #1 Reason to Create Your Own Wedding Day Timeline is to help you have a more Relaxed, Fun Wedding. If you have a good plan for your wedding day, you surround yourself with good people you can rely on (both Wedding Pros and Bridal Party/Family members) and you stay flexible you WILL have a more relaxed, fun wedding day.

relaxed Winehouse Wedding Dayna Nathan Fallon Photography

Create Your Own Wedding Day Timeline

Right, you’re busy people, let’s get down to business…

STEP #1: You’re going about this all backwards…(aka The Reception).

I always start with the time the first meals (either entrees or mains) will be served and work backwards from there. My Rule #1 is don’t f$#k with the food! (Might be something to do with the fact that my mum was a caterer when I was a kid). Nothing will take the shine off your wedding day like hungry guests/bridal party or burnt/cold food! If you are doing your own food, going to a restaurant or don’t have a caterer yet just plug in 7pm for the serving of the mains. (FYI the vast majority of the weddings I shoot serve the mains at 7pm). And it’s normally smart to plan for you and your new hubby/wife to be welcomed into the Reception as Man and Wife one hour before the meals are served. Ie 6 pm in this case.

Working backwards now from the serving of the mains, you may fit one or two speeches into the time between your arrival at the Reception (6 pm) and the mains being served (7 pm). But whether you need to or not will depend largely upon how many speeches there are. If you leave realistic gaps between meals, Cutting The Cake, First Dance etc you will have time to fit speeches in there. A fairly typical Reception Timeline for a fairly typical Wedding might look something like the below;

  • 1800 . Photos of the Bride & Groom arriving at the Reception.
  • 1900 . Mains served.
  • 2000 . Speeches commence. 
  • 2100 . Cutting of the cake. 
  • 2115 . Dessert served. 
  • 2145 – 2200 First dance.
  • 2200 – 2230 Everyone hits the dance floor
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STEP #2: Mind The Gap (aka The Ceremony)

Ok, so now you’ve got your Reception arrival time (6 pm in our example) worked out. Working backwards from there, most of the weddings I shoot have between a 3 and 4 hour gap between the Ceremony and the Bride & Groom’s arrival at the Reception. How much time you need between Ceremony and Reception will depend largely upon the following;

  • Whether you’re having a church or non-religious ceremony. (In Queenstown most non-religious ceremonies are done in 15 – 20 minutes. Add on 10 minutes for signing the marriage licenses and you’re looking at 30 minutes max. Church ceremonies are usually 45 minutes to an hour long).
  • How big your wedding party is and how many family/group photo combos you want.
  • The number of people in your bridal party and how many bridal party photo combos you want.
  • How many Locations you want to go to (if any) for Location Photos and the travel time to/from them.
  • Whether you’re planning to do a helicopter flight between the Ceremony and the Reception.

For the sake of argument, let’s come up with an example timeline for this part of the Wedding Day. Let’s say that the Ceremony is at Thurlby Domain (on Speargrass Flat Road and a Venue I shoot a lot) and the Reception is at Stoneridge Estate. In this example our Wedding Party is 50 people strong and there are 3 bridesmaids and 3 groomsmen plus the Bride & Groom. Location-wise, our couple (let’s call them Bert & Matilda) want some iconic mountain location photos. Based on their Venues, let’s say I suggested we do the location photos around the Skipper’s Lookout/Skipper’s Saddle area at Coronet Peak because (a) it’s stunning and (b) it’s nearby. Bert and Matilda also want a photo of the entire Wedding Party (this photo is pretty much a given for any couple but is one of the more time consuming photos on the day) and they have 10 family/group photo combos. In this case, their Wedding Day Timeline for the Ceremony and immediately after might look something like the below;

  • 1400 – 1430 Ceremony (including the signing marriage license).
  • 1430 – 1445 . Bride & Groom congratulated by friends and family.
  • 1445 – 1500 . Photo of entire wedding party at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1500 – 1530 . Family & Group photos at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1530 – 1545 . Bridal party photos at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1545 – 1600 . Photos of Bride & Groom at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1600 – 1615 . Bride & Groom and I travel to Coronet Peak.
  • 1615 – 1720 . Location photos of Bride & Groom at Coronet Peak.
  • 1720 – 1745 . Bride & Groom travel to the Reception Venue.
  • 1745 – 1800 . 15 minutes for Bride & Groom to freshen up, catch their breath, relax before they arrive at the Reception.
  • 1800 – 1815 . Bride & Groom being welcomed by their guests as Man & Wife at the Reception.

NOTES RE THE ABOVE

If Matilda & Bert (our fictional Bride & Groom) decided to not do any Location Photos they would have an extra 1.5 hours or so up their sleeves. In which case, the photographer would probably want to spend more than 15 minutes on Bride & Groom photos at the Ceremony Venue. Even allowing 30 minutes for Bride & Groom photos, you would still have 1.25 hours “free” to spend hanging with friends & family or drinking champagne & eating canapes. Or you could add more family/group photo combos or do more Bridal Party Photos.

As you can see, even with a modest amount of Family/Group Photos, 4 hours between Ceremony & Reception is fairly snug timewise if you do Location Photos. 4 hours with no Location Photos is generous and will feel super relaxed. If you only have 3 hours between Ceremony and Reception and you have an average sized wedding party and number of family/group photo combos, you probably won’t have enough time to do Location Photos unless the Location is within about 5 minutes of your Venues.

Nick & Nina's Thurlby Domain Elopement old stone stables wedding ceremony exchanging rings

STEP #3: Whatever blows your hair back (AKA the Getting Ready)

Ok, I have to be honest. This part of the day is more or less totally up to the Hair and Makeup Artists & how many people they’re beautifying. I normally plan to turn up early enough to shoot for 2 hours if the Package includes Getting Ready Photos. And I like to be at the Ceremony Venue 30 minutes before the Ceremony. So, with a 3pm Ceremony time, the Getting Ready part of Matlida & Bert’s wedding day would probably look something like this;

  • 1200 – 1415 . Getting Ready Photos at Getting Ready Location.
  • 1415 – 1430 . Patrick travels from Getting Ready Location to Ceremony Venue
  • 1430 – 1500 . Patrick arrives at the Ceremony Venue 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony to get some landscape and detail shots, take photos of the guests and nervous Groom etc

 

The Finished Wedding Day Timeline

So, if we glue Steps 1 to 3 together, we end up with a Wedding Day Timeline that looks like this;

  • 1200 – 1415 . Getting Ready Photos at Getting Ready Location.
  • 1415 – 1430 . Patrick travels from Getting Ready Location to Ceremony Venue
  • 1430 – 1500 . Patrick arrives at the Ceremony Venue 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony to get some landscape and detail shots, take photos of the guests and nervous Groom etc.
  • 1400 – 1430 Ceremony (including the signing marriage license).
  • 1430 – 1445 . Bride & Groom congratulated by friends and family.
  • 1445 – 1500 . Photo of entire wedding party at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1500 – 1530 . Family & Group photos at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1530 – 1545 . Bridal party photos at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1545 – 1600 . Photos of Bride & Groom at the Ceremony Venue.
  • 1600 – 1615 . Bride & Groom and I travel to Coronet Peak.
  • 1615 – 1720 . Location photos of Bride & Groom at Coronet Peak.
  • 1720 – 1745 . Bride & Groom travel to the Reception Venue.
  • 1745 – 1800 . 15 minutes for Bride & Groom to freshen up, catch their breath, relax before they arrive at the Reception.
  • 1800 – 1815 . Bride & Groom being welcomed by their guests as Man & Wife at the Reception.
  • 1700 . Photos of the Bride & Groom arriving at the Reception.
  • 1900 . Mains served.
  • 2000 . Speeches commence. 
  • 2100 . Cutting of the cake. 
  • 2115 . Dessert served. 
  • 2145 – 2200 First dance.
  • 2200 – 2230 Everyone hits the dance floor

And that’s it. (You’re welcome). You’re now hopefully ready to create your own Wedding Day Timeline. Oh, I almost forgot (insert ruthless self promotion here)…if you’re looking for a Queenstown Wedding Photographer you can check out my Wedding Portfolio here.

A tiny bride and groom walk hand in hand in a dramatic Paradise landscape of mountains, lake and tussock - Fallon Photography
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P.S. and Pro Tip: The Queenstown Wedding Blog has an awesome searchable Queenstown Wedding Venue & Vendor Directory. You can search by Vendor type or name or keyword. It’s awesome. (But I am biased. I created the Queenstown Wedding Blog, it’s my baby).