How to plan your wedding timeline

A well thought out wedding timeline is key to a successful wedding day. A poorly designed timeline can add unwanted stress for you and your guests.  Be sure to follow the wedding timeline tips below for so you feel as stress free as Lauren and Daz did on their wedding day!

Here is an example wedding timeline from a typical wedding. whilst keeping in mind that every wedding is different I’ll do my best to break down the timeline below.

11.45am Groom prep – (boys showered and fed but still in casual clothes)

1pm Bridal prep

1pm Hair and makeup should be finished

2.20pm Leave bridal prep

3pm Ceremony

3.30pm Hugs + high fives

3.50pm Family photos + Group photo

4.30pm Bridal party photos

4.50pm Couples photos

5.57pm Sunset

6.00pm Enter Reception

6.05pm Speeches

6.20pm Entrees

6.40pm Mains

7.20pm Speeches

7.40pm Cake cutting

7.45pm First dance

8.45pm Photographer finish

Buffer Time:

One of the most valuable things you can take from my wedding timeline tips is to allow buffer times throughout your day. I honestly can’t stress this enough. Seemingly small things can take longer than expected. The amount of bridal dress malfunctions I’ve seen, missing bouquets, hair and makeup going overtime. You name it, any one of these things could happen to you.

By allowing 10 minutes of wiggle room here to compensate for when a minor setback occurs will likely save yourself from much unwanted stress on one of the most important days of your life.

Remember, not everything will go to plan. This is perfectly normal. So take things in your stride, relax and enjoy every minute of the day you’ve been waiting so long for.

Wedding Timeline:

As you start to formulate the timing on your wedding day, I think it would be useful to see an example wedding day timeline. Keeping in mind, every wedding day is different so it’s only an indication. Okay, here goes.

Groom Prep – 60mins

Groomsmen putting shirts on

For non female same sex weddings, the boys usually go first. So why the boys first? For starters, it’s easier for boys to take off a jacket and loosen a tie than it is for a bride to get out of a dress to make themselves comfortable if they’re ready too early. Also, brides are seldom ready before they absolutely need to be. There’s a lot more unexpected things that can happen with the dress, hair, make up etc, so photographing the brides after the boys makes a lot of sense.

When I arrive at the groom prep location, you will ideally be showered and ready to get dressed, but still hanging out in your casual clothes so I can get a few shots of you doing whatever you’re doing. I think this tells a more complete story.

For same sex male weddings just apply the above x 2.

Travel time to 2nd prep – 15-20 mins?

Bridal Prep: 1hr 30mins

Like the boys, I like to arrive before you’re in your dresses. So whether you’re hanging out in your robes or casual gear, I can capture the complete story.

If you’d like some make up photos, try to time the make up artist to finish around 10mins after I arrive and I can get those shots first. A note on the hair and make up – it’s critical that these don’t run drastically over time. It’s probably the main reason that causes the bridal party to leave late, which pushes back the ceremony and everything else. This ultimately translates to less time for your bridal portraits, something you’ll get the benefits of for the rest of your lives.

Bride in pajamas

Before I arrive, if you could leave a tidy area with the best window light, it means I won’t need to spend any time cleaning and can get shots of you and the girls instead. If you’d like a shot of your dress, leave it hanging in this room and don’t forget to have it on a beautiful hanger! Try to allow enough time to get the dress on if it’s a complicated design with lots of lacing for instance. They can make this look easy in the bridal shop but don’t believe it will be that easy on the day!


Wedding bouquet

You will need the bouquet ready for bridal prep photos. Make sure that the bouquets are on hand at least 90 minutes before the bride is due to depart for the ceremony and preferably earlier.

Bouquets are lovely details to be captured and it is likely the bridal details will be the first thing I will capture upon arriving at bridal prep.

I will also want to capture a small few portraits of you before you leave for the ceremony. Having the bouquets on hand will not only save hassle but allow your photographer to capture this special detail as a part of your bridal portraits.

Travel Time To Ceremony?

For city weddings, be sure to factor in travel time between your preparation location and ceremony. Don’t underestimate weekend traffic. it can be worse than weekday traffic. Even Byron Bay has its fair dose of weekend traffic! For all of you getting married in Maleny and Yamba, you should be just fine?

Pre Ceremony – 15mins

The pre-ceremony is just a little buffer of time after I leave the final prep where I can get shots of your guests arriving and seeing each other, a few details of the ceremony set up.

The Ceremony

First kiss at wedding ceremony

Obviously, different types of ceremonies can vary in their length . However, from my experience most ceremonies I photograph tend to go for no longer than 30 minutes.

Post Ceremony Hugs + High Fives – 15 – 20mins

I recommend leaving about 15 – 20 mins after you walk back down the aisle together as newlyweds. Naturally, a lot of your guests are going to want to come and give you big hugs and high fives. This is therefore a really great time for you to connect with your guests.

Groom and his two sisters hugging and crying post ceremony by Byron Bay wedding photographer Sam Wyper

Also, there’s an especially high amount of energy at this time and it’s a great chance for me to capture your guests pouring out their hearts onto you both.

One thing I often see couples overlooking is just how long it takes between signing the marriage papers and starting family photos. Everybody wants to hug the very excited newlyweds! That’s why I ask my couples to factor in 15 – 20 minutes for this alone!

The Big Group Photo – 5mins

Pioneer Country Wedding Chapel

The big group photo is optional. And to be honest, it can be a deadset nightmare. It will depend on where the ceremony is to how big of a nightmare. If you want this shot, the only time to take it is straight after the ceremony when we can funnel all of your guests into one place as close by as possible.

Family Photos – 20mins

This is our time to get all of those must-have group shots. The kind of photos where you can’t wake up the next day and say “I can’t believe we didn’t get a shot with my grandparents!”

Like the big group photo, these can be a headache to organise as they require a lot of different people who are busy catching up and chatting to not get distracted, stay close and be ready to jump in to their photo.

Providing your photographer with the different family photo combinations can allow them to better calculate how long to allow for family photos. Well planned family photos ensures that your portrait time doesn’t get eaten into.

Bonus tip: nominate an assertive guest who can put faces to names to MC the family photos. This can honestly speed family photos up by a factor of 2!

Bridal Party Photos – 20mins

Let the craziness begin! Let’s get you all hanging out and celebrating. If you want to bust open a bottle of bubbles, do it! The more action the better.

Wedding Photography Mentoring with Sam Wyper Photography

We can get the traditional bridal party photo, but I’m far more interested in how you all interact together. We’re out here to have some fun and if you’ve got a unique way to show it, let me know!

Gordon Country Wedding Bridal Party

Couples/Bridal Portraits:

Barefoot at Broken Head Wedding Headland at Sunset

If you are after really dramatic couples photos and want to feature the landscape, I would highly recommend scheduling some time for couples photos in the hour before sunset. During the hour before sunset the light is at its most beautifulest and can help create a sense of intimacy and drama to your photos.

If you can schedule your cocktail hour for this time, then even better. Don’t worry, you can bring your champagne with you.

And if it’s not possible to start the reception after golden hour, if your wedding is in the middle of summer for example, then I encourage you to schedule the reception with a 10 – 15 minute minute gap where we can sneak out and capture some golden hour pics.

Frances and Tom Sunset Portrait at Osteria Wedding by Sam Wyper Photography 1

The Reception – Open Ended

First dance with bride and groom at Deux Belettes wedding venue

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s raise the roof for the newly married couple! We’ve made it back for your announcement. Hopefully you’ve had a few minutes to chill. You can basically forget about me from here on out as I’ll be roaming around taking photos of everyone having a banging time!


Dinner should be served no later than one hour after the reception starts in order to avoid grumbly guests. If this is not possible make sure you have ample snacks on hand, empty stomachs + free booze = ?

Also, it goes a long way to request that myself and the videographer receive their meals at the same time as the newlyweds. When you think about it, the best time for your photographer to be having a break is when you are!

Cake Cutting:

Consider whether there will be any elderly guests attending. If yes, I recommend scheduling the cake cutting relatively early so no one misses out. Grandmothers love seeing this timely tradition.

There you have it, my best wedding timeline tips and tricks. Feel free to keep browsing below with more helpful tips and tricks or contact me here for a quote.