9 AWESOME hacks for planning a FUN wedding timeline! (with no boring bits!)

Want to make sure your wedding is super fun, with no boring bits? Well read on……

So, you’re planning your wedding timeline… and you feel a little bit like tearing your hair out, right? It can be a super daunting task, with endless vendors, guests and events to map out and many moving parts to synchronise, but it needn’t be stressful. I’m here to take the overwhelm out of the process and help you nail planning your fun wedding timeline!

When you go to as many INCREDIBLE weddings each year as I do, you quickly pick up some fantastic hints and tips for making your wedding day flow, and how to plan the most fun day you can. As a wedding photographer I get the fab task of heading to about 30 weddings a year and of course, each couple plans their day in a totally unique way. But, in this ULTIMATE GUIDE, I’ve included a whole mix of ideas, tips, tricks and hacks for planning a relaxing, successful, and most importantly FUN wedding timeline. A timeline which allows you to spend quality time with your guests, have time for a bit of a breather, get lots of awesome photos (making the most of the natural light), not be rushed from pillar to post and be able to enjoy every last lovely moment! Sounds good right? Read on…

How Long is the average wedding day?

Your wedding itself will be anything but average… but weddings tend to follow a pattern. Based on the 100+ weddings I’ve been to, the average full day wedding timeline is around 8-10 hours, from getting ready to first dance. This might sounds like a long time, but trust me, it will disappear in the blink of an eye! It really is true… time flies when you’re having fun!

The important bit…

So we’re here to get you married, right? First, things first, the ceremony time is going to be key here, and it’s only right that we start with the main event! If you’re having a civil ceremony, you will need to arrive around 20 minutes before your ceremony time for an interview with the registrars. This isn’t usually necessary for church ceremonies or celebrant led weddings, but check with your vicar or celebrant (for more on why I love celebrants by the way, head here) just to make sure. This will obviously impact on the time you need to be ready by… and don’t forget to add in travelling time too. 

Top Tip: If your ceremony is, for example, at 1pm, tell your guests to arrive for 12.30pm, leaving them plenty of time to settle in, chat and allowing a bit of a buffer for latecomers too!  

Timeline Hack 1: Start the day off in an awesome way!

Let’s start as we mean to go on, right? Start your day right. Whether that’s some relaxing yoga, or an invigorating swim, a luxurious massage or mad dance round the kitchen with your mates, do something that you love, which will help you get excited for the day ahead. Remember to let me know so I can capture all the fun too though, y’hear?

And remember, it’s 2020, so if you want to wake up with your other half and do something with them, that’s A-OK. You do you, boo. 

Timeline Hack 2: Leave more time than you think to get ready! (2-3 hours)

Once you know what time you need to arrive at your wedding ceremony, work backwards and plan in a window for getting yourselves gorgeous and ready for the big day. Speak to your any hairdressers, make-up artists, florists etc who will be with you, and work out how long it’s going to take. Then add on a decent contingency, JUST IN CASE. Registrars get super antsy if you’re late, so it’s a good plan to have a bit of extra time. Having this wiggle room means that you can relax and go with the flow, and not worry too much if things don’t go to plan. No-one wants to start their wedding day stressed! Aim to be ready AT LEAST 15-20 minutes before you need to leave- that way you can enjoy time with your nearest and dearest and a glass of fizz or three before you head off! Top Tip: Work out how long it will take you to travel to the ceremony – (you could even do a couple of practice runs at the same time of day!)- and remember to leave some wriggle room for bad traffic too!

 Timeline Hack 3: Getting the time of your ceremony right!

I’ve seen all sorts of timings for ceremonies, from sunset ceremonies, to legal ceremonies on the before the big party wedding, and everyting in between. Getting the right ceremony time for you can make a huge difference to how fun your day can be. 

Want to make the most of your day? Have an earlier ceremony! In my experience, 1pm is an ideal time. Not so early that you have to be up at the arse-crack of dawn to get ready, not so late that the day feels rushed. As a guide, civil ceremonies tend to last 20-30 minutes, and religious ceremonies are about an hour.  

Bonus Tip! Plan your confetti for straight after your ceremony. It’s the time that feels most natural and you’ll be able to greet your guests at the same time. Confetti generally takes about 5-10 minutes, but time can be added on if you have a receiving line greeting guests on the way out. You can cut this time down LOADS by having a little team of wedding helpers who are absolutely ON IT in terms of ushering your guests along! For more top tips on AWESOME confetti shots, check out my blog here. 

 Fun Wedding Timeline Hack 4: Leave enough time before dinner!

For a 1pm ceremony, dinner at around 4.30-5pm works well. It gives you plenty of time to chat to and hug your guests, get those all important group shots, sneak off for some lovely relaxed couple shots and (AND HERE’S A BIG BONUS) time to sneak off for 15 minutes and chill the eff out. Time for just you two, to shout “SHIT, WE’RE ACTUALLY MARRIED!!!” at the top of your lungs at each other and decompress from the madness that will be your wedding day. Leaving that bit of extra time means that the whole day is more chilled and no-one is rushing you. You can’t have fun if you feel rushed and stressed!

Just don’t forget to feed your guests something soon after the ceremony so they don’t get too peckish waiting for the meal. Canapes always go down a treat, and you can’t have fun if you’re hangry either!

Bonus Tip: You could even do an early cake cut and enjoy it with your canapes! Drunk guests don’t tend to eat cake!

If you only want to feed your guests once, aim for later nuptials… around 4pm… a good little money-saving hack for you there too! 

Remember, whatever time you choose, it will take your guests quite a while to find their seats and get settled, so allow 20-30 minutes for this!

Fun Wedding Timeline Hack 5: Planning your photos

Ok, so this isn’t a hack so much as a little plea from me… don’t forget to plan in time for your group shots and couples shots! The time between your ceremony and meal is perfect. Group shots take around 3-5 minutes each, for for 10 groups, leave around 30 minutes (though I aim to ninja it and get it done ASAP!), and then I’l steal the two of you away for around 15 minutes for some super-fun couples shots, before leaving the two of you to have some much needed time alone to let it all sink in! If there’s a gorgeous sunset, I might steal you away for 10 minutes then too, but no need to plan for that- we’ll play it by ear. Top Tip: It’s a great idea to have a bossy mate or two assigned to round up the stragglers during group shots. It really helps me get them done as swiftly and painlessly as possible!

Fun Wedding Timeline Hack 6: Speeches CAN BE FUN!

Right, so the speeches are always a stress point. When should they be? Who has to make a speech? How long will they take? The way to make speeches fun and enjoyable is to take control. First thing first- you get to choose who makes a speech. You don’t have to stick to the rules!! One thing that is a great idea, is to tell your speech-makers to stick to under 10 minutes each, especially if you have quite a few people speaking. Any more and your guests will get antsy! Speeches can and should be one of the most fun and memorable parts of the day, and timing them well can really help. There are two ways to think about it- if you or your speakers are nervous, it can be a good idea to do the speeches before dinner. This gets them out the way and you can enjoy your meal! But if the speeches are something you’re really looking forward to, a good time is after the meal, or between mains and dessert. That way, your guests are full and can focus on the speeches rather than their empty tummies! I’ve talked a lot about food in this blog haven’t I? Maybe I’m hungry…
Bride and groom laugh at their Leaf on Bold Street wedding reception

Fun Wedding Timeline Hack 7: Cake Cutting and First Dance

Firstly… these are quick events. Each one will only take 5 minutes, so you don’t need to schedule loads of time for them! Secondly- I’ve found that they’re best done one after the other. Cut the cake near the dance floor, and then your guests are already gathered for your first dance!! Two birds with one stone. Of course, you don’t have to do either of these things… your wedding, your rules!

Fun Wedding Timeline Hack 8: Partying the night away!

Again, timing things right is going to make the most out of your day. 8pm is generally a perfect time to get the party started, although in the summer, you might want to delay things a bit- people can be a bit self conscious about cutting a rug unless they’re under cover of darkness!! In summer, it’s a good idea to plan in time to let people mingle, enjoy the golden sunshine, and play some games until the sun goes down. Top Tip: (Full disclosure- it’s about food again!) Feeding your guests in the evening is going to mean extra fuel for crazy dancing. Think easy to eat fun food like pizza, hot dogs and doughnuts.

Fun Wedding Timeline Hack 9: Go with the flow.

This is the big one. You can’t have fun if you’re stressed. That’s a given, right? So don’t sweat the small stuff, ok? Things will run late, schedules will change and there will be little things that go wrong. The best thing to do is to go with the flow and not worry about it too much. So long as you’re married by the end of the day, everything went perfectly 🙂


Sample timeline for a fun Wedding!

10:30am – Photographer arrives for Prep

12:30pm Photographer leaves for/ goes to venue/ceremony area for guest arrival

1:00pm Ceremony

1:30pm Ceremony ends – confetti!

2:30 – 4:15pm Drinks reception

3:15pm Group Photos

3:45pm Couple Portraits

4:30pm Guests sit down for dinner

6:00pm Speeches

7:00pm Downtime for fun in the evening/ evening guests arrive

8:00pm First dance

8:45pm Golden hour couple portraits* (check time of sunset as this time will vary)

9:00pm Party!

 For more AWESOME planning advice, check out my blog on planning your alternative wedding your way here! 

Rachel Burt Photography

Hey! I'm Rach- a craft nerd, serial Netflix binging, tea-o-holic, peanut butter loving, music geek who loves to travel. I’m also a kick-ass documentary wedding photographer who loves quirky, relaxed couples who like to do things differently. I love colourful weddings and non-traditional couples planning their day, their way.
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