Relaxed wedding day timeline: The ultimate guide to help you plan a relaxed wedding day

Wedding planning advice

Even a relaxed wedding day needs some sort of planning as to when to Say ‘I do’, smash cake in your face and party like a rock star.
I’ve been to quite a few weddings (it’s true) and I’ve seen a stressed wedding, a late wedding and a wedding where everyone is ready super early. I’m currently waiting for the wedding where the car breaks down en route. One thing in common with all of these weddings are that they wanted a relaxed and fun wedding day. When you’re wedding planning, it can seem pretty overwhelming when to do what. So, here is my guide to help you work out a relaxed wedding day timeline.

Getting ready for the wedding day: 2-3hrs

Have your super closest friends and family with you, get the music on and bubbly on ice. Make a morning of it so no-one is rushing around and feeling stressed. Give yourselves plenty of time on your relaxed wedding day timeline. Personally, I think its best if you can, to try and all be together during this part and avoid having people coming and going – it can get quite hectic if it’s a bit like Piccadilly Circus. I arrive around 2 hours before your ceremony, so this usually means you’ll have your face done, be merry and getting ready to put your wedding dress on.
There is always someone who gets ready super quick – and it tends to be the partner that doesn’t want a full face made up and hair done. If getting ready is going to be super quick and slick, have a lie in or plan to a huge fry up with your friends and family where you all have a role in cooking! Just have fun and hang out.

TOP TIP: If you’re planning to get to the pub – check the opening times! You don’t want to be waiting around like this lot….

Going to the Chapel and we’re gonna get maawwied: 15-45mins

Getting ready at the place you are getting married and having your reception will mean you have the ultimate relaxed wedding day timeline. It’ll be a short walk to where you need to meet the registrar before you hot step it down the aisle. If it’s not the case then keep it relaxed by giving yourself good time to arrive. Add 15 mins more to account for traffic and remember that you’ll both need to talk to the registrar before the ceremony starts – they never show that bit in the movies!

bride arriving to wedding ceremony relaxed wedding day timeline

Fancy a first look? I would love to photograph a first look! It’s a great way to ease all the nerves and have a private, personal treasured moment before all eyes on you both. If this sounds like something you both want to do then plan to get together and arrive at the ceremony much earlier. It can also mean couple photos can be taken at this point rather than having to escape to do them later.

TOP TIP: Tell the guests that the ceremony starts half an hour earlier than it actually does. They’ll be there on time!

The wedding ceremony: 30mins-1hr

If you’re having a religious ceremony then it will be a longer than a civil one. Civil ceremonies tend to be up to half hour. Religious ceremonies can be from 30mins to an hour or longer. After the ceremony usually comes my next favourite bit. CONFETTI! You can have confetti for when you walk down the aisle inside or you can have it outside. Either way, let the guests know in advance so they can be ready. If it’s going to be outside then slip away somewhere so I can get everyone organised outside for it.

Top tip: If you have an autumn or winter wedding, opt for an early ceremony (1pm latest) so that you can make the most of the light you have.

The relaxed wedding reception: 60-90mins

This is the area I see people skimp on with time and where it can get a little hectic. If you want a relaxed wedding then this is where if you give it time, you’ll have a relaxed vibe. Guests will want to talk to you, you’ll all also be hungry. Waiting around for the meal later won’t feel a pain if you plan for plenty canapes, drinks and entertainment for guests. This is when I get all the candid wedding photos. During this time the group photos will also happen and some time for couple photos.

TOP TIP: Avoid a receiving line. It can feel very formal for a relaxed day and take up a looooot of time.

Groupies: 30mins

I do the group photos as soon as I can – I usually wait for around 20mins after the reception has started. This means we lose less people who have gone for a wander – people do wander off to the bar. Wedding group photos don’t actually take long to photograph, what takes time is finding the people that need to be in the photo! I would allow up to half hour to capture up to 6-8 group photos, longer if you want the fun wedding party shots too. (And you will!)

TOP TIP: For an uber relaxed wedding, keep the wedding group photos to the absolute nearest and dearest. Head over here to read lots more handy tips about how to plan group photos so your wedding doesn’t feel like a studio photoshoot.

The couple photos: 30mins

After you have mingled a bit with the guests and had a drink and had a few canapes, we’ll get together for 20-30 mins for the couple portraits. This will be your favourite bit, believe me. Not because you love the paparazzi life but because you both get some time to breathe and actually enjoy the fact that you have just got married! If you want some sunset photos then I’ll see what time it’s happening and whisk you away again for another 10 mins to get them. They will be well worth it and I have never had couples say no. It’s more likely the sun has.

TOP TIP: Have a pre-wedding shoot with me before the wedding day. It kills the nerves for this part of the day. 

Speeeech! 15-30mins

Make time for speeches on your relaxed wedding day timeline. I love to photograph them because of the reactions I capture. No blood but lots of sweat, laughter and tears. The best way to plan the time for this is to think about how you would feel as a guest sitting through them. Would you want to listen to the speeches waiting for food? Would you want to stop half way through eating to listen to speeches or would you want them at the end when you’re fed and watered?  Speeches could even happen a lot later after dinner, during the evening reception, where it will feel more informal.

TOP TIP: Keep the speeches short and sweet! No one likes a long speech and if you are doing it before food and the speeches overrun….well you can imagine. Ask the speakers to plan for 5 minutes of speaking but in your wedding timeline allow for 15 minutes of speaking.

Grub’s up: 60-90mins

This all depends on whether you have gone for a full on chilled out relaxed wedding with food cart feasting or opted for a proper sit down. During this time, chill out at the top table if you have one or have a picnic by the haystacks. Plan for a relaxed wedding day dinner of around an hour and half.

TOP TIP: Spend some time speaking to guests during the coffee time. Make a beeline for those you haven’t had a chance to say hello to yet. 

Mingle some more time: 45mins-60mins

Or more commonly known as the evening reception on your relaxed wedding day timeline. It’s the bit when your evening guests arrive too. I grab more candid wedding photos here as you and your guests head out to chill and the main room is prepared for the shindig. This is also a great time to grab 10 mins and get some sunset shots with the both of you.

TOP TIP: You could kick off this bit with speeches. Grab a drink, huddle round, raise a glass before hitting the lawn games or the magic mirror.

Hit the dance floor: 30mins onwards

Go for romance, go for cheese or go for a full on Fat Boy Slim anthem. Whatever you do, dance and keep the dance songs coming whilst you get people on the dance floor. An empty dance floor is pants. The timing matters here, if you start too soon after the meal time and you’ll find less people dancing. Often guests dance straight after the first dance, then the floor empties up again when an evening buffet is served. The sooner and longer you have the guests dancing after the first dance, the better!

TOP TIP: Don’t give them an excuse to not be on the dance floor: make sure the tunes are bangin’ and stuff everyone loves & stay dancing with them.

Weddings rarely tend to stick to a set time so don’t sweat it. However, it’s a good idea to have a wedding timeline regardless. If you want something specific to happen on a wedding day then put it on the wedding day timeline. For example, if you to do a first look with your dad, put it on the timeline. If you want a brass band play and march you from the ceremony to the reception then put it on the wedding day timeline. When you book with me, I will help you with a timeline and I do this about 4 weeks before the day.

At the end of the day, the goal is to get wed and have good time doing it. That will happen no matter what! When you book me as your wedding photographer you have me on hand to get tips and advice. Sound good? Then get in touch.

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