by Fiona Kelly - the one behind the camera. Fiona is a professional wedding photographer who 'loves to tell wedding stories with natural, beautiful and creative photography'

Here she gives some great advice on how to work out the time you need to allow to get the best from your wedding photography.

One of the things I am often asked for advice on is timings on a wedding day. My couples ask for help to work out what time the wedding photography should start and finish, how to work out timings for hair and make up, how long they should have for their drinks reception, when dinner should start and when they should aim to do the first dance. Most of the time the wedding venue will help with this, they generally have a wedding co-ordinator who will work out the timings during the reception. Your other suppliers should also be able to give their advice on how long it will take them to do their job, but here is a guide on what is ideal with regards to timing your wedding photography to enable you to have perfect schedule on your wedding day.


In order to capture the main events of the morning, with hair and make up, detail shots and what's going on generally I like to allow for between 90 minutes to 2 hours before leaving for the ceremony. This makes for a relaxed morning and the time to capture things properly. If your wedding is more intimate or you are getting ready in the same place as the ceremony you might not need so long.

If the groom is getting ready at the same place then it's possible to capture photos of both of you, for this you would need about 2 hours. If you have a second photographer for the day they are usually with the groom in the morning.



A civil ceremony will generally last about 20-30 minutes, while a church ceremony is around 45-60 minutes. If you are having confetti do check about any restrictions to where you can throw this. After the ceremony it takes about 5-10 minutes to arrange your guests in a couple of lines to do the confetti. A couple of options that makes this easier is for you to either wait at the exit to greet your guests as they leave and then line up for confetti. This is nice for you to say hello to everyone, but does take a little longer. Otherwise you can tuck yourselves away somewhere after walking down the aisle and stay hidden while all your guests leave the ceremony. This way you can then exit to confetti and big cheers from your guests.

If your ceremony is in the Winter months (October to March) I would recommend not starting your ceremony later than 1.30/2pm so as to ensure an hour of daylight after to get your portraits and group photos done.



This is the time when you get to chat to your guests, have a drink and a canape or two and enjoy the celebrations on your big day. This is the perfect time for your photographer to mingle and get lots of lovely natural and candid photos of you and your guests. This is also the time to do your group photos, photos of the two of you and to photograph all the details in the room where you are having the wedding breakfast. Allow a minimum of 1 hr 30 minutes but ideally 2 hours from arrival at the reception to sitting down for food. To get the best from candid photos its important to have the time to wander and let your guests relax.

During Winter it's useful to bear in mind what time the sun sets, if you want photos in daylight. It is possible to get beautiful winter sunset shots earlier in the day.


Wedding group photos don't need to be overly formal. There are things you can do to help with this: firstly agree the group shots before the day, so you know who is needed for the photos. Secondly, nominate a family member or one of the wedding party to assist in rounding up those who are needed in each photo. Allow enough time for these shots. For groups of 6 people or less you should allow 2-3 minutes to round up, arrange and take the photo. For larger groups allow for 4-5 minutes. A photo of everyone at the wedding can easily take 10-15 minutes to sort out. It is also a good idea to allow another 5 minutes for any unexpected things, such as family members going awol! It happens…a lot! Ten group set ups, should take about 30-35 minutes.



I love this time! Its an opportunity for you to escape the hustle and bustle of the ceremony for a short while and spend a little time together. This is often the first chance you get to really chat after the ceremony and let it all sink in that you are married! Two portrait sessions are ideal, one during the drinks reception and another in the early evening, about 20 minutes each. You can capture some beautiful sunset photos during the golden hour - although this isn't always possible in Winter.


During the drinks reception your photographer will make time to pop into the room where you are having the wedding breakfast to photograph the room set up and all the details, such as flowers, cake, table plan, favours. All the things you have spent the time planning, making and creating will be captured before your guests sit down. You want the photos before there are drinks all over the place and coats on every chair! Allow about 15 minutes for this to ensure capturing everything. If you have other decor throughout the reception venue these bits will be photographed during the drinks reception or while you are eating.


The speeches are a great time to capture candid photos of your guests. These generally happen before or after the meal, which is up to you both have their pros and cons. It normally takes about 30-40 minutes for 3 speeches (father of the bride, groom and best man).



After the meal and speeches its time for the evening part of the celebrations to kick in. Depending on your venue set up they may have to turn the room around and make ready for the evening and the dancing. Even if they don't have to do this you will generally have about 30-40 minutes to relax and chat with your guests. This is also the time when we can squeeze in a second little portrait session and get that early evening light at it's best. Most people are milling around, getting drinks and letting food go down, so its a natural time to slip off for 15 minutes.

You can cut the cake straight after speeches or wait until just before first dance. Either way it will only take about 5 minutes, to give time for your guests to get their cameras ready. Its then time for the first dance. This is the bit that kicks off the evening party and is the last of the 'official' parts of the day, after that its time to relax and let your hair down with your guests.


You can probably work out from this there is a lot that goes on during the wedding day! If your wedding day is short on time it can end up being stressful at times and not the lovely, relaxing day you would like. Without enough time it can really limit the photos that can be captured, especially the natural and candid ones of your guests. These are the ones most couples love to have, but without a good amount of time during the reception it's hard to do these justice.

The majority of couples will never have organised such a large event before so knowing how to work out timings and schedule everything is tricky. Hopefully this gives you some guidance and an idea of optimum times to make the most of your day and your photography. If you want more information I'm always happy to help.


Hi, I'm Fiona. I truly love photographing weddings. The people, the places, the fun, the laughter, the mad dancing, the tears of joy and you two…the fabulous bride and groom! It’s all about you and capturing your wedding day story with all the wonderful, unique bits that make it your special day. My aim is simple, to create beautiful, natural images that capture the spirit of the day from the biggest moment to the smallest detail. All done with a big smile on my face and in a very relaxed and unobtrusive way.



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