When I meet clients for the first time and discuss the details of their wedding day I always advise that they give at least 90-120 minutes between the ceremony finishing and the wedding breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always a suggestion and I don’t want to dictate and plan someone else’s wedding day but it’s important to allow yourself time to get everything done on the wedding day. The photography is usually straight after the ceremony and nerves can still be very high, so it’s good if the process is relaxing and not rushed!
The Photography Schedule
I always ask my clients for a schedule of the wedding day beforehand and advise on how long I think everything will take, and there’s always some adjusting of what photos we do when and in what order. The gap between ceremony and reception is the busiest time for photographers, as all the important shots happen in this window of time and there’s not a chance to get them again! I’m talking usually about the following shots (I’ve put links in to info I’ve written about these shots before!):
Total time: 90-120 minutes
During this window of time, though some other things may happen too and you’ll need to consider and budget the time accordingly!
Travelling to the reception venue: 30-40 minutes (depending on distance)
It totally depends on the distance, but allow a generous amount of time for everyone to get from A to B! If you get married at a church or other venue, before heading to a different location, you’ll need to bear in mind that guests will have to get there as well, so you can’t expect everyone to get there at the same time (people also get lost) so try and plan this time accordingly. You can always do some shots at the ceremony venue and more later at the reception venue. If you arrive at the reception venue first, then perhaps do shots of the two of you together whilst you wait for the rest of your guest to arrive.
Receiving lines: 20-30 minutes
You may wish to greet your guests at the end of the ceremony or at the beginning of the wedding breakfast in a receiving line. Note that, depending on the amount of guests, saying hello to 60-100 people does not take just 5 minutes! I’ve seen some receiving lines take well over 30 minutes. Think about it, you may not have seen these people in over a year, so there may be lots you wish to catch up on and they’ll all want to congratulate you, tell you what a nice day it is, how wonderful you look etc… They’re a lovely thing to do and they look great on camera, but be warned, they take longer than you think!
Wedding Details: 10 minutes
There will probably be a bridesmaid running around making everything perfect whilst you’re having your pictures taken. The caterers/venue staff will be busy finalising the wedding breakfast preparations, lighting candles, laying tables etc… Your photographer will also want to get in before anyone else and get those shots of the finished venue that you’ve spent a year planning the decorations for. This can take a good 10 minutes and the window for this is usually pretty narrow! It’s also nice for you both to be able to see the venue once it’s ready and check that everything is how you pictured it.
Guests mingling, wedding games and other activities : 15-20 minutes
It’s always nice to have some time spare too! Enjoy the day, say hello to good friends and family, stand back and appreciate the canapés, the details, the games, have a drink and maybe spend a moment together just the two of you! I tend to photograph the other goings on at the wedding whilst you do these other activities, but it’s nice to have a some time to actually enjoy your wedding day with your guests without being rushed through the photography and other more formal activities such as confetti throwing and receiving lines!
Try and ensure you have enough time between the ceremony and reception but it always depends on when you get married and when you and your guests will probably be hungry! It also depends on the light as well (especially in winter weddings!) and what you’ve got planned in terms of photographs. You certainly don’t have to do all of the above and it’s very rare for people to do everything I’ve written about.
Nobody gets it perfect, but give yourselves enough time to enjoy the day, time for photography to be relaxing and not too rushed but be aware that some guests may have travelled a long way and might be a tad hungry!