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Planning your wedding can be super hard work, especially when it comes to your schedule! Like how do you even decide how long to allow for the speeches or the photos or the ceremony?! What happens if you're late to the ceremony? What happens if it rains? How do you decide how long to allow for dinner?

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Plan it around what you value, what's important to the two of you.


There are so many things that may or may not happen on your wedding day that might affect your schedule, like the rain, being late, hair and makeup taking longer than expected, setting up the venue, traffic, toilet breaks. There's a lot.

At the end of the day it is your day, you're marrying the love of your life, the person you want to spend every day of your life adventuring with. All those other things that might or might not happen on your day won't matter at all. BUT, to make things a bit easier in the lead up, heres some different ways you might like to do things on the day and some things to keep in mind!

Decide what both you and your partner value, what's important to the two of you. Because that there, is far more important than anything else.

Do you want to spend your time with your guests, being able to have a relaxed conversation. Or do you want to get everything out of the way so you can just dance the night away.

Do you want to run away right after the ceremony for photos or do you want to relax, grab some bubbling and bask in the moment.

Do you want to spend a couple of hours mingling and playing lawn games with your besties? Have a sit down and chat with your nana or pop? Have some wiggle room if you want to watch the sunset for the first time as a married couple?

What is important to the two of you. What do you want to experience? Because that is what your day should represent. Not some tick box list that you guys think you have to mark off because since you announced your engagement, everyone has been sharing their two cents with you, whether asked for or not.


You have so many options, first looks, early ceremonies, lunch or dinner or both, evening ceremony, sunset photos, photos on a different day, photos right after the ceremony, photos before the ceremony, elope, get married at the court house and then have a big party with all your favourite peoples, theres so many ways to do it.

As a wedding photographer, I've seen a lot, I've seen things done in so many different ways, with so many different schedules or values. And every single one of those ways worked for that particular couple in it's own way, so I'm not here to tell you what you should do, I'm just here to share my observations over the last 120+ weddings of how you could do it. The main thing, is to do what ever is going to make the two of you the happiest. Plan it around what you want to do.


First looks can really take the edge of your morning, but theres a few things to think about when deciding if you want to have one. The first consideration is whether you want to see your partner for the first time that morning or at the ceremony. Then if it is something you want to do, the next thing to decide is if you want to do all your photographs before your ceremony as well as the first look. If you do, you need to think about where you want to have those photographs taken. In Summer, it's usually going to be super hot and super bright and sunny about the same time most people want to have their first looks. What this means is that if it's a normal super sunny super hot Summer day, and you want to do this on your beach or somewhere else in the open, you'll likely have eyelash shadows, eyebrow shadows etc from the sun being right over head. Ideally the best photographs are the ones taken in softer light, like around sunrise or sunset, so if you're planning to do a first look at midday, we may want to pick a location that isn't in full sun if you prefer the softer shadows.

Side note: This issue with the bright light is going to be the same with your ceremony at midday as well, so you may want to ensure where you have your ceremony that the light hits both of your faces as evenly as possible.

Additional Photo Shoots are actually a thing. You can actually have your images as a couple taken on another day entirely. Yes, you'd have to get additional hair and makeup done but this is something people do to save time on their wedding day and allow them to spend more time with their guests as well as go and have their images taken some where really magical that isn't always close enough to their venues to go to on the day.

"Engagement" Practice Shoots. I know what you're thinking, you hate photos. But being in front of the camera and being that bit more comfortable with it before the day is going to save you time on the day. I'll know what prompts work for you, I'll already know your angles and how the two of you react in front of the camera and interact with one another. And you'll be so much more comfortable with the camera but also with me, meaning that we won't have to spend as much time on the day taking photos to make epic photos, because we've already done our practice run. Want to know more or see some inspo? Check out the guide to your practice couple shoot!

Travel time. On your wedding day, travel is a biggie. Often people hugely under estimate how long it often takes to get 10-12 members of a wedding party into a car to take them to the photo location, so always make sure when you plan for your schedule, the three people who decide to go to the bathroom when it's time to leave are taken into consideration. The more time we have, the less stressed you guys will be with trying to keep to a schedule.


Stuff always takes longer than we think it will. Every single time. Like the dress you think will take you five minutes to get into, is more like an hour long thing. Why? Because generally when the Bride is getting into her dress, the brides maids or the mum needs to already be dressed, to help her, shoes and all. Or suddenly you remember you wanted to tape your boobs or need to decide what underwear is going to work best. You need to brush your teeth again or find where your deodorant is in the suit cases piled into the air BnB. It's never 5 minutes. Then there are the guys who think they can get ready in ten minutes and then need to google how to put a button hole on or how to tie a tie. Things take longer than we think. Allowing for it in the schedule can make sure day so much more enjoyable, you can relax. You can hang out. You can breath.

And the bonus? You won't look or feel flustered in your photographs or video. You'll have more time to take in the moments with your family and friends. You'll have more time with your brand new husband or wife!

Waiheke Island | Mudbrick Weddings

Getting Ready. The getting ready for me as a photographer is about capturing what ever is going on, the laughs, the tears, the sweet moments, granny getting her makeup done for the first time if 30 years. What ever it is that is happening during the morning of your wedding day. Sometimes that is the guys playing a round of golf, going for a surf or even playing some Call Of Duty. Sometimes that is them setting up the venue or putting the chairs out. I'm there to document your day as it unfolds so that in 20 years time you get to look back on this is be reminded of the things you felt on the morning of your wedding. The pretty details through to the little secret moments or the big laughs and tears when your parents or best friends see you all dressed up for the first time. I highly highly recommend adding on a second photographer or choosing a package that includes this so that the morning isn't based around the photography or video timings more than it is around you having a relaxing morning. Another option is to add on an extra hour or two of coverage to make sure you have more time to get ready without feeling that extra pressure. Ideally at least 1 hour with the Groom and ideally 90 minutes 2 hours with the Bride is possible. The more time you allow for this, the less you will be stressed if something takes longer than was expected.

Ceremony & Congratulations. This here is about documenting not just the two of you, but your family and friends. The handshakes, the back pats, the big hugs. The tears and the laughter while the celebrant or officiant tells the story of your meeting to your family and friends. It's when I get to sneak around the side of the guests and grab a photograph of your parents watching you, so proud or the tears in your friends eyes. So that after your wedding you get to look back at your photographs and see their expressions, the looks of love and pride and the tears too, that you missed on the day because it went all too fast.

After the ceremony everyone is so excited, so full of energy and love and laughter and they all want to congratulate the couple, pat you on the back or give you a hug and tell you how well you've done, how happy they are for you. This is where a lot of those candid photographs come from. The time you allow here always helps to make sure you aren't feeling like you didn't get to talk to half your guests at the end of the night. It allows you to circle around and chat to people while you are on that feeling of holy damn, you did it, you're married!

The longer you can allow here, the more the hugs and such become general chats, selfies and lawn games. Some couples like to head straight into a big group photo after the ceremony and then the family photos before heading to see their guests but another option is to spend time with them first. Then have your MC, Family Photo helper and photographer grab the guests you need for group photos.


Cocktail Hour. This has become a cross between lawn games, champagne, craft beers, canapés, food trucks and grazing tables. Whether you're running away for photos while this happens or you are going to hang out with your guests after the ceremony for a longer period so you get to eat some of the delicious canapés too, a lot of in the moment things happen here. Chats and laughs and spontaneous group and family photos always tend to happen around this time of day. If you've chosen to have two photographers on your wedding day and you'd like this captured too, depending on the schedule the second photographer can often stay with the guests to grab some photographs of what's going on while we are off taking photos.

Group Photos. The family and group photos can be one of the more stressful parts of your day. Especially if you have a really long list of groups with lots of variations. A general rule of thumb here is to allow 3-5 minutes per group of people. To make it go smoothly, it's a great idea to have a helper from each side of the family, to find the people that are required as they are needed and have them ready and waiting while the first group is being photographed. I'll get my teacher voice out and do the prompting and grabbing of peoples attention during the actual photographs so you can literally just stand there looking pretty. Otherwise if you're having to raise your voice and growl your dad because he hasn't put his beer down, you may find yourself getting that little bit frustrated here.

Some couples slot this in right after the ceremony and some decide to do it during the cocktail hour or the rest of the guests are being seated. Where ever you decide to slot it, make sure you have at least a photograph with your parents, siblings and grandparents.

Wedding Party & Couple Portraits. These can take as much time or as little time as you like, but to get the best results and to make it a bit more fun for you guys instead of super duper rushed, you'll want around 60-90 minutes depending on the size of your wedding party and what locations you'd like to go to. Don't forget to think about travel here too, loading 12 people into cars can take a wee bit of time depending on the group of people, especially if no one has decided on who will drive or how you'll get to your chosen location before the big day. You can always do your couple portraits on another day if you want as well, or at sunset, with the wedding party photos earlier in the day. Generally we spend half the time with the bridal party and then the other half just with the two of you, so you don't have to act all intimate or cute in front of everyone.

If you love those more posed, staged portraits this will take longer than if you prefer in the moment, candid, walking along the beach having a laugh photos.


Sunset Photos. Sunset is my favourite time to take couple photos, not only because it's beautiful-amazing-golden lighting but because it's a quieter time of day for you two. A moment to breathe and be alone. It's the first sunset you'll see as a married couple. Not every wedding day gets an epic sunset but even stormy clouds look amazing in photos. If you'd like to sneak away for sunset photos, these are best done in that last 30 minutes before the sun is meant to set. Unless of course we are in a valley of mountains where the sun is going to hit the top of the mountains earlier rather than later.


If you'd like to do this, we can sneak out sometime during your reception or even plan your wedding party and couple photos around this time. In Winter it's usually when the photos are taken as the sun sets around 5pm but over Spring, Summer and Autumn, sunset is anytime from 7pm til 8.30pm so sneaking out of the reception is usually slotted in around the time everyone else is still eating.

Cake Cutting. Cake anyone? If you're going to do a cake cutting, there are two things to think about other than what it tastes like and whether it's gluten or vegan friendly. Those two things are. When and where.


You can have your MC announce it throughout the evening, you can cut it right after the ceremony and start serving it instead of canapés. You can walk into your reception and instead of sitting down, you can cut your cake. You can do it how ever you want.

My best advice is to tie it onto another event, so you have everyones attention already. And to do it before the dancing starts. Once everyones up dancing, it's very hard to get everyones attention again, let alone your own. You are off, relaxing, chatting away or dancing your butt off. So, walking into the reception and cutting the cake either at the head table or on it's own table is a great way to get it done and dusted while everyone is paying attention. Adding it into the speeches or before the first dance work too. One thing to remember is that if you have caterers, they'll usually take your cake away to chop it up ready for dessert, so you'll want to do it earlier rather than at the end of the night so that they have time to serve it up.

The where, is really simple. Make sure there is room for the two of you to stand behind the cake table so that your family and friends can actually see your faces when you cut the cake. If you're back is to the crowd, that is all they will see, and all your photographers will see too.

When ever you decide to do it,. make it fun. Have a laugh, make the most of cutting your wedding cake together and laughing at how you have no idea how you're both meant to hold the knife!


Dancing. Some of the most relaxed and candid photos I've ever taken at a wedding is once the party part starts. Once the dancing is underway and everyone lets a bit more loose, lots of fun bloopers and hilarious dance moves come out. I love to stay about 30-60 or so minutes after the first dance starts to capture this craziness. Especially all the impromptu group photos I'm always asked to take at this time of night.

First dance wise, if you are going to do one, my biggest advise here is not to do it til it's dark, just because, if you want your family and friends to join you and you want it to move into party dancing and getting everyone up, it's hard to convince shy people to have a boogie on the dance floor if it's still bright and the rooms fully lit. Music and lighting set the scene for everything.

If the two of you have no idea what you are doing, romantically swaying side to side and throwing in a fun little spin will convince the room that you know more than you think you do and is super easy to do. Remember you will never get to have a first dance on your wedding day together again so make the most of it. What ever that means for you.


Night Photos. So you want a cool night photo? Awesome. Rain ones are super cool, but if it's not raining on your wedding day, you can still do epic night photos. Using things like the venue itself or even street lights. These can be done anytime after it's dark or even in the blue light we get right after the sunset if you prefer a bit of light. Depending on what you have in mind, it can take a wee bit to set up for us, but only a few minutes for you once we are ready for you.

If you'd like to do a night photo, let me know before your big day so I can get planning!


So, that schedule. It can really look however you want it to look. But if you need help, that is what I'm here for. That super long list of weddings I've photographed have given me an insight into so many ways to plan out the day and I can absolutely help you with yours as well if you need it. Often your venues will also have a recommended timeline too, especially if they offer catering. Your hair and makeup artists sometimes also have a recommended timeline for what the brides morning might look like as well.

If you are the kind of person that wants something visual, here's an example:

Wedding Photo Schedule Examples:


This could be 9 Hours of Coverage with two photographers with a 3pm Ceremony:

  • 12:30pm - Photographers arrive

  • 1:30pm - Bride is ready to get into her dress!

  • 2:00pm - Groom leaving getting ready venue for ceremony location, (20-30 minute drive)

  • 2:30pm - Guests start arriving to ceremony, Groom ready to greet guests (Bride is leaving getting ready venue for ceremony)

  • 3:00pm - Ceremony (always allow more time than the actually formalities will take to allow for the bride or guests to be late)

  • 3:30pm - Congratulations!!

  • 4:30pm - Group Photos

  • 5:00pm - Wedding party & couple photos

  • 6:30pm - Enter reception, cut the cake & first speeches

  • 7:00pm - Dinner

  • 8:00pm - Dessert & last speeches or games

  • 8:30pm - Sunset photos!

  • 9:00pm - Couple return for the first dance

  • 9:30pm - Photographers leave

This could be 10 Hours of Coverage with two photographers with a 4pm Ceremony and First Look:

  • 12:00pm - Photographers arrive

  • 12:45pm - Bride is ready to get into her dress! 

  • 1:45pm - Head to first look location

  • 2:00pm - First look

  • 2:15pm - Wedding party and couple photos

  • 3:15pm - Head to ceremony location

  • 3:30pm - Guests start arriving to ceremony, Groom ready to greet guests & Bride to freshen up

  • 4:00pm - Ceremony (always allow more time than the actually formalities will take to allow for the bride or guests to be late)

  • 4:30pm - Congratulations!!

  • 6:00pm - Group Photos

  • 6:30pm - Enter reception, cut the cake & first speeches

  • 7:00pm - Dinner

  • 8:00pm - Dessert & last speeches or games

  • 8:30pm - Sunset photos!

  • 9:00pm - Couple return for the first dance

  • 10:00pm - Photographers leave


Everyones days are different and that is totally ok. So if what you want looks totally different, do that. If you are going to have a buffet or a three course meal or just a food truck with burgers and pizzas, do it. If you want to have no wedding party photos and just hang out with your family and have that documented, do that. What ever the best, most fun day looks like for you two, do that. If you need help planning it around what you two value, I'm here to answer any of your questions!

Backpaddocks Lake Wedding | Haley Adele Photograph