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The Secret to a Stress Free Wedding

What’s the secret to a stress-free wedding day? Scheduling enough time for each wedding task. Here is a complete breakdown of what to expect and how much time you should schedule for your wedding day.

Getting Ready

Bride’s Hair: one hour. This gives enough time to get it right and make any tweaks or changes. I highly recommend asking your hair stylist for her opinion on how long it will take.

Bride’s Makeup: 45-60 minutes. Depending on the makeup style you select.

Bridesmaids’ Hair: 30 minutes per person.

Cameron & Tia Photography

Bridesmaids’ Makeup: 45 minutes per person.

The order of getting ready: When your hairstylist arrives have her start on your bridesmaids first. I personally like when the bride goes last so when the photographer arrives they can take some getting ready shots.

What if you have more than yourself getting hair and make up done? I highly recommend having you ask your stylist to bring an assistant. This will cut down on time so you don’t have to wake up so early.

What if you are traveling to a salon? Double the travel time you anticipate. Better to have too much time than not enough.

When should the photographer arrive? I recommend 30-60 minutes before the bride is ready to go. It is generally best to have them arrive during the bride’s hair and makeup. This should be the later portion of the hair and makeup styling, when the bride is closer to being finished, this makes for more flattering photos. This will give your photographer plenty of time to capture the details such as – gown, shoes, jewelry, etc.

Leah Fontaine Photography

When should I put on the vail? After the dress! Consider asking your stylist to stick around until then to make sure your vail is secure.

Leah Fontaine Photography

When should the groom and groomsmen get ready? 30 minutes before they are needed for pictures.

How long should I estimate for pre-ceremony photos? If you are wanting photos before the wedding and you want some pictures with the groom, family, bridal party, attendants estimate about 2-3 minutes per shot or more if groups are very large, and less if they are very small. You also have to consider how punctual your group is. If your family and friends are typically slow or late, I recommend cushioning the schedule to allow for unexpected delays.

First Look: 15-30 minutes. I always recommend a first look to my couples. This allows you to take the majority of your pictures before the ceremony. (check out the blog: Pros & Cons of the First Look)

Bridal Party Photos: 2-3 minutes per shot if taking pictures before the ceremony. Estimate about 30 minutes total. If you didn’t do a first look and are taking your pictures after the ceremony keep these photos simple as everyone will be eager to get to the cocktail reception.

Family photos: 2-3 min per shot- if your family is properly organized.

Didn’t have a first look? Allow 30 minutes after the ceremony for photos of you and the groom.


When should the Groom and groomsmen arrive? An hour to and hour and a half before the ceremony.

When should the Bride and Bridesmaids arrive? An hour before the ceremony. This makes for enough time to make sure you are hidden before your guests arrive, so they don’t get an early peek at your dress!

** If there is not a bridal suite or room where you can hang out prior to the ceremony, then you can arrive moments before walking down the aisle and wait in the limo until it is time. **

What is the average ceremony length: 20- 30 minutes. This is enough time to have meaningful readings and music to make your ceremony unique and memorable.

Receiving Line: For a ceremony with 100 guests allow 15-20 minutes. With 150 guests allow 20-30 minutes. If you are expecting more than 150 guests, consider skipping the receiving line and visit guests at their tables during dinner service.

What is the ideal length of the reception? Six hours. This allows an hour for the cocktail reception, two hours for dinner, and three hours for dancing.

Order of Reception Events:

Cocktail Reception: 60 minutes. Any more than an hour your guests will get restless.

Guests are Seated: takes about 10-15 minutes for everyone to be seated

Leah Fontaine Photography

Grand March: While guests are being seated line up the bridal party at the entrance. Grand march typically takes about 5 minutes.

Welcome Toast: Given by the father of the bride or by the bride and groom.

Dinner Service: Estimate about an hour, but depends on the complexity of dinner.

Toasts/Speeches: I highly recommend waiting for the last entrée to be served before starting the toasts or speeches. Start with the maid of honor, followed by the best man. Once all the toasts and speeches are finished the bride and groom can give their toast and thank you to everyone.

Cake/Dessert: There are two options here. If you are wanting your cake served following dinner, then I recommend doing the traditional cake cutting photos during the cocktail reception. If you are wanting your cake later on in the evening you can do your cake cutting photos once speeches and toasts are finished.

Leah Fontaine Photography

First Dance: The most common timing I see is immediately after dinner. I have also seen the bride and groom do their first dance right after they do the grand march. The first dance is typically 3-4minutes.

Father/Daughter Dance: Immediately Following the first dance.

Mother/Son Dance: Immediately following the father/daughter dance. Sometimes this dance is shared with the father/daughter dance.

Guests Invited to Dance: Open up the dance floor, and get the party started!!

Bouquet and garter tosses: About 2 hours before the end of the reception. Typically around 10:00

Late Night Snack: This is such a fun and popular trend. You should start this around 10:00pm. This snack helps soak up the alcohol your friends have drank.

Farewell: If you are doing a sparkler farewell have guest start lining up about 10 minutes before you plan to exit.

Cameron & Tia Photography


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