the blog

How to Plan Your Wedding (part 2) – Ceremony Timeline

Ceremony timeline – the next part in what is hopefully a pretty handy insight into planning your wedding day. As I mentioned in the first part of the series – planning a wedding can be an awwwwfy new experience for most folks. With that in mind it seemed a cool idea to give you an insight into the minds of some rather nice people who see a fair few weddings, and therefore have some experience that you can tap into, right goddam here for free!

ceremony timeline - walking to your ceremony

I’ll hit out with that disclaimer again – this isn’t a ‘do it this way or else the entire world may collapse in on itself, people will run screaming and there will be general panic’ – more of a ‘hey, you deserve a chilled out day, so here are some things to think about to make that peachy ceremony timeline a reality’. So let’s crack on shall we – here’s how to get the most out of your ceremony timeline, which actually starts, errrr, before the ceremony. Stick with me, it’s legit ;D

1.”If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour…you’re gonna see some serious sh*t” – Dr. Emmett Brown, Back to the Future

Holy smokes! You are ready. You are about to leave for your wedding, see the one you love and make that lifetime commitment, and that is the most wonderful thing. I get goosebumps just thinking about it :) Here are some things you will definitely want to consider before you are in that moment of anticipation – how are you getting to your ceremony? Are you able to walk, is it a car or taxi away…and is it likely to be at a busy time? My previous blog post covers right up to the point of leaving for your ceremony – so hopefully if you’ve read that, you’ll be ready and buzzing to go and have time to hug your bridal party and family before you do so, this is very important :D So physically getting there is the next piece of the ceremony timeline puzzle.

I mean, if your whole day is happening in the one venue, fantastic! Your ceremony timeline at this point is pretty easy to plan and you get alllll the time to mingle with your guests once the vows are complete :) You don’t need to think about any logistics at this point other than perhaps getting down the stairs (if there are any)…which hopefully I don’t need to tell you how to do :D, I’m pretty sure you’re golden for that…Although if you’re wearing a long dress and walking I’ve heard kicking it slightly at the front makes going downstairs a little bit easier. Disclaimer, I’ve not tried it myself and I don’t recommend trying it for the first time on the stairs as you head to your ceremony. That way madness lies :D

But aye, if you’re travelling to your ceremony, how you doing it dude?

ceremony timeline - walking to your weddingceremony timeline - arriving by taxi to your wedding

If you are planning to get ready somewhere other than your ceremony venue, then there are a few wee golden nuggets you could consider in order to make that part fuss free too :) Be it by taxi, flying monkeys or perhaps a vintage car, I thought it was best to ask those in the know for their top tips about travelling to your wedding. Neil and Kareth are the lovely folks behind Met Wedding Cars, with a fleet of lovingly taken care of cars they know how to get their couples and their fams to their destination :D

“As a family run business we love being part of a couples wedding day – it’s really important to us that our couples and their families feel looked after by us. In the first instance we usually encourage a visit to our showroom – it’s a great way to meet us, see our full range of wedding cars (from modern to vintage!) and also means you can visualise arriving to your wedding – usually this is when the butterflies start and you have a ‘this is really happening!’ moment. We can then hear all the details of your wedding and help you figure out what is best for you.”

“Ahead of your day, we make sure that we know addresses and help figure out your timings – taking into consideration the roads we will need to use and possible traffic we might encounter. We like to arrive slightly earlier than agreed  to pick you up as we find it helps with any nerves a couple may have – and it also means we are ready when you are! We suggest aiming to arrive bang on time, or if you want to arrive slightly late we can plan for that too – there are always guests arriving at the last minute!”

Met Wedding Car - Vintage car on country road

“We are passionate about our couples and our cars – on a wedding day we are always on hand whether it’s to hold your flowers while you get in or out of the car, keeping you dry from the odd shower, fixing your dress and of course popping the bottle of bubbly to celebrate. While you are saying your vows we choose a nice location in case you’d like a photograph with your cars afterwards – we’d also love to say congratulations!”

one of the cars owned by Met Wedding Cars

It’s always nice to see Neil and Kareth at a wedding I am shooting as they always have a smile and a hello – you can catch them on their website and facebook :)

Occasionally I travel with the bridal party (and Liam usually with your other half and his or her squad). We’ve been on vintage buses and tractors (NOT easy to photographs on country back roads FYI haha), Limos and row boats, we’ve walked through cities and villages with awesome bridal parties – it can all make for some pretty interesting photographs for telling your story…plus, who wouldn’t want a a wee go on a tractor, ammaright?! Anyway, back to that ceremony timeline huh? :D

bride arriving to her ceremony via old bus!ceremony timelines - driving to your wedding

Stuart and his brother drove their Grandads vintage car to Stuart’s wedding in Pitgaveny Orchard, Elgin. I’m pretty sure Liam had the best day ever the way he spoke about it afterwards :D

If I’m not travelling with the bridal party  I jump in my DeLorean and gun it to ’88. There are times when I’ve run out of rubbish to fuel it (surprising seeing as Liam despairs that I never take out the bins), in which case I drive a bog standard car to your ceremony. For Glasgow weddings, I always take a gander here ahead of the day to find out if there are any organised walks to take place in the city – a common theme for the summer months in particular. For further afield in Scotland, I’d also be checking Traffic Scotland to get an idea of what problems I could run into on main roads and motorways – thrilling, I know, but worth it :D I use the app Ringo if I need to, which means I never have to have change on me for parking in city streets. It’s great as it links straight to your card, you type in the meter number and bobs yer uncle, yer laughing as you skip gaily away, high fiving passers by and doing the finger guns at folk. One thing to watch is that with some meters you can extend your parking, but some do have a limit to the amount of time you can stay in the one spot. Outside of weddings, this app is mega handy too! If I’m ever really unsure I’ll find somewhere to park my car for the full day – easy to the peasy :)

I tend to leave your pre-wedding festivities before you do – I want to make sure I get there ahead of you, have a minute to give your other half a wee squeeze, speak to your celebrant and of course get ready for your own arrival. Liam is usually already there, photographing your guests hugging the life out of your other half so I have a quick catch up with him too – be rude not to really ;)

ceremony timeline - moments before the vows

2. “Better 3 hours too soon than a minute too late” – William Shakespeare

Woah, slow down there fella. While I kind of agree in part with his thinking, ain’t nobody got time for being 3 hours early to their own ceremony – Shakespeare, I like you,  but you be a crazy coconut! However it does raise an interesting point. I’ve heard in the past of folk wanting to arrive ever so slightly fashionably late (as Met touched on above). Whether you are arriving alongside your spouse and walking in together, or meeting your other half at the end of the aisle – be mindful of your timing so that on the day you can breeze through it all chilled like. By giving your ceremony timeline a little bit of love ahead of the game, you can make sure that if you are choosing to arrive late it’s on purpose and not by accident. Personally, I’m not sure I’d recommend arriving late on purpose – not only could this stress you out when you should be all nervous anticipation, but think of your poor other half and your excited guests waiting at the other end –  but if it is something you really want to do, I’d even suggest giving your celebrant a heads up so that they can work this into their ceremony timeline for you.

Being generous with your own time can only be a good thing – if you plan quite a tightly timed day and then run late, this not only eats into your ceremony timeline, it can affect those lovely moments after your ceremony for mingling with your guests, and can even affect your meal later on (think of the foooood!).

True story – one of my oldest friends planned to be a little late to her ceremony, time got away from her and resulted in her being 45 minutes late – not part of her plans at all, and although the rest of the day went off without a hitch (except the legal kind of hitch) it certainly did add to their stress right before they said their I-Do’s. Hello to Helly & Iain haha (and thank you for allowing me to share this!) :D

ceremony timeline - brides arrival, grooms reactionceremont timeline - groom waiting for his bride

3. The Legal Bit, AKA OHMERGERD we are doing it for real!

I’m not going to go into too much detail on this part as your timeline here can be dictated by the type of ceremony you are having. There are quite a few different types available from religious, to humanist, interfaith, pagan, civil – so you can find whatever is right for the both of you :) I’ll definitely know allll about your ceremony through chatting to you in the run up to your big day. As a photographer I of course rate your wedding photographs as pretty up there in terms of important things to have, but I genuinely believe that your ceremony is more important – I mean let’s face it – without this legal bit you are actually just throwing a pretty epic, potentially expensive party :-O The fact that you are both getting married is why everyone is there in the one place together – to see you both stand with each other, vow to be each others lobsters for life and then celebrate that goddam fact, yaldi!

As I mentioned earlier, when I arrive I always make time for a quick chat with your celebrant, to introduce myself, to ask if there are any restrictions and let them know that while I do want the best photographs for my couples, I also respect what they are doing – I want to work with them, not against them To me, we are all there for the same reason, to give our absolute best to our couples. My own approach to photographing your ceremony is simple, I pick a spot with a peachy view for photographic goodness, and I only move under cover of darkness. Ok, not darkness – but I tend to only move as something else is happening – say that moment your friend has finished their reading and is moving back to their seat, I’ll try to subtly get to a new spot then. I can’t think of anything worse than cutting back and forth like I own the joint during the bits like your vows, I shudder to even think of it. The only other time that I tend to move out with this is if I don’t have a choice – say my view has been accidentally obstructed, I’ll try and discreetly move to a new spot. I love capturing the looks, the smiles, the tears, the hand squeezes, give me it all man! My other half Liam tends to hang at the back of your ceremony more often than not, for a different perspective to your story :)

ceremony timeline - walking to your ceremony

Some celebrants and venues are more restrictive than others, and I’d definitely suggest chatting with them about that. For example at Glasgow University Chapel, videographers are allowed to take a spot up the front with the couple, while photographers are asked to stay in a seat at the back regardless of the celebrants stance on it (why is that, huh?). In cases like this, we go to town on epic wide shots, and use lenses that will take us a little bit closer to the action, all from the comfort of said chair :) Rest assured, whatever the restrictions I do my absolute best to document your ceremony – and have a wee happy cry at how beaut it is :D

ceremony timeline - glasgow university chapel wedding

Claire Digance, aka Claire the Humanist (which is what I always call her, full name or nothing y’get me?) is a fantastic humanist celebrant. She’s funny, warm, creates beautiful ceremonies with her couples and has immense taste in shoes, fact. She had this to say about getting your ceremony timeline just right;

“Soooo I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to planning your ceremony timeline.  Humanist ceremonies can last anything from 20mins to an hour – or four minutes if you’re really lucky! (more on this in my next blog!) and there’s a lot going on.  That’s why it’s so important that, when you and I are standing in front of your guests, ready to rock n roll, we know exactly what’s coming. In the months running up to your wedding, we’ve chatted about what your ceremony is going to include, who your people are, what you’ve chosen for your music, readings, symbolic gestures, you’ve done your homework; between us we’ve written your ceremony.  How cool’s that?”

Mega cool hen! Side note, Claire also married two of my best friends Gail and Martyn. Like, to each other, not like a bigamy thing with the three of them. So many people spoke about how excellent the ceremony was after, myself included :) Anyway, I digress! The advice train doesn’t stop there (choo choooo KNOWLEDGE YO);

“Just before you get married, I send you a copy of your wedding ceremony.  It’s full of instructions and questions and, as you read through it, you should start to get a very real sense of what your wedding will be like.  Once you’re happy, it’s signed off and we’re good to go. End result?  On the day, your wedding ceremony timeline runs like a dream because it’s all sorted and all you need to do is remember your marriage schedule and turn up – preferably not too late – because here’s the thing about brides being late.  Five, ten minutes late, your guests are still full of pre-wedding excitement and giddiness.  Forty minutes late, your guests are uncomfortable and bored and need a pee.  That makes for a tough crowd.”

Claire the Humanist ceremony at Glasgow Art Club

Claire doing her thang at Emma & Richard’s wedding in Glasgow Art Club. Emma’s amazing dress was created by Maggie McAllister.

Claire continues with more bloomin knowledge nuggets;
“Planning-wise, it sounds so boring but, if I know exactly what’s happening in a ceremony and so do the couple, it will always run smoothly.  I know that there’s readings or aunties lighting candles or singing and it’s smooth and seamless.  It flows well because everything is in the right order and it makes sense.

Time-wise, so many couples ask how long the ceremony lasts.  I always say allow an hour to absorb late starts, over zealous photographers (!), traffic etc.  Some people are horrified by the sound of a full hour but it’s rarely that long and, even if it is, it flies by.  Jo witnessed one of my longest ceremonies, Ros and Ralphy at Lodge on the Loch and, although it was a huge ceremony, it wasn’t boring, far from it.  Good people make great ceremonies and fab photos!”

I couldn’t agree more with Claire – I genuinely can’t remember Ros and Ralphs wedding ceremony being an hour, it was bloomin magic from start to finish – all I remember is how much everyone smiled, laughed and cried :)

ceremony timeline - claire the humanist at work
Ever the fountain of knowledge, I had to share this one last piece from the bold CTH on nailing that ceremony timeline- not only does she make complete sense and speak to my inner romantic, she then ends it by also making me guffaw in a rather unladylike fashion;
“Humanist weddings are all about you and the people in that room all love you and they are so happy that you are getting married!  What’s not to love?  Choose beautiful music, fabulous symbolic gestures, readings, involve your family and friends and trust your celebrant to blend everything together into the most awesome wedding, full of fun and happiness.  Your ceremony is at the very heart of your day and the reason that you’re there- make the most of it!
And remember your marriage schedule or your ceremony timeline will go to sh*t.”

Pahahaha! You can reach Claire via her website, facebook or instagram. If you’d like to know more about humanism, you can do so here!


So there you go. You’ve nailed your preparations in the morning, your ceremony is officially timed to perfection – back slaps all round (not too hard y’hear)! One thing couples do ask is ‘what time should we get married?’ I’ll be covering this in my next blog post as for me, the time of your ceremony is inextricably linked to your potential daylight hours at that time of year and also the amount of time you give yourself for your reception – I know I know, geek alert or what :D So if you’d like your reception to be all that and a bag of potato chips in terms of timing, come back now y’hear? :D xx

ceremony timeline - straight after the vows!


'Mon, take a dander through my blogs, it's what they are there for after all ;) Don't forget to check out the categories below too!