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Wedding Day Timeline

This post has proven so helpful over the last couple of years that I evolved it into a printed information sheet for my clients as well! I thought it was time for a 2016 update!

There’s so much to think about in the final months before your wedding day – most of it involving fun things like flowers, shoes and how many massages you can fit in on your honeymoon!

You’ve hired all your important vendors to support you on your wedding day, and we’re definitely busy preparing to make everything special for you! One of my favorite things is how we come together as a unified team during this time. We know your wedding day is no small thing. And a lucky few like your photographer and planner have been building a friendship with you all year :-)

But alas… your wedding day is coming closer and we’re giving you homework!

At least three of us (music, venue coordinator, photographer) are asking you for a schedule. Who, when, where, and to what music will things be happening? I aim to start this part of the conversation from the very first day I meet you, because I simply can’t do my job without the one big commodity called TIME :-) But there are so many questions and unique situations – and seriously three different pieces of paper to fill out – that I thought I’d address a bit of it here together. My hope is that this will help to inform you in a way that helps you AND each of us on your team all in one fell swoop!

tips for setting the timeline of your wedding day

The one big thing that often can’t be flexible is your ceremony, so I always start from there and go backwards. The other aspect that’s determined a couple of months out is your salon schedule. Here’s a little suggested timeline to keep in mind – about 8 hours in full:

  • Salon Appointments: You may have some salon appointments, or hair and make-up coming to your home/hotel. Generally, you should be prepared for this to go 30 minutes over schedule, and then still plan to be back at your home/hotel a full hour before you need to be dressed and leaving.
  • Getting Ready: (one hour of photography) I recommend always having me there for at least an hour of prep time. This is when I’m able to meet your friends and family, and capture things like shoes, jewelry, a fun champagne toast, and generally just set the tone for your day. Think about the guys too… how far away are they getting ready? Can I make it there too, is that important to you, do you want a second photographer who can visit them?
  • Travel: (15 minutes) Don’t forget about the time it takes to move from one place to the next. Even if everything is on the same property, I can’t tell you how much more relaxed the couples are who’ve allotted a bit of extra time to catch their breath!
  • Ceremony: (20 to 45 minutes) This is very dependent on your plans, rituals and creativity. It’s what it’s all about! Take time to savor this moment.
  • Hugs & Travel: (15 minutes) Again, leave a bit of breathing room here. Just because you don’t plan a receiving line doesn’t mean 10 of your closest friends and family aren’t going to run up and hug you after the ceremony :-)
  • First Look: (20 minutes) The best way to ease some scheduling woes is to consider doing a “first look”, where you and your future spouse see each other before the ceremony. It’s often way more intimate and meaningful than walking down an aisle of over 150 people, but it’s totally up to you! I didn’t do it, but I wish I had. The choice is yours. Once you are together, we can focus on photos of the two of you, your bridal party, even family (but they probably won’t be ready on time).
  • Group Portraits: (25 minutes bridal party, 25 minutes family) Think ahead about where you want this portion of photos to take place. It’s easiest to grab everyone while they’re together for the ceremony – right before or right after – or at least to catch them before cocktails are flowing. Backdrop doesn’t matter a ton here, if I’m being honest. We can do family groups pretty quickly and move everyone along, and then incorporate another location perhaps for your bridal party who probably knows their job is a little more involved anyway. Allow for more travel time if you need it.
  • Couple’s Portraits: (30 minutes) Hey now, you didn’t think you were done, did you? By now we’ve moved on to maybe a totally different location and undoubtedly the best time of day for light! This is your time to be alone as newlyweds, take a deep breath, take a walk… I’ll even keep my distance and just let you interact for most of it. This time allows me to be my most creative (I’m taking a deep breath too!) vs. instructing you for a few quick, cheesy poses. The more limited on time I am, the less natural you’ll probably feel in your photos.
  • Travel again! (15 minutes) Are we far from your reception venue by now?
  • Cocktail Hour: Lawn games or other activities are a great way to stall for time if we’re off doing photos. This allows you to sneak in for the tail end of cocktail “hour”, which is often more like an hour and a half.
  • Dinner & Toasts(1.5 hours) The rest of the evening is pretty chill. You will plan for blessings, toasts, first dance, dancing with your parents and cutting the cake. But really, the order of things is very flexible, and everyone’s in one location having a wonderful time. You can move the toast or cake on a whim if needed. From a photographer’s standpoint, the only thing I’d like to mention here is to ask your venue to feed vendors early. The best venues will feed me and your videographer right after they feed you, so that we’re back in the room quickly without missing something important. It’s not about me being starving at this point, which I probably am, but if I’m fed last it usually results in me almost missing a toast or your cake-cutting.
  • Sunset: (10-15 minutes) If you’d like to step back outside for this golden-hour of light, it’s one last chance for some amazing photos of the two of you. Maybe we haven’t actually photographed much at your reception venue by now. While it’s pretty easy to sneak out during meal time, there’s no pressure at all from me that you do this.
  • Dancing: (1.5 hours) Most guests are on the dance floor early, and I’m able to capture a great number of shots before things get too sloppy. The amount of evening coverage is up to you, and you may have a special exit plan you’d like captured. But if I’m only booked through the cake-cutting, trust you’ll have plenty of dance-floor photos to enjoy.

tips for saving time on your wedding dayDo you have any other questions or thoughts to contribute? I’d love to hear from brides, grooms, planners and other vendors below if you’re thinking of something I don’t have listed! We’re all in this to create one awesomely special – and successful – day, and my goal is to capture these memories for you to hold close for years to come.

Hope this post proves helpful! Happy planning!

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