You have booked your venue, hired your photographer and DJ, purchased the most stunning gown- now it’s time to party! NOT QUITE YET (booo). One of the most important activities to do to ensure your wedding day goes smoothly is to plan out your day with a solid timeline.
Keep in mind that usually nothing goes as planned. Let’s just face it- you want your wedding day to be perfect, and if that means spending a little more time perfecting your hair or hugging your mom- you are going to do it, AND YOU SHOULD!
But, if you are running late- what aspect of your wedding day do you think you will short-change? Chances are, you will cut time from photography. Your ceremony time is a set time and typically does not allow too late of a start. You don’t want your guest to be sitting, starving, at the reception for hours- so you will show up to the reception in a timely manner. What does that leave left to cut? Photography.
However, having this basic timeline may help with budgeting your time more realistically.
Tip 1: Schedule your morning
The easiest way to get your day started out right is by having your wedding prep area clutter free, and your accessories ready. When the photographer comes in, this is the first thing they will photograph. All the beautiful details like your dress, jewelry, shoes, invitations, programs, etc. should be laid out and ready to go. This will cause you less stress and frantic searching while you are supposed to be getting your beauty on. The quicker that your photographer can photograph these details, the sooner they can move on to photographing you.
Also- all of those candid shots of the bridal party getting ready, those actually are scheduled… and they take time. Trying to gather 6 excited women who are filled with mimosas and adrenaline is not an easy task. Sitting everyone down on a bed and taking a photo should be a quick task, but by the time everyone finds their custom robes, tops off their drinks, takes a quick restroom break, and makes their way to the bed- you have just burned through 20 minutes for one photo. This isn’t an issue- but make sure you plan for it.
Tip 2: Plan for long formals
Your hair and makeup is done, you are in your gorgeous dress- and you are so excited you are about to burst. Well- don’t burst yet, you have your formals! This time is all about you. While your bridesmaids are texting the boys to make sure they are staying on time (and staying sober), you will be with your photographer taking individual portraits. This won’t take too long. The longest part of photographing you will be getting your dress to cooperate while not getting it dirty.
But then, the bridal party formals are next, and just like earlier- this will take some time. For a bridal party of say 6 ladies, I would expect every pose to take roughly 5 minutes. If you want individual photos with the ladies, expect that to take 3 minutes each pose. From what you would think should only take 15 minutes can easily end up taking 45- and the best idea is just to plan for that time. It’s better to budget too much time than too little.
Tip 3: To First Look or Not To First Look- that really is the question
It’s no secret that most photographers prefer a first look rather than the traditional “Don’t see the bride before the aisle” case. This is for one really important reason- timing. You have your morning routine done with the single bridal party photos out of the way- and now you have about 4 hours between now and the wedding. Four hours to get the most stunning, non-rushed photographs of one of the most important days of your life, with the love of your life. Four hours to find the perfect spot, take your time, capture the look of excitement and awe in a relaxed and intimate setting. Your couples photos could take an hour, your bridal party photos could take an hour, your family photos could take an hour- and then you would have an hour to freshen up and re-spark that excitement before seeing each other again down the aisle. In all reality, you probably will not need that entire time- which is perfect. Grab a small bite to eat or a cocktail to energize you and take the edge off. Kick off your shoes before a night of standing. Just having that time to pull yourself back into the moment will be huge.
Skip ahead to the traditional way. Your wedding is at 4 pm, and the ceremony starts at 6 with dinner being served at 6:15. If you have a half hour ceremony- then that leaves you about 45 minutes after finding and driving to a location to take your couples photos, your full bridal party photos, your immediate family photos, and drive to the ceremony. What if your wedding runs a few minutes late? Now you are looking at a half hour of rushing, sweating, getting irritated, and finally just giving up saying that you don’t care anymore and that you just want to get back to the party. You just paid a ton of money on photography for this wedding, and the most important shots are going to be rushed. With that being said, I completely understand the importance of tradition- and if you are set on the traditional way- IT’S YOUR WEDDING! You do you! But, I want you to be aware of WHY photographers prefer the first look.
Tip 4: Leave yourself enough time between ceremony and reception
This is probably one of the trickiest parts of planning your wedding timeline. If you don’t leave enough time between the ceremony and reception, you are rushed (as explained above). Even with a first look, you may want a few more photographs with non-immediate family members or close friends. You may want to greet your guests leaving the ceremony venue. You may want to jump into a limo and drive around with your bridal party to celebrate your nuptials. Make sure you plan for that time! Greeting everyone will take you at least a half hour.
If you do not do a first look- then you will want to scrunch 3 hours of photographs into a small amount of time. It can be done, but the more time you give yourself, the better those photos will be.
However- by scheduling this time, you leave a whole slew of people not knowing what to do during that period. If there is a large gap, you will have many drunk family members starting the night out rowdy at the reception, OR a bunch of hungry grumps who could ruin your night with snooty looks and remarks (happens all the time). If I were to give you advice, I would say to not leave more than 2 hours between the end of the ceremony to the beginning of the reception- and if you are doing a first look- make it closer to an hour.
Tip 5: Get a sneak out
The food was delicious, the best man’s toast hilarious, first dance romantic- and now you are ready to party! My advice… just one more quick photo session. Just one more ten minute step-back before going buck wild. If the sun is starting to set- these photos will be your favorites. The romantic and passionate sunset photos on your wedding day- OOOHWEY! Worth it! If the sun has already set, your photographer should be able to set up a back-light and get that sultry, dramatic nighttime shot that looks like you are straight out of a magazine. A quick few minutes of just the two of you, in the enchantment of your amazing night to get one.last.shot. You may be over photos at that time, but my advice- you will appreciate that photo for decades to come.
Of course these are just hints. You should definitely discuss your wedding timeline with your photographer before setting anything in stone. Your photographer is more than the person who shows up on your wedding day and snaps a few photos. They will be an important contact and mentor for you during the entire process- so make sure you utilize them!
If you have any questions, drop me a line! Your wedding is an experience, and I would love to be a part of it!