One major part of wedding planning is deciding when things will happen, when your vendors will arrive, and how long you plan to spend in each part of your day. Today’s blog post is full of information that is CRUCIAL when planning your wedding day timeline. I photographed my very first wedding in 2013, and there are so many things that I’ve learned about wedding day timelines in almost a decade of shooting weddings. Today I’m sharing five tips to make sure that your wedding doesn’t run late!
Listen to Your Vendors
Let’s face it, you aren’t a professional bride or groom. Your wedding vendors ARE pros at what they do. If they tell you they need a certain amount of time to do a specific thing on your wedding day, listen to them! My couples fill out a wedding questionnaire four months before their wedding day that helps me to create a photography timeline. In that questionnaire, I include a checklist for them to check boxes next to what parts of the day they are wanting me to cover. Next to each section of the day, I list out how much time it takes to photograph that specific section. This isn’t just a preference, it’s the amount of time I need for that part of the day for an average-size wedding.
I can promise you that it is simply not possible to photograph a wedding with 150 guests from hair + makeup through to an exit in 6-8 hours. It just isn’t realistic. This is not based on my preference or how much time I wish you would book – it’s based on experience and what makes timelines go haywire. My timelines are based on years of practice and knowing what will throw us wayyyyy behind schedule. The same thing applies with all of your other vendors. If your makeup artist says they need five hours of your time to do makeup for you and your bridesmaids, believe them. I promise, we aren’t trying to take more of your time than necessary!
Hair + Makeup
On an average wedding day, I arrive near the end of the hair + makeup process. Since this is the first part of the day, it’s also the part that can change the entire schedule if something goes wrong. When booking your hair and makeup artists, make sure and tell them what styles you are wanting, how many girls will be getting glammed up, and what time you have to be finished. I always put a line in the photography timeline that says “hair and makeup HARD STOP” so that the artists know what time they have to be completely finished with you!
Unfortunately I have had weddings where the couples didn’t pass along their timeline to their hair + makeup artists. This meant that the stylists had no idea what time they had to be finished. This will unfortunately mean that either the getting ready portraits will be super rushed, or we will have to push some portraits until after the ceremony. To prevent this, make sure and send your stylists all of the information they need in advance!
Some weddings involve multiple locations. There might be the bride’s home, a ceremony at a church, and a reception at a venue. If my GPS says that we will have fifteen minutes of travel time, I will always plan for thirty minutes. Why? Multiple reasons – bad traffic, lane closures, flat tires, etc. It is better to double the travel time in the timeline and have extra time for portraits than to not put enough time in the timeline and end up running behind.
Pad Your Timeline
This is something I go over in all of my pre-booking consultations with my couples. If it will only take us ten minutes for your bridal portraits, it’s best to put in fifteen. If it will only take us twenty minutes for family photos, it’s best to put in thirty. See a pattern? Padding your timeline will create space for emergencies, give us more time, and keep you calm.
My ultimate goal is to create a photography timeline that is seamless, calm, and removes stress! This is my primary focus when creating a perfect photography timeline. If we have additional time for any part of the day, we’re able to use that for even more photos. (We can also use that time for a bathroom or drink break if you need one.) If we try to fit too many things into a shorter timeline, we won’t have room to change things if something goes wrong.
Make Sure Everyone is on the Same Page
When finalizing your entire wedding day timeline, make sure that you send a copy to EVERY important person. This includes each member of your wedding party, every immediate family member, and every vendor. (You can also just send them screenshots to make it easier!) Unfortunately, sometimes family members aren’t aware that they will be in family formals that are taken before the ceremony. If that happens, it will cause us to move those family formals until after the ceremony instead. When we haven’t planned for those photos to be taken afterward, your grand entrance time may be delayed.
If you’re planning your family formals for during cocktail hour, make sure that those loved ones don’t go to the reception until after portraits! The best way to ensure that everyone sticks around is to have your officiant make an announcement after your recessional. Anyone that is helping run your day OR in any portraits needs to have a copy of your timeline. They must know what time they have to be dressed and be in a specific location for their photo to be taken.
I hope this blog post was helpful! It is so important to make sure that your wedding day timeline is realistic, cushioned, and custom to your day. I love sharing helpful tips for clients that are in the midst of wedding planning. Click here for more posts to help you plan your best day ever!
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I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Knoxville, Tennessee but available anywhere. If you have questions about booking me for a session or wedding, click here! To follow me on social media, check out my Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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