No matter how big or small your wedding day is, it will require some strategic planning in order to run smoothly. Even the most well planned weddings have their mishaps and delays. This is why it’s vital to have a solid wedding day schedule (also called a timeline) in place so that all your wedding vendors can work together to keep the day on track and you won’t have to stress about it. Here’s a few things you can do to create a good wedding day schedule…


Build In Extra Time:

This is probably my favorite tip because you cannot go wrong here! By building in extra time you have padding in case of the unexpected. BUT in the event that everything is running perfectly on time, you can either use the extra time to catch your breath, or, start the next event early. In a perfect world, everything would run on time and wedding days would be completely stress free. But the fact is, sometimes the unexpected happens and it throws things off. It’s important to build in some padding on your timeline in case you need a quick bathroom break or you hit traffic on the drive to your reception venue. If your ceremony is 30 minutes, plan for 45 minutes on the timeline to allow for the time it takes to go up and down the aisle as well as any delays that might happen before or during the ceremony.


Getting Ready takes longer than you think! (I’m talking to you too Grooms!)

One of the most common reasons I’ve seen for a bride running late starts with the beginning of the day: Hair and Makeup. Now, I ADORE all of the hair and makeup pros that pamper and beautify our brides, so this is no disrespect to them! But you as the bride NEED to have a very clear understanding of exactly how much time they need to do their job, and then add a little extra time on top. Sometimes it’s that you end up needing one more person done up than expected (maybe mother of the groom jumps in at the last minute), other times it’s that your hair needed a little extra love that day. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but don’t cut yourself short! Hair and makeup are not an exactly timed science, but they do require a lot of time to do correctly. Do yourself and your hair & makeup team a favor by discussing the timing with them ahead of time and giving yourself some wiggle room. If hair and makeup run late, it makes you run late and everything else as a result.

For grooms the getting ready process doesn’t take quite as long, but your photographer still needs time to capture the “getting ready” photos. This includes everything from detail shots of his suit and accessories to the action shots of him gettIng ready and some individual portraits once he’s dressed. Typically this is photographed by a 2nd shooter and they may have to do more than one take to get the shots necessary. You’ll want to allow around 1.5 to 2 hours for this part of your coverage.


Communicate Clearly with all of Your Vendors:

Another area where I see a lot of couples underestimate their time is on photos. If you’re hiring a professional photographer you need to give them time to work their magic. Trust me, you don’t want rushed photos! Talk to your photographer about their process, how much time they recommend for the parts of the day you’re hiring them to cover and take their advice seriously. Each photographer may vary slightly in their process. One of the biggest timeline killers can be family photos. It’s important to organize a complete family photo list ahead of time and assign a family friend to help coordinate this part of your day. You can read more on creating a family photo list here.

Likewise, a professional DJ they will walk you through the layout of your reception timeline. Make sure they understand when your photographer and or videographer is scheduled to leave so they can schedule the important things, like cake cutting, before then. Some DJ’s will have games for the couple and the guests. These things all affect the timing of your reception. Have a clear understanding of the layout ahead of time, so there’s no surprises. Communication with your wedding pros is key!


Consider Delivery/Setup Times:

Make sure your flowers are delivered before formal photos start. Make sure that your photographer knows exactly what time the ceremony and reception sites are going to be completely set and allow enough time for them to photograph those spots before guests arrive and start moving things around. Typically I have my second shooter cover these details while I’m shooting family photos after the ceremony.


Make Sure Everyone Gets a Copy

Along with your venue, Dj, officiant and photographer, your wedding party should also be very familiar with the timeline. Nothing is worse than losing 10 or 20 minutes of photography time because someone was confused about where to be at what time. Even a small amount of time can make a huge difference, especially when it comes to photos.

Hiring a professional wedding planner (this is different than a venue coordinator) can also help you keep your day on track and help solve any mishaps that might come up along the way. That way if your vendors, guests, or bridal party have any questions or confusion, they can get the info they need without disrupting you.


Start Working on your Schedule Now!

Start on it as SOON as possible. The sooner you can nail down the details the better. As a photographer, one of the most important things I need to know is “How much time do I have to photograph you?” The further in advance I have this information the better I can prepare for your big day. Knowing the amount of shooting time available will also help you decide if you want or need to do a pre-wedding bridal shoot, or a first look.

You should check in with all the vital players in the week or two leading up to the wedding to finalize the timeline and make sure everyone has an updated copy. I typically schedule a phone call with my clients the week of the wedding to talk through the timeline step by step to ensure we’re on the same page and all set to go. As long as everyone sticks to the set timeline and is updated on any last minute changes you will be setup for success!

Get Help from a Pro

For the vast majority of couples, their wedding is the first time they’ve ever had to coordinate and event this size and often underestimate how much time things actually take. Whenever a couple hires me to photograph their wedding, I work closely with them to ensure they’ve set aside enough time in the wedding day schedule for us to get the photos they want. Inevitably, there may be something that doesn’t go quite as planned. However, the more prepared you are the easier it will be to overcome small mishaps and the less stress you’ll have on your big day. Talk to your event planner or photographer if you need help getting your wedding day schedule together- believe it or not, they’ll be more than happy to help!


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