Your wedding day timeline is such an important part of wedding planning! The best timelines make for smooth transitions, plenty of wiggle-room to manage the inevitable un-planned fiasco, and time to relax and be fully present with your loved ones. Poorly planned timelines make for extra stress, missed photo opportunities, and the inability to make the absolute most of your big day.
As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen it all; from the unexpected outdoor wedding downpour, to the makeup mishap, forgotten wedding activities, and misplaced wedding rings. All of these issues and more have led me to realize that your wedding day timeline can make or break your wedding photography.
Here are 10 simple tips to help you craft a wedding day timeline that will allow you to get all the photos you want and make your wedding day unforgettable…in all the best ways.
1. Hire a Day Of Coordinator
Even if you don’t hire a wedding planner, still consider hiring a ‘day of’ coordinator. A day of coordinator communicates with guests, acts as a liaison between the couple and the vendors, and makes sure that everything runs smoothly and on-schedule. Having a day of coordinator takes a lot of pressure off of you on your big day, so you can be fully present.
2. Get Ready on Schedule
The number one thing that makes a wedding day run late is hair and makeup. Hire a professional hair and makeup artist that is experienced with weddings, decide on your wedding day look before your wedding, and plan a trial with your hair and makeup artist before your wedding to make sure you have everything prepared for the big day. Plan lots of extra buffer time during this part of the day. Expect to have family and friends drop in, venue staff and vendors seek your approval on various wedding-related decisions, and misplaced items that need to be tracked down.
3. Do a First Look
I am a big advocate for planning a first look before the ceremony (see alllll the reasons why here). Not only does a first look allow you to shake off some pre-ceremony jitters, it gives you a moment to be with your love in an intimate setting, and gives us the chance to take some beautiful couple and wedding party portraits before the wedding. Ultimately, a first look makes you free to spend more time with your wedding guests during the reception.
4. Skip the Receiving Line
Save the hugs and well wishes for the cocktail hour, and speed things up by skipping the receiving line and meeting your guests at the reception instead.
The best way to plan for transportation is to remove the need for it altogether by hosting everything in one spot. If you do choose to split your time between venues, book a bus so people aren’t taking separate cars. Separate cars means a higher chance of getting lost or making a pit stop. If at all possible, remove the risk of transportations misadventures by booking a venue that is scenic for beautiful photos, has a well-lit room for you to get ready, and a place for both the ceremony and the reception.
6. Family Portraits
Building a list of family portraits can seem daunting, but don’t worry; I do this all the time! I will work with you to create a list of combinations and groupings. Once we’ve finalized our list, I will arrange the group shots into an organized flow that gets your guests in and out and back to the festivities. We’ll keep this part short and sweet. Let everyone know that they’ll be requested for family portraits, and make sure they know where they need to be and when they need to be there. Assign me an helper (someone who knows everyone’s name) to help me wrangle everyone. My second shooter will be in charge of selecting and posing everyone while I photograph. This is a great way to keep everything running smoothly and snap some fun candids along the way!
7. Don’t Forget to Eat!
Let’s avoid hangriness, shall we? Schedule time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and make sure you have snacks available for a quick pick-me-up. You’ll be expending a lot of energy on your big day so make a plan to guarantee that you’ll be well fed and well hydrated.
8. Plan for Golden Hour
Look up the date and location of your wedding ahead of time and make a note of the time of sunset. We’ll do a quick portrait session right before sunset to capture portraits in the glow of golden hour. Schedule a short block of time right before sunset so that we can sneak away.
9. Buffer! Buffer! Buffer!
Don’t give in to the urge to plan everything back to back. Give yourself at least 10 minutes of buffer time between activities. At least! Trust me.
10. Let Me Help You Make A Timeline
For most couples, building a wedding timeline is foreign territory. Let me help you build your timeline to help your day run smoothly and to ensure that you end up with your dream wedding photos. I’m happy to help!
As we build your timeline, we will consider the following time estimations:
Getting ready photos and details – 1.5 hours
I like to arrive 1 hour before you put on your dress. Make sure that you schedule 1.5 hours for getting ready. This is how much time I need to get all the detail shots I need and to get candids of you and your wedding party getting ready.
Couple’s portraits (and first look) – 1 hour
Give me an hour throughout the day with just you and your fiancé. This time can be split between golden hour photos, first look photos, and portraits.
Wedding party photos – 30 minutes
Give me at least 30 minutes with you and your wedding party (this is in addition to the time allotted for couples portraits). These photos can be taken right after the first look before the ceremony
Family formals – 30 minutes
Before your wedding day, we’ll finalize your list and group shot order. With the help of an assigned guest or family member who knows everyone’s name, we can fly through family portraits in about 30 minutes (depending on the number of groupings).
Golden Hour Portraits – 15 minutes
We’ll sneak away for a quick 15 minutes to play in that glorious evening light.
Dance Party – 30 minutes
Give me about 30 minutes, and I’ll get you a ton of killer dance party photos at the end of the night!
If you want to learn more about planning a wedding that will look beautiful in photographs, read my previous blog: A Photographer’s Guide To Wedding Planning.