How To Create A Great Wedding Schedule

Bride and groom holding hands at The Broadmoor.

Morgan and Justin enjoying each other on their wedding day at The Broadmoor. This photograph was made before their ceremony.

HOW TO CREATE A GREAT WEDDING SCHEDULE

Some schedules can be very simple and others more complex. For this post I’m going to assume three things. First, you’re getting ready at a local hotel. Second, you’re marrying in a church. Third, your reception is at the hotel where you’re getting ready. Your schedule is going to be much simpler if your ceremony and reception are in one location but let’s start with this first.

The first rule to create a great wedding schedule is this: Everything you expect to do on your wedding day must be accounted for. Develop a rock-solid timeline of your wedding day to create a great wedding schedule.

Bridesmaids in monogrammed bathrobes in the bridal suite at The Broadmoor.

Barrell’s bridesmaids see her in her wedding dress before her wedding at Shove Chapel on the campus of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Start with your ceremony time and work backwards

Start with the planned ceremony time and work backwards. You can then fit everything else neatly into place by doing this.

Most couples don’t want to be seen by their guests before the wedding. If your wedding ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at a local church. You must be at the church and in your waiting room AT LEAST 1/2 hour before the ceremony. Guests usually arrive at least 1/2 hour beforehand and sometimes earlier. To be on the safe side, arrive at the church an hour ahead of time so guests don’t see you.

Sample Timelines

The first timeline, below, is for the couple who decides not to see each other before the ceremony. The second is for the couple who decides to see each other before the ceremony and do most of their pictures beforehand.

Later in this post we’ll go over what happens after the ceremony if you don’t see each other before the wedding, especially important for those couples since the most important photographs will be done after the ceremony.

Please note: We’re not including what is essentially a duplicate schedule for the groom. The times are a little different for the groom and the groom usually arrives at the church before the bride.

Finally, if you don’t see each other, consider two photographers; one to photograph the bride getting ready and the other to photograph the groom getting ready. But an experienced wedding photographer can do both.

Wedding timeline (working backwards) where the bride and groom DO NOT see each other before the wedding:
4:30 p.m. Wedding ceremony
4:00 p.m. Bride and bridesmaids arrive at the church and goes to waiting area
3:50-4 p.m. Bride travels to the church
3:20-3:50 p.m. Dad sees daughter + pictures with family and bridesmaids at the hotel
3-3:20 p.m. Bride receives her flowers + bridal portrait in her suite
2:30-3 p.m. Bride puts on her dress, bridesmaids must be dressed and ready to help.
12:30-2:30 p.m. Hair and makeup. Bride should be the first to do both!
12:00 Bride and bridesmaids check into the hotel. Lunch is delivered to the room.

Wedding timeline where the bride and groom DO see each other before the wedding:
4:30 p.m. Wedding ceremony
4:00 p.m. Bride and groom arrives at the church. Bride goes to a waiting area. Groom greets guests.
3:50-4:00 p.m. Wedding party travels to the church
3:25-3:50 p.m. Immediate family photos
3:00-3:25 p.m. Wedding party pictures
2:40-3:00 p.m. Bride and groom pictures around the hotel grounds
2:30-2:40 p.m. Private moment
2:15-2:30 p.m. Dad sees daughter + pictures with Mom and Dad
2:00-2:15.p.m. Bride receives her flowers + bridal portrait in her suite
2:15 p.m. Bride puts on her dress, bridesmaids must be dressed and ready to help.
12:15-2:15 p.m. Hair and makeup. Bride is the first to do both!
12:00 Bride and bridesmaids check into the hotel + lunch is delivered to the room

The timeline covers 4-1/2 hours and the hair and makeup take up nearly half of that. Plan for this time and you won’t go over.

Pro tip: The bride should be the first to finish hair and makeup

There’s more time available for pictures before the wedding when you do see each other. If don’t and you do photographs after the wedding there’s a danger you might take too long and leave your guests waiting.

In either case, the photographer MUST be quick. They must make all of the images you want in the time that’s available.

Bride, groom, flower girl walk on the south lawn of the Garden of the Gods Club with Pikes Peak.

Kimberly and John walk with their daughter at the Garden of the Gods Club before their wedding ceremony. Kimberly and John decided to see each other at the hotel where Kimberly was getting ready.

Make A Shot List

A main pillar of a good wedding schedule is a shot list. Making a shot list is not difficult. If you’ve hired a good photographer, then you can count on them to make sure your formal photography, candid photography and detail shots will all be done well.

Your shot list is meant to identify groupings of your most important family and friends. We want to know the names of parents, grandparents and siblings at every wedding. And we will ask you.

We also want to know who is in your wedding party and what their relationships are to you. Finally, we want to know which extended family will be attending the wedding and whether you would like photographs with them.

At the top of your timeline, list all of your VIP’s. Everyone you work with will appreciate this information. Often, this is the first time we meet them and by addressing them properly the experience will be more memorable for everyone.

Pro tip: Ask your photographer to attend your rehearsal so they can get to know your cast of characters and make a proper introduction before the wedding day. It might be extra, but it’s worth it.

In your timeline, make a list of family groupings either before or after the wedding. A wedding day timeline should always include this information. Here’s an example, not a suggestion. Make your own. This is just to give you an idea.

Wedding shot list where the bride and groom DO NOT see each other before the wedding:

4:30 p.m. Formal photographs in the church
• Bride w/bridesmaids
• Groom w/groomsmen
• Entire wedding party
• Bride and groom with bride’s immediate family
• Bride with bride’s parents
• Bride and groom with groom’s immediate family
• Groom with groom’s parents
• Bride and groom w/bride’s grandparents
• Bride and groom w/grooms grandparents
• Bride and groom with both immediate families
• Formal of bride and groom in the aisle
• Bridal portrait in the aisle

That’s a lot of great photographs to be made in 30 minutes. Would you agree?

Pro tip: Break these groupings into two or even three time periods throughout the day. For instance, wedding party and immediate family before the wedding, extended family for the cocktail hour and a 15-20 minute portrait session for the couple either before or after the wedding.

Bride Bailey and groom Nick sing together during their wedding reception at The Broadmoor.

Bailey and Nick dance the night away at their wedding reception in the Lake Terrace Dining Room at The Broadmoor.

Common Mistakes

Mistake #1 

Forget to tell people exactly when and where to arrive. A good florist, for instance, should ask you about the location and arrival time for your bouquet. But if they don’t? Then make sure to tell them. When I have to photograph the bride without the flowers it’s disappointing. Avoid these kind of mistakes with a good timeline and good communication with all of the professionals you work with whether it’s the florist, the caterer, the DJ or the band. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes your timeline.

Pro tip: In your timeline, include a list of cell phone #’s for all of your wedding professionals

Mistake #2

Running late. Catching up always lands in the photographer’s lap. Avoid this mistake. Phone a friend or a planner! Find a friend or hire a wedding planner to help keep things on time and to gently remind you where you need to be next. Having a friend or planner – who knows the timeline – keep an eye on things is huge.

Pro tip: Since you’ve already created your schedule, hire a planner for the day-of only.

Group photograph of all wedding guests at Stewart House

Beth and Jake with their wedding guests at the Stewart House on the campus of the Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

More Simple Tricks To Create A Wedding Schedule

Remain calm. Start your wedding day in neutral. Allow yourself to let the day build instead of running out of the gate. You can still be excited, but have an inner dialogue of appreciation for the time you’re spending with your family and friends.

Breathe. Focus on your breath when you find yourself panicking. Keep it slow and relaxed and you will find yourself quickly calming down and ready to move on to the next thing.

Listen to your photographer. It may sound trite, but a good photographer is worth their weight in gold. Trust them and let your photographer be your guide. They’ve been here before and will spend more time with you than anyone else on your wedding day.

Create a great wedding schedule that accounts for everything you do on your wedding day. If you take the time to do this, you will be guaranteed a smooth, relaxed and memorable wedding. And when something goes wrong (and it always does) your schedule will be your guide through troubled waters:)

May You Have A Happy And Joyous Wedding Day!

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