Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Who doesn't want their wedding to be perfect? Here’s a secret that every wedding pro knows and you may not: The better your wedding schedule is, the more perfect your wedding day.
A well-thought-out schedule is absolutely crucial to the success of your wedding. When things get messed up (and things always will) the schedule that you thoughtfully created before the day-of will save your… ahem, day.
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. Obviously, if your ceremony and reception are in one location, then your schedule is going to be much simpler. But let’s get complicated out of the way first.
Here’s how to make the best wedding schedule you can to ensure your wedding day is unforgettable - in a good way - for you and your guests.
The first rule to creating a good wedding schedule is this: Everything you’re expecting to do on your wedding day must be accounted for. Following this rule, the first step is to create a rock-solid timeline of your wedding day.
How To Build A Timeline
When putting a timeline together, I like to start with the planned ceremony time and work backward. By working backward from the ceremony time, which is one of the first decisions you make about your wedding day, you can then “fit” everything else neatly into place around that.
Let’s say your wedding ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at a local church and you don’t want to be seen by your guests before the wedding. Then you must be at the church and in your waiting room AT LEAST 1/2 hour before the ceremony.
Below are two sample timelines. The first time-line 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 I’ll talk about the what happens after the ceremony. Especially important for couples who don’t see each other, since many of the most importrant photographs will have to be done afterwards.
Also, for the purposes of brevity - this is going to be way too long already - I’m 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, if they don’t see each other, nevertheless it’s the same, same.
Finally, if you don’t see each other, it’s a good idea to have two photographers; one to photograph the bride getting ready and the other to photograph the groom getting ready. But an experienced wedding photographer should be able to 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
Look carefully at these two timelines. What do you notice?
First, the timeline covers 4-1/2 hours and the hair and makeup take up nearly half of that. It doesn’t have to be this way. But if you’re planning on styling? Then be prepared to spend much of the time before your wedding getting it done. In my experience, hair and makeup is a necessary step. Pro tip: The bride should be the first to finish both hair and makeup, if not, and things run late? Bad things happen.
Second, there's more time available before the wedding when you don't see each other. But the flip side? You have to make time for photographs after the wedding and, while guests are willing to wait, if you take to long? It will be remarked on.
In either case the photographer MUST be quick. They have to make all of the images you want in the time that’s available to them. It’s an understatement, to say the least, that it takes skill and experience to get good photographs quickly WITHOUT making the bride and groom or their families feel rushed. In light of other necessities on a wedding day? The skill and experience of your photographer counts for a lot.
How To Create A Shot List
The next pillar of a good wedding schedule is a shot list. Making a shot list shouldn’t be that 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. Although, if it’s something you really care about? By all means, put it in your shot list!
First part of your shot list is to identify your most important family and friends. I always want to know the names of parents, grandparents and siblings at every wedding. And I will ask you. I also want to know who is in your wedding party and what their relationships are to you. Finally, I 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, make a list of these people. By the way, everyone you work with will appreciate this information. Often, this is the first and only time we will ever 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.
In your timeline, make a list of family groupings either before or after the wedding. My timelines 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
• 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? Another instance where the skill and experience of your photographer goes a long way. You want get to the party on time so your guests don’t wonder what’s taking so long. Pro tip: Break these groupings up 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.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
Mistake #1 Forgetting 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 disappointing and no, I can’t just photoshop them in for you. Avoid this mistake with a good timeline and good communication with all of the professionals you work with whether it’s the florist, the caterer or 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. The main reason for this? Fear, worry and excitement. It might be a fear of being photographed or a worry you will forget what to do or you’re simply overwhelmed with excitement for the day. Whatever those feelings are will cause you and everyone else to be late. Catching up always lands in the photographers lap, as you can imagine. It’s easy and convenient to blame it on your photographer. But she’s trying hard to be quick and to make pictures that are worthy of your wall and you invested a lot of money into these photographs. Avoid this mistake, phone a friend or a planner! Find a friend or hire a wedding planner to help you keep things going smoothly and to gently remind you how much time you have and 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.
Make Things Even Better Using These Simple Tricks
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. When you find yourself in a panic focus on your breath. Try to 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. Ah, there it is again and it may sound trite, but a good photographer is worth their weight in gold. You must be able to trust them and let them be your guide. Why? Because they’ve been here before and will spend more time with you than anyone else on your wedding day.
I hope this helps you create a 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! — Sean