The Wedding Day Timeline - 10 Things Your Photographer Wants You to Know

When Mike and I were married almost four year ago, we had a small destination wedding on the island of St. Thomas.  Even though our wedding was small (there were only about 35 people in attendance) I still can remember stressing out over the timeline for the day and making sure everything ran smoothly.  Creating a perfect wedding timeline is not easy.  There are so many people to please, and what seems like a lot to squeeze into an 8 hour day.  As a wedding photographer, I've seen both the good and the bad when it comes to wedding day timelines.  This is why I make sure to be involved in helping my brides and grooms set the perfect timeline for their day.  I talked a little bit about the importance of a timeline in my previous post, 5 Tips for Working With Your Wedding Photographer, but today I'm going to go into some more detail on creating a perfect timeline.  Below are 10 things a photographer wants you to consider when setting the wedding day timeline.

1.  Give yourself cushion.  We all know it's always good to have too much time rather than too little!  You don't want to end up feeling rushed and overwhelmed on your wedding day, so giving yourself extra time will allow you to relax.  I find the most important time to build in cushion on your wedding day is when getting ready.  Something always seems to take longer than expected (like those darn fake eyelashes!).

2.  Account for travel time.  I love traveling off site for bride and groom portraits or bridal party photos, but you need to make sure you consider the travel time (and how you're getting there) when making your timeline.  This is something that often gets overlooked but makes a big difference!

3.  Have all your details gathered together before the photographer arrives.  This will make it so much easier (and quicker) for us to photograph them!

4.  Plan to take as many photos before the ceremony as possible.  Detail shots, getting ready, bridal portraits, bridesmaids photos, groomsmen photos, full bridal party photos, first look (more about that in #3), bride and groom portraits, the reception space, and anything else that can get done ahead of time should!  Especially if there isn't much time between the ceremony and reception.  This will allow you to enjoy your wedding reception and again, not feel rushed.

5.  Have a first look.  I'll be honest with you, I didn't do this on my wedding day.  Looking back, I so wish I had.  Not just for timeline purposes, but for the intimate moment it would have been between me and my husband.  I could write an entire post about why a first look is the way to go, but timeline wise, whether or not you do a first look will change everything.  Doing a first look allows you to get bridal party and bride and groom photos done before the ceremony.  You will have the time to get more variety and not feel rushed trying to finish photos before the reception!

6. Make time for your photographer to photograph the untouched reception space.  Trust me on this one, you'll be so glad you do this.  Weddings always end up feeling like such a blur for the bride and groom.  There is so much to take in, but also so many other things you'll be thinking about during the day.  When the day is over, you're going to want to see the beautiful details that maybe you missed along the way.

7.  Make a list of all the family photos ahead of time.  This is the one "shot list" I ask every bride and groom to provide, and I want them to be as specific as possible.  It makes things so much easier when I have a list of all the different combinations of family and can have my assistant call out names and get everyone into and out of the photos.  Since family photos are generally done between the ceremony and reception, being organized will allow us to finish quickly and give you more time to enjoy the wedding!

8.  Bride and groom portraits are important.  Make sure you schedule enough time, get some variety, and have fun with them!  Plan to take some bride and groom portraits at different times of the day (like right after the first look, and then later, step outside with your photographer at sunset to capture some more).  Trust me, you don't want to look back at your wedding album and think "I wish I had more photos of just me and my new husband/wife."    

9.  Think about the reception timeline and try to stick to it.  Once the reception starts, everyone relaxes.  At this point, you're probably ready to have a glass of champagne and start the party!  So make sure that before your wedding, you create a timeline for the various reception events (special dances, cake cutting, speeches, toasts, etc.) and get that to your photographer and anyone else that is involved.  That way, we are prepared ahead of time and you don't have to worry about it!

10.  Hire a wedding coordinator.  Again, I could write an entire post as to why having a wedding coordinator is a life saver, but I'll save that for another day.  When it comes to the timeline, a wedding coordinator will make sure you stay on time, and be there to help troubleshoot if the schedule gets messed up or something needs to be changed.  They will also be the ones making sure that everyone (not just you but your vendors, guests, bridal party, etc.) is where they need to be when they need to be there.  This way, you can just sit back and enjoy your day, not worrying about things like "did the flowers get here?" or "where are the groomsmen?".

So there you have it!  10 tips that will hopefully help you when planning your wedding day timeline.  The most important thing to remember is communication!  Talk to your vendors ahead of time and see if there is anything they want you to know in terms of the timeline.  As a photographer, I like to meet with my bride and groom before the big day to discuss the timeline and am always here to help!

Do you have any additional questions or advice when creating a wedding day timeline?  Leave a comment, I'd love to hear them!