Wedding Day Timeline Tips

January 22, 2018 7:41 pm | 2 Comments

You have been planning this day for months, maybe even more than a year.  While planning is half the fun, there is nothing that can replace the experience of the wedding day itself.  You want it to go smoothly and seamlessly.  The goal of the day is to soak everything in, live in the moment, and let yourself be spoiled.  As a wedding photographer, I experience weddings behind the scenes and gain great insight in to how days pan out well (or not so much).  While I would never consider myself a wedding planner and I have utmost respect for planners who detail with every detail from which flowers are in season to who should be introduced first, I will say that I am with the bride and groom on the actual wedding day more than anyone else.  Often times, I am with the couple more than any other individual: bridal parties go to cocktail hours, get themselves ready, and have other duties to which you have assigned them.  As a result, I’m happy to share my insights and observations from my intimate back seat view of the day!  Here are a few go-to things I have noticed over the years….

1. Allocate more time than you think.  Just like in everyday life, you can always use more time.  Your wedding day is not the time to be optimistic and assume all stoplights will be green.  Everything you plan will likely take longer than you thing because it involves other people out of your control.  I have never photographed a wedding where hair and makeup was finished ahead of schedule.  And there’s always that one groomsman (yes, you know who it is….) who is always late .  Worst case scenario, you have extra time on your hands and are waiting 15 minutes until the next step – enjoy it!  Giggle with your bridal party, take an extra look at your gorgeous self in the mirror, or give your family an extra, and extra strong hug.  Live it!  I guarantee that years down the road you will NOT look back and say – gee, I wish we had expedited our wedding timeline and crunched things together more on our wedding day.  Nobody has ever told me that they felt they had too much time with loved ones on their wedding day – ha!  Get my point?


2. Understand a Receiving Line and Use it Wisely.  In the past, my reaction to a receiving line was “ugh – they take so long.”  Worst was when couples would be caught having a receiving line without intending to, or without knowing, or without understanding how much time it takes.  I have since realized that a receiving line does not always = bad.  A receiving line can actually be a good use of time as long as you understand and allot enough time for it and use it to your advantage.  Reflecting back on my own wedding day, one thing I lamented was not getting to interact with my guests.  If, for example, you are going to use the cocktail hour as a time for bride & groom photos, but still want to personally greet each guest, then it might not be a bad idea to incorporate a receiving line either after the ceremony or at the start of the reception.  Alternatively, if you want to take time to enjoy your wedding dinner that you have paid handsomely for, and don’t want to get up and greet people during the dinner hour, then maybe a receiving line is a good substitute.  My take away, however, is that you should not be taken for surprise by a receiving line because they do take a lot of time.  Don’t fall in to one by happenstance because you started greeting one family and now have to follow suit with the rest.

3. Involve your photographer in planning.  Like I mentioned, your photographer will be with you during the whole day and may ultimately be the one to keep you on schedule.  An experienced photographer will know realistically how long each part of the day will take.  For example, a couple may tell me they allotted 15 minutes for formal group photos after the ceremony, and I may insist on more time knowing that it always takes more time to find and assemble the family knowing well that you may have to round up Uncle Bob twice, little kids may run off between photos, etc.  If there is really no more than 15 minutes after the wedding, I may encourage the couple to do a first look in order to get more pictures done before the ceremony.  It is also important to consult your photographer to make sure there is enough time to get the photos you want and that you have realistic photo expectations.  You may want a dreamy photo of you at sunset, and your photographer work with you to make sure you are in a good location at time time of sunset, etc.  We also have great ideas!  While again, I am not a wedding planner, photographers have been through enough weddings to anticipate delays and may inquire about logistics that you hadn’t thought of.

4. Set Deadlines and Limits.
Your wedding participants want (and need) direction.  Tell them specifically where and when they need to arrive.  In fact, tell them they need to arrive 15-30 minutes before necessary.  Better to have one person wait for you than have the whole wedding waiting on one person.  At the reception, it’s ok to set limits to the length of speeches.  I know that guidance may not always be followed, but it doesn’t hurt to try!  If all else fails, tell your toasters that they have 5 minutes and that the bar won’t be open until they are done!

5. Allot time for yourselves!  They day goes by so quickly that you want to make sure you and your new spouse have a moment to take a breather, relax, and enjoy the moment.  Your guests will not blame you if you want to take a moment to yourselves to change your shoes, laugh over a funny wedding moment, take a minute to view pictures guests have posted on social media, or to take a wedding day selfie!  Often times, your reception venue can set up a room for just the two of you to enjoy some appetizers during the cocktail hour.  Not only will you actually be able to to eat and enjoy the food you have paid for, but you can soak in the fact that you just got married and rest up your feet for dancing.  Alternatively or additionally, if you do not want to feel rushed to finish your dinner, then do so.  Take the whole dinner hour to enjoy your meal and talk with your new spouse instead of feeling pressured to go table to table to great guests.  This ties in to the earlier post about the receiving line.  That is an alternative to going table to table or else you can make sure that you do attend the cocktail hour to greet and mingle with guests then.  Just remember that overall, it is your day and do what ever you need to which will help you to enjoy, savor, and remember the day.



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