Planning your wedding day timeline

I'm in frequent contact with many of my 2010 brides (and even some of the more organized 2011 brides), and a topic that frequently comes up is planning your wedding day timeline - especially making sure there is enough time for photographs. So I thought I'd share some thoughts.

A bunch of things come into play when planning your timeline:
- It will go dark at some point! Important if you're planning outdoor photographs
- Things will run late. Believe me, everything takes slightly longer than you expect!
- Traffic and travel time between locations
- The co-operation and availability of your wedding party and family
- How long you have your photographer for (if it's me - no worries!)

I shoot quickly. It's true - I like to keep the group portrait sessions quick and painless. I've shot family portraits that are totally worthy of a frame on the mantle in less than 30 minutes, the most complex family group I shot with a total of 8 parents (all remarried) and different groupings of siblings maybe took 45 minutes. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE when a couple schedule a couple of hours to hang out with their wedding party and alone for more picture opportunity. It's not a 2 hour photoshoot - just you and your closest friends spending time together on your wedding day with the bonus of lots of lovely relaxed pictures.

Right, so back to timelines. You can either start at the beginning of the day with the getting ready fun and work forward or perhaps start with your ceremony time and then work backwards. Either way, don't forget the travel time between locations and build in blocks of10-15 minutes of "fudge time" to account for last minutes changes/lateness. I've come up with two different timelines just as suggestions.

Remember - if you want to have epic romantic and intimate shots like these, you have to plan time for them! They're probably not going to happen in the parking lot of the church with 30 family members gathered around!

Remember, when I photograph your wedding I'm pretty much at your beck and call all day and nothing makes me happier than the couple that schedules time in the day to go on location with their wedding party - they hang out, celebrate and laugh and get a bunch of brilliant pictures.

Sample Timeline 1: 6pm ceremony
Minimum suggested times for first look and wedding party pictures before your ceremony

Taking pictures before the ceremony gives you more time together during on your wedding day. If your ceremony isn't until 6pm and your reception finishes at 11pm you really only have 5 hours of "wedding". Having a beautiful and private "first look" moment followed by wedding party pictures before the ceremony extends your day, calms any nerves and lets you enjoy a glass of champagne and the hors d'oeuvres at cocktail hour (which we all know are the best part!)

6pm ceremony followed by family pictures
5:30pm arrive at ceremony location to be hidden away from arriving guests
5:15pm travel to ceremony location
4:30pm wedding party pictures (30 minutes minimum but I'm all for hopping in a trolley, on a duck bus, in the limo and going on location for an hour or two, you can hang out with your closest friends and family and get some brilliant pictures)
4:00pm "first look" bride and groom alone for epic portraits
3:45pm travel to first look location (everything moves slower when you're in a wedding dress!)
3:15pm put on wedding dress and final touch up of makeup
3:00pm Hair and make up are finished for bride and wedding party
2:30pm Leah arrives for detail/getting ready pictures

Sample Timeline 2: 5pm ceremony
Minimum suggested times for pictures after the ceremony

I know it's "tradition" not to see each other before the wedding. It's also tradition to wear a veil to ward off evil spirits, tradition to wear white to symbolise...well never mind, tradition for the bride to stand on the left side of the groom so he has easy access to his sword to fight off rivals, tradition for the bride to be kissed by a chimney sweep on her wedding get the picture :)

Regardless, the decision about whether or not to take pictures before the ceremony is completely up to each couple and so here's a sample timeline with pictures afterwards, in this case we'll work forwards.

Note: be careful that your ceremony isn't so late that it will be dark for pictures afterwards. Of course I can still get family and wedding party pictures with flash but lovely flattering natural-light pictures outdoors will probably not be an option.

2:30pm leah arrives for getting ready/detail pictures
3:00pm hair and make up is complete for wedding party and bride
3:15pm put on wedding dress and final touches of make up
3:30pm pictures of bride with her side of wedding party and possibly immediate family
4:00pm leah leaves for ceremony location
4:15pm groom arrives at ceremony location, pictures of groom with groomsmen and his immediate family
5pm ceremony
5:25pm ceremony will actually start :)
6:00pm family pictures
6:30pm wedding party pictures
7:00pm Cocktail hour starts, pictures of bride and groom alone
7:30pm bride and groom travel to reception venue just in time for their entrance!

As I've been writing this post a million other thoughts have occurred to me somewhat relating to timelines and also for generally getting better pictures on your wedding day so check back next week for part II

And let's chat in the comments! Are you planning pictures before or after the ceremony? If you're already married did you do pictures before or after? What did you like/not like about your timeline? What would you do differently? I know you're out there - all 1956 blog visitors each month - don't be shy!

1 comment

  1. What great advice and I love the two different estimated timelines.