October 1, 2015

Mompreneurship, Part 7: Wedding Timeline Management

FILED IN: Business

Wedding Day Timeline Management

Previously on mompreneurship:

For every wedding I photograph, there’s a detailed wedding day timeline that goes along with it. This includes everything from my start time to the addresses for the various locations (getting ready, ceremony, reception) to which family photos the couple has requested to how many are in their bridal party.

This wedding timeline is something the couple and I have agreed upon beforehand and we both have access to it. On the wedding day, I obviously encourage the couple to enjoy and let me handle the timeline and the clock. I keep two physical copies of the timeline with me as well as an online copy in case I need to pull it up on my phone. (Though I prefer not to because seeing a vendor on their phone–whether or not it’s work related (because how would you know?)–is always a bit off-putting.)

You can probably guess why a timeline is so important. Here are just a few reasons:

  1. All family formals/groupings are requested ahead of time and time is allotted based on how many there are. This is really, really important because on the wedding day, it would be nearly impossible for the bride, groom, or parents to have the head space to know which groupings they want. They’d miss some, they’d spend precious time on duplicates, and they’d be stressed. I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened where I’ll photograph the bride & her father, for example, and then 3 minutes later have her ask if I can get a photo of her and her dad together. She has been smiling and wrapping her arms around so many people that she doesn’t even remember what photos have been taken. This is okay. This is why I’m here and why I’m using the timeline to manage the craziness that is portrait time.
  2. Everyone knows ahead of time when they need to be ready and where they need to be. This is especially important for bridal party and family. Since most of my couples have a first look, they are the first to have their photos taken. Then we add the bridal party, then we finish with the family. There’s no need for sweet grandma to be ready for her photo 3 hours before the ceremony when we only need her about 45 minutes before.
  3. It clears up any confusion beforehand and ensures everyone is on the same page. This goes both ways. The couple knows where I’ll be at any given time and I’ll know where they will be. This happens a lot when a bride is getting her makeup done elsewhere, but is meeting me at the church to get into her gown.
  4. It relieves the couple because they are given permission to not be in charge. By me providing them with a detailed timeline, they can say, “Emily’s got this.” If their bridal party has questions, they can show them the timeline (before the wedding day) or send them over to me (on the wedding day).

A timeline is important. Now, how do I manage all the timelines?

I previously mentioned how I use Pixifi for my office management and one of the features that I rely heavily on is the questionnaire. I have a questionnaire that I’ve fine-tuned over the years that is called the “Wedding Day 411”. It includes about 50 questions with everything from the location addresses to the vendors to the bridal party names to the wedding colors. I use this questionnaire to appropriately divvy up the time for the wedding day as well as to get a vision of what the bride and groom are planning (for example, a blush pink & champagne wedding will look a lot different than a navy & kelly green wedding; both beautiful, but very different in the overall feel).

I remind the couple 3 months before their wedding to fill out this questionnaire. Once it’s completed, I go to work on my end adding the vendors to their event (this helps me later on when blogging, giving credit, and sending vendor photos), preparing their timeline, and organizing how the day will run the most smooth.

As for the actual timeline, I keep it really easy with a Google Doc. (I’m able to share the link with my clients and even give them editing privileges if I wish.) I have one sample timeline that I then copy and adjust based on each wedding. Here’s a peek at a wedding coming up in a few weeks.

Wedding Day Timeline EmilyCrall

Once the timeline gets into the reception, I make notes based on what the DJ has communicated. He or she is master of ceremonies at that point and I turn the timeline over to them. I always encourage my couples to communicate with the DJ before the wedding what time I will be leaving (based on how long they’ve hired me for) to make sure I’m able to photograph the formalities (first dances, toasts, cake cutting, etc.) before I leave.

I hope this helps as you organize each wedding day with your couples! For more about timelines, you can read this post about my ideal wedding day timeline.

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