Wedding season is approaching again–which is hard to believe since it’s currently 20 degrees out with a bitterly cold wind–and I am working with many spring brides to put together and finalize their wedding day timelines. While there are many factors that go into each couple’s timeline, I want to start by showing a sample timeline, which is really my ideal breakdown of a wedding day.
Since 95% of my couples share a First Look on their wedding day, I’ve based my ideal timeline off of being able to do all portraits prior to the ceremony. And while I’ve listed out all the “steps” above in the graphic for the ideal wedding day, I thought I should point out these time totals so you know how much time to expect even if your day won’t look exactly like the timeline shown. (For example, if you are not sharing a First Look and planning on doing all portraits after the ceremony, you’ll want to plan a longer cocktail hour (and a half) for your guests.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
Recently I was asked how I come up with wedding day timelines.
“Do you have an example of one of your timelines or schedule for the wedding day? How you organize your thoughts, etc. I know this is probably different for each wedding, but if you have an example saved, I would greatly appreciate it!”
The first thing I ask my clients before customizing their timeline is, “Do you plan on doing a first look?”