Although I am by no means a professional wedding planner – as a photographer, I frequently work with my clients to help develop an ideal photo timeline for their special day. That said, I’ve encountered pretty much everything on a wedding day and understand that unexpected events are bound to happen to anyone (but hopefully not!).
Developing a full wedding day timeline on your own can be a difficult task and I’d strongly recommend having it completed no later than one-month before your date. That way, you’ll have some time to make last-minute changes, if needed. Here, I’ve highlighted some things to consider – to help things run smoothly.
When setting your timeline, it’s always great to leave plenty of wiggle room for the unexpected. If you’re having your wedding ceremony and reception in one location, it will automatically simplify things. However, weddings with multiple locations are notorious for running behind schedule, so it’s good to consider the following, when planning for them:
- Transportation: I’ve photographed weddings where shuttle buses have been late and cars have broken down (flat tire or mechanical issue). There was even one where the antique getaway vehicle would not start. I’m not necessarily saying this will happen to you, but it’s always good to be prepared with a backup option. Planning to arrive to your ceremony early (or some place close to the ceremony) can also help relieve some of the stress.
- Getting Ready (for brides): Talk with your hired beauty professionals to see how long it takes for them to comfortably style your hair and/or apply makeup. If you’re planning on having trial runs, time how long it takes and take that into consideration while making your itinerary. That’ll give you a general idea for how much time it will take. Add an extra 20 minutes of “relaxation time” – along with another 10-15 minutes for putting on your dress.
- Day-of Events: It’s always a smart idea to check around for events happening on the date of your wedding. Great examples are Baltimore’s Grand Prix and the Baltimore Pride Parade. Both events occur over the weekend, so it’s great to take hotel availability and traffic into consideration. (Also, it’s good to scope out spots for your photos ahead of time. If you’re planning on outdoor photos near a big event – be prepared to work around the pedestrians and event attendees!)
- Traffic: This topic goes along with the last pointer. If you haven’t done it already, scope out the time spent getting from your ceremony site to your reception site. Have the number? Now, add an extra 15-20 minutes of wiggle room. It’s also good to have someone there with a reliable smartphone to check on traffic updates via Google Maps.
- Receiving Lines: I’ve been there for quick receiving lines and crazy lengthy receiving lines. They can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a full hour (depending on your guest count and how talkative they are). If you’re absolutely set on a receiving line, I’d highly recommend one as guests are entering the reception. This gives your guests time to sign your guestbook, set down any gifts, grab their escort card, and say hello. You won’t have to make table rounds and your guests will remember to leave some love in your guestbook! (This also gives the photographer some extra time to photograph your lovely reception details.) In my honest opinion – it’s a total win.
- Consider a First Look: This isn’t necessarily for everyone, but it helps make the day run smoothly. If you haven’t heard of them, I’d highly recommend looking into it. We’ll be writing a full post on First Looks as a future Planning 101 topic, but to sum things up: You and your loved one will see each other for the first time, before the ceremony. This way, you’ll be looking your best (fresh from hair + makeup!), you’re free to de-stress, you’ll experience his/her true reaction to seeing you for the first time, and you can talk to one another about how excited you are (which can’t be done during the ceremony). You’ll also get a chance to get all of your portrait photos taken, prior to the ceremony… which leaves full relaxation for you, post-ceremony. Yes, you’ll even be able to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests!
All photographs by Serena + Chad of Love by Serena.