I’ve photographed lots of wedding. Lots. And Lots. Many. So many. Having a kickass wedding comes down to a kickass wedding plan.
Weddings are all so unique and I remember the entirety of each wedding day I’ve photographed. Weddings of all shapes and sizes. From elopements where there were zero guests and I was a witness, to 400-guest celebrations. White weddings, Indian weddings, Chinese weddings and traditional tea ceremonies, First Nations ceremonies, Celtic ceremonies, same-sex weddings, and more! In all of the weddings I’ve photographed I’ve learned some things about what makes it easier for me as a photographer and also for the couple and guests to look back on the day fondly with no regrets about “would have” and “should have”.
Over the years I did my best to make note of what made a great wedding timeline and I’ve compiled it here to help you. Some small changes make a world of difference in nearly every aspect of your wedding day!
First of all, having a wedding planner is amazing! Wedding planners take the stress out of your day and deal with the nitty-gritty details. Not only that, wedding planners have a vast array of knowledge that is quite literally worth it’s weight in gold. I like to call them magicians, who know about the ins and outs of wedding timelines, potential mishaps, organisational structures and more! I understand that not everyone can afford to hire a wedding planner, but if you can hire one who is experienced and will really add to your wedding day.
WEDDING DAY TIMELINE HACKS:
Understanding how long it takes for everything to get done is key to planning a fantastic wedding. Your makeup artists and hair stylists should be so experienced that they can tell you approximately how long it will take each person in your wedding party and yourself to get their hair and makeup done. Tell your hair and makeup vendors what time you’d like to be finished and allow them to help you work backwards from there. You can then work out how long you can sleep in in the morning!
I don’t need to arrive as soon as your hair and makeup artist does. In fact, your hourly coverage is best used toward the end of your wedding day. I’d like to arrive when your makeup is mostly done to photograph that, some documentary images of you and your crew laughing, getting ready and then some time doing a few posed portraits. This should take approximately 1-2 hours for me, no more. With the groom and groomsman, allot approximately 1 hour of photography time with them. Boys get ready fast! I’d like to ask that the groom wait to shave or do his hair so I have more to photograph other than buttoning shirts and putting on socks and shoes.
Plan to have your wedding guests arrive before the ceremony is actually set to take place. Why? There’s nothing worse than the ceremony starting and guests continuously arriving throughout. This can be disruptive of course. When you walk down the aisle you want seats filled with teary-eyed friends and family watching you adoringly as you meet the love of your life. Ceremonies usually takes 30 minutes unless you are having a religious ceremony with prayers, songs or other cultural traditions. Having a ceremony a bit later in the afternoon is usually best.
Many people don’t know this, but the timing of portraits is very important for photographers. In early afternoon in summer, the sun is high. High sun means shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin. I prefer the sun low so I love to do portraits around 5:oo or later. Family portraits can be done earlier of course, preferably in a shady location at the ceremony site.
You can research sunset times when planning your timeline to know when the light will be gone. This is especially important in winter as there is far less light to work with. Ask your photographer when it is preferable to do portraits, as these photos will likely be the ones covering your walls for years to come.
Reception planning is a bit of a contentious issue. I personally like a tight timeline. When the timeline flows continuously it allows me to capture SO many more moments. A timeline with dead space creates… well, nothing. Couples often assume that it’s best to have lots of space in-between each event. What usually happens is people spread out, wander off, or sit at their tables and immerse themselves in deep conversation. There’s nothing wrong with deep conversation, but it leaves me with little to photograph. Bunching your your speeches, cake cutting, bouquet toss, games, slideshow, first dances together with leave the party bit to the end and will maximise your opportunity for those great candid action shots.
When the timeline lags or I have been scheduled at time, I sneak the couple outside for a sunset photograph or evening shot with off-camera-flash. These sneak-offs have given me some of my most favourite and well-loved photographs of each wedding. I personally like to include the sneak-off for my couples but your photographer may not so keep that in mind.
Does your itinerary has addresses, directions, phone numbers, and any other important information? Distribute a copy to everyone who needs to know where to be and when. All vendors, setup and takedown people, those who are offering transportation, etc. When everyone knows where they need to be and when you take away the potential for lost guests, or missing items. Plan for travel times to and from each location. Allot time for the potential for traffic and detours. Ensure there is times for setup or take down and time for technical things that will need to be tested first, like a slideshow.
Please, PLEASE, I am begging you, do not, or do not allow your wedding planner to change the wedding itinerary the night before the wedding. If you or your wedding planner make changes, remember to redistribute your timeline to everyone. I can’t even recall how many times I have had the itinerary changed by a new or inexperienced wedding planner drastically change a schedule. I have also not been given a revised timeline and showed up with an original only to find out everything has changed and I wasn’t supposed to start until an hour later. I’ve had planners start me earlier and end me earlier causing me to miss first dances, cake cuttings, etc. I MUST approve ANY timeline changes so if there is an issue I have the opportunity to inform my clients about potential for missed coverage.
I’m there to capture your whole day like a story. I want to tell your whole story without any missing pages, and I want each image to be as interesting and beautiful as the last.