The most important part of planning your big day is the wedding timeline. Just like a well choreographed dance number, success or failure of your wedding day depends on making sure that all of the moving parts are in sync.   This sounds simple enough right? You would think that the average bride should be able to write down a simple schedule! However, most brides are not savvy with the actual amount of time needed for each vendor to do their particular role or they think guests will arrive on time (ha!). Here are some tips that will help you pull back the curtain and create the perfect, stress free, wedding timeline.

Ask vendors for input on how long they need

Now add a quarter of that amount of time to your total. Your vendors know very well how long it takes them to do their job and are very good at doing it under pressure, but why would you want that?  For example, hair and make up takes about two hours on average for the bride. By adding an extra thirty minutes to that total you guarantee that you have time to take care of distractions and unforeseen circumstances. It’s common for the bride to have to make phone calls, deal with vendors questions, track down family members, etc while trying to get her hair and makeup done. These operational items, while necessary, quickly take you off schedule and can cause the whole wedding day to run late before it’s even started.

ijphoto wedding timelineConsider travel times accounting for traffic

A few years ago I had a couple that really wanted photos after the ceremony at Gasworks park. The day of their wedding there was an event at Huskey Stadium, Safeco Field, and the Montelake bridge was up. We were forty minutes behind schedule because of traffic. We also had to cut our photos at the park short since we knew we were so far behind. This stressed out the couple and it made it difficult for them to look natural in front of the camera, which also made things take longer. While they were ultimately happy with the shots we got, I knew we missed out on some really great photos because of the extenuating circumstances. The lesson of this story is IF you choose to do multiple destinations provide plenty of travel time for you and your guests. Check what events might increase traffic on your route and plan alternate routes as a back up. OR choose an all in one venue where you don’t have to go off-site and waste precious time.

ijphoto seattle wedding photographerDo a “First Look”

This trend is here to stay for one reason, it’s a huge time saver. Couples who have a first look can get all of their formal portraits out of the way before the ceremony. You also have the advantage of  having fresh hair and makeup so you look your best in the photos. Many couples don’t realize that splitting the formal photos into two parts (or doing them all during cocktail hour) is stressful and often produces poorer quality photos. Before the ceremony family and friends are filled with excitement and joy for the couple. These feelings transfer to their facial expressions and they give their best smiles. After the ceremony the adrenaline rush has subsided and people are looking forward to the relaxing atmosphere of the reception. This can cause family and wedding party members to be less interested in photos and even wander off to the bar, making it difficult to get all of the photos in a timely manner. It also may have a negative affect on the creativity of your portraits. Doing all of your formal portraits before the ceremony will give your photographer (me) the opportunity and the time necessary to create something personalized. When we are short of time creativity is sacrificed for efficiency; this generally means standard poses, that are nice, but lack that extra special touch.

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Don’t forget the details!

My clients love the photos of all of their wedding details, the dress, the shoes, the tables at the reception. Photographing these details take time. Make sure to leave some room in your schedule for the photographer (me again) to photograph your reception set up before guests are allowed to enter. This is usually done by added a few more minutes to the cocktail hour.

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Hire a coordinator

If the wedding timeline is giving you trouble you should hire a coordinator. These professionals understand the ins-and-outs- of the wedding timeline and can council you as to what exactly your schedule should look like. A good coordinator will be in contact with all of your vendors and confirm that the timeline allows them to do their best. This should be done approximately a month before the wedding so there is time to make any necessary changes.  If you do plan on DIY coordination here are a few time saving ticks you need to know:

  • Have a friend or family member be your “go to” person for keeping track of the schedule. Give them specific instructions and then let this person do their job. Micromanaging will only stress you out. If you’re not the type of person that lets go easily, then allow five extra minutes for each item on the schedule so you can handle the small issues that arise.
  • Schedule your florist to drop off flowers prior to the arrival of the photographer. Cake delivery doesn’t need to happen until about an hour before the ceremony, and your DJ will need an hour at least, maybe more. Also make sure that your DJ, photographer, and coordinator get a chance to communicate about where the toasts, first dance, bouquet/garter toss will happen so no additional time will be needed during the reception to make these events happen.
  • Plan to end formal portraits thirty minutes before the ceremony start time. This will allow the guests to arrive without the bride being seen. It’s also a great chance to check hair and makeup.
  • If your wedding party is going to also have their hair and makeup done by a professional make sure that your stylist brings a team with her. For example a team of three stylists can do hair and makeup for five women in 3.5 hours. It would take one stylist approx seven hours to do the same job.
  • If all else fails, hire a coordinator. I recommend Wonderstruck Event Design or LoveBug Weddings.

Finally, keep in mind having extra time is a good thing!

If everything goes perfectly on your wedding day and you’ve planned extra time into the schedule then you can enjoy the company of the people you love. That being said, nothing ever goes perfectly. There WILL be things that get lost, transportation that is delayed, or family members that are late/cranky/hungry. By creating a wedding timeline that is designed to include these events you’ll give yourself a stress free day.