How to create a relaxing wedding day timeline: One of the biggest stressors that come with planning your wedding is creating your wedding day timeline. I’m here to tell you that there’s no need for it to stress you out. The key to a relaxing wedding day timeline is simply just planning ahead. Figuring out everything you want to do and have pictures of (first looks, reception exits, any other special event, etc.) and then breaking it all down to see what can fit where will help you out tremendously. This way you can have an organized and thoroughly thought out timeline which will help to keep everything on track when your special day finally arrives.
Because I’m a wedding photographer and have been to quite a few weddings and also had my own, I can give you a few tips and suggestions to help you with planning your timeline. Generally, wedding ceremonies last around 30 minutes. I know some people like to have a shorter ceremony, it will just depend on what you have decided to do during it. Then, most receptions will last around four hours. And now for the rest of your day, here is a guideline that might be helpful:
Details are typically the first thing on the schedule. This is when you will give your photographer all of your wedding details (i.e. dress, shoes, stationery, jewelry, etc.) for them to take pictures of. I suggest already having all of this in some form of box or bag ready to give to your photographer when they arrive. Trust me, they will appreciate that.
Getting ready is obviously one of the most important parts of the day, so plan your time wisely! One thing to do is to make sure you get ready before any of your bridesmaids. This way you are out of the way and done if it comes down to crunch time and your hairstylist/makeup artist are needing to hurry things up. That’s the last thing you want while getting ready is to be rushed and everything has to be thrown together.
Another thing, plan to have your hair and makeup finished about 30 minutes after the photographer is scheduled to arrive. That way your photographer is able to capture the details as your hair and makeup are finishing up.
After all of the final touches are done, it’s time for the bride to get into her wedding dress! This is another special moment that you will want to be captured by your photographer, so be sure to fit in some time for those pictures.
After you are ready for the day, go ahead and have the photographer snap a few portrait shots of you and the groom separately. These are a big part of the day that you will want to share with your kids at some point.
A good tip to save time is to have this be at the same location where you are planning to do your First Look. If you’re not doing a First Look with your partner, you can reduce this time by 10-15 minutes. After your First Look is done, you will want to take a few bride & groom portraits together too while you both look your best before the ceremony. Be sure that you both have your wedding rings to wear while taking these!
This is going to heavily depend on how many people are in your wedding party. The more people you have, the more time will be needed. If you have a small wedding party, 20 minutes should be enough time, but I always say it’s always better to plan for extra time than not enough. To reduce time and stress, be sure that everyone has their bouquets & boutonnieres with them!
You can either squeeze this in now, before your ceremony or have these taken during cocktail hour, after your ceremony. Like the wedding party, the time of this is going to depend on the size of your family and who you want to be included. If everyone is present and ready, these can be knocked out pretty quickly. I would suggest telling your family to arrive 15 minutes before the time you want to start taking these pictures.
Take this time before the ceremony begins to just sit, grab a snack, drink some water, relax and soak in what is and is about to happen. This time will also allow for your photographer to get a few shots of the venue before guests start showing up.
Ceremony times are different for every person. I would suggest figuring out what special moments or activities you want to do during your ceremony and that will help you get a better idea of how much time this will take. It is extremely helpful if you let your photographer know what all is going to happen and in what order (give them a program if you’re having those) so that they can expect what will go on and plan their shots.
This part of the day is also another one that can differ from wedding to wedding. Some couples will use this time to take more pictures, but others will attend the cocktail hour to socialize with their guests. So, the time and activity are really up to what you and your partner want to do.
One thing I’ll say is to allow your photographer about 20 minutes of this time to go to your reception location and snap a few shots of all the details and decor there before guests start to fill the space. I’m sure you spent a lot of time planning the perfect reception decor, so it would be a shame to not have these pictures to look back at.
About an hour prior to sunset is the best time for the beautiful golden hour wedding portraits. Normally this falls during when your reception is happening, but it’s really going to depend on what time of the day you start your ceremony. If you plan your wedding timeline around this, you can fit this in during cocktail hour so that you won’t have to leave the reception.
Once all the photos have been taken, take a couple of extra minutes to spend time together just the two of you before heading back into the reception with all of your guests. You don’t get these moments alone often during your wedding day so I suggest squeezing them in wherever you can.
To have the dances done before or after everyone is finished with dinner, that’s going to be up to you and you what you think your guests would rather have. I would say that all of the special dances will take around 30-45 minutes.
Dinner length will also differ depending on how many guests you have and if you chose buffet or plated food service.
This may have seemed like a lot, but it’s not. The key thing here is to have clear communication with all of your vendors and wedding party and to know a good bit of what you want your day to consist of. If everyone is on the same page with your timeline then things should be smooth sailing.
And lastly, remember that no wedding goes exactly according to the timeline. Things happen, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world! At the end of the day, you will be married to your partner and everyone will have had a great time.
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