Things to Consider when Planning your Wedding day timeline
TOP TIPS FOR PLANNING YOUR WEDDING DAY TIMELINE
You’ve sorted the venue, chosen your gorgeous outfits, asked your team to be by your sides and booked all your suppliers …time for a nice well deserved glass of wine! But how does it all actually fit together? Mr. Beardy and I are currently at this point with our own wedding plans so I figured I should share my own 2 cents on the wedding day timeline from a brides point of view and also as a Wedding Photographer! It might seem like “ sure it will all fall into place” but actually it is most definitely something that needs to be considered and certain things can really impact it, especially if you want your day to be stress-free! In this post, I’ll go over all the usual elements of the day and share some tips on how you can make your wedding day run as smoothly as possible!
Hey, you going for an awesome winter wedding! Or you having that summer solstice shindig. Whatever time of year that you go for one of the most important things you need to consider is light ( I told you I’d give you my 2 cents as a photographer!) Did you know that late December the sun sets around 3.30pm here in Belfast ( On a good day). If you want to make use of the natural daylight available you should consider when the sun sets and plan to have your ceremony early or late enough to allow for all the other things to happen in the day! Equally mid-day height of summer sun isn’t the most flattering light and if you want those lush golden hour sunset images...… midsummer that's not until 10 pm!! Over the last year, I have seen a big trend of couples moving to more spring and autumn weddings, which sure makes for some gorgeous seasonal images, just make sure you’re still planning with the available light in mind ( and weather)!!
GETTING READY, THE PREPARATIONS
Whether you’re getting ready in your parents, the hotel, a cute remote cottage or even your own home, remember that I need to leave your location a good 15-30 minutes before you to capture you as you arrive at the ceremony, catch up with your fiancé and check in with whoever is taking the ceremony. If you are having your hair and makeup done, they will advise you on how long they need, just make sure to communicate with them for when you need to be ready ( if you want photos of people helping you into your dress etc) and when you plan to leave. If you are doing your own hair and makeup, plan for lots of extra time ( or even do a trial run to figure out how long it could take… then add on time for nerves!) Aim to be ready an hour before you think you need to be, it actually takes much longer than you think to do everything and before you know it, it's time to leave. It's much better to be relaxed with a glass of bubbly chilln' with your team than running around like a headless chicken at the last minute panicking about unexpected mishaps!
Typically Ceremony's can last anywhere from 20minutes to an hour ( or even longer if you are following certain traditions) Whoever is conducting the ceremony will be able to advise you on this, hopefully, you will have had a rehearsal so will have a rough idea of the flow of that part of the day. My main advice is to allow for extra time, traffic can cause a right mare at peak times and there may have been a knock on from the morning's prep. If you haven’t accounted for the extra time it could push of later events in the day.
YAY you did the thing and it's amazing and everyone's happy crying ( including me)…. And now all your guests are going to want to congratulate you... ALL of them! In so many of the weddings I document, couples have totally forgotten that this happens as they have been concentrating so much on the ceremony and doing the thing! Take it from me its pretty much impossible to get a moment alone or go straight into photographs right after a ceremony, your friends and family will be ready and waiting to tell you how awesome it was to see you two tie the knot. I would advise leaving at least 20-30 mins after your ceremony for this.
FORMAL GROUP PHOTOS
Personally, I like to get any must have immediate family group shots done as soon as possible after the ceremony. I know that these shots are important to people so I like to make sure I have them ticked off for you before anyone gets too merry or disappears off to the dance floor! As I am a documentary photographer, I capture the day as it happens naturally so I like to keep these formal shots to a minimum ( usually around 6-10) they actually take a bit longer than you might expect, these shots take a good 3-5 minutes to set up and organise ( even longer for bigger groups) while we wait for the troops to be rounded up, people can get pretty frustrated and restless! A few group photos can quickly turn into 40 - 60 minutes and can get pretty draining on a newlywed couple ( I see you with those Wallace and Gromit smiles). Depending on what time dinner is at group shots could have easily taken up a huge chunk of your time left before dinner.
I could write an essay about these and I’m not one for words! Those epic couple shots that you see on my Instagram or website, full of honesty and emotion, giggly schoolgirl smiles, a breath, that windswept hair don't happen in 5 minutes. They all came from real weddings where couples set aside time and trusted me in capturing those first moments together. They were fearless, adventurous and gave me the time in their day to be creative and they allowed themselves to enjoy the process. If you want those kind of images investing time into this part of the day makes sense. It takes time to get two people relaxed and natural in front of a camera and my goal is to capture the two of you in the most honest and creative way I can, so when you look back on your images you are right back in that moment, feeling those emotions and remembering your thoughts and the sounds and smells around you. Having a pre-wedding/ engagement/ couple session prior to the wedding makes a huge difference in these photos. Couples who have chosen to have a pre-wedding or engagement session before the wedding, are normally much more relaxed, know how I work and are more comfortable in front of the camera.
Normally I ask couples to factor in at least an hour for their wedding portraits, sometimes I split this into two smaller sections depending on weather etc and always aim to get you back out for a sunset shot ( remember what I said about seasons and sunsets)
Oh my days it's dinner time already, where did the day go? You can pretty much guarantee that this part of the day will take longer than expected or planned! Your caterer/ venue will advise you on timings but I would also add on some extra time to accommodate for things not running to schedule, some venues then have to "turn around" a room to get it ready for the evening reception and this too can take a lot of time! Whether its a super relaxed BBQ, a formal sit down 3-course meal or something in between definitely allow for things to run on a bit.
Traditionally they are done before or after dinner, I’ve even had them happen in between courses. Check with your venue what they would prefer, especially if they are happening before dinner and the caterers are waiting to bring out a hot starter! Figure out when you are planning on doing speeches, how many people will be getting up to say something and how long they might take in total. I’ve seen them done informally outside with everyone lounging on the grass or not done at all. Whatever way you decide to do them or if you even want to do them at all, factor in those people with 7 pages ( I’m looking at you Paul!!!) and allow for lots of toasts and cheering!
CUTTING THE CAKE
Some super efficient venues like to have the cake cutting done at a certain point in the day and they will let you know ( and hopefully me). Other venues let you do it whenever it suits you, I would allow about 10 minutes to make sure everyone who wants to, gets that shot! I always speak to couples about elements like cake cutting/signing the register and if they would prefer a candid capture ( as it happens) or a set up posed image. Don’t like cake, you don’t have to do this bit! It's becoming increasingly popular to forgo the cake and do something else instead like have a cheese board or cupcakes. Tracey and Roisin chose to not have a cake at all and instead decided to release Chinese lanterns into the evening sky with their guests just after the sun had set! Whatever you choose to do, just think about when it would fit best into your day!
Oh, you know that nervous first shuffle in the middle of the dance floor and everyone is looking at you! The first dance tends to get the evening's party flowing and I love the shift from daytime into the evening reception. If you have opted for a DJ/wedding band they will advise you on their set up time and projected time for the first dance. If you are stepping away from tradition, having your own playlist or have decided to grab all of your nearest and dearest around the fire pit or even like Adam & Colette, who chose to do a first song, factor in rough timings for these parts ( and let the photographer know your plans!!)
I should have talked about travel… allow for traffic and distance between venues if you are choosing to get ready in one place, have the ceremony in a different location and then on further to the reception. If you are choosing to have everything all in the same venue it does have its perks as all the main elements happen so close to each other that you don’t need to stress about travel!
Timelines will run on or will have little, unnoticeable to the guests, blips. These things happen and the best thing to do is relax, don’t stress and go with the flow. If things need to be rejigged that's cool, I always check in and communicate with couples throughout the day and keep a mental note of whats needed.
I offer extended coverage, for this reason, I know that timings can run on and it's not always in your control. I want you two to enjoy the day so from getting ready to throwing shapes on the dance floor I’m there to capture it all and you don’t need to stress that things have run over and I’m off duty before you have even sat down for your meal! I think one of the most important things to remember is you two, make sure to take time in an incredibly emotional and crazy day to enjoy each other and the moment. Communicate with the venue and vendors and ENJOY it, you just did the thing and it's probably gone by in a blur!
I hope you have found this helpful, if you have any advice for other couples I would love to hear it, or if you have any questions feel free to comment or send me a message!