This is a question I get asked by almost every single couple. How much time do we need to allow for this? How much for that? There are a lot of moving parts to the typical wedding day, hair, makeup, setting up ceremony locations, setting up for the reception, portrait sessions, bridal party photos, and of course, the ceremony itself!
This is part of the reason that wedding planners are becoming increasingly popular, as they can take the headaches out of all this planning, but for most couples its still a case of DIY.
So, how do you work out your timeline? Here are some of my key tips:
Start with your ceremony time and work backwards and forwards from there.
Set the timeline in 30 minute blocks, even if something is supposed to only take 10. If you allocate ONLY the time you THINK the thing will take, you will rapidly start running behind schedule, and start stressing.
Don’t micromanage the timeline- delegate different things to different people, and let them stress about it on the day. Have a handful of key times that you are focussed on, ie what time you want to be ready by, what time you want to leave for the ceremony, what time you will enter the reception.
Allow buffers- this ties in with the 30 minute blocks… if your MUA says that your makeup will take 40 minutes, allow an hour. Tell your vendors that you need things done by a certain time, 15-30 minutes ahead of when you actually want it done.
Overcompensate for travel times. If google maps says that it will take 30 minutes to get to the ceremony from your prep location, you really probably should plan on 45mins to an hour… take some wine and glasses and if you look like you will be right on the 30 minutes, pull over and have a last sip with your squad.
Don’t leave the brides hair and makeup until last, do it early, and the the bride can actually get dressed first, so they have time for photos.
There are also a few things that will often run slightly overtime, sometimes way over:
Photoshoots- Yes, I’m starting with photographers, we CAN get carried away shooting at an epic location, and the light might be amazing, so we will beg for a few minutes extra, meaning a slightly late entry to the reception.
Videographers- just as with photographers… also, if you have booked both, you need to allow time for both of them to do their thing, it usually doesn’t work to allow 45 minutes total for both.
Make Up- Often the mistake here is hiring only 1 or 2 MUA’s for 5-6 Bridesmaids plus bride. Talk to your MUA, plan to give them more time than they ask for, they will appreciate you for it. The latest I have seen a MUA go is 45 minutes overtime… the bride was leaving for a 20 minute drive at the time her ceremony was scheduled to start, and the MUA was still touching up lipstick.
Hair- Just like makeup, this can be more complex on the day than planned… we all (well those of you with lots of hair) have bad hair days, and sometimes it just takes extra time to make it work.
Family- You were waiting for a member of family to bring something to the prep, and they got delayed.
So with all of these factors, build in buffers to allow for one of more of these to run late.. if you don’t, you will pretty quickly find you are over an hour behind schedule… which really, doesn’t matter if you don’t mind, but I have seen 60 minute bridal party photo shoots turn into 10 minutes with no sunlight because golden hour happened while the ceremony was on, an hour late.
So lets run through a basic example, say for a 3pm ceremony.
Work backwards from 3pm to set your morning schedule.
3:00 pm ceremony
2:00 pm depart for ceremony (40 minutes travel)
1:30 pm Bridal portraits (bridesmaids get dressed)
1:00 pm Hair and Makeup finished and Bride gets into dress.
START TIME 10:00 am Hair and Makeup begins
Plan a similar schedule for both of you.
Now work forwards from the ceremony for the rest of the day
3:30 pm ceremony concludes, hugs kisses and greeting guests.
4:00 pm family photos (have a wranglers organised to help your photographer)
4:30 pm Bridal Party photos
5:30 pm guests enter reception
6:00 pm Bridal party entrance
6:15 pm entree served
6:30 pm speeches
7:00 pm Mains served
7:30 pm final speeches, cake cut (following B&G speech)
8:00 pm dessert
8:30 pm first dance
9:00 pm party time begins!!
END TIME 10:00 pm first guests depart
So here we have an example of a 12 hour wedding day timeline. When you come to select your photography package, you can look at this and decide whether you want everything captured, or you can miss a bit at the start or the end.
Thats a rough idea of how a day can flow. the actual events may take more or less time, but the buffers built in will allow for a few delays, and save you a heap of stress. And remember, delegate to people you trust, or hire experts that know how to make it work. Every wedding is unique, but most follow a very similar pattern to this. keeping these factors in mind will save you a heap of hassle and keep your day running smoothly, but even if things do go awry, don’t stress, just let it happen, it will work out in the end.