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wedding day timeline rob allen photography

Your wedding day is one of the most exciting days of your life. It also can be very overwhelming! Having photographed more than 100 weddings, I’ve seen couples stress over little things during their wedding day that could have been avoided with a wedding day timeline. Of course, even the best laid plans can run off course. The important thing is to have a foundation to your wedding day timeline. Having that baseline will allow your day to go so much smoother! Your wedding day goes so quickly, having a thoughtfully planned timeline allows you to make the day about you, your new spouse and your love.

As you approach your wedding day, you will have already finalized your ceremony location, the reception venue, your menu and made choices about gowns and florals. But don’t forget to plan out your wedding day timeline. Keep in mind, a wedding planner or venue coordinator will most likely create and work with you on the timeline. But if you’re on your own, it is so important that you create one of these yourself. 

Here are some of my best tips for creating a unique wedding day timeline. 

Wedding Day Timeline Tip 1: Things to Consider when Creating your Plan

In order to start planning a unique wedding day timeline, there are a few things to consider. With a wedding, there are so many moving parts and small details that it’s hard to keep them all straight! Here are a few things to make sure you consider when you’re pulling together your timeline.

Logistics:

  • Where are you getting ready?
  • How far is it from the ceremony location?
  • Will your ceremony and reception be at the same place, or at different venues?
  • How are you getting from place to place?

As a New York wedding photographer, I know how a bad traffic situation can put a whole wedding timeline sideways.  If you have your heart set on getting your hair done at a specific location in the city, make sure to schedule your appointments so you can make it to your ceremony on time.

Portrait Priorities:

  • Will you be having a first look?
  • When will you do family portraits?
  • Where do you want to have portraits taken?

These decisions are all in an attempt to make sure you have enough time in your day. Having a first look might bump up your getting ready time. Foregoing a first look in favor of cocktail hour pictures might result in a longer cocktail hour.  Whichever you decide is fine, so long as it’s planned for.

Wedding Day Timeline Tip 2: Start Earlier than you Think

Your wedding day is a long and wonderful day. But there is no such thing as getting ready too soon.  As a general rule, plan to start your wedding day prep 7 hours before your ceremony start time, if you plan on having a first look.  If you aren’t having a first look, plan on 5 hours. Remember, it can take upwards of 90 minutes for a bridal updo and professional makeup application. If your bridesmaids are also getting their hair and makeup professionally done at the same time– that can add even more time. A full portrait session, including couple’s portraits and family photos, will easily take over an hour. Give yourself plenty of time.

Wedding Day Timeline Tip 3: Your “Getting Ready” Schedule

Getting ready pictures are a wonderful way to document and capture the beginning of the story of your wedding day. Plan to have the photographer arrive as you are getting the finishing touches to your hair and makeup. Having pictures of a makeup artist putting the finishing touches on your eye makeup is far more elegant than pictures with your hair teased into a pile on top of your head. Having your wedding day look 90% completed will make you feel more relaxed as you are getting photographed.

Wedding Day Timeline Tip 4: Pad in Extra Time, then Pad in More

Throughout the wedding day, there are going to be things that come up that might not have been added to your timeline. Here are a few things you might not think of to add into your wedding day timeline:

  • Eating breakfast AND lunch:

Consider designating a bridesmaid as your pre-wedding food coordinator. All those mimosas during hair and makeup can catch up to you on an empty stomach.

  • Signing the marriage license and any appropriate paperwork: 

Make sure your marriage is legal!

  • Traffic, traffic, traffic:

Check google maps to make sure that you have enough time to get from place to place. Another tip is to use the time feature to check what the traffic looks like at the time of your wedding day.

  • Be sure to allow at least a 15-minute buffer at each step in the plan in case there’s unexpected traffic or other delays. You’ll be glad you planned ahead!

Wedding Day Planning Tip 5: Be Considerate to your Guests

It might seem like a good idea to take a few hours between your ceremony and reception to get all of your pictures taken. But remember your guests! Don’t make them wait all day to celebrate with you. Try not to have a wide chasm of time between your ceremony and your cocktail hour.

Similarly, don’t make your guests wait too long to eat.  Dinner should be served 30-45 minutes once the reception has started.  Your cocktail hour might have a delicious spread of snacks, but a real meal is important to combat those cocktails. If you are having multiple speeches, consider having them while people eat, or between courses.

Wedding Day Timeline Tip 6: When in Doubt

When in doubt, trust your vendors. Your venue may have wedding coordinators on staff. Of course, as a wedding photographer, this is what I do.  If you have questions or need help in making sure your wedding day timeline is realistic, I am happy to help.  It is my pleasure and my privilege to be trusted with your special day.

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