If you're an LP Bride or past bride then you know how much I stress a good timeline! It not only sets the stage for the day but helps everyone stay on the same page and keeps the day moving. On a wedding day I am not only the photographer but help double as the wedding coordinator. It is very important to me to keep a wedding day on time. Now, I realize that it is very rare for a wedding to stay on time throughout the day. I get that. But here are a few tips I give when planning your timeline.
Wedding days are like Christmas. You plan and plan and and re-plan for this one day and then before you know it, it's over. So you want to make sure that everything flows accordingly throughout the day. Like I tell everyone, there are only a few major events of the day but they all take a lot of time. Those are: Getting ready photos (Hair & Makeup, putting on the dress), First Look portraits, Bride & Groom Portraits, Bridal Party Portraits, Wedding Ceremony & Family Formals, and the reception. When you lay it out like so there isn't a whole lot to a wedding day. But, each of those parts require an ample amount of time. For example, I always allow 3 hours for Hair and makeup. That is based on around 5 bridesmaids, bride, and 2 hair dressers. That counts for the start of the first bridesmaids to the time the bride puts on her dress. I also always tell my brides to add just a little extra time with each wedding day event. Things happen throughout the day that are sometimes out of our control. Several years ago I photographed a wedding that was running perfectly on time. We all headed to a family farm to take bridal party portraits when one of the vehicles carrying members of the wedding party broke down. That took 20 extra minutes. But because I had told my bride to allow that extra time in her timeline it didn't set us back.
Something else to remember when planning out your timeline is ceremony time. A lot of people think that a standard wedding will take 30-45 minutes. This is not the case. Most weddings, unless there are special traditions worked into the ceremony, will only last about 15-20 minutes long. Very rarely have I been to a 30 minute ceremony. If you are having a Catholic wedding with a full mass then you can expect closer to an hour long ceremony. Something else to remember is that most guests will start arriving to the ceremony about 30 minutes before the start time. This is important of you have a summer wedding, or if you have chosen to do a first look. I always allow for about 15 minutes of prep time before the wedding. If you are having a summer wedding then you know how hot Missouri can get. And don't even get me started about the humidity. So I always allow for time before the wedding to freshen up. That also applies if you do a first look. I will be trying to get as many portraits done before the ceremony so we will need to make time for portraits as well as time to get the bride hidden before guests start arriving.
The reception is that part of the day where everyone can finally breathe. You did it. The bride and groom have successfully said "I do", portraits are done, the bridal party can finally eat, and the parents can finally relax. It is also a part of the day that doesn't get a ton of thought. Having a good DJ is crucial to making a reception flow and stay on time. Most reception halls require the party to end around 10:00pm or 11:00pm. And most receptions start at 6:00 or 7:00pm. Thats only a few hours to do a lot of important events like dinner, toasts, first dances, cake cutting, bouquet toss, garter toss, and dancing. I tell my brides to allow for about 45 minutes to eat dinner. That is for around 200-250 guests. But here is where it gets tricky. Most couples want to celebrate, kick off their shoes and dance. I get that! Its a special day! The best way to handle the traditional reception usuals are to keep everything close together. And this is where that awesome DJ comes in. When you meet with your DJ tell him/her that you want to do everything back-to-back. For example, as soon as dinner ends, start the toasts. When you finish toasts, immediately start the first dances. Get all of the important events immediately out of the way. The sooner you finish the traditional events the sooner you can start the music! Here is the reason I say this. The more you drag everything out the faster you lose crowd participation. It not only takes longer but it also wastes venue time. There is also nothing more awkward at a reception than dead time where nothing is happening.
Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your lives and I want to make sure that it goes smoothly without any problems. A happy timelines leads to a happy bride. And a happy bride makes everything better. I hope this has been helpful for all those struggling to put together the timeline!