Tips & Advice for Planning A Stress-Free Wedding Day Timeline

Today on the blog, we’re sharing with you all of our best advice for planning a stress-free wedding day. This post has to start with a warning: it’s LOOOOOOONG! To include all of our best advice, it has to be long. So save it, pin it, or email it to yourself. That way, you’ll be able to refer back to it. Sidenote: I’ve been wanting to do a huge & all-encompassing Wedding Day Timeline blog post for a very long time now (I did a smaller FAQ version), but I could never quite nail down how to tackle this HUGE (and diverse- depending on the particular wedding) topic without making the post three miles long until I came across a blog post by Leah Haydock (a phenomenal wedding photographer in the Boston area). Her posts inspired me and helped me with this in a very big way! Plus, her work is gorgeous, timeless, and classic! I love reading her blog posts and following her work!

Here’s a breakdown of the topics we’ll discuss in today’s blog post:
General overarching thoughts to keep in mind as you draft your wedding day timeline;
Ideal amount of time to allocate for specific types of wedding day photography;
Our thoughts on the “first look” & how it can greatly change your timeline for the better;
Sample timelines (We know each wedding day is different, but these will give you an idea) ; and
Final tips & the most common mistakes couples make when planning their timelines.

Overarching Thoughts About Planning Your Timeline

I say this to help you. My intention is NOT to stress you out! However, please keep in mind that time is tricky on your wedding day. Simple tasks that would, on a normal day, take you 2 minutes will take you 15 or 20 minutes on your wedding day. I’m not exaggerating or kidding. We’ve photographed 70+ weddings and experienced our own wedding about four years ago. I’m speaking from experience as a concerned friend/photographer. Plan for EXTRA time for hair/makeup, travel, family photos, getting into your gown, corralling a large bridal party onto/off of a party bus, and much more! Plan a time buffer for everything on your wedding day! You will NOT regret doing that! Example: the drive from your ceremony venue to the location where you want to have photos taken, on a normal Saturday afternoon, takes 10 minutes when you (alone) jump into your car and drive there. So you account for 10 minutes of travel time on your wedding day, right? Nope. Not unless you want your wedding day to run behind… You see, you have other people to account for (whomever is riding in the limo with you- family members, bridal party members, etc). You may have to wait for the following occurrences: your bridesmaids to grab their belongings that they left in the church, your best man to use the restroom, a flower girl or ring bearer meltdown, the limo bus to take a slower route because the quick route has sharp curves or steep hills, or your officiant frantically following after you because she forgot to get your signature on the marriage license. These are just a few examples of how time is a tricky bugger on your wedding day. For the above example, we’d build in 20 minutes of travel time from the ceremony location to the photo location in order to account for those possible occurrences. Another example: at the bridal store, it takes around 10-15 minutes for the seamstress to get you into your gown for a dress fitting. So account for 15 minutes to get into your gown on your wedding day, right? Again, nope. The seamstress is highly experienced with lacing up corsets, using a crochet hook, and expertly fluffing layers upon layers of dress. Your mom/MOH, though she might be amazing at it, isn’t quite as experienced and will require a bit more time. While I’m on the topic of wedding dresses. . . bustles. I’ve witnessed brides and bridesmaids frantically fiddling with bustles for 30 minutes as guests impatiently wait for dinner to be served. Build in extra time for your dress to be bustled if you’re going to be wearing a dress that needs bustled. Sense a theme here?:)Time will be your friend on your wedding day as long as you get the upper hand by planning in extra buffer time throughout your wedding day timeline.

Josh & I will be as helpful as possible on your wedding day. Josh has, in a pinch, helped pin on boutonnieres, fastened cufflinks, and straightened ties. I have helped locate those ever-elusive bustling hooks on dresses, patted dry bouquets so the bride/bridesmaids wouldn’t have wet dresses as they walked down the aisle, and pinned in veils that weren’t secured strongly enough for the wind. We’re happy to help you however we can. That said, please remember that whenever we are helping you with those tasks, we are not able to take photographs. We do only have two hands each. ūüėČ We’re not day-of coordinators or wedding planners. We don’t want to be informing guests of where to go next following the ceremony, chasing down bridesmaids and telling them when to get dressed, reminding your grandparents to stay after the ceremony for photos, or reminding the groomsmen that doing a few shots of whisky before the wedding ceremony in a church is not the best idea. This is why we’d LOVE to help you with planning your timeline/tying up loose planning ends BEFORE your wedding day. Please read the blog for tips, feel free to reach out to us to ask any questions you have (no questions are silly!), and run timeline drafts by us before setting them in stone. We’ll use our experience to help you tweak your day to make sure that it’s as stress-free and as fun as possible! Just don’t wait until the day of the wedding because we definitely won’t be as much help to you then…we’ll be busy making sure not to miss moments of your awesome day! Believe us, we take that very seriously!

Jill_Ryan_SNPJ_Alpine-Roon_Rustic-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0100So where should ¬†you even begin when it comes to building a wedding day timeline? There are so many choices to consider & it can get overwhelming! The best advice we have on where to begin is this: start with the events that are static & work from there. Which events are static in time? Your ceremony time, your reception time, and the sunset time; those are fixed. (We realize that not all of you will have fixed ceremony & reception times, but a lot of our couples have already made reservations/booked time slots at their venues prior to drafting the rest of their timeline). After you take into account the events that are fixed in time, you’ll need to decide if you want to see each other before the ceremony and have photos taken or if you want to wait to do photos after the ceremony.

Jamie_Tyler_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms-Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photography_0096The sunset time is important to consider because of the ideal photographic lighting conditions that occur within the one or two hours before sunset. Of course, we can work with any type of light for wedding photos, but if you can plan to have your bride & groom portraits taken during this “golden hour,” they’ll be that much more beautiful. Here’s a handy website you can use to look up the sunset time on your wedding day. Sunset times are especially important to consider if your wedding is between November-March, as daylight savings time kicks in & the sun sets much earlier. In fact, you may be planning to have your wedding photos taken outside around 5:30 or 6:00 before your reception starts, but, during that time of the year, it’ll be dark outside at that time. So make sure to take the sunlight into account. While we’re on this topic, the time to avoid taking outdoor photos (if possible) is between 11:00 am-2:00 pm. The light is harsh, the sun is directly overhead, and squinting is almost inevitable. Like we said, we can deal with any lighting conditions, but between 11:00 am-2:00 pm, the lighting conditions are certainly less than ideal.
Ashley_Nic_W_76Jen_Vinny_W_32

Ideal Time Allocation for Specific Wedding Day Photography

What the heck do I mean by “ideal time allocation for specific wedding day photography?” I mean this: how much time should you set aside for family formals, bridal party portraits, and bride & groom portraits? Those three types of photography on your wedding day (at least when we’re your photogs) are the only ones that are scheduled and planned. The rest of the time on your wedding day, Josh & I will be capturing candids & real moments! You won’t catch me say “Look over here and smile!” as you get your dress on. I won’t tap you on the shoulder while you’re enjoying your first dance and stick a camera in your faces. Josh won’t tell the guys to cheese as they watch a football game or help one another straighten their collars. And he won’t tell you to give him a grin as you toss the garter. Nope, all of those shots are us shooting in a photojournalistic style and capturing moments as they occur unscripted. Believe us, you’ll adore those photos more than most on your wedding day. They’re real. They’ll take you right back to the moment & how you felt.
Emily_Rick_St-Paul-The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms-Wedding_0095Carissa_Josh_Stambaugh-Auditorium_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photography_0088Brooke_Dan_Mill-Creek-Rose-Garden-St-Lucy-Banquet-Center-Youngstown-OH-Wedding_0135Keely_Mitch_The-Links-at-Firestone-Farms_Rustic-Country-Barn-Wedding_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0083Family Portraits: As far as the planned and posed photos go, you may ask us how much time we need for them. Us? We don’t need any time for photos.:)Seriously, though, we want your wedding photography to be what YOU want on your wedding day. We’re not going to tell you we NEED 3 hours for formal photos because that makes it easy on us. We know that every wedding day is different. Some people have small families and both the bride’s parents and groom’s parents are still married. Those family formals tend to take a lot less time than family formals do when both the bride’s parents and groom’s parents are divorced and remarried and there are lots of siblings and step-siblings. If your family is on the smaller side & the family portraits you want do not go beyond the standard list we give to our couples on our Wedding Info Form, we suggest allocating 20 minutes for family portraits. If your family is on the larger side and there are divorces involved, we suggest allocating 30-45 minutes for family portraits. If you want to add in family groupings that are over and above what we recommend on our Wedding Info Form, add at least 5 minutes per large family grouping (more than 5 people). We understand that 5 minutes seems like a long time for one group photo, but those minutes account for slower walkers to get into place, for us to locate your missing uncle who went outside to smoke a cigar, a bit of time for parents to soothe upset children who would rather be anywhere doing anything else, and for us to get everyone into place so that we can see everyone’s face. Once everyone is in place, Josh’ll take a few photos of the group to ensure that we achieve at least one shot where everyone is opening his/her eyes and looking at the camera. (Sometimes that doesn’t happen & we have to head-swap in post-production, but that’s a different story for a different day). One last really great piece of advice about family portraits: Your list of requested family portraits can, quite quickly, spiral out of control.¬†Seriously – we’ve received lists from brides with 38 different family groupings including: ¬†“Couple with Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom, Couple with Aunt Jemima, Couple with Uncle Tom, Bride with Aunt Jemima, Bride with Uncle Tom…” When crafting your family formal list, look at each group on the list and ask yourself the following two simple questions: “Will we want to include this photo in our wedding album?” and “Will someone print, frame, and hang this photo on her/his wall?” If the answer to both of these questions is, “No,” then that’s five precious minutes on your wedding day that you could be enjoying with your family members & friends instead of standing in a stuffy church waiting in line to pose for a formal photo.:)Also, please consider when drafting your formal list whether you’re only including a particular grouping to avoid offending or upsetting people. If so, you can do without that photo.

The standard family formal shot list that we work from if we get no input from our clients is the following:
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Grandparents,
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Immediate Family (meaning parents & siblings),
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Parents,
Bride with her Parents,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Grandparents,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Immediate Family,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Parents,
Groom with his Parents

On the form we send to our couples, there is also a question about special/sensitive family dynamics. We’re not asking because we want to know your family’s personal business or to be nosy. We’re asking because we want to be respectful and courteous of touchy or awkward situations/circumstances. We can’t be courteous about a sensitive situation if we’re not aware of it. Some divorced parents get along well & aren’t at all upset or awkward about being in a family photo together. Others would rather go to the dentist for a painful procedure than be near one another. If your parents are divorced, we recommend that you have a conversation with them well before the wedding so you can get their input on the situation. Find out which photos are important to your mom and which photos are important to your dad. It’s often expedient and helpful (so we can avoid attempting to duplicate every photo combination that’s mathematically possible) to just get a large group photo with your mother’s side of the family, a large group photo with your father’s side of the family, and then individual photos with your mom, dad, and siblings. Please don’t feel awkward talking to us about these familial issues; we’ve photographed all kinds of family dynamics and just want everyone to have the best experience possible!

Another tip about your wedding day timeline and family photos: explicitly and as clearly as possible inform your family members where they need to be for family photos/when they need to be there. I can’t stress this enough. If they’re on that family shot list, they need to be explicitly informed ahead of time that you would like for them to be present at PLACE at TIME for a family photo. You would be very surprised at who has claimed ignorance of being included in the family photos at our past weddings. Don’t assume that anyone knows. Tell them by either a.) making an announcement at the rehearsal dinner; or b.) giving them a wedding day itinerary that includes this information: “Your presence is requested for family photos at PLACE at TIME.” If your family members are notoriously late, tell them that photos start 30 minutes earlier than they do. Make sure that everyone knows the location (if it’s different than the ceremony venue, specify an address) and has transportation.

Everyone in the photo below was so awesome! They quickly came to the front of the church when we called their names & we got this huge group photo in ONE SHOT! No blinking and all of the kids looking and smiling! This was the one and only time this has EVER happened with a group this large. Most groups this large take at least 7 minutes to arrange. Kudos to these folks!:)

Devon_Dustin_W_0273Wedding Party Portraits: Some bridal parties are small and intimate- the bride & groom and a best man and Maid of Honor. Some bridal parties are gigantic- the bride & groom, 10 groomsmen, 10 bridesmaids, four flower girls, and two ring bearers. We’ve dealt with both and everything in between. Some brides & grooms want the bare minimum when it comes to photos with their bridal party- one formal shot of the entire bridal party and that’s it. Other couples want every possible combination imaginable- the entire bridal party, the bride with her bridesmaids in a few different poses, the groom and his groomsmen in a few different poses, the bride with each attendant, the groom with each attendant, some fun poses of everyone, some formal poses of everyone, the bride with the groomsmen, and the groom with the groomsmen. If you’re a minimalist when it comes to the bridal party, we’ll only want to have 10 minutes scheduled for bridal party portraits. If you want everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to your bridal party portraits, you’ll want to schedule 30-45 minutes for bridal party portraits. We caution you to keep the following in mind when it comes to bridal party portraits: while most people are very happy and honored to be included in your wedding party & will be extremely cooperative, there may be one or two who will be a bit underwhelmed with the experience of posing for large group portraits in 90 degree heat in an uncomfortable dress/tuxedo/dress shoes. These bridal party members may even get so inebriated in between your ceremony and portrait location that you seriously wonder how that is even possible… “but they’ve only been drinking for 15 minutes?!”¬†We’ve seen it happen- groomsmen *ahem* relieving themselves in bushes, bridesmaids stopping at a nearby outdoor trash can to vomit. . . This brings us back to our blog post on How to Choose Your Wedding Party Members, but I digress. Our advice on formal bridal party portraits is this: less is more. These people ARE very excited for you. They’re happy for you. They feel privileged to be a part of your big day. But they don’t want to participate in a photo shoot that rivals a model shoot for the latest season’s catalogue. They’ll be happy to pose for a few photos, but mostly they want to have fun with you at the reception. Simply because you see 42 cute wedding party photos on Pinterest does not mean that it’s a great idea to try to recreate them all on your wedding day, which has, as I hope I’ve established, a finite number of hours. Enjoy the fun and emotional moments with the friends/family members you’ve chosen to be a part of your day; we’ll take photos of that. Get a few posed group photos for your album, and then be relaxed and have fun the rest of the day! In our opinion, the most important posed photos of the day are the photos of the bride & groom because that’s who the wedding day is all about, amIright?!:)Angela_John_W_04Jillian_Matt_Youngstown-Country-Club_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0024Chelsea_Ryan_W_98Bride & Groom Portraits:¬†We love the bride & groom creative portrait session. It’s fun, it’s relaxed, and it allows you and your new spouse (!) time alone together (except for us taking photos). Most of our couples book us because they value wedding photography and want beautiful wedding photographs- especially of the two of them being natural and themselves together. That takes time. However, we completely understand that your wedding day is your wedding day; it’s not a photoshoot. We realize this decision is totally up to you! If you’re more laid back and only want a handful of photos together on your wedding day, we can shoot the bride & groom session for 10-15 minutes. If you envision yourself looking back through your wedding album in 40 years with your grandkids and reliving all of the moments through the romantic portraits full of genuine smiles and loving glances between you and your spouse, you’ll want to allow for more time so you’ll have more portraits! Some couples have allocated up to 2 hours for bride & groom portraits. As stated, it depends on your personality and your wedding day, but, all things considered, we recommend around 45 minutes (at least) for bride & groom portraits. By now, you may be doing some math in your head: 30 minutes for family portraits, 25 minutes for bridal party portraits, and 45 minutes for bride & groom portraits PLUS travel time between venue locations. . . we’re looking at way more than a cocktail hour here! You might be thinking, “That’s great. I’ll just have my ceremony at 1:30 and my reception at 6:00. That allows for plenty of time in between.” You’re exactly right. That is plenty of time. But others of you might be thinking, “I don’t want to have that much of a time gap in between the ceremony and reception. I have lots of out of town guests & they won’t have anything to do or anywhere to go.” Still others of you might be thinking, “My ceremony and reception are at the same venue. Having any more than an hour in between the ceremony and reception would be unnatural and wouldn’t allow the timeline to flow properly. Guests would go nuts.” All of these are valid concerns. That’s why we need to address it: The First Look.

Our Thoughts on a First Look

I promise we’re not trying to harp on this subject repeatedly. It’s simply a great topic of discussion currently and very helpful to brides & grooms. For this portion of the blog, I feel I must quote Leah Haydock because she put it SO WELL! “Here’s the deal, the whole ‘don’t see each other before the ceremony’ comes from the olden days of yore when most weddings were¬†arranged marriages. The wedding day was usually the first time the couple would actually meet! Keeping the bride hidden from the groom prior to the ceremony meant he couldn’t back out if her looks weren’t to his taste. Nowadays this approach to marriage is luckily fairly outdated with couples dating for years before their wedding, often living together, getting married in non-traditional locations etc etc. Yet for some reason the whole ‘it’s bad luck to see each other’ myth remains. I know because when I got married I was all ‘Nooo, you can’t see me!!!’ to Paul. I also had this idea that there would be this ‘moment,’ you know, the one where the doors to the chapel open, you glide down the aisle and your beloved is waiting for you gasping for air at the gorgeousness of you in your gown and you have ‘the moment.’ So I refused to see Paul and take any pictures before. The reality? The chapel doors opened and I froze. My dad and I looked at each other trying to remember if we were supposed to pause or walk immediately. All I could think was ‘Everyone’s looking at me! I don’t want to fall over! Gosh, it’s really warm in here!’ Walking down the aisle was a complete blur I can’t remember. The photos show me looking like a deer in headlights. I approached the altar thinking ‘Here, we go! It’s ‘the moment!’ to realize that Paul and I are standing inches away from the reverend and we’re about to get married so we can’t talk or even hold hands. I think Paul said ‘Hi, you look nice!’ and I forced out ‘Thanks! So do you’ and then it was time for our ceremony to begin. ¬†To make things worse, immediately after our ceremony when we were in that ‘Yay! We did it!’ euphoria we didn’t get to drink champagne and eat hors d’oeuvres with everyone else. No, we spent out [sic] first hour as newlyweds standing in a line taking family formals. . . As we approach our seventh anniversary and as I head into my seventh year of photographing weddings there’s one big thing I’ve realized. That ‘moment’ and any emotion you feel during the ceremony doesn’t come because it’s the first time you see each other in your wedding outfits. It happens because you’re saying your vows – pretty huge vows to each other – surrounded by your closest friends and family. And if you’ve seen each other before the ceremony and gotten all of the formal pictures out of the way first then not only are you likely to feel more relaxed having had the opportunity to talk to one another but you’ll also have way more fun actually enjoying your wedding reception!” –Leah Haydock¬†Seriously. . . so true! I feel the same way about my wedding and I blogged about that HERE. If you need more convincing about how awesome first looks are and how they don’t AT ALL take away from the moment when you walk down the aisle, visit this blog about the groom’s reaction when seeing his bride (some of them even after they saw each other before the ceremony).

Leah_Ian_12_Pittsburgh-Wedding-Duquesne-Chapel-First-LookLeah_Ian_13_Pittsburgh-Wedding-Duquesne-Chapel-First-LookLeah_Ian_17_Pittsburgh-Wedding-Duquesne-Chapel-First-LookMelissa_Quinn_W_22Melissa_Quinn_W_23I know after reading the above and seeing the emotional first look photos, you’re leaning toward doing a first look. ūüėČ But if you have any concerns or questions at all, just ask us! We’re here to help you & want to help make your wedding day as memorable as possible!

That said, if there’s no first look, then we’re usually cramming family formals, bridal party portraits, and bride & groom photos into the time in between the ceremony & reception. This is (honestly) not ideal, but we can make it happen. Just please know that it’ll be more rushed and a lot less relaxed for everyone involved. Please keep travel time (including a buffer for traffic/construction/limo bus going slowly) from ceremony to reception in mind. Just for simplicity’s sake, let’s, for example, assume that your ceremony and reception are at the same venue. ¬†We’d ask that you consider one of two options if you are set against a first look: 1.) Extend cocktail hour to 90 minutes. You, your family members, and your bridal party will feel less rushed and more relaxed during the portraits and there’ll be a buffer of time for unforeseen circumstances. 2.) Have a break in between your ceremony and reception. Guests can find somewhere nearby to hang out for a bit and they can freshen up before the reception. This day is about you, not them, and, while you don’t want to inconvenience anyone and you want them to have a great experience, they shouldn’t complain because of a little extra break in order to help you feel more relaxed and comfortable.:)

If you’re all aboard and excited about the first look, great! At least 45 minutes for bride & groom photos is wonderful & you can even schedule more time if you want to travel to different locations and you really love photos.:)

Sample Wedding Day Timelines

As stated, each wedding day is different. Each family is different. Each bride & groom want different things when it comes to photos. But we’re including a couple of sample wedding day timelines that’ll hopefully be able to help you get an idea and have a jumping off point/reference point to use when drafting your own wedding day timeline. We’ll include one with a first look and one without. As stated, we strongly suggest allowing buffer time and adding an additional 50% of time onto regular travel times. For example, if it normally takes 10 minutes to drive somewhere, allow for at least 15 minutes of travel time within your timeline.

Hypothetical Wedding in the beginning of October 2015 WITH FIRST LOOK
Sunset will be at 6:50 pm so we’ll keep that in mind when making this timeline.

11:45am Danielle & Josh arrive to take detail shots and getting ready pictures. Have all of the details that you would like photographed set aside and ready (dress, shoes, invitation suite, jewelry, sentimental items, garter, bridesmaid dresses, etc). Josh will go with guys & Danielle will go with ladies.

12:45pm Anyone helping the bride or groom get dressed should be ready and dressed.

1:00pm Bride, bridesmaids, & moms- hair and makeup complete. Get dressed (allow more time for tiny buttons/corset style dresses). Flowers available for pictures and first look.

1:15pm Guys get dressed.

1:45pm First look on hotel grounds‚ÄstBride & groom only

2:15pm Travel to park for wedding party and family portraits

2:30pm Wedding party photos
Bride & groom with wedding party
Bride with bridesmaids
Groom with groomsmen

3:00pm Family photos
The physical act of taking each photo only takes seconds, but (as discussed above) you should allow 3-5 minutes per group to gather people, arrange them, and take multiple exposures for great expressions without blinking! Allow more time for divorced parents or if you want to add additional groupings. Advise families to arrive early if they are likely to be late.
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Grandparents,
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Immediate Family (meaning parents & siblings),
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Parents,
Bride with her Parents,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Grandparents,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Immediate Family,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Parents,
Groom with his Parents

3:45pm Now that all of the formal photos are complete (yay!), travel to wedding ceremony location

4:00pm Arrive at wedding ceremony location to set up

4:30pm Wedding Ceremony

5:30pm Travel to reception venue.

6:00pm Cocktail hour starts. Enjoy champagne and hors d‚Äôoeuvres with your guests. Optional ‚Äď sneak off for 5 minutes to take some sunset pictures

7:00pm Reception (all times to be discussed/confirmed with venue coordinator, DJ, or event planner)

Entrances
First Dance
Toasts
Parent Dances
Cake Cutting

~8:45pm Dancefloor opens. Optional during reception: sneak outside for 5-10 minutes of nighttime pictures

~10:00pm or 11:00 pm Depending on when your reception ends, photography coverage ends.

Hypothetical Wedding in the beginning of October 2015 WITHOUT FIRST LOOK

Sunset will be at 6:50 pm so we’ll keep that in mind when making this timeline.

Because sunset is at 6:50pm¬†and we’re taking all of the formal photos¬†AFTER the ceremony since there is no first look, we’ll need to have daylight so the ceremony should be moved forward. There is a one hour gap from the end of the ceremony to the start of cocktail hour. The cocktail hour could also be extended for 90 minutes in order to relieve some feelings of time-crunch/hurriedness.¬†

1:00pm Danielle & Josh arrive to take detail and getting ready pictures. See timeline above for info on having details prepared.

2:00pm Anyone helping Bride or Groom get dressed should be ready and dressed.

2:30pm Get dressed. Allow more time for tiny buttons/corset style dresses

3:00pm Travel to wedding ceremony location

3:30pm Arrive at wedding ceremony location to set up

4:00pm Wedding Ceremony

5:00pm Travel to picture location.

5:15pm Family pictures
The physical act of taking each photo only takes seconds,¬†but (as discussed above) you should allow 3-5 minutes per group to gather people, arrange them, and take multiple exposures for great expressions without blinking! Allow more time for divorced parents or if you want to add additional groupings. Advise families ahead of time (before the day of the wedding) that their presence is requested at the photo location immediately after the ceremony. Don’t assume that anyone knows to stay after the ceremony/travel to the photo location.
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Grandparents,
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Immediate Family (meaning parents & siblings),
Bride & Groom with Bride’s Parents,
Bride with her Parents,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Grandparents,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Immediate Family,
Bride & Groom with Groom’s Parents,
Groom with his Parents

5:45pm Wedding party pictures
Bride & Groom with wedding party
Bride with bridesmaids
Groom with groomsmen

6:00pm Cocktail hour starts for guests

6:00pm Creative portraits of Bride & groom

6:30pm Travel to wedding reception venue

6:45pm Join the last few minutes of cocktail hour/get ready for entrances

7:00pm Reception (all times to be discussed/confirmed with venue coordinator, DJ, or event planner)
Entrances
First Dance
Toasts
Parent Dances
Cake Cutting

~8:45pm Dancefloor opens. During reception:¬†Optional ‚Äď sneak outside for 5-10 minutes of nighttime pictures

~10:00pm or 11:00pm (depending on when your reception ends/whether you’re having a special sendoff)- ¬†Photography coverage ends.

I hope these sample timelines are a helpful starting point for you! I realize that there is a lot of buffer time and you could probably squeeze more into the day, but if you try to squeeze events and just one tiny aspect of the day runs behind, you’re in rush mode, which can lead to stress.

Common Wedding Timeline Mistakes & Final Thoughts

Whew! We’ve made it to the final section of this epic blog post. Here are some common mistakes that Josh & I see that are easily avoided by crafting a timeline with our tips in mind:

Failing to Allocate Enough Time for Hair/Makeup/Getting Dressed
Sorry to have to single you out, but Ladies, we’re lookin’ at you. We’ve never witnessed guys underestimating the time it’d take them to get ready. Let’s face it, they style their hair (2 minutes), slap on their tux (10 minutes or a little longer depending on their expertise with ties/bowties), make sure they’re wearing deodorant, and call it a day. They have time to spare to watch football, play pool, or play cards. . .

Jillian_Matt_Youngstown-Country-Club_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0014Erin_Jared_W_03We women, on the other hand, take just a bit longer to enhance our beauty for special occasions. Like I said before, something about time on wedding days is tricky, tricky, tricky. The time trickiness factors into how long¬†it’ll take for hair/makeup/getting into your gown. Don’t underestimate the time it’ll take to get ready or everything will run behind and your entire timeline will be thrown off. Have a hair and makeup trial before the wedding day under the same conditions and with the same stylist/makeup artist you’ll be using on your wedding day. You’ll know how long your desired look will take; there will be no guesswork involved. Another great way to ensure that hair and makeup will run on time is to hire experienced wedding day professionals who are comfortable working under time constraints and are absolute pros at what they do. This will make a huge difference! It’s ill-advised to have only one stylist for 10 bridesmaids, the bride, the bride’s mother, and the groom’s mother. Unless you want to get to the salon at 5:00 am, your hair and makeup will run late if there’s only one person to style 13 ladies’ hair. When you hire your stylist and makeup artist, inform her or him how many women will want updos and how many women will want makeup. You’ll also want to tell them exactly when you need to have your hair and makeup finished so that everything else on the wedding day can run on time. That way, they’ll know how many stylists/makeup artists to bring and what time they should start. Also, as the bride, don’t be the last person to have your hair/makeup done. That way, if anything is running late, you won’t be the one who is sitting in a chair with your hair in crazy pins and no makeup on as the ceremony time inches closer and closer. Plus, you may have to start getting into your dress as some bridesmaids are still having their hair/makeup done so you’ll also want to make sure that whoever is helping you into your dress is also finished with hair and makeup by the time you have to start putting your dress on. That way, as I am shooting you getting into your dress, your mom isn’t getting you into it in her yoga pants and t-shirt with a messy ponytail. She’ll be in her dress with her hair done.:)

Allison_Rudy_W_07Malory_Davion_UMC-Fairfield_Avion-on-the-Water_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photography_0010Another reason to hire experienced wedding professionals who are comfortable working under time constraints is because your friend who does makeup or your regular hair stylist who doesn’t have experience with weddings or bridal parties will likely take longer than an experienced wedding professional would & time constraints can become a problem. You have to make up the lost time¬†somewhere and, sadly, it’s often photography time that suffers. Couples who hire us to photograph their wedding generally place a high importance on wedding photography and we’ll usually try to schedule at least 30 minutes of time for pictures just of the two of you. If everything is running late and we end up with 3 minutes to take pictures of you both before introductions need to be made, we get pretty sad. More importantly, it means you have just a handful of portraits¬†of the two of you on your wedding day.

Also, as I alluded to a couple of times above, allocate extra time to get into your dress because (broken record) time is tricky on your wedding day & it’ll take longer for your mom or MOH to get you into your gown than it did for the experienced seamstress to get you into your gown. So. . . don’t make this mistake! Talk to your hair and makeup wedding day professionals and allocate plenty of time for their services.

Jessica_Rick_St-Patricks-Church-Mill-Creek-Park-Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photography_0009Failing to Allocate Time to Eat Breakfast and Lunch
Nothing makes me more nervous for a bride on her wedding day than when I am with her all morning and afternoon and I do not see her eat a single bite of food. Almost nothing makes me happier than seeing a bride eat a hearty breakfast and lunch on her wedding day. Food is good!:)You may not think you’re hungry on your wedding day. You may be distracted. You may think there’s not enough time to eat. But if you don’t make it a point to eat at least a little bit for breakfast and for lunch, you’re not going to feel well when it comes time to marry your beloved and enjoy your reception with your guests. Please eat! Grab a small bite while it’s not your turn for hair and makeup. Plan to have food and water readily available to you and your wedding party so you’ll have sustenance and hydration to help you last all day!

Kaelyn_Nicholas_W_0288Failing to Allocate Ample Time for Family Portraits
Please read the above section on family portraits. It’s important to have your parents on the same page as you with regard to the family photos. Otherwise, our list of 10 meaningful family groups can be thrown out the window as Mom shouts out combination after combination of other family members she’d like in pictures. You can avoid this by talking to her about the groupings and the time factors beforehand.

Having an Accidental Receiving Line
We unfortunately see this happen pretty often. The bride & groom get married, they’re extremely excited, they are standing together hugging and kissing in the area just outside of the church or ceremony location, and their guests (who are naturally excited, too) start filing out of the church/venue. If you’re standing there, they’re, of course, going to come over to you and talk to you and hug you. It’s a natural response. We’re not saying that receiving lines are inherently bad. They’re great when they’re intended and when time is allocated for them (approximately 45 minutes for 150 guests). They’re not so great when you didn’t have a first look, you want to have all of your formal photos taken during the time between the ceremony and the reception, and the amount of time is only an hour or 90 minutes. To avoid accidental receiving lines, escape to a secluded area immediately after the ceremony. Don’t just stand in the back where everyone will be exiting. ¬†It’ll be fun just being alone anyway! And have your officiant announce that guests can make their way to the reception. That way, there’ll be no confusion/lingering.

Final Thoughts
My final thoughts are, “Wow! I’m long winded.”:)I feel passionate about this topic, though! I want you to have the best experience on your wedding day that you possibly can! And Josh & I will do what we can to assist you with that. Like I said, please feel free to ask any questions you have. We want to be here for you throughout the planning process. ¬†And one last thought: I know this blog post might possibly overwhelm you. The details and choices and time crunches can be maddening. You might be thinking, “Why didn’t we just elope?!” But the thing is, things will go wrong. Time will be a tricky bugger and something will run behind. In the end, when you and your love are MARRIED, it’ll have been the best day ever & you won’t believe how happy you are. Those little things that went wrong will be a blip…barely a blip at all…on your wedding day radar because you’ll be smiling so big and your eyes will be so misty that you won’t even notice them. You’ll be married to your best friend. And that’s what it’s all about!
Korisa_Chris_New-Waterford-United-Methodist-Church_Spread-Eagle-Tavern_Hanoverton-OH_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photographers_0081Carissa_Josh_Stambaugh-Auditorium_Youngstown-OH-Wedding-Photography_0094Connect with us here: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google + 

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