To the recently engaged lost on where to begin,
When I was planning my wedding, I had the luxury of attending countless weddings and witnessing all of their behind the scenes beforehand. By the time I was engaged I already knew what I wanted to happen and when.. little details, big details, and all the in-betweens, set and ready to go. However, not everyone will have been a wedding vendor in this or a previous life. I've even had clients who've never attended a wedding before. Which sparks the question, where do you even start on planning the schedule of your wedding day?
Here I'm including my most foolproof plan that accounts for every detail, planned and unplanned. When setting a timeline for yourself, it's very important to remember everyone in the wedding party, the guests, and vendors, will also be following it. However big and scary it may sound, I promise you it's a very simple task- you just have to break it down step by step! In this post I'll give rough time estimates for each segment of the day. You can pick and choose which applies to you, and. easily plan around that.
For example, if getting ready with the girls is what you've been looking forward to for years, make sure you give a few hours to really revel in it. But if the bridal portraits are more important than the PJ party, give a few more minutes to that. Every timeline is so customizable to each couple. No day will, or should, be the same. I love it!
My best advice when planning your big day is:
1.) Always give yourself more time than you think and don't schedule a slot for the small things.. let them come naturally!
To avoid any unnecessary stress, don't give yourself an unrealistic timeline of a million things to do with five minutes each to accomplish them. Keep your timed segments in large chunks, both task and time-wise.
2.) Make sure to schedule in time for your significant other and you to be alone.
This will likely be the only part of the day you two get to spend with each other while not entertaining. The day is about you two uniting as one! It is so important to take that in as a couple. This may also be the only "breather" you get.
12:00pm - Photography coverage begins
I recommend having your photographer arrive at least two hours before the ceremony. This way there's time for you to get comfortable in front of the camera and it gives your photographer time to get comfortable with the venue and all of the wedding party.
12:00pm - Venue and detail shots
Don't forget to set aside your invitation suite and any "getting ready details" you have such as jewelry, perfume, shoes, veil, etc. The small moments are so important to give your photographer time to capture, as they're commonly the parts of the day you don't get to see yourself.
12:30pm - Bride into dress/getting ready photos
This one always takes more time than you think it would. To keep things running smoothly, make sure whoever's helping you get dressed is already dressed and ready themselves before this time comes.
1:30pm - Bridal portraits
I love taking bridal portraits as early in the day as possible. Your hair and makeup will be fresh, no stains on the dress yet, and there's always a hint of excitement you can see in the eyes!
1:50pm - Groom getting ready
In typical boy fashion, not much time is needed to capture the groom & groomsmen getting ready. If you have a second shooter for your day, this is a good place to have them. Many of my clients will even leave this section out and count on a few groom portraits to cover it.
2:20pm - Groom portraits
Here, I like to take the groom out to the first look location and snap a few of him before the bride arrives. It's usually a beautiful spot and helps keep things running in good time to have the groom there and ready to go rather than herding people to a million different locations throughout the morning. Plus, the anticipation is so real.. I always get butterflies in this moment and have a blast photographing the groom full of all of his own nerves!
2:30pm - First look
Self explanatory! If you're having a first look with anyone other than your significant other, I recommend having those during the getting ready period.
2:35pm - Couple portraits
If you're having a first look before the ceremony, I'll always follow up with couple portraits. It's such a time saver to try to get all the posed photos you can out of the way before the ceremony starts. You want to leave the end of the day open to experience it freely, not with your photographer telling you what to do next.
3:00pm - Down time as guests arrive
Like I mentioned earlier, always schedule time in somewhere during the day for you and your significant other! This buffer also works great in case you're running late and need a gap to compensate for lost time.
3:30pm - Ceremony
This slot always varies on the type of ceremony you have. I've seen 10 minute ceremonies and I've seen an hour and a half long ceremonies. If able, reach out to your officiant and see if you can get a rough time estimate.
4:00pm - Family portraits
I like to do family portraits immediately following the ceremony. Everybody's already in the same spot and easy to wrangle. To make this portion of your day painless, create a family photo list for your photographer to follow. Make sure it's very detailed on which side of the family they are, their relation to you, and that their name is listed.
4:00pm - Cocktail hour
Cocktail hour will ideally be hapening during the family and wedding party portraits. If it's important to you that you get to attend the cocktail hour, schedule those for before the ceremony!
4:45pm - Wedding party portraits
Here, we'll take photos of the entire wedding party together, then each side, then each attendant with their respective bride/groom. If you're having an entrance for each member of your wedding party, this works great for the timeline to already have everyone in one place.
5:30pm - Grand entrance
Party time! At this point, you should be able to enjoy the night without anymore interruptions from your photographer. Everything scheduled from here on out will be captured candidly.
5:35pm - Dinner
After seeing so many dinners executed, I've come to know that half an hour into dinner is the perfect time to get the ball rolling with speeches. This way people who were at the end of the food line can be eating while speeches are being given, but the speech givers should already be done eating.
6:00pm - Speeches
If you're having closed speeches limited to only a few people, half an hour is plenty of time. If you decide to open the floor and give all guests the allowance to say some words, I would try to keep the slot limited to 45 minutes. I personally love speeches, but too many times I've seen guests get fidgety when they have to sit and listen for too long.
6:30pm - First dances
This one is controversial to myself! I'm a lover of first dances at different points of the reception for different reasons. This one will really depend on the flow of your night. For example, in my own wedding following the grand entrance we went straight into my husband and I's first dance, then speeches, then dinner, than father/daughter mother/son dances to open up the dance floor. The reason we tackled it this way was because given the layout of our venue, it made the most sense. Truly, there is no right universal way to do it, do what makes sense to you!
7:00pm - Reception
You want to give your photographer time to capture all the dance floor haptics, but if I'm being honest, after about an hour all the dance floor pictures start to look the same. An hour is a good estimate to make sure any special dances or reception celebrations you have (dollar dance, decade dance, bouquet toss, cake cutting) get covered. A common back and forth with my clients is taking away reception coverage to give more time to getting ready at the beginning of the day coverage or vice versa. As always, you can add additional coverage to your day if you can't bare the thought of leaving anything undocumented!
8:00pm - Rayna ends coverage
In my experience, this is a perfect flow. A large portion of your day's memories and feelings will revolve around how you schedule it. Make sure to spend some time thinking about will make yours the best experience.
With all my love! xx