Single Greatest Tip for a Smooth Wedding Day

Working with my clients to build the timeline for their wedding day has been a game changer. 

When I first started shooting weddings, I would show up on the wedding day with a  “go with the flow” mentality.  A better phrase would be, “stay within eye and ear shot of at least one person important to the wedding (i.e. the bride, groom, maid of honor etc.). Once you manage to find that person,  run around like a chicken with its head chopped off all while trying to keep myself and the wedding organized. I would frantically run around taking pictures of everything, and just hoping and praying I wasn’t missing or forgetting to document anything.”

I found myself so relieved once I got to the reception and could talk to the DJ to get the timeline for the rest of the night. After shooting a couple of weddings with a “go with the flow” mentality, it finally hit me: Why would I wait until the day is almost over to obtain a timeline, when I am there as an integral part of the wedding from start to finish? I realized that I had been failing my clients in this area and needed to make some changes. As a vendor that is primarily with the bride all day long, who was better for the task of managing the timeline when a coordinator wasn’t present to do so? No one!

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From that realization on, we have played a huge role in helping our brides build their timeline for the day. (By “we” I mean, my partner & I, because, as I’m sure you are starting to realize based on the previous paragraphs, having me in charge of your timeline is almost guaranteed mayhem. Organization is NOT my strength.)

We do not have a set timeline for every wedding because every wedding has different variables (i.e. when the venue allows the bride and groom to arrive, the start time of their ceremony, etc.). We set up a time to meet or talk on the phone with our brides a few months before their wedding to plan out every detail of their own personal timeline.

Here is an example of what an average timeline would look like for us:

1:00 – Photographers arrive (all details should be there for photos: brides shoes, dress, jewelry, rings, garter, bouquets, perfume, clutch, etc. Any detail bride wants pictures of should be there at this time.) Photographers will get detail shots while bride finishes getting her hair and make up done. We will also grab some “Getting Ready” shots at this time.

1:30 – Bridesmaids and Mothers are completely ready for the ceremony.

1:45 – Bride gets in her dress.

2:15 – Bridal Portraits and Bridesmaids Portraits are taken.

3:00 – Groomsmen: Getting Ready photos and Formal Groom and Groomsmen Portraits will be taken at this time.  Make certain the Boutonnieres are on and/or accessible.

3:45 – Bride and Groom are tucked away for the ceremony.

If the reception is set up photographers will go get detail shots of the reception and ceremony site at this time.

4:15 – Ceremony Begins

5:00 – Family Formals and Wedding Party Photos (Any family that will be included in the Family Formals should not leave the ceremony site.)

5:30 – Couples Portraits

6:45 – Bride is bustled, photographers set up in reception and await Grand Entrance.

7:00 – Grand Entrance to Reception.

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From here we leave the timeline up to the DJ. The only other thing that might be included in our timeline is the Exit time, if they are doing a Formal Exit. (Sparklers, get away car, etc)  If they are, that is also included in their timeline.

It is very important that we as photographers communicate with our clients before and during their wedding day.

In most cases this is the first time they are doing this “wedding thing.” In our case, we do it a couple times a month or for some of us every weekend. [pullquote]WE are the experts, the professionals. It is our job to communicate and educate our clients. Educating them and helping with the timeline for their day not only serves them, but is yet another way we can build confidence and trust with our brides.  It leaves little doubt in their minds that they chose the right photographer.[/pullquote]

Tell your clients when and where you need the details in order to get those photos for them. Educate your bride about the “Magic Hour” and how to plan her ceremony time in order to best take advantage of that time for their Couples Portraits.  Include details in your timeline such as when the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer need to be ready, where immediately family should be, and at what time, for their photos. Pad the schedule, because we all know, something unplanned will happen and the timeline will need wiggle room. When the unexpected happens, you can just look at the bride, smile, and put her fears to rest as you remind her, “We’ve got this- there’s plenty of time. We made room for the unexpected.”

A timeline is an awesome way to educate your bride, help the day to run smoothly, and ensure that you, as the photographer, will have the time you need to get the shots your clients want, all while earning their trust and confidence. It helps you serve your brides and grooms by giving them peace of mind and one less thing to think about.

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What are some things that you all do to ensure the wedding day runs smoothly?



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