Ahhhh, planning your wedding day timeline! Let me tell you right away, this is one of those things when planning a wedding where you don’t realize how truly important it actually is! It may feel like a formality (after all, you know the ceremony and reception start time, right?), but putting together a comprehensive wedding day timeline is truly one of the easiest ways to get all of your vendors on the same page. And spoiler alert? This leads to way less stress and more time being present on your actual wedding day! Now, here are 8 tips for planning your wedding day timeline (from an Edmonton wedding photographer!). Don’t worry either – This is something I help my couples with when they book me for their wedding day! I won’t make you haphazardly put something like this together on your own.
1. Yes, you do need getting ready photos!
First, let’s get this misconception out of the way. It’s not just about getting photos of you and your party in matching robes and drinking mimosas (although that’s definitely encouraged). This time is also important for you to get comfortable in front of the camera. Whether or not you have worked with a photographer before, your wedding day is a completely different experience. Unlike family photos, where you pay attention to your photographer and they guide you the whole time, your wedding day is a whole different ball game! For most of the day, I will be in the background guiding you only when necessary so we can get a mixture of posed photos AND those precious candids your heart is after.
More than that, getting ready photos is also usually the only time I have to photograph the details you have been painstakingly putting together over the last 6-24 months. Your wedding invitations, the rings, the bouquets – all of these things deserve to be documented (you have great taste by the way). If you choose to skip getting ready photos, you’ll either miss these details completely or have to set aside time for your wedding photographer to catch them later during what is already undoubtedly a busy wedding day.
2. Your first look only needs 10 mins (+ travel time!)
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get as a wedding planner. If you’ve been wondering this, don’t worry, you don’t need to magically find an extra hour in your wedding day to have a first look (and wonder how on earth you’ll keep your wedding party entertained). I usually recommend choosing a location near or at your wedding venue for the first look so we don’t add a lot of extra travel time for the day. For the actual first look, we usually only need about ten minutes. If you want to exchange vows or gifts during your first look, you may want to budget a little more time, but likely not as much as you think! Once you see each other – you won’t be able to wait to start walking down the aisle!
3. If you have a bigger family or wedding party, plan more time for photos
One thing couples don’t often consider is that with bigger families and/or large wedding parties, you are going to need more time for photos. You also need to budget a little extra time for transportation if there will be multiple vehicles involved. Logistically, more people involved mean more photos. Yes, we will do the group shots but most couples want individual photos with each and every member of their wedding party too. On top of that, more people in the photos means a little extra time directing (it’s much easier to get 4 people into position than it is 20!). Adding more time means we can actually enjoy the time, instead of stressing like your wedding photos are some kind of weird assembly line.
And while we are talking about larger wedding parties & families…
4. If you can, assign an assistant to gather people for smooth transitions
Listen – I have ZERO problem getting loud and telling people what to do and where to stand. However, if there is someone who knows who everyone is (possibly a family member or friend), it is usually helpful to ask them to help during the wedding photos. I can yell out “Aunt Connie” as many times as I want, and it won’t be as effortless as someone who knows who she is tapping her on the shoulder and telling her to get in the picture. The more time your photographer is looking for people/trying to direct everyone, the more time family photos will take.
5. You don’t need to keep your photographer until the end of the reception (even if you do want exit photos!)
I absolutely LOVE to photograph a fun exit. Sparkler exits are simply stunning. However, it often leaves the question: when during the reception can we take them? You likely don’t want to pay your photographer to capture 5 hours of dancing photos until 2am so you can get them as you exit. Instead, I want to encourage you to do it much earlier in the night! This exit doesn’t have to mean you are leaving, it can be fun to do leading to a food truck outside or even do after dinner leading to your first dance.
6. Start sunset photos about 20 mins prior to sunset
If you have been eyeing up those dreamy golden hour photos on Pinterest or Instagram, make sure you work them into your wedding day timeline (you’ll likely have to sneak out of your reception for a bit!). You can easily Google what time the sun is expected to set on your wedding day, and depending on your location, I usually recommend starting about 20 mins before that time to capture a few dreamy sunset couples’ portraits.
7. Plan your props: Champagne, Smoke bombs, Thank you sign, etc!
If you are like most couples I know, you have a Pinterest board full of ideas, and a week before the wedding you’ll be trying to order the smoke bombs on Amazon. When we work together to plan your wedding day timeline, we also want to plan when you’ll USE those props you’ve planned out. Should we do smoke bombs during the wedding party photos or couple’s portraits? A champagne pop after the wedding ceremony or during the reception? Do you have a thank you sign you want to hold up? If you do, do you want it done and out of the way earlier in the day, or during the sunset photos?
While I don’t think you need to create a formal wedding day shot list (more of my thoughts on that here!), if you want to include fun props in your wedding photos, they need to be in the timeline!
8. Your wedding day timeline can be ANYTHING you want.
Last but not least, I want to encourage you to just know that your wedding day timeline can be ANYTHING you want. You can have a first look or aisle reveal. You can move all of the family photos and wedding party portraits before the ceremony, and enjoy an evening wedding. If you want, you can plan an extra-long gap between the ceremony and reception and hit up a few different photo locations! Your wedding day can (and should!) be whatever you want and trust me when I say if you hire me as your wedding photographer, I will be completely committed to helping you plan your day your way.
If you are recently engaged, can I just be one of the first to wish you a huge Congratulations! For more details on working with me, you can check out my wedding photography packages here. Or, if you are not ready to commit yet, you can read more Edmonton wedding planning tips here on the blog and follow me on Instagram for an almost-daily dose of inspiration. This is SUCH an exciting time, and I hope you soak up every bit of it!
[…] PS: Like I said – timeline IS important. Read my top 8 tips for your wedding day timeline here. […]
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