Congratulations on your engagement! Now that you're on the journey to plan your dream wedding, one essential aspect is creating a picture-perfect wedding day timeline. As a seasoned Wedding Photographer in San Diego with over 15 years of experience, I'm here to guide you on getting started by crafting a timeline that not only ensures a smooth, stress-free day but also guarantees you get the best photos possible. In this blog post, we'll explore the key elements of a well-structured timeline, covering the pre-ceremony, ceremony, and reception, along with tips to make your wedding photos truly spectacular.
Generally, you will first coordinate and discuss the main draft of your timeline with your wedding coordinator and go from there. Then the photographer and videographer will coordinate with you and mesh their timeline with the main timeline for a seamless flow of the day.
A standard wedding day timeline that includes Pre-ceremony, Ceremony, and Reception coverage, allocate approximately 8 hours of coverage for photography and videography for the day. This may vary depending on your wedding day logistics.
1. Allow for Breathing Room:
Start your timeline with extra padding for each segment. It's better to have too much time than not enough.
This helps reduce stress and allows for impromptu moments, location changes, or unexpected things that may come up.
2. Prioritize the Hair and Makeup:
Ensure your hair and makeup schedule is efficient, with built-in time for touch-ups.
It's recommended to have a trial run with your hair and makeup professional before the wedding day to ensure ample time is allocated on the day of your wedding.
Tip: If you scheduled an engagement session with your wedding photographer, try to plan both for the same day.
Plan for all members of the bridal party who require professional hair and makeup including mothers, and grandmothers.
3. Capture Precious Moments and All The Important Details:
Allocate time for getting dressed and for candid photos with your bridal party and family.
These moments can create some of the most heartwarming photos.
Your photographer and videographer will generally shoot all your precious details, including the bride and bridesmaids' dresses, shoes, rings, invitations, jewelry, etc. Plus the groom and groomsmen suits, shoes, and accessories. Have those items ready to be photographed before the photography and videography team arrives.
Tip: Buy a sturdy wooden hanger for the wedding dress to easily hang and rotate on. Etsy is a great place to find inspiration.
Tip: Have a steamer on standby incase the dresses or vail needs steaming once out of their travel bags
Tip: If you are renting suits, remember to double check that everything is accounted for at the time of the rental pickup.
Tip: Practice tying a bow tie before the wedding day so you are familiar on the day of if wearing one.
Tip: Plan and pack for the unexpected. Bring a small sewing kit, double sided tape, bobby pins, scissors, bleach pen, aspirin, etc.
4. First Look or Pre-Ceremony Photos:
If you're having a first look or pre-ceremony photos, incorporate this portion into your timeline. If you have a first look, the majority of the formal photos can be taken before the ceremony. If you are not having a first look then the formal photos will most likely be broken up into different time slots during the pre-ceremony and cocktail hour. Speak with your photographer for the best recommendation.
Be mindful of travel time between locations for these shots.
1. Guest Arrival Time:
Make sure your ceremony start time is clear on the wedding invitation and for the vendors.
Allow for a buffer to accommodate any guests late arrivals.
Allow time for the photographer and videographer to capture the ceremony details and room decor before guests arrive.
2. Ceremony Elements:
Factor in time for vows, readings, and any special events you've planned.
Communicate the expected duration of these elements with your officiant and photo/video crew.
Tip: Request that your officiant step to the side before your first kiss moment.
Tip: Make sure to give the photographer/videographer a few seconds of kissing time so the magical shot won't be missed. Make it special! It's your first kiss as married couple.
Tip: Remind the bridal party and anyone in the processional to give us a smile and look in front of them while walking down the aisle, not at the ground. It makes for a more engaging photo and interaction with the guests.
3. Post-Ceremony Photos:
Plan for post-ceremony photos or congratulations with guests.
Keep these sessions efficient to maximize your time with loved ones.
Tip: Make sure to let all the immediate family members and bridal party know where and when the formal photos will be taken during cocktail hour. Inform them a week or so in advance. This will be something you will discuss with your photographer.
1. Cocktail Hour and Reception Transition:
Ensure you allocate time for the cocktail hour and the transition to the reception.
Consider any formal announcements, special moments or activities during this period.
Family formals are generally taken at this time. Plus, bride and groom portraits and bridal party photos. If you've had a first look before the ceremony, then most of these shots will have been already taken.
Allow time for the assistant photographer and videographer to capture the reception details and room decor before guests are seated.
2. Dinner and Toasts:
Schedule dinner service and toasts.
Tip: Try to keep toasts around 5 minutes or so per person depending on how many will be giving them.
Allocate time for vendor meals
3. Dancing and Entertainment:
Allow ample time for dancing and entertainment.
Plan for special moments like the first dance, parent dances, cake cutting, bouquet, and garter toss etc.
Depending on time, the photographer or videographer might want to sneak you away for a sunset photo or early evening 10 minute or so portrait session.
4. Grand Exit:
Decide on a designated time for your grand exit, as well as any special activities like a sparkler send-off or bubbles.
Tip: Some venues do not allow sparklers, it's best to contact the venue for a full list of any restrictions.
Tips for the Best Wedding Photos:
1. The Magical Golden Hour:
Consider scheduling a portion of your portrait session during the "golden hour" just before sunset for magical lighting.
2. Request an Unplugged Ceremony:
Encourage your guests to enjoy the moment and let the photographer capture the ceremony without distractions from phones or cameras.
3. Communication with the Wedding Vendors:
Stay in close contact with your photographer, coordinator, and other vendors to ensure everyone is on the same page.
4. Uncle Bob, your in the shot!
Sometimes there is a family friend or relative who will bring their own professional camera to grab their version of the wedding day. If you feel this might be the case. I'd recommend letting them know that you have hired experienced professional photographers and that they should be aware of the events happening so they can stay behind and out of the way of the professionals. Tip: Some photographers state in their contract that no other amatuer or professional photography is allowed other than who was hired on the wedding day.
5. Relax and Have Fun:
The most beautiful photos often capture genuine, unscripted moments. Relax, have fun, and enjoy your day!
Your wedding day timeline is the backbone of a smooth and memorable celebration. By carefully planning the pre-ceremony, ceremony, and reception segments and following our photography tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a day filled with stunning memories to cherish for a lifetime. Feel free to reach out to me for any additional advice or questions you may have. Congratulations on your engagement, and here's to a remarkable, stress-free wedding day!