Scheduling your Wedding Day: a photographer and former planner's perspective

Updated: Dec 18, 2018

Planning a wedding is super fun and exciting, right? Ha. Yeah. Except 75% of the couples I work with express, at some point, how daunting and frustrated they are with the whole process.


After 18+ years in the business, I feel like I have a good handle on what is up. I revisited my 150+ past contracts for floral, planning, and photography, and have come up with a few sample photography schedules for you to copy, paste, and customize - check them out at the end.


These schedules are based on the culture within the Midwest, with plenty of room for drinks, hot dishes, and polkas. Ope.



One thing to keep in mind: no two-weddings are the same, but you should ALWAYS try to include sunset pictures with your partner. It's not a requirement, but it is a nice way to build-in a moment alone.


If you want to make a custom schedule, there is an easy way to do it: start with the ceremony. From there, work backward and ask some of these questions:

  1. Am I doing a first look (you'll want to be back at the ceremony space either an hour before, or about 5 minutes late - that way you can still make a grand entrance in front of your guests)?

  2. Do I want to do portraits before or after the ceremony (if before, you should answer yes to question 1 - regardless of when you do them, leave at least 2 hours, more if you have long travel times)?

  3. How many people do I need to coordinate (bigger wedding parties mean higher risk of someone being late and more time for hair, make-up, etc.)?

  4. Where are we getting ready (if it is at the ceremony location, leave at least 2 hours before formal pictures start so your photographer can get detail shots; if it is at a different location, leave 3 or more hours and factor in travel)?

  5. What else do I want to do before the ceremony (brunch, golf, gun range, laser tag - make time for the things you want)?

After figuring out the pre-ceremony shenanigans, decide what needs to be put after the ceremony:

  1. If you want to do family portraits, I recommend doing them immediately following the ceremony. Older relatives tend to come right at ceremony start time and the less movement, the better. Keep it to your immediate family - parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces/nephews - and keep it to 30 minutes. Plan out combinations before hand and let everyone know where to meet. The only exception:

  2. If you are having a receiving line, plan on double the time you would expect. I have seen them take 30-60 minutes, depending on the number of guests and how Midwestern your greetings are. If you do this, family pictures should take place after the receiving line.

  3. If you are doing portraits after the ceremony, give yourself a minimum of two hours. If you want to travel far, or if the reception location is far, consider giving yourself 3 hours. If you want to stop at a bar...well...that depends on how much drinking you plan to do ;-)

  4. A moment alone: before you enter the reception, whether casually or via grand march, schedule 15 minutes for just the two of you - it can be in a car, a bar, or just a quiet place. This is important.

  5. Pre-Dinner festivities: Grand March (15 minutes); Cake-Cutting (5 minutes); Speeches (depends, can be done before dinner or during dinner)

  6. Time for Dinner: Even if you have 30 guests, an hour for dinner is standard. The more guests you have, the longer it will take - talk to your caterer for the best approximation.


After dinner starts, things can be a little more roll-with-the-punches.


Above all, make sure you do what YOU want, even if that includes a 10pm rush to the bowling alley. Talk to your vendors - they should be able to help you flawlessly schedule your day - and tell your wedding party and family where they need to be and when.


*check out the sample schedules below*


Cheers!

Marie



Not Seeing Each other before the Ceremony at a Church

11:00am Getting Ready and Detail Shots - Partner 1

11:45am Getting Ready and Detail Shots - Partner 2

12:00pm Partner 2 to Ceremony location - formal portraits

12:30pm Partner 1 to Ceremony location - formal portraits

12:45pm Guests arrive at Ceremony location (candids)

1:00pm Ceremony

2:00pm Receiving Line

2:30pm Family Pictures

3:00pm Wedding Party Pictures

4:30pm Cocktail Hour Begins

5:30pm Grand March/Cake Cutting/Speeches/Salad

6:00pm Main Course served

7:30pm Sunset Pictures

8:00pm First Dance/Reception Begins

9:00pm Professional Photography Ends - Selfie time

11:30pm Reception Ends


First-Look before the Ceremony with Reception in same location

12:30pm Getting Ready and Detail Shots - Partner 1

1:00pm Getting Ready and Detail Shots - Partner 2

1:45pm Partner 1 arrives to First Look Location to get in place

2:00pm First Look

2:15pm Wedding Party Pictures and Couple Portraits

4:30pm Arrive at Ceremony Location for touch-ups/Guests Arrive

5:00pm Ceremony

5:30pm Cocktails/Receiving Line/Family Pictures

6:00pm Cake Cutting (optional)

6:30pm Dinner/Speeches

7:30pm Sunset Pictures

8:30pm First Dance/Reception Begins

9:30pm Professional Photography Ends

11:30pm Reception Ends


Not Seeing Each other before the Ceremony - all same property

1:00pm Getting Ready and Detail Shots - Partner 1

1:45pm Getting Ready and Detail Shots - Partner 2

2:30pm Guests arrive at Ceremony location (candids)

3:00pm Ceremony

3:30pm Family Pictures

4:00pm Wedding Party Pictures

4:00pm Cocktail Hour Begins

5:30pm Grand March/Cake Cutting/Speeches/Salad

6:00pm Main Course served

7:30pm Sunset Pictures

8:00pm First Dance/Reception Begins

9:00pm Professional Photography Ends - Selfie time

11:30pm Reception Ends


Remember different locations, traditions, and bar stops will add time to your day, but are well worth it! Instead of focusing on cramming everything in, focus on cultivating an experience you all can enjoy.

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