Wedding Day Schedule Planning and Strategy

What time should I start my wedding day? How long should I spend at the hair salon? Should I take formal posed portraits before or after the wedding ceremony? When should the wedding party arrive? These are only some of the important questions to consider as your special day approaches. A well thought out and planned schedule will go a long way to making your wedding day a smooth one.

As you start to plan your wedding day, try to begin by working backwards. One common strategy is to plan your day according to the starting time of your ceremony. When planning backwards, take into consideration of travel time, loading your car, time to eat, etc. Your plan should leave considerable room for slack time ; you would rather have too much time to spend with your friends and family then be rushing around and feeling stressed. If you wish to take a shortcut, a common recommendation for contingency reserve is between 15% to 30% of the time you anticipate for each event.

The Wedding Day Master Schedule

Creating a master schedule is an extremely helpful approach. You may use a variety of common software (Microsoft Excel) to achieve this. The schedule should list all of the tasks that need to be done and at what time. This is not only helpful for the bride and groom, but for all of the staff involved in your wedding View wedding day schedule worksheet.

The schedule should be very detailed, illustrating every single task for the wedding, down to the very minute. The timeline begins several hours before the wedding ceremony, and ends after the last song of the reception. Include directions to the ceremony, hotels, reception and even a local pharmacy. Attach all forms of contact information: home, work and cell phone numbers, and email addresses. Make multiple copies for the entire wedding staff, caterers, photographer, florist, etc. Once the master schedule is complete, you can focus on the wedding sequence timeline to create another version of the master schedule for everyone else. Don’t forget to constantly update your schedules and make sure everyone has the latest version. For an sample of worksheet, please refer to our online wedding day schedule planning template.

Wedding Day Hair and Makeup Planning

As you continue to create the schedule of your wedding day, one thing that you can count on is that your appointment at the hair salon will ALWAYS take longer then you think it will. From our experience, we recommend scheduling your hair appointment approximately seven hours before your ceremony if you will have formal posed portraits beforehand and four hours before your ceremony, or if you are having your formals afterwards. One to two weeks before the big day, have a dry run and have your hair done the way you plan to wear it. This way you are not experimenting on the wedding day. Remember to leave nothing to chance.

Planning Ahead for Wedding Photography

The biggest question that you will face will be, “Do I take formal portraits before or after our ceremony?” This one decision will determine how your entire wedding day FLOWS. The primary reason that we hear for taking photographs after the ceremony is the long standing tradition of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding. This tradition came from the era of mail-order brides: they were afraid that if the groom saw her before the wedding, he would not marry her. We hear that it’s often the dream of the bride or groom to experience that special moment walking down the aisle. However, many couples may not remember the experience in detail. There are so many emotions that overcome you in that moment. While distracted, you may easily forget to look up to make eye contact with your groom. The groom also may have a difficult time expressing emotions as his nerves may be getting the best of him.

This tradition is often strong for many families. If this is the desired approach, make sure to allow enough time after the ceremony for your formal portraits. This will determine when you will arrive at the reception. Planning for at least two hours between the end of your ceremony and the start of your reception helps to ensure the wedding photographer does not need to rush; possibly forgetting some important poses in the process. More time also means that everyone is more relaxed. The photographer will have more time to be creative to produce higher quality photos.

Benefits of Formal Portraits Before the Ceremony

There are many advantages to seeing each other before the wedding. Wedding photographers often suggest this approach because it makes their job easier, but this is also when the bride, groom, bridal party and family are at their best: the bride and bridesmaids’ hair and makeup are fresh, while the groom and groomsmen are not anxious to get out of their tuxes yet. Best of all, your family and wedding party are not at all distracted to rush to the reception, or to participate in the wedding day’s festivities. This healthy pre-ceremony atmosphere creates a smooth tempo to sound the drum of the event’s opening.

If you do take the pre-ceremony formal portrait approach, it is recommended that you set aside 15 minutes of private time that is designated for just the two of you. These moments, before you start taking posed portraits, are often the most precious for the bride and groom. The groom is given allocated time to express his feelings to you. You are able to say a prayer together, or exchange meaningful gifts. This time also serves as a break to calm your nerves. When a bride and groom choose to wait until the ceremony to see each other for the first time, they typically do not have time alone until their wedding day has ended.

After the private time together, you should proceed with formal portraits. During this time, the wedding photographer can take unobtrusive photographs of the couple, family, and wedding party. A typically photo shoot schedule usually lasts two hours. The final advantage achieved through this approach is having the formals before the wedding allows you to enjoy the rest of your day without any schedules or timelines to meet.

With plenty of experience documenting weddings, your photographer is a great resource to help you in outlining how your day should flow. Take advantage of your photographers’ experiences and trust that they have your best interest at heart. When you are relaxed your photographs will look their best. There are many other things to consider as you plan your wedding day. It’s important that you and your groom discuss it thoroughly, and make a plan that works best for you as a couple. Most of all, enjoy the day; one that will be one of the most special days in your lives.

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