He’s popped the question and you can finally start planning! Your girls and you are planning a day out in Toronto, trying to find the perfect dress, and you totally know the type of wedding you are hoping for! You’re meeting with several different wedding venues in the coming weeks, but already have a pretty good idea that you want the golf course with the amazing views of the river. You figure you have most of the answers to all the questions, but have you thought about your wedding day? Time of ceremony? Location of family photos? Probably not, and that’s why I decided that you need these 10 very important tips to have a relaxed wedding day timeline, while still staying true to yourself and making things enjoyable for all of your guests.
HAVE A SMALL WEDDING PARTY
Yes, I said that right! Find two or three of your closest friends, whom you just could not imagine spending your big day without, and ask them to be in your wedding party! The more people in your wedding party, the more pictures have to be taken and (I’m not kidding) the more bridesmaids/groomsmen can go missing! Having a small wedding party makes things more personal as well, and a huge bonus is that there are less “Thank You” gifts you need to buy and less speeches to listen to at night during dinner! All in all, a win-win if you ask me.
HIRE A WEDDING PLANNER
I know I really enjoyed planning my own wedding and wouldn’t want to give that up to just anyone, but I do know I could definitely have benefited from a planner who made sure things got done at the right time, or to the right place on my big day. Sadly, our families ended up having to decorate the hall on the day of our wedding, because our venue misled us about the availability the night before. With a wedding planner, this likely wouldn’t have happened, or at least it wouldn’t have taken our own family members away from the celebration to get it done on time.
HAVE HAIR AND MAKE-UP TRIALS DONE JUST WEEKS BEFORE
Knowing ahead of time exactly what hairstyle or type of look a bride is looking for on her wedding day can cut down on time spent in the chair. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with the girls before it’s time to head out, and capturing those wonderful memories, but so often something happens to change the condition of the hair compared to the trial months before, and it is super helpful for make-up artists and hairdressers to have a recent memory of what you expect from them. On our wedding day, all my bridesmaids ended up with an old-fashioned bun that the hairdresser thought was perfect, because she had forgotten what hairstyle we agreed on. She ended up charging very little, but I’m still disappointed to this day!
ADD BUFFER TIME!
Padding your timeline with 15 minutes here and 20 minutes there will prevent any late starts, whether ceremony or reception, and ensure a relaxed wedding day timeline. This is easy, just make sure that the guys are ready to leave about 10 minutes before they actually need to leave (and don’t tell them)!
Times that are especially important, of course, are the ceremony and reception dinner time. Estimate your driving times about 50% longer than they normally are, in case of an accident, or in case someone accidentally forgets something. If and when you don’t need the buffer time, feel free to use it to ask your photographer to get a few more wedding party shots or bridal portraits very near where you have to be at a certain time. So it’s almost like a reward, which will help motivate you even more to stick to your timeline. Your photographer will thank you!
HAVE HAIR AND MAKEUP DONE AT/VERY NEAR THE CEREMONY VENUE
I realize that this isn’t always possible, but often venues have some amazing photogenic rooms that are yours for free or a small fee where you can spend the morning with your girls. Whether it’s at a golf course or a hotel, there are often options at, or near where you will be saying your vows. Technically it would be amazing if it all happens at the same venue, but when you’re getting married in a church, it is also very convenient if the reception location is nearby. This cuts down on driving time, and in case someone forgets something, it’s only a short walk or drive to get the missing item!
Experience tells me that a timeline that gets off on the wrong start, is really hard to fix when it’s on a roll. It’s like a runaway train, it’s better to nip it in the bud. After all, why would you want to add extra stress and possibly lose out on that relaxed wedding day timeline.
HAVE A FIRST LOOK
First looks are becoming more common and photographers all over are thanking you for it! Some couples are adamant that they want to see each other for the first time in church, so did we almost 10 years ago. But now, looking back, it would have been so nice to spend 10 to 15 minutes of time with Bertus before we met at church, I think it would have helped my nerves as well.
If you decide to do a first look, most photographers will also get wedding party portraits out of the way before the ceremony. Yes, you may be looking at adding an hour of coverage (unless your photographer offers all-day wedding coverage, like myself), but it could be well worth it! This way, after the ceremony, your wedding party is free to go as they please and enjoy themselves (and they will thank you for that!), and you have oodles of time to get an amazing array of “Husband and Wife” portraits. This might even allow for an extra location, if your timeline allows this!
DESIGNATE A COORDINATOR
Even if you have a wedding planner, it is still very helpful to have someone who is not part of your family or bridal party, but is on a first-name basis, ensure that everything is flowing smoothly. Ensuring a relaxed wedding day timeline really is a group effort! Choosing someone who is not an all-day guest (meaning part of the wedding party or a family member) ensures that they can really focus on making sure that the rings have made it to church or that no wedding party member decides to stop in at Tim Hortons at 12:30PM and has to wait for their latté for 20 minutes.
Designated coordinators are also instrumental in ensuring smooth sailing during family portraits! This is usually the most hectic part of the day, because your photographer has no idea who is part of what family. Even if there is a second-shooter, it is super helpful to have someone who is familiar with most or all of the members, and can ensure that no mistakes (such as splitting up a family) are made. Make sure this coordinator has your family portrait group list as well as any other instructions that you want them to remember.
START CEREMONY ON TIME
As mentioned before, a timeline that gets off track early on, can be impossible to fix. I mean, all your guests are really there to see you get married, and they might have taken the day off to attend the biggest day of your life; try not to waste their time by turning up late. At the same token, officiants sometimes have more than one ceremony to officiate, and if you arrive late, he/she may have to leave to attend the next wedding. Imagine everyone showing up for your wedding and then it becomes a search for any officiant, just as long as the papers get signed! It is better for all parties if groom and bride allow extra EXTRA time before this part of the day.
A LITTLE FLEXIBILITY GOES A LONG WAY
Your officiant may not have any flexibility, but your family members might. Or even you. Let’s say that you have planned to have the family pictures done right after the ceremony. As it happens, one of your nieces is exhausted and almost asleep; waking her would do more harm than good. If the family is somewhat small and all are planning to attend your reception, reschedule the family portrait time to 30 minutes before then. Hopefully by that time your niece is well rested, and your photographer is able to get those images at a much less stressful pace. Make sure to discuss these decisions with your photographer before promising your family something that isn’t possible, sometimes lighting situations do not allow for these types of modifications.
HAVE A FAMILY GROUPINGS LIST FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER
Family portrait time is usually the most dreaded time of the day. It’s something that should get done, but isn’t enjoyed by many. Getting through these as efficiently as possible benefits everyone, including you as couple, the photographer, and especially your family. Making sure that your list includes first and last names can avoid confusion, even add your parents’ first names to clarify. As photographer, I often end up calling your parents “Mom” and “Dad”, out of respect for them, but also because it makes it a little easier. Still, to ensure we know which Mom or Dad, feel free to give as much detail as you think necessary. Better too much than too little.
That being said, keep your family portrait wish list as concise as possible, spending an hour on family portraits can be a waste of your time and money, as very rarely are all images looked at, much less used. I ask my clients to keep it down to less than 10 groupings (allowing for unmarried significant others to be added to and taken away from each grouping if necessary). This is usually possible, and brides are thankful that they can just say, “Sorry, my photographer says no more!”
You only get married once. Do it right, and make sure you are able to enjoy your day by utilizing as many of these tips to have a relaxed wedding day timeline as possible. You’ll look back and see that it was likely the most important part of your planning. I’d love to hear how your day turned out, and which tips you found most helpful. Is there something missing that should be added. Happy planning, and congratulations. You deserve the best day!
Images captured while second shooting for the amazing Kayla Potter! Visit her website HERE.