If just taking pictures on a wedding day was the only thing I had to worry about life would be a heck of a lot easier! However, as it goes, the photographer plays a bigger role, not just on wedding day, but before and afterwards.
From the initial meeting onwards I do my best to provide insight and help people know what to expect on their wedding day. If it's the first time doing something you're not going to be an expert or know what to expect at every turn so part of my job is to help fill in any holes and offer suggestions to make things not only easier, but more efficient.
So what's the biggest thing to nail down from my point of view?
One thing I hear the most is that couples aren't sure what they need as far as coverage goes. From my experience you can get a good idea of how long you might need your photographer by working your way backwards from the end of the day to the beginning.
From my experience two and a half hours is the magic amount of time to comfortably cover everything important during the reception. From the introductions through the first dance, toasts, and dinner service to the cake cutting, parent dances and party time, 2.5 hours should get you all that covered. The time it takes for dinner service can vary depending on the number of guests, number of courses etc but in general it doesn't affect the timing of things unless there are a large number of guests and three dinner courses. If this is the case for your wedding you'll most likely need more coverage time during the reception.
Working from that 2.5 hour number now just work your way backwards and you'll be able to put together a clear idea of what you are looking at for coverage time. Before the reception you have your cocktail hour. Before that, the ceremony and then your getting ready time to start the day.
What are some things to take into consideration when figuring out timing?
Where is everything taking place? If you are getting ready and having the ceremony and reception at the same location that will obviously be more time efficient versus if you are getting ready at a hotel, your ceremony is across town at a church, and then your reception is at a country club 15 minutes away from there.
Keep in mind the time it will take for your guests to travel from one spot to the other but, more importantly, you and your bridal party. Do you have a large bridal party? A big family? How many vehicles are involved? Could parking be a pain?
All this will take longer than you think. I promise.
Next, are you thinking about doing a first look? If so that's extra time that needs to be scheduled prior to the ceremony. If your ceremony is at 3pm and you plan on doing a first look and bridal party photos before the ceremony I would say be dressed and ready to go by 1:30p at the latest. We will most likely have to be done with these photos by 2:30p when guests start arriving and I have to start prepping for the ceremony and start shooting candids etc.
An hour is typically good for getting ready coverage. Less than that can be a bit rushed. If you time everything out and there is a little extra to work with I recommend adding that time to the beginning of the day rather than the end. It's early on where the risk for delays is greater. Hair and makeup often drags on later than expected. The arrival of flowers can be late. Traffic can be bad and cause unexpected delays for family, friends and your vendors. The tux place can forget to put the shoes in so the groom is scrambling to find a fix. The list can go on!
I try to go over all this with my clients before the big day to make sure they aren't caught off guard when the day arrives.
Avoid unnecessary stress!
If your wedding coordinator is playing a big role in your day I have one piece of advice... DON'T go crazy with scheduling every single part of your day! I've seen timelines where every small detail is scheduled, sometimes in 10-15 minute increments. You are destined for extra stress if you plan on trying to keep to a schedule like this. Just plan the timing for your most important parts of the day. Everything in-between will get done at some point!
Just know when...
- Your photographer is going to start.
- What time your dress needs to go on.
- What time the ceremony starts.
- What time the reception and introductions are.
It's good to know when certain reception traditions are occuring like cake cutting or parent dances but at this point your DJ or MC will keep you on track with when to do these things.
Looking at your day this way will reduce stress. Have faith that with your pre-planning your vendors will know what to do and when. I would honestly you rather plan out the timing of your wedding day with me rather than a coordinator at your venue. Priorities lie in different places with the different people involved in your day so make sure you talk to your key players about what to expect.
At the beginning of your day the photographer should be keeping you on schedule and making sure you know what the timing situation is and letting you know what they need to do while also asking you what you want. Remember, vendors are here to work WITH you and not just FOR you! It's the best way to ensure a super wedding day with as little stress as possible.