Monday, April 1, 2013

The Experience: Wedding Day Timelines

If there's one thing you should know in advance about your wedding, it's that what everyone says is true. It flies by and after it's over, you'll wonder where it went and what exactly you did.

I wish that I could tell you that there was another way. I'd love to say that I was able to savor all of the moments that I'd dreamed of my whole life on  our wedding day, that I'll always remember our first kiss as husband and wife, what words were spoken during our ceremony, the moment I first saw my husband in all of his wedding day handsomeness. So many of those wonderful things have faded from my memories of our wedding, the way they actually happened. But there are two things that I remember clearly and hope to never forget: our first dance, and our first look.

In the months of planning that took place before the big day, there were a lot of compromises that we made, some for better, some for worse (although it all turned out okay in the end). But the two things I refused to let go of were the two things that, at the end of the day, I smiled every time I thought about them. When it comes to your wedding day timeline, don't let your caterer, your photographer, your deejay, your event planner, or anyone else stop you from making the time to savor the pieces of your day that are the most important to you and arrange your day accordingly. They are on your team and should be able to make adjustments to make sure that your day is perfect for you.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few suggestions for making your timeline:

Decide what's important. Talk to your fiancee about what you are most looking forward to on your wedding day. The items you list should give you an idea of what matters to you. For me, it was the pictures and our first dance. In light of that, I made sure that we planned our day around the natural light (since our photographer relied on that to do her job), including having our ceremony at sunset and leaving a full hour for pictures of just the two of us. We also decided to choreograph our first dance, and put it at a place in the timeline where we could make sure that we had everyone's full attention. To someone else, rocking it out at the reception might be the most exciting part of their day, so leaving plenty of hours for dancing and putting together an amazing wedding playlist would be top priority. 

Communicate your vision. Once you determine what makes you excited about your wedding, communicate this to your vendors. This helps them tailor their services to your perfect day. They should be able to give you ideas of how quickly they can get something done if there's a need, and should help to ensure that your timeline goes as planned on the day of. Additionally, they can help you put together the logistics of your vision, which will take a lot of the pressure off of you to figure everything out. Having a wedding coordinator for this can be a godsend, because they can do a lot of this communication for you - delegating equals less stress for you!

Put together a plan. Two weeks before your wedding is a good time to put together a tentative timeline with all participants and vendors included. That's enough time to send it to everyone and request feedback to make sure that all parties are aware of their roles and make sure they can perform their duties in the time allotted. Let them know that you will send out a final timeline within the week before the wedding (just not the day before!). When you're making the timeline, it can be easier to split the day in half by starting at the time of the ceremony and working backwards to the beginning of the day, and then from the end of the reception back to the ceremony. It's always better to start your day earlier than get to the end and realize you have to push the entire day back.

Sample. Here is a sample wedding timeline. It is not one size fits all, just a place to get started. If pictures are super important to you, do not leave any less than the suggested amounts of time for each group (and you can always allot more time if you want!). 

First. Start here and work backwards.
6:00p Ceremony starts
5:30p Wedding party is tucked away from guests, ready for ceremony
5:00p Family portraits start (30 minutes)
4:30p Bridal party portraits start (30 minutes)
3:45p Bride and Groom first look (45 minutes)
3:30p Bride and Groom leave (separately) in limo for ceremony site
3:00p Girls get dressed, Bride puts on dress
2:00p Guys arrive to get ready with groom
1:00p Girls arrive for pampering (hair and makeup) with Bride

Second. Do the other half, working backwards from the end of the reception.
10:30p Reception ends
10:00p Cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss
8:30p All dancing
8:15p First dance (and father-daughter, mother-son dances if included)
7:45p Toasts
7:00p Dinner served
6:30p Cocktails

Once you have the general outline in place, add in the start and end times for your vendors, so that they know exactly what to expect. 

For great photos, here are a few things to consider. This is the part where I tell you why it's important to consider your pictures when planning your timeline. If that's not your thing, then we can't be friends you can skip it (just kidding about the first part :0).
  • Sunset (or sunrise) provides the BEST light for outdoor portraits. If you are having an outdoor ceremony and want to do portraits before, plan the ceremony for a half hour before sunset and photos just before that. If you are having an outdoor ceremony and want to do portraits after, plan the ceremony for an hour and a half before sunset, so that there is enough light for photos afterwards.
  • Include travel time in the timeline when locations change. If this gets left out, the thing that gets cut is the time for your pictures.
  • Make sure you have enough hours of photography coverage to capture everything that is important to you. The standard number of hours on the wedding day for most photographers is eight. Keep this in mind when setting your timeline, and if the entire wedding celebration cannot fit into eight hours, ask if they would be willing to extend your coverage. If that's not an option, it's okay to have them start a half hour to an hour later than "getting ready" begins, or leave the reception a little early, but know which photos are more important to you.
It all comes down to knowing what you want and then letting everything fall into place around that. Your wedding is one of the few times that is really, truly all about you, and that's the way it should be. Happy planning!

Photo taken while assisting Love Life Images.

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