Being on both ends of a wedding, (photographer and bride) I get a feel for how/when things can take place on the day of your wedding. I am at the point in my wedding planning where I need to start thinking about when things should take place, so I have decided to share my thoughts here. This list comes from my experience as a photographer, so take it as you wish.
As you start to set your times, think about the length of the ceremony, how much time you need for pictures and finally when you want to eat. Here is a list of key events you can keep in mind while planning your day.
1. HAIR – Every photographer is different, but as I plan my day, I keep in mind my own rules. I want to a lot 2 hours prior to the ceremony for final touch-ups and jumping into my dress, so with that, I want to plan mine and my bridesmaids hair appointment so we will be back with 2 hours to spare. When making the hair appointment, you must also think about the time of the ceremony.
2. GUYS PREPARATION – Now, when it comes to the guys, you kind of have to start in reverse. Decide when you would like them to arrive at the church, if you plan on getting group photographs before hand, or if you plan on having the first look. You also have to think about what kind of photographs you would like of the guys. If you want full preparation photographs, final touch-ups, group shots, or all of the above! If you plan on having all of the above, like I am, you have to consider the photographer(s). How many photographers are there, and is it even possible for them to capture the bride getting ready and the groom getting ready at the same time. That is why thinking about time and place is key. If the bride and groom are getting ready in the same place, then photographs of both is not a problem. If the bride is getting ready 20 mins away from the groom, well then that is a bit more difficult, unless there are two photographers (something to discuss with them).
Since I want photographs of the guys getting ready, along with group shots prior to the ceremony, I will want to a lot AT LEAST an hour and a half for that. You also have to remember that guests tend to start to arrive for the ceremony about 30 before, so if my ceremony is at 1:00, I would want them to begin to get dressed at about 11:00, and arriving at the church around 12. This all depends on travel time and where the guys are getting ready. So many things to consider, everyone is different.
3. First Look This is becoming more common. The first look is when the bride and groom take a quiet moment prior to the ceremony to see each other. It can be more emotional because it is just the two of them, they can take as much time as they want to take in the beauty of each other. This is certainly not for everyone, some feel that the first look takes away from “first” time the groom sees the bride coming down the aisle, and there is some truth to that, but then again, I feel that if you take advantage of the first look, you, in essence get TWO first looks. Personally, even though the bride and groom were to see each other prior to the ceremony, they would both get the same feeling when the large church doors open up and the bride is escorted by her father. Those moments are serial, a whole different feeling!
Now, if the first look was an option for you, that is something that would take place prior to the ceremony. I would want it to be at a time when guests have not arrived yet, and so we still have time for some photographs, probably about an hour prior to the ceremony. (discuss this with your photographer)
4. Formal Photographs – After the ceremony, you can a lot for some time for family photographs. Depending on the family size, usually about 30 mins (something to talk to your photographer about). After that, are usually wedding party photographs, and photographs with just the couple. Now, again, every photographer is different, so check with them, but I would a lot for 45 mins (at least) for the on location bridal party/bride and groom shots. These shots are very important and are a lot of fun. Think about the location for your photographs, because setting can make a huge difference and can set the tone of your shots. Your photographer will have a good sense, so ask them for suggestions!
5. Cocktail Hour – I feel that I do not want my guests to have to sit around long in between the ceremony and the dinner. I would feel that about an hour is a good amount of time. Within that time, they can get a beverage, listen to some music, check out the decorations, munch on some popcorn and chat with the other guests. An hour and a half might not be bad either. I want to make sure my guests don’t ever feel bored!
6. Dinner – If I want my cocktail hour to last about an hour, hour and a half, I would say about 4:30 I would have the venue ring the bell to eat, and then start dinner at 5:00. Some tips about dinner, from a photographers point of view 1. reserve a place for your photographer(s) – if you want great shots during dinner, don’t leave them hanging, seat them at a place that will allow them to do just that. 2. Consider having the DJ play during the dinner – – soft music can keep the day flowing and can help the day flow from the dinner to the dance. 3. Cut the cake – decide when you want to, before dinner or after. 4. grand march – yup, this is more common to, having the grand march happen before dinner rather during the dance. This will allow all of your guest to view it. Sometimes the older guests don’t want to stay until 9, this way they will be able to catch it.
7. DANCE – If you have the DJ there during the dinner, the dance can start more at a flow. You also don’t have to state a specific time for the dance, just “dance to follow.” Some things to think about for the dance 1. what dances do you want 2. when do you want them, if your photographer is only there until 9, make sure those dances you want photographed are finished before then. 3. HAVE A GOOD TIME 🙂
This is all just from experience, every wedding is different, so times and structure will never be the same. But it is nice to keep these things in mind as possibilities. Talk with your photographer, they are, in essence, there from the beginning, and help move parts of the day along. If you need something, want something, make sure you discuss it with them. Over all, your wedding day is suppose to be fun and memorable. Any structure you make up will never run exactly how you planned, but that is the beauty of it. Go with the flow and make memories LAST a lifetime!