Due to the variety of factors at play, weddings usually follow a strict timeline. At many of the very popular churches or wedding ceremony locations, there are several weddings planned for one day, so timing is critical. But even when not at one of these highly booked wedding locations, a good timeline will help make for a ceremony and reception that flows from one event to the next without a hitch. Delays are inevitable, though, and can disrupt even the best-laid plans. So, knowing how to react to or work around timing issues can help get the day back on track, and make you a hero in the eyes of the couple.
Common Timeline Disruptions
Timeline derailments can happen at any time throughout the wedding, so it’s often best to add in a few extra minutes here or there to pad some time and compensate for smalls delays. Knowing where timelines tend to fall behind can help pad those minutes into the most crucial spaces.
Makeup Delays – This is often the first trouble area. Touchups for the mother of the bride, Maid of Honor, and bridesmaids are often done last, and they can take a surprising amount of time. Instead, see if it’s possible to have everyone else ready by the time the bride is finishing up. This way, as the photographer, you can get some fantastic bridesmaid photos, setting the timeline ahead.
Receiving Line – This is one of the best parts of the wedding for both the happy couple and their guests. However, when people haven’t seen family and friends for a while, it can consume more time than what was allotted. If you have a good rapport with the couple, kindly suggest to them that they keep interactions to hugs, brief hellos, thank-yous, and well-wishes; reminding them that there will be plenty of time to chat and party with everyone during the reception.
Limo Rides & Traffic – The next tricky spot is the limo ride to the venue. To get a good idea of just how long the ride will take, talk to the driver about his or her preferred route, and consider what alternate routes are available, just in case. This is especially helpful if you are unfamiliar with the area. Since traffic or delays can occur on even the most familiar routes, consider adding a few minutes to the timeline here. Arriving at the venue early is much better than arriving late.
Pit Stops – The time between when the married couple arrives at the reception venue and when they’re announced can also eat up time. So, a delayed party member can set this entire event back. Make sure everyone in the wedding party knows what time to leave the ceremony location so they can be at the venue at the agreed-upon time. Groomsmen are notorious for pit stopping for a burger, or at a store to buy drinks on the way from ceremony location to the reception venue. Anticipate this possibility and, if you catch wind of that, simply suggest to them that they leave to the venue as soon as possible to hopefully compensate for any stops they want to make.
The best way to ensure that a timeline works is to plan ahead and consider all of the logistics. The use of a template can help give a good feel for the ideal timeline as you work with the couple and any wedding coordinators. However, remember that each wedding is unique, so even if the couple is using a fairly standard format, be sure to be in communication for any changes or updates. Consider travel and build in time for getting ready and set up. Discuss the length of the ceremony itself with the officiant. Plan even the smallest details, such as how the cake will be cut or how many toasts there will be. There’s no such thing as over-planning when it comes to a wedding, and being in the best positions, for the best shots.
Keep Everyone Up to Date
It’s easy to get frazzled when a timeline starts to slip, but it’s best to be proactive and set a positive, problem-solving tone. On the day of the wedding, make sure that the timeline is clear, and everyone knows when things are set to occur. Arrive and start getting ready even earlier than you think you need to. It’s always better to have extra time, so getting a head start is a good idea.
When changes do need to be made, consult with the couple first and offer options for solutions. If it’s decided that times need to be adjusted, help the couple by spreading the word and working out solutions with the coordinator, bridal party members, makeup artist, DJ, or anyone else who might be able to help get things back on track. You’ll find that most everyone will be as accommodating as possible.
Keeping A Calm Demeanor
As the photographer, remember to stay calm and professional, even if things aren’t going according to plan. Timeline slips are bound to happen, but you can make the couple feel much more at ease by going with the flow and making any helpful adjustments you can. Smile and keep the experience fun for everyone. A calm, happy presence is more comforting to a couple than you realize.
Keep Things in Perspective
Weddings are busy, with many moving parts, so they can feel a bit stressful. It’s important to remember, though, that this is one of the happiest days for this couple as they celebrate their love for each other. Sure, some slight rearranging might be necessary, but most people won’t notice or remember if some things happen a few minutes late. Keeping the couple in a positive state of mind will provide for the best pictures possible on their wedding day.