Wedding Day Scheduling Timing and Logistics

By on February 27, 2009

One of the most important areas in which couples planning their weddings usually need advice is with respect to the day’s schedule, especially as it relates to the Wedding Photography.  After all, most of them have never been married before.  Your wedding day is akin to one day on a movie shoot – and as complex.  So, a properly planned day means less stress, as well as the ability and flexibility to deal with the unexpected.  As the Wedding Photographer, regardless of what is happening, I will always shoot whatever is available (working under pressure and unideal circumstances is the job of any useful Wedding Photographer).  But, as with other things, good Wedding Pictures benefit from a relaxed bride who does not feel rushed.  As I say, “Happy Bride, Happy Day”.

Even under the best of circumstances it is a challenging day for the bride and groom:  (a) They have probably not had a very good night’s sleep, heading into probably the most eventful day of their lives (which runs 14-20 hours); (b) They are making the biggest commitment of their lives (which hopefully entails no doubt whatsoever :-)  ); (c) They are juggling the egos, insecurities and relationships within and between their families; (d) They are praying for the weather to hold up; (e) Hopefully they have delegated the myriad tasks throughout the day to reliable and capable people, otherwise they find themselves constantly having to be involved in areas they shouldn’t have to worry about; (f) I could keep going here, but you get the idea…

The point is, you can and should have fun on your wedding day.  Good planning will go a long way to making that possible.  Time allocation is critical to two parts of the day: (1) Bride’s Hair and Make-up (with the bridesmaids often in tow).  It is well worth making the appointment earlier because I can’t tell you how often the bride is rushing to put on the dress in time to get some pictures taken and then to head off for the ceremony.  Hair and Make-up can easily take longer than expected – regardless of what they tell you.  Besides, you’re probably going to be up early in the morning anyway, so you might as well get down to business.  If you are ready ahead of time you can relax.  You don’t want to be rushed and stressed out when the day has barely begun. (2) Pictures (Family, Wedding Party, Couple).

How much time should be allotted for between the end of the ceremony to the time the wedded couple must appear at the reception?  Depends.  Here are some questions that must be answered before you can come up with a number:

  • How much mingling time is there going to be right after the ceremony?
  • Is there going to be a receiving line right after the ceremony?  If so, how many guests?  If you have 200 people it will take at least 45 minutes.
  • Where are the pictures going to be taken, at the ceremony location or at a park?  If the latter, how far away is the park?
  • For Family Pictures are all the family members going to be driving to the park?  That can take time and some people end up taking forever to get there.  Additionally, the size of the families (or more accurately, those who are going to be in the pictures) affects how much time is required.
  • Is there a Videographer?  If so, additional time will be required.
  • Depending on the time when the post-ceremony pictures begin, how much quality light is going to be available once we get to photographing the newly married couple (can anyone say, ‘most important pictures’).  If it’s a bright day, there is more leeway with light, but you can’t count on that.  Also, what looks like ‘enough’ light to you, may not be great from the photographer’s perspective.

Here is a typical Wedding Day scenario: Ceremony starts at 3pm.  Finishes at 3:45.  15 minutes of mingling.  Family Pix taken at the ceremony site – average sized family – 30 minutes.  Couple and Wedding Party drive to the park.  Including travel time and walking into the park, pictures commence 30 minutes later.  Wedding Party Pix – 30 minutes. Couple Pix – 45 minutes.  Drive to Reception Hall – 20 minutes.  Arrive at Hall at between 6:30 to 6:45.  Total time from end of the ceremony to arriving at the reception – about 3 hours.

Possible issues: (1) The Couple do no get to enjoy cocktails with their guests before dinner; (2) If there is a Receiving Line then the post-ceremony activities will be rushed and/or dinner will need to be pushed to 7:30; (3) If it’s a darkish day, there might not be very good light for the Couple Shots if they are done last (which is usually the case); (4) If the Family Photos are taken at the park there may be some delays if everyone doesn’t arrive at the park on time; (5) If there is a Videographer you can add 30-45 minutes to the schedule, which, like the Receiving Line, puts pressure on the schedule.

Conclusion: With dinner usually being served at 7pm, this schedule works fine, though there isn’t that much room for maneuvering.  In this case, there would be more flexibility, and less stress, if the ceremony began at 2pm or 2:30pm.  If there is a Videographer and a Receiving Line, then the Ceremony should not begin later than 2pm, preferably earlier.

If everything is happening in one location, you can cut about 45-60 minutes from the above scenario.  In this case, you wouldn’t have to worry about lighting for photography (unless it’s raining of course), and the couple would be finished in time to either spend some cocktail time with guests and/or to have a rest before the Reception.  In this scenario, keeping the Ceremony starting time at 3pm is a good idea because if you have it too early then your guests will be waiting around too long for the Reception to begin.

For the uninitiated, it’s easy just to accept what you’re told and given by the various vendors, but generally speaking they are only concerned with their own domains.  So, for example, you may have your heart set on the church or venue where your ceremony will take place but if they tell you that the space is not available until 4pm, then, as you can tell from the above scenario, you will be limited with respect to the rest of your day.  Does that mean you can’t use that venue?  Not at all.  It simply means adjustments may have to be made to plan (eg) Maybe the Couple do their photographs before the ceremony.

As a Wedding Photographer, my responsibility is to get the shots no matter what – and I do.  But experience has revealed to me that when the logistics are solid then the day runs smoother, the bride and groom are happier – and the pictures are better.

About Olga Pomeransky

Olga is manager at Best for Bride since 2005. Currently Best for Bride operates 4 bridal stores in Canada (Toronto, Etobicoke, Hamilton and Barrie). Best for Bride sells wedding, bridemaids, mob dresses and more. http://www.BestForBride.com

3 Comments

  1. jenivaismaelfreecx@gmail.com'

    jen

    April 18, 2014 at 8:12 PM

    So helpful! We’re just starting to go over timeline stuff and I’ve been feeling pretty lost on how to settle everything our wedding start at 4pm. Thanks 🙂

  2. sadaknadia@yahoo.fr'

    Saida

    April 24, 2014 at 6:14 PM

    It is so important to plan your day from morning till night, but what is more important for me is to put into consideration the risks that may happen and plan how to solve hem as well. Like that, you will have no problems at all and everything will go smoother

  3. sobby14@yahoo.com'

    Alice Gagnier

    July 30, 2017 at 10:08 AM

    I really hope that my wedding day flows as nicely as I have it pictured in my mind. So many moving parts and things that can go wrong. You just never know what you have to be prepared for.

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