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Creating a Timeline for your wedding day

As every newlywed couple will concur, your wedding day passes by in the blink of an eye. One minute you’re waking up at the crack of dawn waiting for the arrival of your hairdresser and before you know it, it’s midnight, your feet hurt from dancing, your guests are leaving and your day is over. There’s nothing you can do to slow down time but there is one very important thing you can do to ensure that you get the most out of your day. Create a wedding day timeline.

It’s probably not the most exciting bit of wedding planning you’re ever going to do. But trust me – it can make the difference between a wonderful wedding day, where you get chance to speak to all your guests, see all your hard work come to fruition, spend time with your new spouse and get the photographs you want.  The alternative?  You wing it. You set a time for your ceremony and hope everything else falls into place.  Your wedding suppliers run around like headless chickens all working to different timescales. The makeup artists doesn’t have enough time to finish your bridesmaids, you’re late to church, your photographer doesn’t get the chance to get the images you’ve asked for, the wedding breakfast is served late, your guests are hungry and bored. You feel rushed and stressed on what should be the happiest day of your life.

Who’s it for?

Well first and foremost a timeline is for your wedding suppliers: the photographer, the hair and make up artists, the venue, the caterers, the florist, the entertainment, the videographers right on up to the DJ or band who will be with you late into the night. But it’s also helpful for your wedding party so they know where they need to be and when.

Why is it important?

Think of your wedding suppliers as your own personal wedding dream team. You’ve booked us all separately, we may never have worked with one another before. But give us a timeline and watch us shine. We’re professionals. We’ll become a well- oiled machine. We’ll do our utmost to make sure your day runs to plan so you can enjoy every single minute of it. But that’s only going to happen if we’re all working from the same plan. If the photographer has different timings to the venue and takes the couples off for pictures when they should be sitting down for their meal – well you can imagine how well that goes down with the chef! Creating a timeline before the wedding day and sharing it with you suppliers means issues like this will never occur on your wedding day.

A running order for your wedding - why you need one and how to plan your day (4)

Where to begin?

Ceremony: Start with your ceremony time. What time are you choosing and why. If it’s a winter wedding have you left enough time for portraits and group shots before it goes dark? Have you booked your ceremony too early so you’ll be rushing around all morning?

Preparations:  Once you have a time for your ceremony and you’ve worked out travelling times then you need to discuss with your hair and make-up artists about how long they need in the morning. Factor in time for getting dressed. This might seem silly but if you have a big bridal party, just getting everyone in their dresses and shoes can eat away a chunk of time. If your dress requires lacing up or has lots of buttons then factor extra time in for that too. And make sure you leave yourself 15 minutes to have a glass of bubbles with your bridesmaids before you leave.

The Ceremony: It’s the bride’s prerogative to be a little late but you really should try to get there on time. Some clergy get particularly grumpy about tardy brides. If you’re having a civil ceremony in a hotel or wedding venue, the registrars will want to speak to you before the ceremony so factor in arriving 10 minutes early to allow for that.

A running order for your wedding - why you need one and how to plan your day (2)

After the Ceremony : You wont head off to the reception as soon as the ceremony ends. Your guests will want to speak to you and give you their congratulations. You might want to do some photographs at the ceremony venue such as a confetti shot. Even if you haven’t planned on a formal receiving line where you greet all your guests as they leave church you might find that this happens of its own accord. After all we’re British – we love to queue. So add another 20 minutes in here to cover all this.

Travelling time: If your wedding ceremony venue and reception venue are two separate places don’t forget to factor the travelling time into your timeline. Sounds obvious but amazingly often overlooked. It’s always worth checking if there are any events happening in the area. For example – local football matches or charity events that might mean road closures or extra congestion.

 The Reception:  This part of the day is the busiest – you’re expected to fit in a drinks reception, canapes, speaking to your guests, formal family pictures, and your bride and groom portrait session. Phew.

I advise my couples to set aside 1.5 hours in between arriving at the reception and the start of your meal. This covers:

20 minutes for couples’ portraits,

30 minutes for group shots

10 minutes to capture your room details

This leaves 30 minutes for me to photograph you actually spending time with your guests and enjoying your wedding day. It’s amazing how often we get booked as documentary photographers but the timeline allows us no opportunity to capture relaxed, documentary images. If you want lots of lovely images of your guests enjoying themselves – you have to factor in a time for that to happen!

A running order for your wedding - why you need one and how to plan your day (3)

The evening –

Usually things are a little more relaxed by this point – the formal photographs are done, the majority of your suppliers have done their thing, everyone is fed and relaxed and happy. All that’s left to do is the handover from the day time to the evening reception.

Finally it’s time for your first dance – coordinating when this happens is important if you want it photographed. Most photographers will offer coverage up until a set time. For me it’s 9.00 p.m. Most first dances take place between 8p.m and 8.30 p.m. and then I get a chance to capture some of your guests busting a move.

Have I convinced you? Spend a few hours putting together a timeline with your suppliers – hand it over to them. Then relax – we’ve got it!

A running order for your wedding - why you need one and how to plan your day (1)

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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