How to Schedule Your Wedding Day
Unless you've had the pleasure of being a guest to a half a dozen weddings or more, you might be guessing about how the schedule of your big day should go, or missing things entirely. The biggest thing to keep in mind when planning everything is that you need to factor in extra time, because it's better to have to wait, than to have to rush through something important. You don't want to be rushed on the most important day of your life, you want to be able to relax and enjoy every moment!
Your day will start with hair and makeup, and asking your artists how long they take per personal will be the biggest deciding factor on when to start. With larger bridal parties, a fast hair and makeup application can take one hour per person. Other artists may take 1 hour per service (1 hour for hair, one hour for makeup), with the bride's makeup likely taking a bit longer than the bridesmaids. Once all of the girls are ready, your photographer is going to want to take photos of the dressed bridesmaids (or mother) helping the bride into her dress. Allow time for this, and take into consideration that any dresses that have corset backs, can take a bit of time to do up correctly. Having someone designated to this task allows them to practice it beforehand (making sure the rope pattern is the same the entire way down, everything lines up and the lace lays flat, etc.).
If time allows, your photographer should be able to leave the girls behind and meet up with the groomsmen where they're getting ready, to snap a few quick shots. The men take a whole five minutes to get dressed, so it's easy enough for them to stage a few shots. If time doesn't allow the photographer to get to where they were getting ready, arrange with your wedding venue in advance to see if there is a private room they can accommodate you with to stage some moments there.
I find that often the couple overlook the detail of transportation, so make sure there are ample amounts of rides for everyone to get from the getting ready location to the venue, and take into consideration that the bride's dress may take up an extra seat in the vehicle.
The option of doing a first look is a favorite of mine. A lot of couples feel that a first look will take away from the special moment of a bride walking down the aisle and the groom seeing her for the first time, but in my personal experience, that's not true. When you arrange to have a first look with your soon to be partner, it is something you can do in private, just the two of you, and your photographer, no uncomfortable audience. This allows both of you to let your emotions show with no restraint, and allows you to soak in that moment instead of having all of the proceeding moments in the back of your head like your vows, rings, order of exit, etc.
After the ceremony, your photographer will most likely want to do your family photos and you can supply your photographer with a head shot list in advance. After the ceremony is done, you can decide to do a more traditional receiving line, or go straight into the photos so your photographer can get everyone organized at that point and run through the head shot list.
After the family photos you'll go away with your photographer for the wedding party photos. Take into consideration the locations around the venue, where the light will be at that point of day, and if you are going to need transportation for everyone if you're going off site. Add the transportation time into your schedule. At this point of the day I am finding more and more that wedding parties like to be able to have ten or fifteen minutes to have a drink or a snack, which can also be turned into a photo op with the right photographer. If you have a wedding party of more than three on each side, give yourself 30 minutes for headshots with your wedding party, 20 minutes for group photos, and 45 minutes for bride and groom photos. This is the minimum amount of time that I would like as a photographer to make sure that all the necessary shots are taken, but giving your photographer any more time than that allows them to go above and beyond and create magic.
After the wedding party returns to the reception, the order of events there is the most important to keep the party running smoothly and the entire guest list happy. At this point, all the guests will most likely be ready to eat as they've been waiting for you during your photos. While everyone is eating you have the option of doing the speeches during the dinner, which has the benefit of everyone seated and attentive, or start speeches after dinner is cleared. I find that putting dinner and speeches together is the best use of time, because some speakers tend to talk a little longer than anticipated, and guests aren't left sitting idly by. After the speeches are done you want to take into consideration the amount of time you have your photographer booked. I myself leave a few songs into the party getting started, so what I recommend for my couples is that right after dinner they do the cake cutting as part of the desert, that way you still have everyone present, then the first dances, immediately followed by the garter and bouquet toss. Getting all of these things done right away clears away the agenda early and allows you to then just relax, not have to worry about forgetting anything, ensures everyone you want is there before they leave for a smoke or drinks (and before they've had too many drinks), and ensures you get the photographs from those moments! Being clear with your M.C. And the DJ beforehand about the order of events will make sure that everything goes off flawlessly and as stress free as possible, and also gives your guests somewhere else to direct their questions regarding the timeline, instead of interrupting you.
These are highlights of how your day can go, and certain specific traditions, ceremonies and surprises may be interjected wherever you see fit, but having a plan for the day will take all the stress away and allow you to fully enjoy the best day of your life!