Wedding Day Timeline

One thing that surprises new brides the most is how early they have to get in their dress to start photos before the ceremony. Now this will vary from photographer to photographer… some photographers are less hands on and just document the day unfolding, some photographers spend an hour with just the couple, while some take an hour for ALL the formal portraits for the entire day. So this blog post is from my perspective and how I organize a wedding day timeline in order to provide AMP couples with the best experience possible. It also comes from a place of type A Amanda. So as you’re reading through this, just know that I am fully aware that it’s a little OCD, but I’ve come to learn since starting weddings in 2010, that this is 100% necessary to alleviate as much stress from the couple as possible and still provide the highest quality photographic experience.

Wedding day timeline blog post to help knoxville brides by knoxville wedding photographer, Amanda May Photos.

I design a wedding day timeline for every single #AMPBride. We start this process 2-3 months before the wedding. I know that’s an early start, however, it’s important to get your photography wedding day timeline done before all the other vendors start putting their timelines together. Almost every other vendor you have chosen to be a part of your amazing day will heavily rely on the photography timeline for their starting point. For example, hair and makeup is the first vendor experience of the day. They will want to know what time photos are beginning so they know what time they need to be done with hair and makeup. Then the florist will want to know what time photos are beginning so they know what time to have the bouquets in the bridal suite. And the list goes on and on. It can get to be stressful when all of your other vendors start asking you questions about the photography timeline if we haven’t even put it together yet. So the first act of alleviating stress, is just by starting this process early.

I kick off the timeline creation with a pretty hefty wedding day questionnaire. It is 56 questions in total, will probably take you a couple hours to fill out, but once you have completed it, that’s it. That’s all I need from you to generate the first draft of your wedding day timeline. This questionnaire will ask things like: do you want to do a first look? can you tell me all the names and relations of your immediate family? what time is the ceremony? when do you plan on exiting the reception? etc, etc… Using all of this information, I will send you draft one of your wedding day timeline.

Now when you think timeline, you are probably just thinking of a schedule, but my AMP wedding day timeline is so much more than that. It is a 2 page PDF document that lists out the getting ready location and address of both the bride and groom, the ceremony and reception location and address, the actual schedule of events for the entire day, a family photo shot list containing all of the combinations of different family members you could possibly want on your wedding day, the names of all of your family members and bridal party, any ceremony site rules (for church ceremonies), your wedding day hashtags, if there are any special locations or images you want me to get, and if there is any sensitive family situations to remember on the wedding day.

So now that you know what the wedding day timeline consists of, let me walk you through why these different things are important.

If your wedding has multiple locations, it’s important to have all the addresses readily accessible. That way there is no question where we are going and thank goodness for phone GPS’s that can also tell us the best and quickest way to get there. Not having to look up and communicate addresses in the middle of the day is both a time and stress saver.

Also, thinking through what different family combinations you want during the family formal time before the wedding day is crucial. I will have the standard ones I get like bride + mom, bride + dad, bride + mom + dad, bride + groom + mom + dad, etc… but you get to think through if you would like an individual photo with each sibling or if just one group shot will suffice. If you would like aunts, uncles, and cousins there or if informal photos with them at the reception would be okay. And so many other things as we lay out the dynamic of your family on paper. There are so many reasons why this is so incredibly important. 1) It ensures that you do not miss a single family photo that you want on your wedding day. I always say “despite the divorce rate, you are doing this ONCE” and you don’t get a redo on getting combos that we miss. So we have to get them all right on your wedding day. 2) It makes family formal photos go super quick because I have a checklist that I’m calling names off of. Instead of saying “mom” and “dad” I’m saying their actual names and they respond and pay attention much easier, allowing us to crank through lots of these in a really short time. 3) It helps you not feel like you’re hurting someone’s feelings if they aren’t in a family formal photo. Besides, it’s the photographer’s list right? Blame it on me, and now, all of a sudden, the pressure is off of you to get photos with people that you may not want photos with just to avoid hurting their feelings. The shot list is huge guys. Like really really huge. This avoids SO much stress because on the wedding day, I’m never looking at you asking if there are any other family photos that you want. That one question in and of itself can spark so much anxiety. Your mind starts racing through all the photos that we’ve done and you can’t remember them all because there were a lot. Like, a whole lot. And this is your one chance to get the photos and you feel like you’re missing one, and you just agree that we can be done because your brain just isn’t working and surely we got everything. Let’s just work really hard to not have to experience anything like that on your wedding day, agree? Thank you shotlist.

Then there is the list of your family and bridal party member’s names. This is most helpful in the sense that instead of me saying “hey you”, I’m actually using people’s names. Now I can’t always remember every single bridal party members’ names when there is a bajillion of them, but I will attempt to memorize the best man, maid of honor, and a couple others. Immediately when I use your friend’s and family’s first name, they immediately feel a connection and friendship with me and now they are more comfortable in front of my camera. Just like that, your pictures will be better and more genuine. This isn’t so much a stress reliever for you directly, but does enable you to have better pictures and in turn that always relieves stress right?

And finally, the reason for the entire wedding day timeline… the schedule. I love to provide my couples with lots of portraits, and when brides choose me as their wedding day photographer, this is what they have come to expect. This is the precedent I have set and the reputation I have built through countless blog posts, facebook albums, and wedding galleries. But here is something that is critical to being able to do that. I have to have enough time. We have to make sure that we start early enough before the ceremony that there is time to get the variety and quantity of portraits that every #AMPbride deserves. But it’s not all about the portraits. We want to make sure there is time to exchange gifts, do a first look between the bride and her dad, travel to different locations if that’s needed, document all the little details that fill the day, and still get completed with everything before guests begin arriving 45-60 minutes before the ceremony. I will literally have the schedule part of the wedding day timeline down to 5 minute increments. It doesn’t take 15 minutes to open a gift, and instead of trying to “squeeze” it in somewhere or just forgetting about it amongst the hustle and bustle of the day, I give it the time it needs (5 minutes) and make sure it happens. Also, over the years, I’ve come to realize that every. single. wedding day. gets off schedule. It doesn’t matter how type A the bride is… something ALWAYS happens to push us off schedule. So something else that I automatically do with the schedule is to build in a small cushion. That when we get off schedule, it doesn’t force us all to get stressed and start rushing around. Because of that cushion I still have just the right amount of time I need to provide every single couple with the best photos possible! And if you’re one of the few (yes, this is a challenge) that manages to stay on time, then you just get some extra photos! YAY!

Now there’s one more thing that has to be done to make the wedding day timeline the most effective. Communicate it. I will help you with this part. When you fill out your questionnaire, I will ask for a list of all the vendors you are using on your wedding day with their email addresses. Once you have approved the timeline, I will send it to every single vendor email address that you give me on your questionnaire. But it is up to you to communicate it to your bridal party and family members. Setting the expectation for your bridesmaids of exactly how early they can plan to arrive at your bridal suite, how early your mom needs to be dressed so she can help you into your dress, how early your dad needs to be dressed for his first look with his daughter, so on and so forth. Good news though, I will send you an email 2-3 days before the wedding reminding you exactly what you need to tell each party involved while you are at the rehearsal dinner!

So, there you have it, friends. The wedding day timeline and why it is so very very important.

If you have another topic that you would like me to cover in my Wedding Planning 101 series, shoot me an email at amanda@amandamayphotos.com or just leave a comment below!

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Knoxville, TN wedding photographer

I'm Amanda May and I'm pretty stoked that you're here. I'm a three on the enneagram, a smiler when things get awkward, and I would love for you to get to know me more over on my about page.

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