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Top Wedding Timeline Mistakes to Avoid (+ How To Fix Them)

Tips for Brides

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Tips for Brides

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Our goal is to ensure that every couple has the most enjoyable day possible! That’s why we work one-on-one with each couple to discuss their timeline and vision for the day. Since photography is a significant investment, we also want you to make the most of our time together.

A tight timeline that rushes through the day can add a lot of stress to the couple and their loved ones. You should move at a steady pace from one event to the next. If one part runs longer than its allotted time, you’ll miss out on capturing the photos you envisioned.

To avoid hiccups within your timeline, we compiled a list of scenarios where timelines often awry. Don’t worry, we also included suggestions on how to fix them by carefully planning ahead!

Mistake #1: Hair and Makeup Timing and Logistics

If one thing is going to throw off the timeline at the start, it is hair and makeup (“HMU”). We’ve seen it time and time again in a variety of situations. The common thread is that either not enough overall time was planned or the order was inefficient. You’ll want to do your best to ensure hair and makeup is completed before your “getting ready” photos begins.

It becomes a problem when one of the following scenarios happens:

  • Bridesmaids getting ready photos: The bride wanted a picture with all bridesmaids in matching getting ready attire (robes, pajamas, etc.). However, one of the bridesmaids is not done with her hair and makeup.
  • Mom not dressed: Mom was the last person scheduled to get her hair and makeup done. She wasn’t finished when the bride needed to be putting on her dress. Mom did not want to be photographed without makeup and in her sweatpants. Bride had to decide if she would a) wait for mom to finish with her own process, losing twenty minutes of time in her schedule that was planned for her first look and portraits with her groom, or b) get into the dress with her personal attendant to keep the timeline moving and miss out sharing that memory with mom.
  • HMU Equipment Clean up: If your HMU teams are coming on-site to you, they’ll need to bring their supplies along. When this happens there may not be enough room to get ready and take pictures due to added chairs, lighting, mirror placement, and supplies. These items can also create clutter in the background of the photos. The teams need time to clean up without getting in your way and vice versa!

How to fix:

  • Ask your hair stylist and makeup artists how much time they need for each person.
  • Make sure the bride and her mom (or whoever is getting her into her dress) are scheduled to be done first.
  • Consult your photographer about how much time to do they need for photos.
  • Set your photography start time for getting ready to begin AFTER hair and makeup needs are completed.
  • Allow time for the HMU teams to clean up their gear.

Mistake #2: Your V.I.P.s go M.I.A.

It’s impossible to work through your picture list when one or more members are missing. This happens for both the family and the wedding party. There is only so much we can do to re-adjust the photo order based on who is available. The great reasons that this happens are that the individual is:

Running Late getting to the location all together.

Distracted while another family member, friend, or guest caught them in a conversation across the room.

Too much responsibility. Don’t put your family or wedding party members in charge of too many additional tasks for the wedding day. If they have a secondary role, such as helping setup the venue in the morning or delivering flowers, be sure that these tasks are completed by the time your photography starts and that the timing of those secondary roles won’t interfere with their primary one. A personal assistant, more distant relative like an aunt/uncle, or a hired wedding day coordinator should be running any errands and coordinating last minute logistics with others.

How to fix:

  • Make sure every person knows the exact location and time they need to be throughout your wedding day. Share this information with them in advance of the day itself. Create a way for them to reference it during the day itself. For example, send them an email or a photo to save on their phone for reference. Some brides create a master binder of timeline, notes, and contact information that is accessible with them in the room.
  • Hire a wedding day coordinator. Their whole job is to lighten your load. You may already be feeling decision fatigue, so let them lighten your load. Bring in an expert who knows your vision and will advocate in your best interests. This makes the day a seamless, enjoyable experience. They are 100% worth the investment!
  • Utilize personal attendants. I recommend at least two personal attendants. Then you always have someone with you if the other needs to leave to do an errand on your behalf.

Mistake #3: Estimated Travel Time

I am the biggest fan of Google Maps for figuring out your travel baseline. It will tell you what to expect getting between each location on your wedding day. However, good ol’ Google doesn’t account for the time it takes to transition from one location to another. You need time you need to gather up items, walk to your transportation, get everyone into the transportation, drive to the destination, then get everyone out of the transportation, and walk to the new area where your photos or next activity will take place.

How to fix:

  • Add 10 minutes of buffer time to all travel
  • How will traffic affect your timeline? Either for the time of day you’ll be driving or the area of town? Buffer even more time to account for traffic.
  • Look up road construction along your route that could affect which roads you take.

Mistake #4: Not consulting your vendors

Each vendor is an expert in their processes. Don’t feel like the weight of figuring this out is on your shoulders. Utilize their expertise to help you craft a timeline that will be realistic for the scope of your vision. Their processes might take longer than you expect so it is important to factor this into your overall timeline.

Here are a few questions to ask that can impact your timeline:

  • Church Coordinator: How much time you are able to be inside the location? What time do doors open to you? What time do you need to vacate the building? How long will my ceremony be based on the type of service we are having?
  • Photography: How much time do you recommend allocating to tell the story of the day? Will I have one photographer or two? What parts of the day do you work together and what parts of the day will you cover separate ground?
  • Videography: Will individuals be given microphones for clearer audio? If so, how much time does this take? How much transition time does the videographer need between events to accommodate multiple cameras or angle setups. Are there any moments that you want to add for audio purposes (eg. reading letters to one another)? Note: some aspects of photography and videography overlap, but each has distinct needs during the day. To be safe, add 15-20 minutes to each of the major portrait times. This includes: getting ready, your first look (if applicable), wedding party portraits, and your newlywed portraits. Doing this will give each vendor time for creativity time to accomplish their goals.
  • Reception Venue: When does setup and teardown need to take place? Do tables need to be removed immediately following dinner to make room for first dances? Does the bride have time planned for bustling her dress when she arrives at the reception venue?
  • Catering: How long do they expect dinner service to be? Is there a specific time that they need the cake cut?
  • DJ: How much time do we need for our grand entrance plans? How long do you recommend for toasts and speeches? When should we get first dances started?

Mistake #5: Lack of snack breaks

Forgetting to drink enough water and a lack of intentionally planned out snack breaks can impact your entire mood. Trust me, you do not want to feel faint or get hangry on your wedding day! While most of your attention when it comes to food will be on the reception dinner, don’t forget about breakfast and lunch! It is a nice courtesy to cater these meals in for your wedding party and immediate family.

How to fix:

  • Make sure breakfast, lunch, and dinner are accounted for in your timeline
  • Put a small water bottle at the seat of the bride and groom during the ceremony. This helps if nerves hit or if the sanctuary lights are very hot. In the summer, place water bottles in the pews for every wedding party and family member too.
  • Designate someone to be in charge of getting snacks into your post-ceremony transportation.

What did you find most helpful? Let us know in the comments!

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