What is the easiest way to avoid stress on your wedding day?
Well the answer is simple, you need a timetable for your day and one of the best people to help you plan this timetable in advance is your wedding photographer as they will be with you for a lot of the day. An experienced wedding photographer will have photographed hundreds of weddings over the years and will know where the pitfalls are that can lose you time and will be able to advise you how to avoid them and keep things running smoothly.
A wedding day can start as early as 7am for the bride and her bridesmaids/family and it can be about 10.30pm before you take to the dancefloor for your first dance and the aim should be to get from that 7am start to the first dance enjoying your day, and not feeling rushed or stressed.
The day can be broken into segments and if you know in advance how long to allow for each segment and keep close to that timetable that is the key to a relaxed stress free day.
At this point I would like to advise you to be sure to let your bridesmaids and groomsmen know what is expected of them and to be aware of the timeline. And then I will go into the breakdown of the suggested timetable for a relaxed wedding day.
What is expected of the bridesmaids and groomsmen?, well from quite a few of the weddings I have photographed a lot of the bridesmaids and groomsmen seem to think that once they have organised or attended the hen or stag party then all they have to do is be there for the ceremony and then hit the bar once you get to the reception venue, then sit down and enjoy a great meal, apart from the best man who has a speech to make. There have of course been weddings where the bridesmaids and groomsmen have been great throughout the day and this is usually because the couple have taken my advice and explained to them what is expected of them.
Briefly the bridesmaids are there to help and support the bride on the morning of the wedding and throughout the day, to have a bit of craic during the hair and makeup sessions and to help the bride get dressed. At the ceremony they are there to walk up the aisle ahead of the bride and the chief bridesmaid or maid of honour will normally be at the side of the bride for the exchange of rings and then witness the signatures on the paperwork. As a bride you should always try to keep one bridesmaid close to you to help arrange your dress and touch up lipstick etc. There may be bridal party photos taken immediately after the ceremony for which the bridesmaids will be needed. Then after the ceremony they will also be needed for a wedding party photo session either at your reception venue or at any other location of your choice, with an experienced wedding photographer this should normally only take a maximum of 30-40 minutes and the bridesmaids and groomsmen should make sure not to wander off before this is finished. After that they normally mingle with the other guests, enjoy a great meal and make sure they are at the side of the dancefloor for the first dance.
For the groomsmen they are there to support the groom on the morning of the wedding and make sure everyone is dressed and ready to leave in plenty of time for the wedding ceremony and when they arrive at the ceremony location, normally about half an hour before the time of the ceremony they greet the guests and try their best to keep the groom relaxed. They support the groom at the altar as he waits for his bride to walk up the aisle. The best man would normally be responsible for making sure hat he has the rings and the required paperwork for the legal end of the ceremony, he will also normally be at the side of the groom for the exchange of rings and then witness the signatures on the paperwork. There may be bridal party photos taken immediately after the ceremony for which the groomsmen will be needed. Then after the ceremony they will also be needed for a wedding party photo session either at your reception venue or at any other location of your choice, this should normally only take a maximum of 30-40 minutes and they should make sure not to wander off before this is finished. After that they normally mingle with the other guests, enjoy a great meal and make sure they are at the side of the dancefloor for the first dance.
I know from photographing hundreds of weddings over the years roughly how much time to allow and here is my take on it.
For the first scenario let’s say it’s a Church wedding at 1.30pm and the Church is 10 minutes from where the bride is getting ready and the reception venue is a 30 minute drive from the Church with all family, wedding party and group photos to be taken at the reception venue and that there are 3 bridesmaids and three groomsmen.
Lets start at the brides preparation location and work backwards from the 1.30pm official wedding time and assume that you will be a fashionable 10 minutes late arriving and then allow 10 minutes to get out of cars and have a few photos outside the Church so that means you should aim to be walking up the aisle at 1.50pm, it would be great if you arrives at 1.20pm and actually walk up the aisle but that is very rare.
The groom and his groomsmen will normally arrive at the Church half an hour before the ceremony, in this case at about 1pm so they should time their preparations and the time they leave the preparation location to arrive at that time.
So to arrive at 1.40pm you have to leave the house at 1.30pm. You will normally want some photos and maybe have a glass of bubbly with your bridesmaids and family before you leave and its great if you can give 20 minutes for this so that means you need to be fully dressed with your makeup and hair touched up and perfect by 1pm because most family members would be leaving 10 minutes ahead of you at 1.20pm. Allow 20-25 minutes to get your wedding dress, shoes and jewellery on which means you should start getting dressed at 12.35pm. With hair and makeup for a bride, 3 bridesmaids, the mother of the bride and possibly one or two others and allowing 30- 40 minutes for each you would need your hair and makeup artists to begin by about 8am at the latest.
If I am the photographer at a wedding I will normally give friendly prompts during the last hour or so in the leadup to the departure time because I will normally have been there from about 11am to photograph the preparations and all the little details like dresses, shoes, jewellery, perfume, flowers, good luck cards, wedding signs etc.
Ok so let’s continue as you walk up the aisle at 1.50pm, a typical wedding ceremony followed by a few photos at the altar afterwards takes about an hour, then you walk down the aisle and greet your guests at the door as they leave the Church which can take up to another half an hour. That brings you up to about 3.20pm leaving the Church.
You arrive at the reception venue at about 3.50pm to be greeted with glasses of bubbly and hopefully your bridesmaids, groomsmen and family arrive at around the same time. It can take 10 minutes to round up the wedding party and family for photos at this stage as if you are missing even one bridesmaid, groomsman or family member you can easily lose another10-15 minutes here. If everyone arrives more or less together that is great and you can get on with the wedding party, and family photos and couple which an experienced photographer should be able to complete within about 45 minutes. So by 4.45pm fingers crossed you could be back mingling with your guests with all the main must have photos completed leaving you time to relax before the meal call. Most reception venues will do the meal call at 5.30pm so in this scenario you would have about 45 minutes to mingle with your guests and enjoy any drinks reception entertainment you may have organised.
Please, please, do discuss well in advance with the wedding coordinator at your reception venue the time of the meal call as you need at least one and a half hours and two if possible from the time you arrive at the venue until the meal call. If you get this time then you can enjoy your wedding photography without getting stressed or feeling rushed and still have time to mingle with your guests and enjoy any entertainment you may have organised. While you are mingling with your guests your photographer should be getting lots of casual or candid photos featuring yourselves, your families and guests.
The reception venue may be flexible and offer a later meal call if they realise what your timetable is like but if they will not budge on the time of the meal call then you may have to bring the start time of your ceremony forward or make sure that you arrive in time to walk up the aisle at the official start time.
One big mistake to avoid if possible if you have less than an hour and a half until the meal call is to go in to your guests when you arrive at the reception venue as once you are in it is almost impossible to leave again for your photos and you can easily lose half an hour or more then.
Ok lets assume everything is going to plan and the meal call is at 5.30pm. the guests find their seats and give their food orders and you enter the room at 6pm. A normal wedding meal service takes about two and a half hours plus speeches either before or after the meal. If you can limit your speeches to half an hour that is great, shorter is even better but even half an hour gives 6-7 minutes per speech giver, assuming there is one speech from a parent of the bride and the groom and then the groom and the best man. Any longer than this and your guests will get restless. Now that brings you up to about 9pm for cutting the cake which with the actual cutting and lots of guest photos can take 10 minutes.
Now the tables will have to be cleared and the room re-arranged for the dancing and the band need to set up their equipment. On average this takes about an hour but I have seen bands that take an hour and a half to set up ready for the first dance. If everything goes to plan and the band are set up, your guests back in the room and the bridesmaids and groomsmen all available you should have your first dance between 10.15 and 10.30pm and then the party really begins.
So to simplify the timetable for this scenario. 8.00am hair and make-up 12.35pm bride gets dressed 1.00pm family photos 1.20-1.30pm leave for Church (five and a half hours from start of hair and makeup to departure)
1.40-1.50pm walk up aisle 2.40 -2.50pm walk down aisle 3.20pm leave Church (an hour and three quarters from arrival at Church to departure for reception)
3.50pm arrive at reception venue 4.00pm wedding party and family photos 4.45pm join guests to mingle before the meal call 5.30pm meal call for guests 6.00pm bride and groom enter the meal room (Two and a quarter hours from arrival at reception venue to meal call)
6.00pm to approx.. 9.10pm Meal and speeches and cake cutting (Three and a quarter hours)
9.10pm to approx. 10.30pm band setup and this is also an ideal time for some stunning night shots for the bride and groom. ( An hour and twenty minutes)
10.30pm First dance and the party really begins.
A 2nd scenario is for a civil ceremony at the reception venue and the timetable is basically the same for the preparations and up to the ceremony however the ceremony normally lasts about half an hour so it is shorter than a Church ceremony, don’t forget to allow half an hour to greet your guests after the civil ceremony. But remember that you still want to leave up to two hours from the time you finish greeting your guests after the ceremony until the meal call for a relaxed photo shoot and time to mingle with your guests. So for a 5.30pm meal call you should not book a civil ceremony for later than 2.30pm otherwise you will not be able to enjoy your photo shoot and still be able to spend time with your guests before the meal.
If you can arrange your civil ceremony at the reception venue for no later than 2.30pm then after you have finished greeting your guests at the end of the ceremony the timetable is the same as the Church wedding scenario.
For a Church wedding, If your travelling time from the Church to the reception venue is longer than the half an hour in the example above then you may need to to bring the time of your ceremony forward to keep on track for a 5.30pm meal call or if the hotel insist on an even earlier meal call you may also have to have an earlier ceremony.
Remember it is your day and if you plan things and allow the times suggested above for the various parts of the day you should be able to stay relaxed and stress free and really enjoy your day. On your wedding day you will be dealing with a range of different suppliers all supplying goods and services to make your wedding the best day of your life. We all have our different jobs to do at different times of the day but your photographer is probably the only one who will have contact with all of the others and whose job it is to record the work and services of all the other suppliers. So bear this in mind and choose your photographer wisely as an experienced wedding photographer can choreograph your whole day. But if you choose an in-experienced photographer your day may not run as smoothly and they may not capture all the details as well as the atmosphere, the emotions and the craic.
While price may be important there is a big difference between price and value, the cheapest price could turn out to be an expensive mistake.
The things to look out for when choosing your wedding photographer are, the quality of their work, their reputation, their eye for detail and a good photo and of course their personality because it is very important that you trust your photographer and feel relaxed with them. David McLean www.dmcphotography.ie [email protected] ph. 086 0684415