1. Work Backwards from Sunset.
When beginning to draft your itinerary, work backwards starting with the time of sunset on your wedding day. You are (hands down) going to want sunset photographs, so timing your reception around Golden Hour is a perfect way to start. The anticipation, nervousness, and formality of the day is behind you, and now its time to relax and celebrate. Combine that mindset with the knowledge that the light of the setting sun typically produces the most beautiful images from the wedding day. Usually this sunset session lasts between 20 minutes depending on how your guests are being entertained. The goal is to plan this at a time when the guests don’t even notice you’ve gone (i.e. cocktail hour, dessert service, mid-way through dancing, etc). Schedule this about 45 minutes before sunset.
2. Earlier and Shorter Speeches.
Leave the majority of the reception schedule up to the caterer and DJ, but we recommend beginning toasts as soon as everyone has settled down with their salad or dinner course. We suggest having a maximum of 4 speeches and trying to keep each below 5 minutes.
3. Primetime for Bridal Party.
Bridal party photographs take 30-40 minutes. Avoid scheduling this between 10am - 2pm, if your schedule allows. Finding shade for an entire bridal party during that time (for better light and sometimes to keep them from sweating too much) can be difficult. Make sure to keep transportation in mind if you don’t have a limo or party bus!
4. Family Formals Before the Ceremony.
Schedule your family photos directly before the ceremony. Create a specified list of all formal photo combinations, with corresponding names, for your family photo time. (Example: Bride and Groom with Mom - Martha, Bride and Groom with Grandma - Betty, etc) This speeds up the process of family photos and eliminates all confusion when posing blended families. Remember to tell each of those family members when to arrive and decide on an outdoor or indoor location. We always suggest outdoor, giving the images more of a family feel and less formal, but choose whichever you prefer! Tuck yourself away 30 minutes before the ceremony to avoid seeing guests as they arrive, so plan on beginning family photos either an hour or an hour and a half (depending on size of family) before the ceremony.
5. The Perfect Send-Off.
If you are going to plan a formal send-off and would like photos of the event, schedule it while there is still light in the sky. A pitch black exit with sparklers, balloons, or bubbles will not result in any kind of usable photo, and by the time you are ready to leave for the evening the majority of guests have already gone home. Try incorporating this after your ceremony or get creative with timing (like a tunnel of sparklers/balloons/bubbles as you’re announced into your reception or as you start your first dance!)
6. MAKE THE GIRLS GETTING-READY A SUCCESS.
The morning schedule for the ladies depends on how many hair and makeup artists will be working and how efficient they are. Please schedule your makeup to be done first, as you will like all getting-ready photos so much more having that finished. Above all, choose a room to get ready in that has ample windows (steer clear of church basements and crowded bathrooms) which will provide beautiful natural light. Keep all bags, food, and personal items against a wall or out of sight. A cluttered room is amplified in photos.
7. MINIMIZE TRAVEL.
Avoid moving locations as often as possible and calculate travel time into the itinerary. Add several extra minutes for settling into a new place, unloading/loading, and carpool mixups before scheduling the next photography item. Keep in mind that planning events at several locations (salon, separate getting-ready place, ceremony location, bridal party photos out on the town, reception location, etc) allows for less time to take photos and ultimately a day that may be too packed.
8. Something Fun for the Boys.
Boys do not need very much time to get ready. They can arrive at the ceremony location already dressed in basics (shirt, pants, socks, shoes, etc) and just save the final touches for photography (jackets, ties, etc). However, incorporating a scheduled event the morning of the wedding can be fun for the guys and awesome for photos! A round of golf, clean shaves at a local barber, a game of basketball, or even cigars and a morning swim in the lake. Get creative!
9. You Need to Eat.
Make sure to intentionally schedule a slot time for lunch. You need to eat and so does your bridal party. It is easiest to lay food out on a table and encourage people to come and go as they get ready for the day rather than everyone sitting down together to eat.
10. Be Flexible.
Itineraries are meant more as a guide than something to cause stress. Regardless of being behind schedule or missing a few photo-ops, you’ll be married to your best friend at the end of the day, and it’ll be absolutely amazing.
Below are some real world examples of very successful itineraries. Best of luck putting yours together and we hope this gets you off to the right start!