A question I get asked a lot of how to create a wedding day timelines and since I once heard that being a photographer is 10% shooting and 90% business this completely fits the bill. Its not uncommon that I’ve put in quite a few hours behind the scenes before any actual shooting takes place. It could be an engagement session (which requires preparation in itself), lots and lots of emails giving advice to my clients in planning their day, catching up for coffee or a wine to just have an excuse to get together and talk a little more about their wedding or just life.

Seeing as I have spent the last fortnight drafting so many timelines for all the lovely weddings coming up over the next 2 months I thought I would share how I address wedding day timelines and prepare my clients for their day. There are a few things that I need to keep in mind and I will try to break it down as succinctly as I can.

1. TELL ME EVERYTHING

About 8 weeks out from a wedding I forward a questionnaire to my clients asking for a whole bunch of information that I need to a) prepare for their wedding and b) for afterwards when it comes to sharing their wedding through the blog and with the vendors involved. I ask for information such as addresses for where they are getting ready and where the ceremony and reception are, alternate contact people and numbers (because I know my bride and groom will not be thinking about answering their phone), vendors involved in the day such as florist, make up artists and dress designers and also anything else I need to know before their day. I want to know that the grooms cufflinks are custom made or that the bride is wearing her mothers brooch so I can be ready and photograph it when the time comes. Its also important for me to know of any “interesting” family dynamics that I should be aware of. I am a firm believer in asking for and giving as much information as possible. I would rather be armed with too much information than with too little.

2. YOU HAVEN’T DONE THIS BEFORE, BUT I HAVE . . .

Once I have all this information, I begin to draft a wedding timeline. As a bride I know how important timelines are in knowing where everyone is going to be on the wedding day and this one is purely for my own movements and so my couples know what I am doing in advance. There is a lot to consider and having been doing this for a while now I will give advice to my couples if I feel there is not enough time to cover what they want or to suggest alternatives if need be. Whether they follow that advice is another matter and entirely their choice but I am very fortunate to have clients to trust my judgement and my experience. This is also where my clients may decide to add more time to their coverage when they see their day from their photographers perspective written out on paper.

3. BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED

Each wedding is different and I create each timeline depending on my clients needs and their day. Some people want the Groom’s preparation covered and others don’t. Some people want me to photograph their first dance and others don’t. Its absolutely important that I am flexible just in case things happen on the day that change the timeline but generally we stay on track and manage to have a whole lot of fun along the way. While I do give timeframes that err on the side of caution just in case of delays, I find I consistently like to spend 45 minutes in groom preparation, 90 minutes with the bride as a minimum and 60 minutes for on location portraits. Weddings by nature are unpredictable and that is one of the things I love about them is that I am constantly challenged to adapt and still get that great shot.

I wanted to share with you a couple of real timelines to give you an idea of how a day might look. I have removed some of the more personal information but you can get an idea of how a day might proceed. This first one is a great example of a destination wedding where the venue is the same for the ceremony and reception and therefore there is no travel time required – in fact Nic and Ranjit were getting ready in the same house but well out of sight of each other. Nic and Ranjit also chose to see each other before the wedding and have their on location portraits directly afterwards. As you can see this meant they had uninterrupted time with their guests after the ceremony as a result.

You’ll notice that the sunset time is also on the timeline. I want my client to know this information because as a natural light photographer it is important to how I do my job and to ensure they receive photographs that have my signature on them of gorgeous, natural light. If a client was scheduling their on location portraits after sunset then I would suggest that perhaps they move them earlier or that I may not be the photographer for them.

Tobey and Tony’s wedding timeline is a great example of how travel can add up into your contracted coverage time. As you can see in this timeline I spent probably over an hour driving which doesn’t seem like a lot individually but because I was able to predict this in advance, Tobey and Tony decided to include an additional hour of coverage before their wedding to account for that travel time. It meant we didn’t have to rush on the day and there were no surprises for them which reduced their stress on the day too.

I hope this was helpful in some way. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section or even if there is something you’d like to know about 🙂

Have a lovely weekend!

great getting ready photos

Nov 4, 2011

Wedding Day Timelines

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