A Photographer’s Eye: How To Plan A Stress-Free Wedding Timeline

Everyone wants their wedding day to go perfectly, but that can be easier said than done. The secret to success? It all comes down to creating a thorough wedding timeline. 

So, what is a typical wedding timeline? This is a spreadsheet or document that outlines all of your wedding day activities, plus their start time, end time, location, and who’s involved. It’ll be used by both your wedding party and your vendors to know exactly where to be and when – think of it as your run sheet or event itinerary. 

However, with so much to fit into your day, many couples become overwhelmed and stressed during the planning process. This is normal, as you want your day to be picture-perfect! However, the truth is that even if something does go off-kilter, your wedding day will still be amazing, since it’s all about celebrating the love and affection that makes you unique as a couple.

The key to planning your wedding day and avoiding stress is to be as organized and precise as possible. If you’re new to the process, here’s how to plan a stress-free wedding timeline for your beautiful day. 

How do I organize my wedding timeline?

Advance planning is the secret to staying organized – and relieving stress! One of the best ways to minimize stress is to give yourself as much time as possible to plan. So how long does it realistically take to plan a wedding? While most couples take around a year, it can also take longer for larger, more complex weddings. On the other hand, if you’re planning an elopement or a micro wedding, a few months might be enough.

After booking your venue, lock in your contractors (like florists and caterers) as soon as you can, since popular vendors book out quickly. However, accept that things might change slightly – all you can do is plan to the best of your ability. Any wedding checklist in 2022 should also include a few “Plan B”s, just in case you need to make any last-minute catering or venue changes due to the pandemic. 

I also recommend creating a spreadsheet or buying a planner where you can outline what needs to be done by when – i.e. sending invites six months out, final dress fittings, cake tastings, etc. Put a date on every task to keep yourself on track and accountable. 

Communication is key

One massive stress in the wedding planning process can be relatives and friends. Who’s invited, who is (and isn’t) in the family photos, especially in blended families. 

While it’s not always easy, honest and upfront communication is always the best option. For sensitive topics, such as who you’d like in your family portraits, speak to everyone far in advance and explain your reasoning – remember that it’s your wedding day, so be true to yourself.

For the family photos, make it clear to every relative where they need to be and when, so everyone understands how the day will run. Since some family members will inevitably be running late or have other wedding duties, allow a time buffer – family portraits have a habit of running overtime, so be prepared for this. 

Prioritize what’s important to you as a couple

In deciding how to run your day, start by thinking about what’s meaningful to you as a couple. Many couples incorporate wedding traditions, like wearing white or having a large bridal party, because they feel like they have to. If a certain wedding day tradition doesn’t resonate with you, or you don’t agree with the reasoning behind it, then skip it!

You’ll enjoy your wedding most by making it your own, so only do what feels right. You can incorporate your own culture and ideas however you see fit and start new traditions for your family. 

This means you can change up the wedding day itself however you like. So what is the order of events at a wedding? Generally, both the wedding parties get ready in the morning, followed by a first look before the ceremony (more on this later), the ceremony, group and couple photos, and then the reception into the night. However, you are absolutely allowed to do this differently, so please don’t feel bound by tradition. 

Trust others to help you

How do you throw a stress-free wedding? Here’s a massive tip: no one person can do it all, so relieve some weight from your shoulders by letting others help you. 

Whether it’s your maid of honor, a parent, or a wedding planner, find someone you trust who can take care of the small details on your wedding day, freeing up your time for enjoying the day with your loved ones.

It’s normal to feel like you need to do everything yourself, but turning your wedding into a team effort will help you feel much more relaxed. 

Leave gaps in your schedule

Couples are often surprised by how fast their wedding day goes, so please leave some gaps in your schedule! Not only does it help if anything runs late, but more importantly, it helps you savor every moment without feeling rushed.

If you can, give yourself some alone time, with just the two of you, to breathe and take it all in.

Save time by doing a first look

Speaking of timings: one way to free up some time is by doing a first look before the ceremony. This is when couples see each other for the first time in their wedding attire before walking down the aisle.

This is such an intimate moment that makes for powerful wedding photos, plus it gives you time to connect and share some private moments before entering the ceremony. The first glimpse of the gown, the beaming smiles, and a few tears of happiness – this is often the most emotional part of the day.

With a first look, you can also start your portrait photography earlier, freeing up time later in the day. Then, bridal party and family photos can follow shortly after couples’ portraits, which helps us get all the important shots out the way sooner. Then you can move straight into the ceremony and reception.

The first look is a fairly modern trend and can of course be skipped if you would prefer to follow the tradition of not seeing the bride before the ceremony – this is your day, and we can absolutely work around your vision.

We can also take more photos later in the day, sneaking out for the golden hour at sunset instead of squeezing in all the photos after the ceremony. 

Be kind to yourself

Above everything else, be kind to yourself and have fun! Your wedding is going to be one of the most beautiful, emotional, and meaningful days of your life, and if something doesn’t go exactly how you pictured it, it will all be OK. Your guests aren’t likely to even notice, so go easy on yourself and focus on the bigger picture: the first chapter of your unbelievably wonderful love story.

If you have any questions about how your wedding photography will fit into your timeline, I’d be glad to work with you on how to plan a wedding, step by step, so that your day is everything you’re dreaming it will be.