You’ve been planning your wedding for months (sometimes years!) and once the big day rolls around, you need to be ready every step of the way.
“It comes down to having a good plan,” says Kathy Koenig at Culinary Concepts. Work with your vendors to make sure everyone knows what is going to happen and when. Then follow the plan as best as possible but stay flexible to allow time for the unexpected.
“We have to keep everyone on schedule,” says coordinator Nahid Farhoud of Wedding Elegance by Nahid. “Even when you think you have enough time, you don’t.” Stay focused on all that needs to get done, even if the day’s responsibilities get overwhelming.
“We try to lump activities together like the introduction of the bride and groom, the welcome and then the toast,” explains Koenig. “Each activity takes 10 to 15 minutes.” Pace your party so there aren’t many stops and starts which could cause guests to get bored.
“If you want liveliness, keep the momentum in the same direction,” says Koenig. “You can’t pull back and forth.”
Even before the wedding you need to be on a timetable for lots of things like booking vendors but one of the important details is finding and ordering your wedding gown.
“We always tell brides to order a gown eight to ten months out,” says Jennifer Sinopoli of Bliss Bride. “You want time for alterations not to be rushed.”
Be prepared to try on lots of gowns until you find one you like and don’t worry about the size of the gown. Alterations will customize your size for you anyway.
“The dress will come big,” says Sinopoli. “It’s made to be altered. It will be taken in so you will always look amazing.”
Sinopoli says sizing in bridal gowns is different than everyday sizing. “Bridal sizing is true couture sizing,” she says. “A size six in street is a ten in couture. Every designer has a different sizing chart.”
Order your gown early, get your alterations complete and make sure the gown is all set so on your wedding day all you have to do is slip into the dress and finish accessorizing.
When it comes to timing your bridal beauty, makeup artist Gale Alexander from Make-Up-Artistry by Gale, advises brides to “figure it out backwards.” So if you need three hours before the ceremony to prepare for the day, subtract three hours plus a little extra time (for flexibility).
Alexander suggests every bride considers where everyone is getting ready – at the site means you probably won’t need to budget for travel time, but if preparations are happening off-site, you will definitely need to factor in travel time and traffic conditions.
Other considerations include whether or not you plan to shoot photos before the wedding such as family shots, preparations like getting your makeup done and even photos with your groom.
The day-of rush should be calmed because you’ve had a trial session with your hair and makeup pros. “The trial is important,” says Alexander who advises the bride and the stylist should have open communication because the stylists want to please the client. “Talk to them and get to know them personally.”
Alexander says she takes detailed notes of the look a bride wants which makes the process easy on the wedding day. “Makeup really takes 30 minutes from start to finish,” she says.
Farhoud recommends a bride plans to spend about two hours on wedding hair and makeup. Bridesmaids each need about an hour to get ready.
Remember, it’s a good idea to build in a little bonus prep time just in case anything goes awry. Your zipper could get stuck, someone could be running late or you could simply need more time than you expected.
Pre-wedding photos can take anywhere from one to two hours before the ceremony.
If you’re shooting preparation shots and family pics, this time frame works. “Family photos are necessary,” says Seth Mondragon of Zelo Photography.
But if you and your groom don’t mind seeing each other before the wedding for photos, you can save lots of valuable time later in the day. A pre-ceremony shoot with your groom could last an hour or two, in addition to any family photos and preparation shots. Pre-wedding photos with the bride and groom aren’t always an option for traditional couples in particular who want to wait for the ceremony to see each other for the first time.
Still pre-wedding shoots can be special as the photographer shoots the groom’s first glance at his bride: “We capture it as it’s happening,” says Mondragon.
After the ceremony, you’ll shoot photos as a couple, with your wedding party and with your family. Plan to spend about an hour doing these post-ceremony photos.
“The best thing to do is to have an organized list for the photographer,” says Koenig.
These shoots need to be very organized to maximize your time. After all, you want to shoot great images and still get to celebrate at the reception as soon as possible.
At the reception, your photographer will capture the event as it happens, getting all the major moments.
If you want specialty shots, let your photographer know when you meet with him or her in the weeks leading up to the wedding.
For example, if you want a shot of guests at each reception table, a photographer can do it with some time – plan for 20 to 30 minutes to get through all these shots.
“The rest of the event, we’re capturing what’s happening and looking for what’s happening next,” says Mondragon.
Ceremonies can be long or short – it all depends on what you want for your event. In most cases, ceremonies happen in under an hour. You should get there early, at least 30 minutes before the main event.
Some brides get ready at the ceremony site while others get ready off site and then are driven to the ceremony location. It’s all personal preference but make sure you budget enough time to get there and relax before the ceremony. You definitely don’t want to be rushed on your wedding day!
Receptions typically last four to six hours. The first hour is spent on the cocktail hour where drinks and appetizers are served to mingling guests. Chances are that during this time, you and your husband will be shooting wedding photos and you’ll arrive as the cocktail hour is winding down.
You can do a receiving line at that time if you want to, but many couples don’t do it at all.
“I’m not a fan of receiving lines,” says Koenig. “They take 35 to 45 minutes. A lot of people don’t ask for them. Instead, they make time during the reception.”
The reception formally starts with the bride and groom’s grand entrance, followed by a welcome and toasts.
“Keep the toast to no more than three people with a two to three minute maximum per person,” says Koenig.
You can budget about an hour for the meal which is next on the timeline. After dinner, cut the cake and then cut loose.
“Then you’re free to mingle with guests and dance,” says Koenig who advises brides and grooms to serve the late night snack about a half hour before the end of the party.
“Keep the momentum going and keep it going in an upward motion,” says Koenig. “If you want to have a great day and a great time, you have to have respect for your guests.”
It’s an overwhelming time, so plan ahead and rely on your trusted vendors to help you manage the day.
“Usually a coordinator will touch base with us,” says Mondragon. “The coordinator is huge for managing the time of the day.”
Sure it’s your day, but you need to be respectful of your guests and their time. You don’t want to be late and make them wait for you and you want to handle things that could inconvenience them.
“Be considerate of guests,” says Farhoud. “Are you paying for parking? Shuttling them to the ceremony site? You need to make it convenient for your guests.”
Keep everyone’s enjoyment in mind when planning your party and remember to have fun at the event too. Your wedding day will go fast and you want to have a blast every step of the way. Use your wedding timeline as a guide for a good time, add in some flexibility and make the most of your special day.