During my time as a wedding photographer I have witnessed so many events of every kind, and one thing that is always important is the schedule of the day.
Here are 5 quick tips on how to start planning the schedule of your day at its best, and some little details to keep in mind!
1) Make a draft of what is going to happen and when.
To begin with, prepare a list of all the things that are going to happen, from the moment you wake up until the moment you're home - If you can, try to already schedule in the timings.
You need to keep in mind also your family, the amount of guests, how far the location is, if you want a couple shoot before/during/after the event, if you want getting ready photos at home, etc.
Most importantly, your culture also plays a massive role in what is going to happen, when and how.
For example. if you're Moroccan or Algerian you will most likely change at least 3-4 dresses, maybe have an aamariah entrance, your guests will want to dance a lot, you may change your make up and hair mid-way through the event, etc.
If you're Pakistani or Bengali you're usually not having dancing and no change of outfits, sometimes your nikkah will happen on the day with the Imam coming on stage, sometimes it will be just about celebrating a good meal with your family and guests, but you'll also have a rukhsati/bidaii at the end, which is very nice to capture.
Another point is that if you have 30 guests or 300, that will play a big role on how long your family/friends photos will take.
Scheduling a couple shoot is also something that is really nice on your wedding day, as you are looking your best and with such amazing outfits! Not forgetting your raw emotion on the day will make the shoot even more special. A good photographer should be able to advise you on when to do it, where and how to make it work at its best, unless you have already planned and thought everything out.
A draft first schedule may look like:
- Getting ready (make up, hair)
- Leaving for the venue in dad's car
- Photographer + Videographer arrival
- Couple Shoot at the park next to the venue
- Guest arrival
- Groom Entrance
- Bride Entrance
- Family + Friends photos on stage
- Ring Exchange
- Food served
- Cake Cutting
- Leaving the venue
2) always allow time for delays, travel time and "natural reactions"
Ok, you have a draft list of the events of the day - that will help you scheduling in everything else or move things around.
Some brides are extremely organised, but they often forget an important detail: life happens in between our plans.
Meaning, you can't control everyone and everything. You can schedule entrance at 3 and ring exchange at 3:05, but guess what? Your auntie (Yes, the one that hasn't seen you in 15 years but 'used to change your nappy') wants to take a photo with you on the stage right after you sit down. And that's fine... if it wasn't for the fact that your auntie sent the signal to everyone to come up to the stage and take photos!
You end up exchanging rings at 3:30 - which is not a big deal - but it can be when bigger things get moved around, or you already made your entrance late (you got stuck in traffic when coming to the venue? your make up artist took longer than expected? You couldn't find your phone for 15 min back at home? Everything adds up!).
Also, consider travel time (home to venue, venue to couple shoot location and back, venue to home), the time you are travelling (rush hour traffic? 6AM and empty roads? City centre of countryside?) and how to schedule that in.
Another detail is people needs time to move around: big venue, your nikkah is happening outdoors and lunch is indoors. Schedule 10/15 min time from the moment your ceremony is finished (and all the hugs and congratulations that naturally happen afterwards) to allow people to walk to the dining room, find their spot, look around, sit down and finally have food served.
Always allow at least 10-15 min of delays (if you are really tight on time) - 30-60 min leeway is the best case scenario, but of course requires more time available.
Remember, you can't plan everything and everyone, people will want to come and greet you, hug you, talk to you, someone will be late, something will not go as expected. It happens and it's normal. Do not panic and keep calm - and schedule a bit of delays in your plan.
3) think of the photos you want
Everyone is different, like and want different things and care about certain details more or less than others.
Meaning that, some brides LOVE getting ready photos of them having their make up done, jewellery put on, dupatta being fixed and so on. Some women just don't care.
Some brides love to have photos of them leaving home to go to the venue (leaving the house, entering the car, dad/brother opening the door for them, pics in the car), some brides are not interested.
It is entirely up to you on what details you would like to have captured, but make sure to schedule in everything according to your liking and hire your photographer accordingly. Of course you need to also consider your photo/video team's traveling condition. Some will be able to drive, some will take public transport: check with them first if they might need a lift from your house to the venue, for example. This will also save you some possible delays of them reaching the venue after you (anything can happen) and making you wait in your car because you wanted to capture the moment you get off it at the venue.
Try to be realistic with timings and with planning - good quality photo and video need time: if you're rushed, we are rushed, if we are rushed, we will not be able to do our job at our very best because it naturally will take some time to make you comfortable in front of the camera, advise you on what to do, find the best spot, the best light. Sometimes there might be technical issues we need 3-5min to solve. As I said, expect the unexpected and always allow minor delays in your schedule.
Try to plan a couple shoot before the wedding in winter for example, so if weather allows, you're going to be able to shoot outside when there's still sunlight. In summer you can try to schedule a couple shoot before or after the event, or maybe take a break 1 hour before sunset for some golden hour shots.
Talk to your photographer for some help and for feasibility of plans and schedule.
4) communicate and ask questions
To train for your marriage, implement good communication with your vendors.
...Jokes aside, make sure to ask everyone how long they need and how long their service will take.
Ask the make up artist and hair stylist how long they will need to do a good job, ask what's the best time for them to come to make everything follow the timings you'd like to respect and not be rushed or late.
Ask the photographer how much time they might need to shoot the venue before the guests come, or how long the couple shoot should be (according to location it will be at and what time you were planning to have it at).
Try to gather this information before you finalise your final schedule, or before you set a time for everything.
This will make it easier for you to move plans around without causing too much disruption to what you've scheduled, and keep your expectations real while planning and during the day also.
I know you usually take 20-30 min to do your make up... but the MUA will probably take 2 hours - minimum. So before planning 1 hour getting ready, ask who you're hiring for the time they need to do their job.
Also, don't forget to plan when the decorations in the hall will be done and finished, when the cake will be brought in, when the venue will be able to bring food out and the gap needed from starter to main course, how much staff they will have to serve the food (Important with big weddings, as the first table might get served 10 minutes before the last table is served!).
So, rule n.4... ask ask ask!
5) time it up!
Great, now that you know what you want to happen during the day, you took delays in consideration, you thought of the photos you want, you asked how long it will take for everyone to prepare you, decorations and couple shoot...
Get ready to put a time to everything and lower your expectations: 9 times out of 10, everything is late.
I know, organisation queens hate this, but it's normal.
Let's try and make a rough schedule for a very basic event. A draft first timed schedule may look like this:
- 9:00 - MUA + Hair stylist arrival
- 9:10 > 12:10 - Getting ready
- 12:30 - Leaving for the venue (10 minute drive)
- 12:45 - Photographer + Videographer arrival (Shooting venue decorations without guests)
- 1:00 > 2:30 - Couple Shoot at the park next to the venue
- 2:00 - Guest arrival
- 3:00 - Groom Entrance
- 3:30 - Bride Entrance
- 3:30 > 4:00 - Family + Friends photos on stage
- 4:10 - Ring Exchange (20min leeway to greet people, possible delays...)
- 4:30 - Starters served
- 5:00 - Main Course
- 5:30 - Speeches
- 6:00 - Dessert
- 6:20 - Cake Cutting + Feeding each other
- 6:35 - Last pics with friends and family, chatting around
- 7:10 - Leaving the venue
Thank you for reading this very first blog post, I hope you found some of these advices useful and that it might have helped you, maybe made you think of something you could have overlooked. Let me know if you have any suggestions, feedback or anything to add on, I will be more than happy to know your thoughts! Feel free to share with a bride-to-be or anyone that might find this useful ♡
Good luck for your event and remember, expect the unexpected & ask and communicate.