Wedding days are beautiful, beautiful things.
They can be chaotic things, too. 🙂
As a wedding photographer, you know what I mean. While there’s love in the air and beauty unfolding all around, there can also be an underlying current of stress and chaos that can draw the peacefulness right out of the day.
And, as the wedding photographer, it’s part of your job to help keep the current of peacefulness.
The key? Having day-of wedding timelines that you stick to, and empowering your clients to stick to them as well. A photography timeline is so helpful for putting everyone at ease and providing a roadmap that guides the day.
But… I’m not the wedding planner!
If you’re anxious even at the thought of helping to plan a day — heck, you’re not a wedding planner, after all! — I get it. For a long time in my business, I didn’t realize this, either. I looked at my job as taking photos… and I kind of assumed that the stress was just part of the job.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, and you can help make sure it’s not.
By taking some of the ownership for implementing wedding timelines on the day of, you can do a few things: you can help to cultivate a more peaceful environment for everyone involved, you can ensure that you get the photos you (and your clients) want, and you can give yourself the time to explore, get creative, and shoot the best wedding you can… no stress needed.
Here’s the thing — presence is so important when it comes to capturing wedding photos. If the couple isn’t present, that reflects in their wedding photos. If you aren’t present, it definitely reflects in their wedding photos. By knowing how to implement wedding timelines and communicate them clearly, you can help to create a present day for everyone… and what’s better than that?
3 Tips for Implementing Wedding Timelines as a Photographer
When it comes to day-of wedding timelines, there is a lot that isn’t necessarily up to you. However, being able to empower yourself to take ownership of the timeline where you can is absolutely essential to creating the best wedding magic you can for yourself and for your couple.
So, before you head out to your next wedding, I want you to remind yourself: your couple hired you because they trusted you. That means YOU have to trust you. Take that confidence into the day, and cultivate a day that’s better for everyone involved.
1. Open the line of communication early on.
Weddings involve a toooon of planning, and that’s why I like to underline the importance of communicating about timelines early. This is absolutely essential in your pre-wedding day prep, because it’s the best way to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, that you’ll have the right lighting and opportunities for the photos you need, and that no one feels rushed or anxious during the day.
Most brides are open to anything that will make their day feel easier and less stressful, and they will look to you for guidance and for expertise to make their day better. By opening the line of communication way before the wedding, you’ll be able to help structure ideal timing and create a schedule that’s great for everyone involved.
Plus, opening that line of communication early means you can avoid jumping through hoops that often come up later. If you wait until later to bring up photo timelines, you’ll likely end up needing to juggle multiple vendors just to make things work out — think: hair and makeup, the time of the florist dropoff, and making sure you’re able to keep time slots open for things like unplanned first looks with dad.
2. Communicate and collaborate with the other wedding professionals.
Likely, you won’t be the only wedding professional around. From wedding planners to florists to venue managers to caterers, being able to collaborate with the other wedding vendors is the absolute best tool you have for guaranteeing a smooth wedding day. Plus, people like structure — and they’ll know that, as the photographer, you have the bride’s best interests in mind. And, when you have the space and time to schedule out your photos well by planning timelines in advance, there’s more time for you to spotlight details that benefit those vendors, too — like floral arrangements, plating, and bridal styling. If you wait too long to plan those timelines, you become a pain point for those vendors instead of someone who is supportive and serving their businesses, too.
The key to all of this is looking at the other wedding vendors as collaborators, because they are! Communicate with them early on to explain what you’re envisioning, let them communicate back with you, and work with them to make your couple’s wedding day the very best it can be.
Side note: removing the middleman and communicating with the vendors directly is usually the best way to do this, especially when you don’t want the couple to feel like they’re in the middle of something. CC your couple on the email chains, but take ownership of this communication when you can so that you can collaborate with the vendors in a true wedding-day partnership without adding more things to the bride or groom’s plate. And, if you’re working with a planner, all communication with other vendors should go through them. By keeping the planner happy, you can create a beautiful collaboration and a delightful working relationship that might even eventually bring you both more business.
3. Plan, plan, plan.
While building a time schedule is the first step to creating a day-of timeline, it’s not the only thing. If you don’t plan out what you want to accomplish and decide what shots you want to get when, then your schedule isn’t going to help you much. Your job? To decide what images you want to capture at each event during the day — but then to be flexible with them. Things change on a dime during wedding days, and things always take longer than you think (I blame mimosas!).
Be sure that you give everything a time buffer to account for anything you personally need, or anything that might end up taking longer than you accounted for. When you give yourself flexibility but still map a list of photo goals, you’re way more likely to end up with images and an experience you’re all happy with. It’s all in the planning, my friend.
As a wedding photographer, you really have the best job ever. I mean, just think about it — you get to capture the happiest days of people’s lives, you get to make art for a living, and you get to experience joy and love all the time! By using that passion and position to empower yourself and your clients to have the best days possible, you’re doing something right.
I also know how it feels to struggle with building wedding timelines that work, which is why I created this Wedding Day Timeline Guide for my fellow wedding photographers. It’s packed with every possible timeline situation I’ve experienced in my business — and includes advice, email templates, and real timelines to level up your wedding experience for everyone involved and remove the stress. You can snag it here.