I can't stress enough how important a timeline is for the day of your wedding. Not only will it help your photographer, but it will help other vendors, bridal party and family.
I can't imagine walking into a wedding day without knowing when each important moment will be taking place. Don't get me wrong, it NEVER goes exactly the way we map it out, but it's nice to have a guideline so we know where we need to trim time.
When I am in contact with my brides, I always ask when the ceremony is, do they want a first look, how many family members will be involved in family photos, and how much time there is between the ceremony and reception. I then can come up with a rough draft of a timeline for my couples to look through.
For example: This wedding was booked for ten hours and they wanted a first look. They told me the ceremony was at 3pm.
10:00am~ Photographer arrives gets getting ready photos (second shooter with groom and groomsmen)
11:00~ First look at the baseball field
12:30~ Bridal Party Photos
1:30pm~ Family portraits
2:30pm~ Bride in hiding (photos of guests arriving, detail shots in church)
5:00pm~ head to reception (visit two bars) Photographer goes to the first bar for fun photos and then heads to reception
6:30pm~ Meal served
7:30~ Cake cutting
7:45pm~ First dance/Father daughter/ Mother son
8:00pm~ Photographer departs
I like to have AT LEAST 60 minutes with the bride and groom for a first look, 90 minutes is ideal. The only people allowed with us is my second shooter and assistant. This gives the couple some time to talk, and have a few moments along with each other before the craziness of the day. Having that big of a block of time also gives us time to go somewhere off site to take photos.
Now, for family photos and bridal party I also like to have NO LESS than 45 minutes for EACH. There is always one family member or groomsman that will be late. This gives us a little wiggle room. Have I ever had buffer time? Yes. Once. All other weddings we have used every last minute of the blocked off time for portraits. This also gives us some time to be creative and have some fun.
This may seem excessive to some. And for some photographers it may be, but for me this is what works. I would rather have a huge chunk of time and not need it, than be rushing around and miss something.
Even if you only hired your photographer for a short time, you still need a timeline. Here is a timeline for four hours of coverage:
1:00pm~ Photographer arrives takes last minute shots of girls
1:15~ First look outside church
2:00~ Bridal Party photos
2:30~ Family photos
3:00~ Last minute photos with flower girl
3:30~ Bride into hiding photographers capture details/guests arriving
5:00~ Photographers depart
If your photographer hasn't asked you for a timeline yet, make one. Or ask him/her if they could make one for you to look over. Make sure to ask them how long they would like to have for formal photos so you can let members of your family and bridal party know ahead of time.
Again, the timeline is not set in stone. You know what God does when you make plans....However, it is an extremely helpful map to follow to keep on track. It's so easy for a wedding day to derail (it's an exciting day!) and not have time for everything you want done.
Make sure each member of your bridal party has a copy of the timeline as well as family members that need to be there for portraits. Your vendors will benefit from having a copy, especially your DJ so he/she knows when you will be arriving to the reception and the order for things.
And remember, no matter what happens that day, in the end you will be married.