Wedding day timelines are such a double-edged sword. They can either be your best friend or the biggest source of stress as you count down the hours until you're standing at the altar, ready to say I do. I work closely with brides and their wedding planners ahead of time to ensure the day flows smoothly, but there will almost always be unplanned-for circumstances that pop up at the last minute. After photographing countless weddings and seeing behind-the-scenes action, I have started to recognize a few key time-stealers that can cause stress without a good plan in place!
Fortunately, none of these situations are inherently bad, and extra time buffers between events can allow for the unexpected. As you plan your wedding day keep these in mind, give yourself space for last-minute emergencies, and trust the professionals who are coordinating your day to handle any changes with ease.
1) Putting the dress on. This, of course, is one of those has-to-happen wedding events! I have found, however, that most people envision only a two-minute time window for putting on the wedding gown - after all, it doesn't take the long to get dressed on a normal day! Keep in mind, however, that this is not a normal day and you are not putting on normal clothes. It takes time to step into the dress, get all the layers in place, and zip, lace, or button the back up. Having your mother and/or maid of honor help out is key, and so is planning enough time to not be rushed. The last thing you want is to feel stressed out as your dress goes on - this is supposed to be one of the most exciting moments of the whole day!
The solution: Plan for at least 15 minutes to put the wedding dress on, enlist help, and if you have a lot of buttons or layers, practice beforehand with whoever will help you at the actual wedding. That way all of you will know exactly what to expect and you can enjoy such a special time.
2) Travel time. Oftentimes the ceremony and reception are at separate locations, which is completely expected. However, it is important to account for time to actually get in the cars on top of travel time, plus add in buffers in case traffic is a factor. You may be getting married only 10 minutes from your reception venue but if your entire caravan gets caught behind an accident, it can throw off the rest of the day.
The solution: If possible, drive the distance around the time and day you will be traveling on your wedding and see how long it takes. Account for all of your family members and the bridal party going to get their cars, getting in, and driving. The less travel the better but when it's necessary, just plan ahead!
3) Large group family formals. Weddings provide an awesome opportunity for family pictures. Everyone is together, possibly for the first time in years. Some combinations are a must-have for wedding pictures (with mom and dad, with the grandparents, etc.) but large group family formals can quickly eat up lots of time. It takes several minutes just to position family members, especially when there are children involved. Add onto that the likelihood that someone has already left for the reception, and there may be even more waiting time.
The solution: Plan for any large group pictures at the reception. The DJ can read a list of names to get family members on the dance floor all at once, and there is no crunch for time when there are hours of dancing left.
4) Receiving lines. These are much less common, but I have seen a couple receiving lines over the last few years, and I even had one at my own wedding. Again, there is nothing wrong with a receiving line, but it's easy to think that it will only take 5 minutes...to greet 150 guests! This can become a problem if time is tight after the ceremony, especially if there has not been a first look.
The solution: You can plan to visit each table during the reception so you can greet your guests individually when there is more time. A first look can give you additional space after the ceremony for a receiving line as well. If you have to have one, plan for at least 30 seconds per guest and build it into your timeline - keeping an eye on the sunset as well!
5) Trying to be in charge of it all. This is probably the biggest, sneakiest time-stealer of them all. When the bride becomes the point person for all the events, she will spend more time on her phone and less time with her friends, family, and bridal party. This also adds stress because at least one thing is bound to go wrong. You, as the bride, should not be glued to your phone on your wedding day - this is your time to take it all in!
The solution: hire a wedding planner or day-of coordinator. Professionals know exactly how a wedding works and will take care of any issues that pop up. If this is truly not in your budget, at the very least assign a point person (not an immediate family member) who is the go-to contact and can resolve any problems that arise.
With a little planning, true professionals, and a timeline with buffers built in, your wedding can turn out to be one of the least stressful and most beautiful days of your life - which is exactly how it should be!