As wedding photographers in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, one of the areas of wedding planning that can make the biggest difference toward the quality of the images and the final album is the wedding day timeline. Here are some issues to think about when developing your timeline:

  • Hair & Makeup
  • First Look
  • Greeting Guests (Most of our clients do not do this following the ceremony anymore.)
  • Distance between ceremony and reception locations
  • Family Photo Session
  • Cocktail Hour
  • Garter and Bouquet toss

Hair & Makeup

We love hair and makeup people.  They are fun, creative, friendly and quite skilled at what they do.  However, one of the most frequent mistakes brides make in our experience is trying to get this done at the last possible moment.  Inevitably it can lead to unnecessary stress when things don’t go according to plan.

Our biggest piece of advice?  Be done an hour early with this process.  After all most people are surrounded by the closest friends and family in their lives.  When we build our timelines we try to build in a little buffer room throughout the day to allow for something that you need to redo if you are not 100% happy.  

First Look

One of the more stressful parts of the happy couple’s day centers around not seeing each other before the ceremony. Traditionally, the groom waits to see his bride until the moment when the beautiful bride walks down the aisle in all her glory. This is a moment full of emotion.  However, this traditional approach can really compress the time available for some of the most important photos of the day. Consider all that needs to be accomplished after the couple says I do: greet guests, family photos, wedding party photos, romantic photos, detail shots of the reception, etc.  Over 90% of Matt Mason Photography clients ultimately decide to do a first look.  (Note that the tradition of not seeing the bride goes back to the days of arranged marriages.)

So what is a "First Look?" This is a special moment when the groom sees the bride for the first time before the ceremony.  Often these are among our favorite photos of the entire day. We often like to position the groom looking away out over a field, or at the end of pier, or even by a beautiful old oak tree. Here are a few examples of the first look.  Photos capture a special story as the bride approaches the groom for the big reveal. It is amazing to see the raw genuine expressions of the couple as they see each other for the first time simultaneously.  Here is another blog I wrote about the first look.

As we describe this special event to couples this isn’t a replacement to the walking down the aisle photo but actually adds to the experience of the day.  So in essence you are adding to the day by getting a second special look instead of replacing it.

BOTTOM LINE: If you do the first look this will generally bring the following benefits:

  • More time together on your big day
  • Less time pressure
  • Less stress & more fun
  • Get to the party sooner and spend time with your guests
  • More photos

Greeting Guests

In our experience a receiving line is one of the least efficient way to greet guests. This can take sometimes an hour or more. However, sometimes you have very little choice in the matter based on family traditions etc.   A common way to resolve the desire to greet your guests is to dismiss the rows. We find that this usually cuts about 50% off the time of a traditional line. Another great way to maximize your timeline is to greet guests at your reception after you have finished your meal but while your guests are still seated. If you do the third option you need to hide away after you walk down the aisle so you don’t accidentally end up doing an impromptu receiving line because you get mobbed. Another idea is to do a “soft entrance” and greet people informally at the cocktail hour.  This is our personal favorite approach.  Just try to get to the people who have come the furthest to be with you and you don't see as much.

Family Photo Session

When planning out your timeline we suggest thinking about how many family photos you will want from your wedding photography package.

  • Do you have a large family or a small family?
  • Will you want to focus on immediate family or will you want to have many extended family portraits?
  • Are there many shots that will require children under the age of five?
  • Our most valuable tip?  Have someone in the family run the checklist.  It can save precious time rather than having a wedding planner or photographer run the list.  Pick an assertive aunt or something.

We have had family photo shoots that are done in 15 minutes and some that go well over an hour.  Our biggest suggestion here is that the couple first write list based on what is important to them.   Then share this list with each of your parents (i.e. moms) and see if you are missing anything major.  Don’t delegate the list writing to someone else or they might copy and paste a huge list from the internet of groupings you don’t really care about.  Email this list to your photography company before you go over the timeline planning.  Ideally you will email this list completed at least one month before your ceremony.  

Distance between ceremony and reception locations

Weddings in the Lake Geneva area often tend to have ceremony and reception locations relatively close. In fact, more than half are at the same location at one of our beautiful resorts like Grand Geneva, The Abbey, Geneva National, Lake Lawn Resort, The Ridge, The Riviera and Hawk’s View Golf Club. This is very convenient for your guests but it also tends to compress your timeline from the ceremony to cocktail hour because people need something to do before the reception. We have to be very efficient with the use of photography time.

On the other hand when there is a distance to travel between the ceremony and reception this can also take up precious photo time. Remember that wedding parties move very slowly for some reason. In either case we need to carefully consider the time and distance between ceremony and reception.

Cocktail Hour

If you don't do a first look, have a large family for family photos or have a lot of distance between the ceremony and reception you will probably need to use some or all of the cocktail hour to get key photos captured.

Garter and Bouquet toss

As we consider how to use the hours that come with your photography package we inevitably need to know if you are planning to do a garter and/or bouquet toss. If you have a lot of young single friends it is a very fun and often humorous part of the evening. On the other hand, if you only have a handful of single friends many tend to forgo the tradition. If you do one usually we schedule this near the end of your evening just before we plan to go, between 9:00 to 9:15.

As part of your wedding package with Matt Mason Photography we will go over these issues and see how they relate your big day.  Thinking about this before our meeting will help to streamline our phone conversation.   Click this link: Timeline Samples.  This link is a PDF file with two different timeline samples.