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Common Wedding Timeline Holdups: The Ceremony and Family Portraits | Friday Chatter

April 6, 2018

We are officially one day closer to the weekend, friends! Who’s excited?! 

As you may already know, I’ve been diving into common timeline holdups and how to fix them over here on the blog. My goal is to point out some of the trends that I have seen on wedding days that have a tendency to cause a little bit of stress and tension with the hope that this helps you plan for your day! Remember: a relaxing wedding day does take quite a bit of work from you ahead of time! Below, you can see a brief play-by-play for what has been posted and for what is coming up over the next couple of weeks! We’re already halfway through this mini series, y’all!

Getting Ready
Prepare your Bridal Party
Ceremony and Family Portraits (That’s Today!)
Travel and Reception

Other Delays & Mother Nature

Let’s dive into common holdups that often cause delays when it comes to your ceremony!

The Chatty Officiant & Straying from the Schedule

  • Your officiant guides your entire ceremony. They tell your guests when to rise for your entry, when they should sit sit, when you two exchange rings, when you kiss, when you are pronounced man and wife… basically, your officiant has A LOT of power! At most if not all of my weddings thus far, the officiants have been amazing — it has either been a religious and therefore structured ceremony, or the officiant stayed right on their notes! However, there have been just a few times where the officiant has strayed from their notes and ends up taking up a little more time than we had planned. Your ceremony is such a sacred time and should be treated as such, however when this part of your day runs way later than we plan, it throws a lot of things off. The time after your ceremony will fly by. On many days, we only have cocktail hour to get through a list of family formal portraits and maybe a few photos of the bride and groom! This time is SO precious, so even if your ceremony runs 10 minutes behind, that is A LOT of time gone from the time that we get to work together with your family. (More on why time is so valuable during family portraits later!)

    Because of this, it is SO important to talk to the person that will be officiating your wedding. Please discuss your timeline before your wedding day. Please plan what is going to be said, how long they have to say it, practice the ceremonial parts of your wedding to get the timing down and go through anything that you may be unsure of or uncomfortable with. By no means should you feel rushed during your ceremony. However, you DO want to have a very good idea of its length well in advance. If your wedding ceremony is at your church, odds are, there will be a pretty strict structure for your ceremony. Please make sure you chat with your church about how long your ceremony will be so we can budget appropriately. By planning ahead and keeping everyone involved on track, this will help make your day run so much smoother.

The Long Recessional & Lingering Guests

  • So your ceremony is planned down to the second, right? Perfect! Did you budget the time it will take you to get back down the aisle after you say your I Do’s? Your recessional doesn’t take too much time, but it is really important to budget in the time for it to happen. After your recessional, your guests will still be in their seats. If your family portraits are taking place in the same location as your ceremony (example: your church!), it is so important that you are budgeting the time it will take to clear out the space. A family member with a loud voice is usually a huge help. Have them guide your guests towards cocktail hour or the next space they will be in. I typically like to add a buffer of 5-15 minutes between your ceremony and the next block of portraits to ensure that we will have enough time to migrate your guests without getting behind on timeline.

Warm Wishes After the Ceremony

  • Your wedding is a CELEBRATION, and everyone that is there will want to wish you well! I have run into this A LOT. Picture this: You, your bridal party party, and your family recede down the aisle and stop just outside your ceremony space. As all of your closest family and friends depart your ceremony space for cocktail hour, each and every single one of them want to give you a big hug! This is SO sweet, BUT it has the potential to be a huge time suck, and even more than that, it is incredibly overwhelming for you as a couple. After all, you just got MARRIED (and now all of of your loved ones are trying to grab a photo with you, are trying to give you a hug, are calling your name ALL AT ONCE–they mean well, but it’s a lot!). The time after your ceremony should be blissful and exciting NOT stressful and overwhelming.

    My biggest suggestion here is to pre-designate a quiet location, away from guests, for your bridal party party to congregate in with you after your ceremony–this could be a garden alcove, a room in your church, a back hallway, a bridal suite…. seriously, anything goes here! For lack of a better way of saying it, just find a place to HIDE! Take a moment to celebrate with your close family a and to let the magnitude of what just happened settle in while a member of your immediate family or a trusted bridal party member let your guests know that you will see them at the reception! From there, we will be able to transition right into portrait time because you are free, refreshed and ready to go!


On to family portraits! This is arguably one of the most stressful times of your wedding day, but it doesn’t have to be. But, by prepping your family in advance, by setting reasonable expectations, and by keeping to your lists, you’re one step closer to getting though all of your family portraits and on to the party SO much quicker!

Missing Family Members

  • This is the number one reason we fall behind during family portraits! When Grandpa Joe wanders off to the bar and your niece needs the bathroom and your parents go off to greet guests (and no one tells you where they are going), we have to host a mini search party for every person when it is time for their photos with you. Often, wedding venues are are pretty large, and all I (or my second shooter) are going off of is a brief description and a name. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, y’all! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve frantically paraded around cocktail hour looking for a family member or four. It takes A LOT of time. Please prepare your family members BEFORE your wedding day. Let the ones that are being featured in family formals know when and where they need to be present and that they MUST be there at the time you’ve given them. I always structure family lists to dismiss individuals as we go, so let them know that they WILL be able to get to the bar ASAP! All they have to do is get through a few photos. When they are there on time and ready to go, we are actually able to get them on to the fun quicker than if they wander off to grab a drink ahead of time!

Lingering During Family Portraits

  • I tend to call this one too many cooks in the kitchen! I come from a pretty large extended family, so I know how crazy things can get when everyone is around. When people stick around to hang out during family portraits, this just causes chaos. We are often in a tighter or limited space, there are lots of voices, and we are pressed for time. I’ve found that it is actually easiest if your family members head on out after their photos are done (On with the party, right?). Like I mentioned above, I structure all of my family formal lists to dismiss individuals when their time in front of the camera is complete. We will work from the largest groups to the smallest, and as shots are complete, those people are good to go! I also always place a focus on photographing grandparents, young nieces and nephews, and anyone that may be restricted in their mobility at the start of your family formal block. That way, we have the time to get the shot together without feeling rushed and they are free to enjoy the evening right away. I always appreciate when my clients let me know about these situations ahead of time so we can plan accordingly!

Quick tip: Keep your family photos to just your immediate family! Let your aunts & uncles know that they can grab a photo with you during your reception! 

Straying from the Shot List

  • “Can we get a photo with just the three of us?!” This question happens SO often during family formals, and though it is so sweet to know that you are so loved by your family members, these constant shots can really put us behind. I always have my couples draft and approve a family portrait list before their wedding. You will start this process about a month out from your day, and it should be set and ready to go about one week prior to your wedding.

    On your wedding day, I will have said list in hand and will physically check off each shot as we go. We have already budgeted time for your list, and anything on top of that can really set us behind. Though one or two additional photos won’t hurt, it becomes an issue when lots of people want something special! Kindly remind your guests that you have strategically drafted your shot list and that if they are interested in a portrait that is not on the family formal list, I recommend that they grab someone from the CKP team during your reception. We are more than happy to work through any additional photos and pairings during open dancing!

Cell Phones

  • Can we all just agree that cell phones are the biggest distraction ever?! I wish we could make unplugged family portraits a thing!! Cell phones can really put a damper on timing for a few reasons. First: when your family members are hanging around on their cell phones, they aren’t paying attention and aren’t ready to hop in a photo when they need to be. Gently remind your tech savvy family members before your day, that family portraits are a time for them to be focused and ready at a moments notice. If they’re on the phone or wander away to take a quick call, there is a chance that they could put us behind schedule– no one wants to be that guy! The second reason cell phones become an issue is when everyone wants to grab “just one more on their iPhone!” I totally understand that many people want a copy of the photos and enjoy participating in your day by taking photos throughout. I will say, however, that cell phone-tography becomes a real issue when we are stopped every now and then to reshuffle groups for a snap on a phone. I am happy to allow family members to shoot from behind me during family formals as long as they are not distracting the group, and I always encourage my brides and grooms to share their galleries and individual photos with family and guests after their big day. Let your family members know that they WILL receive a copy of their photos to help out with extra iPhone-tographers and to keep the cell phones away.

I hope you found this helpful! Next week will be a bit shorter– I promise! We’re chatting about travel and reception holdups! 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

COMMON WEDDING TIMELINE HOLDUPS: PREPARE YOUR BRIDAL PARTY

COMMON WEDDING TIMELINE HOLDUPS: GETTING READY

3 TIPS TO HELP YOU PREP YOUR BRIDAL SUITE FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER’S ARRIVAL

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