Everything can be planned and nothing can go as planned.
Weddings are notoriously known for the planning aspects surrounding the big day. Some people hire wedding planners, some people hire wedding coordinators, and yes, there is a difference between the two. Some people don't hire anyone and rely on themselves and their bridesmaids or groomsmen to step in and help out. All of these options are fine, and will prove helpful to the bride and her wedding planning in some way.
As a photographer, a story teller of sorts, I want to share with you an experience that opened my eyes to the true importance of working together with either the coordinator, the planner or just the bride for a schedule. In my case, I had the experience of "working" with a coordinator. I use quotes surrounding the word working because it wasn't really a choice on my part. Three days before I was to shoot a wedding, I was sent an email from the coordinator and included was her timeline of the day, starting from the time we all arrived at the venue. My initial thought was,
"Cool! Now I have more to work with"
I say that because I always work with my clients to get their idea of their day written down into a timeline. That way we all know where we are throughout and I know what is most important to them, where to spend more time with them or when to buzz off and let them just be together.
So when I received the email including another detailed outline of the day, I was a little thrilled. Upon further inspection of the timeline however, I realized a couple of huge problems with it, from my point of view.
The first and most major problem I noticed, was that there was no buffer time scheduled in. What I mean by that is, as I said before, weddings are known for being notoriously planned and with that comes a level of chaos and things start to not go as planned. If you schedule out a timeline with no buffer time, you are essentially packing one thing in after the other with the expectation that everything will start and end at the time indicated. That has absolutely not been my experience with wedding days. In this particular case, we arrived at the venue an hour before the ceremony was to start and in that hour, both parties were to be getting dressed and ready, the bride was to get into her dress with her mom and bridesmaids around her, and then we were supposed to take the individual party photos with both the bride and groom and get into the ceremony line up. Whew that's a lot to cover in just an hour.
Naturally when we got there, because I didn't have the ideal location for the dress photo at the hotel, and didn't really get the detail photos I wanted, I had to squeeze in an extra 5 minutes to try and get some pretty dress shots before the bride slipped into it. And then as the minutes ticked by, the bouquets needed some work done to them before they were ready, the brides mother wasn't easily tracked down and before we knew it we had maybe 5 minutes for some bridal party photos before they were to get set up for the ceremony. Because of the incredibly small window for everything that needed to be accomplished, I felt more stressed then I would have liked and had to work really hard not to let my stress slip out into my energy. Unfortunately I'm not perfect and I did notice that during the bridal photos, I was not my usual peppy self who was all smiles and go getter energy. I very much felt like I had rushed through everything and felt a little disappointed that because of the rushed timeline, my attitude toward the photos taken were lessened.
The take away from all of that is, buffer time is extremely important. Not only does it allow for the schedule to have some flexibility, but it also allows a level of stress to be alleviated from the big day. When I, the photographer, know the time windows I am allotted, I can then quickly and with ease, get everything I need done and offer a helping hand to other tasks or have the freedom to go take that creative detail shot that I didn't have time for earlier. It is a simple peace of mind to know that you have time just in case.
The second thing I noticed, having to do with time as well, was the amount of time offered from when we arrived at the venue to the ceremony start time. In this particular case, we only had an hour and that was if everyone was ready to go and we could get there right at the start time. Of course, things caused people to come a little later and we were forced to race against the clock. In my experience with venues, you can typically work within their operating hours and adjust based on a ceremony start time. Because I was not able to make any changes to the timeline, this seemed like a non option. Therefore when we got there, things became rushed and as the groom had forewarned,
"from 4-4:30 it will be chaos"
maybe I should have heeded his warning earlier.
Since that experience, I have learned to have more flexibility and more acceptance to what happens on a wedding day. As long as the couple seem happy and satisfied with their day and the photos you are taking of them, that is all that matters. If I wanted to have more creative freedom and it just wasn't able to happen, that's ok too. Some weddings there will be an abundance of time, and sometimes there wont be. It's all about working smoothly and smartly.