I see it so often that it's just become part of what I expect on a wedding day but...
It. Doesn't. Have. To. Happen.
Being late is not a mandatory or normal part of your wedding day.
I work with all of my clients to create a great timeline for their wedding day but more often than not, that timeline has dissolved and become useless before I even arrive on property. It's so stressful to be the person who walks into the room and starts demanding things of the wedding party. I want to be a joyful presence when I arrive at such a special day but so often, I need to be the voice of reason.
Why is it such a big deal when a wedding day runs late? You almost always get to the ceremony on time, so what's the big deal anyway?
The timeline I have created with my clients is planned with purposeful buffers to accommodate a makeup artist getting lost, unexpected traffic, bathroom breaks and all those other little unexpected accidents that can put us behind schedule. However, when we get so far off of the timeline, your wedding day photography suffers greatly.
If a client has allotted 2 hours for portraiture and then it dissolves into 20 minutes, they're quite literally getting 6x less portraiture. It also creates a very stressful client experience. I try my very best to handle these pressures with grace but I'm human too. When I'm forced to do bridal portraits within a 2 minute window while guests are pulling into the parking lot and attempting to get a good look at the bride (hello lookie loos, keep it movin' please), I'm going to be posing quickly rather than creating natural gesture and helping the client have a joyous experience of being photographed in her beautiful gown for the first time.
Here are the biggest reasons that wedding days run late... and how to prevent them from ruining your day.
Family & Bridal Party Members
The Problem: So often family and bridal party members downplay their importance in the day and don't realize how they could affect the timeline. I often see mothers of the groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls and other family members showing up 30+ minutes after they were asked to arrive and not realizing that it is detrimental.
The Solution: Give your family and bridal party members a "fake time". If they need to arrive to the church or getting ready venue at 1:00 PM, tell them to arrive at 12:45 PM. If you have someone in your life who is notorious for being late, tell them even earlier.
Underestimated Travel Times
The Problem: Any time there is a calculated travel time that I am also traveling, I will do that calculation myself + add a buffer before incorporating it into the timeline. The issue usually arrives when I am meeting the bride at the ceremony location while she has gotten ready at a salon. So often, the travel times are assumed (ex: mom says it only takes 10 minutes when in reality it's 18 minutes) and they are incorrect.
The Solution: Calculate all wedding day travel times, even just short little trips between locations, using Google Maps and add a 10 minute buffer for traffic or accidents.
The Problem: It's not always just the ladies who run late. Fairly often the guys are late and causing delays too. They typically do not realize that the timeline is important.
The Solution: Stress the importance of the timeline to the groom and groomsmen + give them a "fake time" as well. If at all possible, the groomsmen should be getting ready at the ceremony location or in the same getting ready location as the girls (just in a different room). Limit the traveling that the guys have to do on the wedding day.
The Problem: The groom's mom didn't know she was supposed to be in the bridal suite when the bride put on her dress and no one can find her. Grandma didn't know that she was needed before the ceremony for portraits. The parents of the flower girl didn't know that the little one was supposed to be at the ceremony an hour early. You catch my drift.
The Solution: Inform family members and key wedding-day players of any and all details pertaining to them and then inform them again and again and again. Send a week-of reminder email specific to each person + go over it in writing at the rehearsal dinner. Be clear and make sure that each person knows of the importance of their punctuality.
The Problem: No one is paying attention to the timeline before the photographer arrives and you get lost in enjoying your pampering and sipping your champagne.
The Solution: Designate a bridesmaid to be the timekeeper. Give this person a detailed copy of the getting-ready timeline and ask them to manage that timeline by giving direction, reminding everyone of deadlines and keep the morning moving along.
No Specific Plan
The Problem: You've worked with SSP to immaculately plan your wedding day timeline but you don't have a getting ready timeline. The hair and makeup artists arrive and you spend too much time trying to guess who is going to go first.
The Solution: Just like the wedding day as a whole, the getting ready process needs to have it's own timeline. Detail who is getting hair/makeup done at what time by which stylist and what the deadlines are for each girl!
Hair & Makeup
The Problem: Hair and makeup is the #1 reason that wedding days run late. More often than not it does go back to poor communication and lack of planning. There are almost always too few HMUA's for the group and/or an unrealistic getting-ready timeline. This is a matter of preparation and cooperation.
The Solution: First off, do trials. Second, add 30 minutes to the length of time that the hair and makeup artists (HMUA) let you know it will take. For example: if your hair stylist says your updo will take one hour and the makeup artist also asks for an hour, you should be blocking off three hours. No, I'm not kidding. This is incredibly important! If you end up with extra time to sip a mimosa and not have to pee in a hurry - you'll be grateful, not disappointed. In addition, set your absolute maximum latest time for being completed as 30 minutes prior to putting on your dress. Sometimes organizing this process can mean needing to add more people to your team of HMUAs and trust me, it's worth the additional costs. Bridesmaids need to have their desired hairstyle and makeup look planned out in advance and should not be browsing Pinterest while sitting in the makeup chair. It is detrimental to the timeline and rude to the stylist/artist. Also consider set-up time for the HMUAs. If you're having on site hair and makeup, expect the process to begin 15-25 minutes after the HMUAs arrive on property. They will need time to set up and prepare the space - the work doesn't start immediately so take that into account too!
There is a section in my wedding contracts about tardiness because running late happens so often and it is so consequential to your wedding day photography! With additional preparation and care, you can have a beautifully smooth and relaxing day. Perfectly planning out each minute can seem like it doesn't jive with your go-with-the-flow personality but it can actually keep everything flowing in the first place - preventing the wedding day from coming to a halt altogether.