Plotting the right course to sail calmly into a perfect wedding day…

By Mike Shailes, retired wedding photographer

The timing of your wedding dictates the speed at which you need to start acting on your plan to get married. 

If you’ve decided on a summer wedding, there could easily be another half dozen ceremonies taking place the same day, so the early bookers will be the ones who get their first choice of reception venue, catering, Church, dressmaker, hairdresser, make-up artist and photographer.  Ideally, book everything a year or more ahead. 

On the other hand, if you pick November, you have a fair chance of getting everything you want at a couple of months' notice, except the weather!

Ask your suppliers to tell you when they will need to talk with you to plan their part in your wedding, so that you can put the necessary dates into your timetables.

It’s probable that poor planning and time management produce the greatest stress in most people’s lives.  To avoid stress on your wedding day, plan to succeed and get everyone involved to agree your plans with you, so that their own possible lack of time management skills will not upset the calmness of your day.

Once you have the key elements of your wedding booked, compile a series of schedules (one for each person whose timing will affect the day) that work backwards from the start of your wedding day dancing and the start times for each event will fall simply into place.  Work to the plan and you will be able to calmly enjoy every moment.

The bride’s schedule might look something like this (though your times will, of course, vary).

Dance, start 9pm

1 hour to clear the room, start 8pm.

2 hours to serve and eat the wedding meal, start 6pm.

1 hour to greet guests and enjoy the speeches, start 5pm.

2 hours for photography in a couple of locations, including travel time, start 3pm.

2 hours for the service, including the time you spend on hugs and kisses with your family and friends, plus photos outside the Church, start 1pm.

0.5 hours for your journey to Church, including getting The Dress into and out of the car, last minute adjustments and a few snaps, start 12.30pm.

0.5 hours for you to put on The Dress, start 12 noon.

0.5 hours to eat a sandwich, relax and enjoy the company of your family and attendants, start 11.30am.

1 hour for make-up and your return to your home, start 10.30am.

1.5 hours for hairdressing and travel to make-up, start 9.00am.

Once yours is done, then make another for the bridegroom - assume he won’t do it properly himself - we men claim to be useless at that kind of thing!

You can use exactly the same kind of backwards scheduling for all the tasks that have to be completed before the actual day, such as decorating the reception venue, obtaining the decorations, making the table plan, sending invitations and all the other things that make up a perfect wedding. 

If there’s one day in your life when it pays to use professionals, it’s your wedding day.

Your hairdresser and make-up artist will not only give you the best chance of a style that will last the day, they can give you the opportunity to have a trial run a few weeks before the wedding (which you can time for your schedule) and then have the skill to reproduce your style exactly on your big day. 

If your photographer is reasonably local, you could ask him or her to take test shots of your trial styling, to see how you like the look in photos.  It’s a good idea, anyway, to have a short photo session some time before the wedding, perhaps with your fiancé to celebrate your engagement, so you can become accustomed to having the photographer working with you, trying various angles on your features so as to make the wedding day photos the best they can be. 

You can rely on hotel chefs to provide great food and enough to last for every guest, florists to produce arrangements that won’t wilt prematurely and a professional photographer will provide you with images that will safeguard your memories forever, regardless of the weather.

If you tell your supplier what you want to spend and ask what you can get for the money, rather than simply asking the price of a standard ‘package’ – you could be pleasantly surprised at the value for money that’s available to you.

Have a wonderful wedding day, plan well and stay calm.

Mike Shailes provided this article for EVENTS newspaper.  He has recently retired after shooting weddings for over 30 years (most recently in the Outer Hebrides, from the Butt to Barra).