Do-It-Yourself Weddings: Time & Timing

Do-It-Yourself Weddings:  Time & Timing


Do-It-Yourself Weddings:

Time & Timing

For the Ultimate Stressful Experience – Part II



In my experience, the single most common cause of problems in any wedding – DIY or not – arises with regard to the time and timing for all parts of the day’s schedule. Knowing how much time each aspect of the day requires and, just as important, how much transition time is needed between things is critical to a smooth-flowing, stress-free day.

The first thing you need to know is that everything requires more time than you think – EVERYTHING.

The second thing you need to know is that everything is more complicated than you think – EVERYTHING.

Your best girlfriend does makeup and hair professionally at an up-scale salon (which means she knows her job), and she has offered to save you that expense by doing yours, your four bride’s maids’, your flower girl’s, the mothers’ of the bride and groom, and maybe someone’s step mom’s… but she has never done a wedding party. This will require an hour or two longer than either of you expected. The whole remainder of your day will be off by more than an hour. Your ceremony will start late. Your guests will become impatient. Your caterer will do what he can to save your food, but after sitting around for an hour it will be more like cafeteria food than wedding fare. Photos will be harder to do after your ceremony than if you had done them before as planned, because everyone is anxious,tired and impatient. Many images on your “to do list” will not be made for lack of time. Your officiant may have to leave for another wedding and come back to marry you in the middle of your reception. Your elevated anxiety level will be elevated to even greater heights by your mother, the mother of the groom and your sister/maid of honor – none of whom can stop yakking about how everything is going to crap. You finally reach your limit, pull out a semiautomatic pistol and shoot everyone in the room.

(I exaggerate to make the point.)


 Try this scenario: Your mom took a flower arranging course at the community college. She’s pretty good! She says she can save you $2000 by making your bouquet, four more for your ladies in waiting, the boutonnieres & corsages for the groom’s men, dads, moms, grandmothers, ushers and the ring bearer. She will have plenty of flowers for the cake maker to decorate your wedding cake and enough petals left over for your flower girl to scatter along the aisle. AND she will make the center pieces for twenty tables, all out of the fresh flowers she is getting for wholesale down at Florist Row where all the pros shop.

She will spend all day Friday shopping for the flowers, not finding quite what you wanted but getting something else “just as good” instead. She will also buy mounts, glue gun supplies and accessories, green stem-wrapping stuff, green Styrofoam stuff, two dozen Mason jars, packs of pins and needles, spools of wire in various gauges, baby’s breath, little green ferns and a couple gallons of those little acrylic rainbow rocks. After the rehearsal dinner she will rush home to start assembling forty individual flower thingies. (She cannot do this ahead, because she doesn’t have enough refrigerator space to keep forty flower thingies fresh.) Your poor mother will be up all night and well into your wedding day on this project. Around Midnight, she will realize she will never get it all done on time by herself, and she recruits your sister to help. (This is why your sleep-deprived sister is such a grump at your wedding.) Around noon, Mom will realize that she has no way to deliver forty flower thingies to the wedding site and then to the reception site in a single trip, so she and your dad will drive all over heck and gone that afternoon. Your wedding party will be all dressed and ready to have photographs made, except for their flowers. Your photographer will assure you that even with a late start, you will still get your photos, but the worried look on her face leaves you unconvinced. Finally, your mom will arrive with boutonnieres, bouquets and corsages. All is fine… except she will still be wearing her “I love my grand-kids” sweatshirt with all the teddy bears on it, and her hair will be a total mess. She still needs to get the center pieces on the tables and the flowers to the cake maker to decorate your wedding cake.

 Take a deep breath… Remember Rule #1a.*

Rule #1a: You will end up married and will have a good time anyway.

 Your mom? … Not so much.

* Wedding Rules coming in a future Article.


 If your Photographer is not experienced with weddings (did not shoot a dozen of them last year) then timing will be an issue.  For a medium sized to large wedding, we scheduled an hour and a half to two hours for formals.  We knew which shots to take, how to pose them and what order to shoot them in for the sake of efficiency (without making people feel rushed) An amateur or your cousin “who is good with scenics” will take longer (add an hour), because they need to make decisions as they go that an experienced wedding photographer does not need to make.

 For every amateur, you need to add more time: hair and make-up, florist, caterer, decorator, DJ, officiant.

 You also need to consider the time between things, as you, your family & wedding party, and your guests transition from one phase of the day to the next.

 For instance… you need to plan for enough time to be dressed by a definite deadline… in order to begin photos in time… to be done a half hour or more before your ceremony.  That is when your guests will begin to arrive. They will continue to arrive 5-10 minutes (sometimes more) after you said your ceremony would begin.   Plan to start late, unless you want them looking for seats while you are walking down the aisle.  A professional wedding musician or DJ knows the timing for any ceremony and will make smooth transitions at the right time from one piece of music to the next.   The best man’s little brother will mess it up with a CD and a boom box.   I have NEVER seen that work well. Not once in 35 years.  It could work, but requires serious practice to do so. (not at the rehearsal or you will be there all night.)

 When the ceremony is over, it takes time for the guests to get from one place to the other. They tend to wander and chat.  Allow a half hour or more for them to get there and to get settled in, assuming the reception site is not in the same spot as the ceremony and is all set up and ready to go.   If you have to “turn the room,” it takes more time.   The guests have to be moved out of the way politely, and then moved back when the space is ready.   This actually takes thoughtful planning.  It is more complicated than you think.

 In the meanwhile, you are signing papers and making some photographs of that facet of the day. Take a half hour afterward to sit and relax.   Catch your breath, eat something (you would not be the first couple not to eat at their own reception), make out, bitch about your siblings, and give your people time to settle in at the reception.  Then, when you make your entrance, they will be ready and looking for you and greet you with cheers.   Go in too early and they will say, “Yeah, hi…” and return to settling in their kids or grandparents.   Cocktail hours are fine to keep your guests occupied if the ceremony site needs to be transformed into a reception area.  Otherwise, they are not particularly useful.

REMEMBER: The first thing you need to know is that everything requires more time than you think – EVERYTHING.

 The second thing you need to know is that everything is more complicated than you think – EVERYTHING.

 By seeking and following the advice of truly qualified professionals, you will avoid most of the pit-falls that add stress to your wedding day or can result in a true disaster.