With all the moving pieces on any given wedding day, there are lots of unforeseen things that could slow you down and put you behind schedule. Sometimes they’re hard to predict, and trying to predict all of them will probably drive you nuts. Take it easy. As a photographer, when it comes to things slowing us down, I might be more concerned about it than any else.

The photographer’s job at your wedding, in many ways, lives and dies by the schedule. If you’re planning sunset portraits, and you’re 30 minutes late, those portraits aren’t going to be what you had in mind. As far as time-suckers are concerned, I’ve seen a lot of them. A lot of the time they’re almost totally random. Flower girl got sick right before the portraits. The garter is nowhere to be found. The limo got a flat tire on the way to pick you up. But, there are some very usual suspects and they’re totally foreseeable… just when you thought about it, you might have convinced yourself they’re not really a concern.

Here we go.

Your dress, it’s going to take longer than that.

Have you timed yourself getting into the dress? If not, go ahead and do that. If so, take the time and double it. If your dress has buttons or laces, go ahead and triple it.

Here’s the thing, whatever circumstances you were practicing putting on the dress in, they’re hardly like your wedding day. And the key difference is emotion. Not just yours, everyone’s. And that emotion means pressure. Even if you’re not terribly concerned about it, someone in your wedding party is going to want to make sure that everything is absolutely-positively-no-question-about-it perfect.

When you were practicing, you might’ve been satisfied with 95% perfect. But on your wedding day, that kind of attitude is likely to be treated as treasonous. That means that however long you think it’s going to take, it’s almost definitely going to take longer. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as you plan ahead for it!

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Cars are fast, but only after people get in them.

You’re sitting on your couch and you think, “I want to get some ice cream”. There’s none in the freezer so you run over to the grocery store real quick and before you know it you’re back at home eating the cold, delicious treat. It all happened so smoothly, you probably barely even thought about getting into the car and getting back out again. I didn’t even have to include it in the story. And therein lies the problem.

The difficulty of getting a wedding party in and out of cars is sometimes almost comically overlooked. I’ve seen the bride’s face transform as she looks genuinely perplexed, tending toward pissed off, over what could possibly be taking so long. After all, it’s simple, just get in the stinkin’ car, right?

Unfortunately, no, not exactly. Remember all the extra pressure for perfection on the wedding day? Cars leave wrinkles in dresses. People have last minute arguments over which car the bride should pull up in. People forget bits of minutia and run back inside. Or in worst case scenarios, people get left behind or vehicles leave too early–situations agitated by the added pressure of the big day.

When you’re making up your timelines, if you have people moving about from location to location in cars, don’t just calculate for the travel time, calculate for the ‘travel warm up time’ also. If there are more than 5 or 6 crucial people who need to be transported around, plan no less than 3 minutes for them to get in, and another to get out. Add about 30 seconds for each additional person. This allows for people to feel more comfortable and relaxed under the pressure and helps minimize mistakes that come from a tension between a desire for perfection and the pressure of a tight schedule.

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120 people in front of you seems like a lot more than 120 people on a list.

The meet and greet, It takes a number of different forms. The receiving line at the end of the ceremony, is perhaps the most traditional. But the most common expression of the meet and greet at a wedding is for the couple to simply visit each table, one after the other during the reception.

The meet and greet is an excellent way to connect with your guests individually and show them that you appreciate them coming and being a part of the day. It’s also a great opportunity to grab photos with particular people during the reception. If you’ve decided to include a meet and greet of some kind on your wedding day, you’re probably already expecting it to take a bit of time. In my experience most couples plan about 20 minutes for this event, and it’s frequently a big underestimate. It all depends on your guests.

The meet and greet is likely to take longer than you expect because it involves handing some control of the timing to your guests, many of whom may not have seen you in a long time and are extremely excited for you. Depending on your guests, you might find yourself just quickly giving everyone a hug, but you also might run into three or four people who all manage to keep you in conversations for 15 minutes. I’ve seen it happen.

If you plan to do a meet and greet, add about 50% to however long you think it will take. You might end up ahead of schedule, but at the very least, when someone special wants to give you a little extra attention, you don’t have to feel pressured to leave them hanging.