Planning a wedding – The Devil is in the detail.
Success happens when preparation and opportunity meet. Never under estimate the importance of planning each wedding from the outset. Here’s my complete guide to getting the planning right…
Well before the big day, plan all the details of the wedding schedule and your involvement like a military operation. Why? Firstly, because you want to achieve high standards and you need to use your time efficiently and secondly, because you don’t want anything to take you by surprise. So instead of waiting for problems to happen, try to identify them as early as possible.
Couple A’s wedding ceremony is booked for noon. The ceremony might run to 1pm if the bride is fashionably late and then add a further 15 minutes outside the church for confetti and so on. If there is a thirty-minute journey to the reception and the wedding breakfast is booked for 2:00 PM. This would leave virtually no time to photograph the bride and groom or the formal groups. To achieve good coverage, clearly more photography time needs to be negotiated. Negotiate now, six months before the wedding, not 6 weeks before.
The wedding is put back to 2pm. The guests will have had a brunch or pub lunch en route, and the bride has more time to get ready. The bride and groom arrive at the reception at 3.45 have pictures galore, mingle and go in for the wedding breakfast at 6.00. The meal is over by 8.45 then the party can get underway till midnight. The bride and groom only have to provide their guests with one meal so there is more money available for photographs.
A 4pm ceremony at a Castle in Scotland in February probably rules out any pictures of the bride and groom together in daylight. If you are happy to use available light and/or make your own, then this might not be a major problem. On the other hand…
If you point out what exciting pictures of the couple you could take using daylight in the castle grounds, the bride and groom might be happy to be ready by 2pm for an hour of photography before the guests start to arrive for the ceremony.
Stay creative and open-minded with wedding day planning and most problems will disappear. But get in there early at the booking stage, never try to force changes on a bride once her wedding day plans are finalised.
Don’t be afraid to say NO to a booking rather than take on a wedding with a fundamentally flawed time plan. Setting yourself up to fail in this way will have a terrible knock-on effect that could pull you down emotionally. The psychological and financial consequences of disappointing a bride can last for years.
If our first shooting location on the morning of a wedding is more than ninety minutes from our home, Julie and I prefer to stay in a hotel close to the venue the night before the wedding. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. If our start time is late in the day or we can drive to the wedding using minor roads that avoid congestion, we will travel on the day. The key principle for us is to keep stress at bay. Being stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway behind an accident that could take hours to clear is not something I’m prepared to risk. Being late for a wedding is simply not an option.
So reduce risks, stay professional and plan creatively. If the shooting day is twelve hours, or the combined shoot and travel time is more than fourteen hours, we always stay the night of the wedding too. Driving at night when tired is not a risk we are willing to take. Always remember that you are your own most valuable asset, so look after yourself. Besides, If you shoot weddings with your partner, a few nights away in a good hotel are always fun. Better still, this is a kind of fun that is tax-deductible!
Book early to get the best rates and secure the sea views etc.
When you create a time plan for the day, be accurate with journey times. I’ve often heard a Groom say something like, “the reception is only about ten minutes away” only to find the journey takes us half an hour. Remember to factor in local events like major sporting fixtures as well as the usual traffic for that particular time of day. Use the Internet to research your journey and programme your sat nav if you have one.
Once your logistical plan has been keyed in, always share it with the bride and groom. It might seem quite busy or unnecessarily complicated at first, but with the couples’ help and offers of solutions or lifts, it will become manageable. Stay flexible! Right up to the morning of the wedding, plans will change. Rain may force the guys to cancel the golf or shooting. This will have a ripple effect and trigger plan B (if you’ve remembered to make one!).
A typical wedding time plan
(names of the people are fictitious)
Richard (the Groom):
10.00 Damien to meet Richard and guys for clay pigeon shooting. Smiths Farm, Combe Hay, Near Bath courtesy of Frank Shellard, Wellow Trekking Centre, Little Horsecroft Farm, Ford Road, Wellow. Meet at Wellow Trekking Centre BA2 8QF (1 hour from the Lovegrove studio) take the 350z.
1.30 Guys go to Richard’s home: The Winding House. Wick Lane. Pensford. BS49 4BU (15 minutes drive)
1.45 All guys to get ready for the wedding and have a buffet lunch.
2.45 All guys to be ready for a few photographs and then leave for Babington House Hotel, Kilmersden, Somerset. BS54 3NJ (15 minutes drive)
3.15 Be at Babington for a few photos before greeting guests.
Nicole (the Bride):
2.0 Julie to be with Nicole and the girls at Babington House Hotel, Kilmersden, Somerset. BS54 3NJ (1 hour drive from the Lovegrove studio. Take the Xtrail with lighting kit and framed prints from the pre wedding shoot )
3.15 All hair and make up to be finished.
3.40 All girls to be ready for a few informal photos.
3.55 Gather in the foyer for the procession to the chapel.
4.00 Ceremony in chapel – John Mosley to give Bride away.
4.45 Ceremony finishes. Confetti and milling outside chapel – Champagne and canapés are served.
5.00 Photos with Richard and Nicole only, away from the guests.
5.30 Group Photos as per separate list (each Usher to be given a copy)
5.50 Time to chat to guests while Julie and Damien photograph candidly, capture table details and terrace restaurant.
6.15 Ushers to gather all the guests onto the front lawn.
6.20 Big group picture of everyone on the front lawn.
6.30 Called through to dinner. Julie and Damien seated with the guests.
6.45 Speeches and Cutting the cake immediately, followed by Dinner.
9.30 1st Dance in the bar area. Rock & Roll routine. (surprise for all the guests)
10.00 Belly Dancer in the bar. (surprise for all the guests)
10.30 Dancing until midnight and beyond.
10.45 Damien and Julie to leave shortly after the party starts.
• Nicole’s father died in 2002
• Mother of Bride – Judith Collet
• Parents of Groom – Jo & Colin Pearl
• Best Man – Chris Hammond (0789 4568760)
• Usher – Ben (Richard’s son) & Gavin Young
• Chief bridesmaid – Katy Pearl (Richard’s daughter) (0788 5643401)
• Bridesmaid – Tasha,
• Ring bearer – Sam Patrick (Richards’s son)
• John Mosley – giving bride away
• Flower girls – Georgia and Olivia Rowlands
To see our military planning in action get yourself a copy of our lavish new DVD entitled ‘The Big Day The Lovegrove Way’ You will see Julie and I shoot a complete wedding from start to finish. Every nuance of our strategy is laid bare.