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I was talking to a friend recently whose little sister is getting married in the Autumn. “So is everything sorted, then?” I asked – and she grimaced. Why? “They’re planning on having a very relaxed day,” she said. “To the point where there’s no seating plan, no Master of Ceremonies…and no timeline.” My eyes opened wide. Really? Yes, really.

I instantly understood why my friend – who is destined to be her baby sister’s bridesmaid – felt uneasy, having got married herself a couple of years ago and seen up close the amount of work that goes into planning even the most apparently laidback of weddings.

If you’re in the throes of planning at the moment, you’ll have realised this truth: weddings take work. Food for 120 people – whether it’s a sit-down three-course dinner or casual sharing platters – doesn’t just materialise out of thin air. Outfits and thoughtful wedding day details don’t simply appear hanging in your wardrobe or on the end of aisles. They need to be discussed, they need to be ordered, they need to be paid for.

And actually, as far as the day itself is concerned, I think people appreciate a little bit of direction. Guests really like to know how long one part of the day might take, even if it’s just to help them decide whether to head to the bar for another drink or grab a canape to keep them going. Without an Order of the Day you run the risk of things feeling a bit…well, aimless. I mean, you’ve lived and breathed wedding planning for a year or more so you know what’s coming next (and when, roughly) – but the vast majority of your guests don’t.

Having a timeline doesn’t mean standing there with a stopwatch while your nearest and dearest devour their prawn cocktail starter in the 4 minutes 33 seconds you’ve allocated. But it does mean having some loose guidelines for the day that everyone aims to stick to. Why? Well, so that everyone isn’t still waiting for their dessert at 11pm and to avoid missing out huge – and important – parts of the day – “Well, Jimmy had his speech all prepared but after Orlagh’s dad went over by 40 minutes we just had to cut it…”

People sometimes feel that a timeline will make them feel anxious – like they have to have one eye constantly on the clock. Not at all – in fact, the opposite is the case. In order for you to really relax and enjoy your day, you need to know that everything has been looked after. It actually takes a lot of time and preparation to have the relaxed ceremony and reception of your dreams – but once the hard work is done, it’s done. And at that point you really can relax, safe in the knowledge that your crack team of wedding commandos have got your back.  

And the most important wedding professional to brief? You know what I’m about to say – of course, it’s your photographer.

Your photographer is charged with the task of recording your day – of seeking out the most precious moments and committing them to memory for you, but also for your family – your children, should there be any – and generations to come. It’s vital that you have a conversation about your expectations, and that your photographer – with their wealth of experience – takes you through what’s realistic and achievable. It also really helps your photographer to learn what’s most important to you – ceremony shots, a particular sentimental detail, those all-important family portraits. And a good photographer – one who is personable and confident, but also sensitive and respectful – will have the professional manner required to help keep the day on track – gently prompting guests to join family groups for photographs, and help your Master of Ceremonies (if you have one) keeping the day moving along nicely.

You’ve heard it before, but it’s a cliche with more than a grain of truth: your wedding day goes by so quickly. Having a timeline won’t slows things down – sorry! – but it will mean you get to savour the special moments without any worry. Worth it? I think so.