How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

Something often overlooked when couples are planning out their weddings is the day-of timeline.

You’ve lined up the flowers, the music, and every little detail you can think of…

Except your exact plan for what happens when! 

We’ll walk you through it below.

Why Do You Need One?

From the moment you wake up to the moment you leave your reception, a schedule will help keep your wedding day stress-free and on-time.

If it sounds excessive, we promise not only is it worth it – it’s necessary. 

Having a schedule for your wedding day will not only eliminate many unforeseen issues but also give you some much needed time to breathe throughout the day!

And of course, it’s much easier to follow a schedule than to make things up as you go.

Pre-Ceremony Timelines

This should be the most detailed part of your timeline. 

First, you’ll want to lay out the basics: hair and makeup, pre-wedding photography, the ceremony itself, reception start time, and reception end time.

Key tip: start early! The earlier you start, the more time you have throughout the day to relax…and time in case something unexpected arises or takes longer than you anticipated. 

Once you have a basic framework, add in the smaller details:

List out what time you’ll have breakfast. It’s important not to skip breakfast, especially if you think you might forget to eat lunch. 

After hair and makeup, don’t forget to factor in time to get dressed! If your wedding day outfit is complicated, be sure to allot enough time to get ready without rushing.

Then consider adding in extra time for photography. You should always prepare a shot list (a list of photos you want your photographer to take). But what if you think of a few more photo options? If you’ve given yourself extra time, no problem! 

If you’re taking photos outdoors, remember to also consider how much natural light will be available, and adjust your timeline as needed for optimal light. Your photographer can advise how much light they need or prefer. 

You’ll want to include vendor information in your timeline also, like what time your florist will deliver flowers, what time your music setup will begin, or what time transportation arrives. (Be sure to give your vendors a copy of your timeline ahead of time. They’ll thank you for it!)

If your venue has strict setup and teardown times for vendors, be sure to list those in your timeline also. 

Next, it’s absolutely vital to include travel time. If you’re traveling from your getting ready location to the venue, don’t forget to factor in a little extra time for traffic, depending on what time you’ll be in transit. Not including travel time is the quickest way to be late to your own wedding.

Lastly, we recommend adding in extra time here and there, like an extra ten minutes to photos or an extra 5 minutes to getting dressed. You’ll appreciate the breathing time in your busy day! 

Ceremony and Reception Timelines

The end of your timeline should focus on your ceremony and reception. 

Plan out your ceremony start time and end time, but remember to include a little extra time for guests to be seated. 

If you’re hosting a cocktail reception prior to the main reception, you should list out what time hor d’oeuvres will be passed and what time dinner will begin. 

When planning out your reception, remember to make time for you and your partner to eat! This is usually done right after your ceremony before making your entrance at the reception. We promise it’s easier to eat before you enter than to try and snag bites here and there while talking to your guests. 

Lastly, include your dances, bouquet toss, garter toss, cake cutting, and exit in your timeline. You may not stick to these times exactly (and that’s totally fine!), but having them in your timeline means your wedding planner will make sure those events actually take place. 

Trust us – you’ll be having such a good time after the ceremony that you’ll forget all about those. 

And our favorite piece of advice when it comes to wedding timelines:

Plan out a first look! 

You’ll be surprised how much time you’ll save after your ceremony. Couples who have a first look save up to an hour of time post-ceremony…and that’s time you can spend enjoying your reception.

Voila! You have a wedding timeline.

Remember you’ll likely need to make adjustments here and there as your wedding gets closer, and that’s ok. The hardest part of anything is getting started, and you’re already finished on that count. 

And don’t forget, if you have any questions, let us know. We’re here for you! 

If you’re looking for venue information, date availability, or to set up a tour, let’s get in touch!

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