14 Expert Tips for Creating the Perfect Wedding-Day Timeline
There's a lot of effort that goes into planning the perfect wedding. From making the guest list and choosing all of the gorgeous decorations to booking the right vendors and coming up with a seating chart that will make every guest happy, pulling off the best party of your life isn't so easy. While the details do matter, one of the most important wedding planning tasks you'll need to handle is coming up with your day-of timeline. It may not be as fun as picking out the flowers or your dinner menu, but it's even more important in ensuring your day goes smoothly.
It may not be glamorous, but you and your husband-to-be should spend time mapping out the entire wedding day—from the moment you both wake up to your final reception exit as husband and wife. Map out time for hair and makeup, first-look photos, cocktail hour, toasts, and everything in between. After all, you don't deserve to feel stressed on the day you say "I do," but without a carefully considered timeline, you're opening yourselves up to lots of big-day surprises.
Want to make sure everything goes smoothly? Here, a few experts share their tips on what not to forget when creating your wedding day timeline.
Pad Your Timeline
"Don't make your timeline so tight that any minor delay throws everything off. Wedding days are notorious for strange situations popping up (no matter how wonderfully planned it is). So give yourself a little break by padding your timeline with five minutes here and there." —Julie Bunkley, Owner & Creative Director, Invision Events
Create a Shot List
"A couple weeks prior to the wedding, provide your photographer with a list of family and wedding party members that will be participating in the formal photos. Be sure to note your relationship to each person. Your photographer can organize and group the list by relationship to make the process streamlined and most efficient." —Carrie Patterson, Owner & Photographer, Carrie Patterson Photography
Don't Forget a Timeline for your Vendors
"In addition to the obvious wedding day flow, you need to create a timeline for your vendors to use for set up and break down. We generally request four hours for set-up and ceremony install in order to be photo ready when the photographer is set for detail photos. Make sure you're aware of any time restrictions the venue may have. Some venues, for example, have a specific load in times that may affect the amount of hours your vendors have to setup. If your ceremony starts at 4:30 p.m. but the venue doesn't allow vendors to arrive until two o'clock, your team may need to add more staff to accommodate the restriction and this could greatly affect your final bill." —Alise Davis, Owner & Principal Designer, Olive Willow Designs
Leave Ample Hair and Makeup Time
Be Prepared for the Detail Shots
"Make the most out of the time with your photographer. Unpack your dress and have any special heirlooms or other items you'd like photographed put aside for your photographer so that his/her time is spent doing what he/she does best, taking pictures!" —Jocelyn Filley, Owner & Photographer, Jocelyn Filley Photography
Plan a First Look
Save Time to Explore Your Wedding Venue
"If you are getting married at a location that is known for its views and landscapes, make sure you build in time to take advantage of these opportunities." —Hunter Lower, CEO, Holman Ranch
Don't Let Cocktail Hour Drag
"Don't allow too much time for cocktail hour. Sure, it's officially the kickoff to the reception and everyone is having a great time, but if you extend this timing too long your guests will start to get restless or, worse yet, stock up on the open bar before the party has even fully begun. You want everyone to have a chance to mix and mingle, grab a cocktail or two, and enjoy a few bites, but like every good tasting menu at the best restaurants, you want to give your guests just enough so they still want more (without them ruining their appetite for the amazing dinner ahead)." —Jacin Fitzgerald, Owner, Jacin Fitzgerald Events
Factor in Outdoor Light
"My favorite planners have 'sunset' on the timeline, and leave 10-15 minutes for portraits during the golden hour. Those images of the couple are always my favorite." —Elisa Bricker, Owner & Lead Photography, Elisa Bricker
Create A Timing Plan for Your Reception
"Discuss food service, toasts/speeches, and dancing time with your venue or wedding planner. Get an idea of what you want to happen during the reception. Pushing the dinner service back on the wedding day can severely impact your timeline. If you run out of time with your photographer/cinematographer you will either miss documentation of the cake cutting and fun dancing or be forced to incur overtime charges." —Sonia Hopkins, Owner/Principal Event Designer, XOXO Bride Events
Remember the Kids
Make Time to Eat
"When making the timeline for the reception part of the evening, be sure to make to time to eat! With all the speeches and special dances in the schedule, it's easy to miss your window to take a few bites. At Pinch we always keep a few extra entrees hot in the kitchen so there's always food for the bride and groom when they have a moment to sit." —Shana Sperling, Wedding Specialist, Pinch Food Design
Place a Time Limit On Your Toasts
"As heartfelt as they may be, toasts, if not pre-planned, can negatively impact food and beverage service and create boredom for a couple's guests. We recommend discussing the length of each planned speech with all speakers in advance. The most enjoyable speeches typically last between three to five minutes and are not a 'roast' of the couple (remember, your grandmother could be in attendance). That being said, always have a contingency plan for speakers who may become chattier with a microphone." —Stephanie Cole & Sarah Drake, Founders, Cole Drake Events
Talk About Overtime with Your Vendors
"Make sure you have the opportunity for overtime with your vendors. If the party is still going and everyone is having a fabulous time but your wedding was supposed to be over at 10 p.m., you want to make sure that you have the flexibility to extend your vendors and at what cost." —Danielle Elder, Owner & Principal Planner, Classic Events
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