Planning your wedding day timeline.

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fall wedding , blush colors, wedding dress

Timelines are everything!

When it comes to your wedding, a well planned timeline with make the day go much smoother! That’s why creating a wedding day timeline is absolutely vital — even running a few minutes late can throw the whole day off-track and cause unnecessary stress. Keep in mind though that each couple’s wedding timeline will be unique to their wedding day, and is dependent on vendors and venues and families and more. That being said, there are some tried-and-true wedding day timeline tips that, will help your big day go off without a hitch.

bride and groom getting ready, reading letters to each other

The following tips can help create a wedding day timeline that will help your wedding run like clockwork!

bridal portraits at a barn venue

1. Think about your wedding’s unique logistics.

There are several questions you’ll need to answer before you can start creating your wedding day timeline. If you can answer them, you’re probably ready to start creating your wedding schedule (keep in mind your planner and photographer will be a huge help in this process)!

  • Will you be getting ready at your ceremony location or somewhere else (a hotel, your parents home, another location)?
  • Are your ceremony and reception in separate locations? If so, you’ll have to factor travel time into your wedding timeline.
  • Will you be providing transportation for your wedding party.
  • Are you planning on having a “first look” and doing photos before the ceremony?
  • How long will your ceremony be? This will require a discussion with your officiant.
  • How many toasts or special dances will you have?
  • What time does your reception end? Your wedding reception timeline will be tighter if you have to end the party at a predetermined time.
  • Are you doing a first dance or other ceremonial dances at your reception?
  • How much time is included in your vendors’ contracts? How long will your photographers be present at your wedding?
bridal portraits

2. Think early. Like really early when planning your timeline.

Let’s keep it real, your wedding is going to be a long (but amazing) day, and there’s no such thing as starting the getting-ready process too soon—particularly if you’re planning on a first look and taking photos before your ceremony. If your ceremony starts at 3 p.m., for example, I recommend starting to prep at around 8 a.m. Yes, it may seem crazy, but realize that it can take up to 2+ hours for a bride to get her hair and makeup done. And if your girls are getting their hair and makeup done too , that adds even more time. So yes, starting your wedding day as early as possible is a great idea. Here is another great blog post on some great getting ready tips!

groom portraits

3. Talk to your vendors.

Your wedding planner, photographer, and venue event managers are usually the go-to sources to assist you in creating your “official” wedding timeline. You’ll also want to speak with your other vendors to find out how long they’ll need for set-up and prep so that you can schedule them accordingly and provide them with enough time to complete their tasks.

bride and groom portraits, first looks

4. Build in buffer time…

There are going to be some little things that will take extra time that you might not include in your timeline—such as eating breakfast/ lunch, signing the marriage license, travel/ traffic, and more. No one ever complains that they had “too much” time! You’ll be glad you planned ahead!

bride and groom portraits

5. Don’t make guests wait too long.

Even though your wedding guests will likely have just enjoyed cocktail hour with appetizers, you shouldn’t make them wait too long before dinner is served. Dinner should be served 30 to 45 minutes after the reception begins. The type of dinner (sit down or buffet) will play a role in this but think about how you schedule the meal, the toasts, and the dancing portion of the evening.

wedding reception dancing

6. Share your wedding timeline to everyone who would need it.

Your wedding day timeline should be given to all of your vendors, as well as family members, wedding party, etc. This way, everyone knows where they are supposed to be and when. On the day of your wedding, your wedding planner or event manager should be the “keeper of the timeline,” making sure things are running smoothly, but also enlist a family or wedding party member to help with the process.

sparkler exit

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