To ensure your wedding day runs as smoothly as possible, it’s important to create a detailed wedding day timeline—doing so will help you stay organized, stress-free, and on time. However, planning a wedding day timeline can be a daunting task, but breaking it down into smaller, manageable steps can make it much easier. Today, I’m going to share a few steps to get you started on how to create a wedding day timeline.
Before planning anything else, you need to determine the number of hours your venue is available so you know when your event will start and conclude. Remember, you may need to decorate the venue and allow vendors time to set up. I recommend leaving 2-3 hours available.
This goes for the end of the night as well! Your vendors will need to clear out and clean up, so don’t forget to include enough time for this with your vendors and venue. Clean-up typically takes less time, I recommend 1-2 hours for vendor load-out.
It’s always a good idea to check your venue contract and see if these hours are included in your event hours or if these hours are complimentary outside of your contract. Depending on the venue, you may be able to decorate the night before or let vendors in early.
Most couples don’t want their wedding to occur in the dark, especially for those of you who will have an outdoor ceremony. That is why the second thing you want to do for your wedding day timeline is allotting time for the sunset.
Be sure to look up when the sunset will be on your wedding day at your venue. Remember, if your wedding is in a different location than your home city, be sure to check that city’s sunset, not yours. Ideally, you want your ceremony to start 1.5-2 hours before the sun sets.
Photography is really important to most couples, so before you finalize the timeline of the day, ensure you’ve discussed with your partner all the photos you’ll want to capture.
Are you planning to have a first look? Do you have a wedding party? What family photos do you want? Will these photos take place before your ceremony (so you can join cocktail hour) or after your ceremony?
Depending on what you decide, it can change the timeline of your day. Don’t forget to talk this through with your photographer. They can provide some general guidelines on how much time they will need.
Finally, it’s time to plan out the rest of the day. I recommend starting with the most important events of the day. For instance, how long is the ceremony going to last? How long is the cocktail hour? What about dinner?
Once the most important events of the day are on your schedule, start filling in the smaller events. How much time is remaining for your reception? What activities will you need to make time for? For example, will there be toasts, first dances, cutting the cake, etc.?
If you need to travel during your wedding day, you will want to double the time required. If you live near a big city, you’ll want to give yourself extra time to travel between your getting ready location, ceremony location, and reception location. This allows wiggle room for things like parking, unloading your items, and getting settled in a new space.
You will also want to be aware of any events happening in the area during the week of your wedding. Any road closures or traffic could cause delays in you or guests arriving at the venue location on time.
Lean into the expertise that your vendors can share with you when it comes to how to create your wedding day timeline! You’ll want to make sure you create a timeline that allows your guests time to enjoy their dinner and doesn’t rush them from one thing to the next. Reach out to vendors like your caterer to ask how much time they recommend allotting for different types of dinner services from buffet to family style, and plated dinners.
Before you put the finishing touches on your wedding day timeline, there are a few outliers you will want to take into consideration.
I always recommend padding your wedding day timeline. This generally looks like assigning smaller timeline items with a 5-minute buffer between them.
Once you’ve drafted your finalized wedding day timeline, share it with your wedding party, wedding planner, and other vendors so everyone’s on the same page. Communication is key! Talk early on with your wedding attendants about the timeline and the expectations you have about staying on time. This includes anyone giving a toast, family members who need to arrive for photos and wedding party members who have a specific timeframe for hair and makeup.
It’s common for hiccups to happen on the wedding day that impacts the timeline. Make sure you are ready with a plan and expectations for who will handle issues that pop up (aka your wedding planner!).
What questions do you have about creating a wedding timeline? I’d love to hear from you. Leave your questions in the comments!
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Sarah is a Los Angeles wedding planner ready to
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