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How To Create A Wedding Day Timeline

wedding day timeline

Written by Stephanie

August 7, 2020

Have you ever been to a wedding that didn’t start on time?  Or a wedding that felt like parts of it was rushed?   Or perhaps a wedding where there wasn’t a lot going on and you felt bored?  I’m sure you have experienced at least one of these scenarios while attending a wedding.   And I bet these experiences are on your mind as you start planning out your wedding day.    You want your wedding day to flow smoothly and to have plenty of time for everything.  And you want your guests to have fun instead of feeling bored.  So how does a bride go about planning a wedding day that flows smoothly and keeps her guests engaged and entertained?    She does it by creating a solid wedding day timeline!

Because when it comes to your wedding day, timing is everything!  And the truth is, even running a couple of minutes behind, can throw off your entire day.   And I don’t want you having to spend time on your wedding day worrying about how to get it back on track.   So, I’m sharing strategies and tips for creating a wedding day timeline with you can enjoy your wedding day to the fullest.  And not have to worry about the time.

What is a Wedding Day Timeline?

In order to create a solid wedding day timeline, it helps to have a good understanding of what one is and what it should include.  A wedding day timeline is basically an itinerary for your wedding day.   It’s your plan for what events will take place on the wedding day, at what time they will take place, and in what order they will take place.  And the more detailed and thorough it is, the better.   In fact, your wedding day timeline should capture every detail of your wedding day.  And not just the details that are part of the wedding ceremony and reception.  It should also include details about the tasks that take place before the ceremony and after the reception, like getting ready, setup, and cleanup.

timeline

One of the most difficult aspects of creating a wedding day timeline is making sure it includes every task and detail of your wedding day.  It’s incredibly easy to leave out or forget about a task or detail.  Especially the smaller ones.   So, it’s best to start creating your wedding day timeline well in advance of your wedding day.  I suggest starting around 30 days prior to the wedding.  That way you have plenty of time to really think things through.   And you are less likely to forget about or leave out something.

Details To Think About When Creating Your Timeline

To help you get started, here are the types of details you should be thinking about when creating your wedding day timeline:

  • How many hours did you book your DJ/band and photographer/videographer for?
  • Are you getting ready at the ceremony site or somewhere off-site?
  • Will the ceremony and reception be at the same location?
  • If you are getting ready off-site, or the ceremony and reception are at different locations, how will the wedding party get from one location to the other?
  • Will you be doing any photos before the ceremony? Or will all photos be taken after the ceremony?
  • How long will your ceremony be?
  • Will you be having a receiving line after the ceremony?
  • Will you be having a cocktail before or after your ceremony?
  • How will the food be served? Are you having a buffet or a plated meal?
  • Will you be doing your first dance at the beginning of the reception? Or later in the reception?
  • Will you have a father-daughter dance? Will you have a mother-son dance?
  • Will you be doing a bouquet toss?  Or garter toss?
  • How many toasts will you have? And how long will each one be?
  • Is there a specific time your wedding has to end?
  • Will you be hosting an after-party?

Wedding Day Timeline Tips

Now that you have an understanding of what a wedding day timeline is and what all it should include.  Here are some tips to help make the process of creating the timeline easier.

Tip #1: Start with the Ceremony

Use the ceremony as your starting point as you create your wedding day timeline.   Create a list of everything that happens before the ceremony, such as hair/makeup, getting dressed, and pre-ceremony photos.  Then create a list of everything that happens after the ceremony, such as the cocktail hour, dinner, dances, toasts, and cake cutting. Then think about how long each of these activities will take.   Now you have a list of everything that needs to take place on the wedding day, and approximately how long they will take.  And you can start to plot your wedding day timeline accordingly.

wedding ceremony

Tip #2:  Start Your Wedding Day Early

A lot of brides don’t realize this, but getting ready for the wedding can take a long time!   If your hair and makeup is done by a professional artist, It could take anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours.  And if your bridesmaids and mothers are also having their hair and makeup professionally done, it could take several more hours for their services.  So, make sure to account for this in your wedding day timeline.  And if you want to do any pre-ceremony pictures, be sure to add extra time for that.   And if you want pre-ceremony photos in multiple locations, add even more time for that.  It’s not uncommon for a wedding day timeline to start around 9:00 am for a  5:00 pm wedding ceremony.

wedding makeup

Tip #3:  Talk to Your Vendors

Be sure to reach out to your vendors and discuss timing with them.  You’ll want to find out what time they plan to arrive and how much time they will need for setup and preparations.  Or if they are delivering items, you’ll need to know what time they plan on making the delivery.   Be sure to add the vendor delivery, arrival, and set up times to your wedding day timeline.

Also, reach out to your caterer regarding food service timing so that you allow enough time for the meal.  Your caterer should be able to tell you how much time to allow for the meal based on the number of guests and the food service style.

wedding caterer

And If you only booked your photographer and/or videographer for a limited number of hours, be sure to discuss timing with them.  This will ensure you get footage of the moments you wanted the photographer to capture.

Tip #4: The Reception Meal

Don’t make your guests wait too long to eat.   It is best to feed them within 30 minutes from the start of the reception.  45 minutes top.  Otherwise, you risk them getting hangry!   And if food is served buffet-style, keep in mind that the guests who visit the buffet first are going to finish their meal before the guests who visit the buffet last.  So have something in place to keep the guests who finish early entertained while the other guests are finishing their meals.    This is a great time to incorporate the speeches and/or toasts.

wedding speech

Tip #5:  Pad Your Timeline

There will always be little details that come up that you didn’t plan for or forgot to schedule.  Two things I see brides forget about all the time is eating eat lunch or signing the wedding license.  So, try to pad your timeline so that small details like these don’t cause you to get off schedule.   For example, if you think an activity will take 7 minutes, allow 10 minutes for it.   That way your timeline has extra time built into it if needed.

If the wedding party or guests have to travel from one location to another, be sure to pad the travel time an extra 15 minutes in case of delays due to traffic.

wedding transporation

And don’t forget you will likely have a couple of guests who arrive right when the ceremony is supposed to start.  So, pad the start time of your ceremony by about 5 minutes so those guests have time to sit and get situated.  And you don’t have to worry about them interrupting your wedding processional.

Tip #6:  Get Everyone On The Same Page

Be sure to share your wedding day timeline with everyone before the wedding.  That includes your venue, vendors, family, and wedding party.  Ideally, share it with them about a week before so they have time to review and ask questions or clarify details.  That way everyone is on the same page going into the wedding day and things will go a lot smoother.    And be sure to enlist a family member or someone in your wedding party to watch the clock and enforce the timeline on the wedding day.

Wedding Day Timeline Template

Here is a wedding day timeline template you can use as a tool to help you get started.   However, keep in mind that each wedding celebration is unique and is dependent on the venue, vendors, family, and the wedding party.   So, you will need to adapt this template to make it work for your wedding day.   It is not intended to be used as your wedding day timeline.

Wedding Day Timeline

Need Help?

Are you having a hard time with creating your wedding day timeline?  Perhaps you are short on time?  Or you are afraid you will leave out an important detail that ends up becoming a problem on the wedding day?  Well, we are here to help!   If you are looking or an expert to help you get your wedding day set up for success, our Wedding Management Service may be a good fit for you.   Click here to get more information on our Wedding Management Service and to schedule a free consultation.

Other Tips & Ideas

Want a super-fun wedding day that stands out from the crowd?  Download our free guide,  36 Ways To Make Your Wedding Stand Out, today!  it’s packed full of ideas to make your wedding so fun, memorable, and unique that your guests will rave about your wedding for years to come.   You can download your free copy here.

Make Your Wedding Stand Out

Wedding Planning Tips, Tricks, Hacks, and Advice

For more valuable wedding planning advice, ideas, and inspiration schedule a free Wedding Planning Consultation with  A Daydream Wedding today.  We’ll discuss your ideas, inspirations, preferences, and what makes you unique so we can create a wedding as awesome as you are!  If you are not quite ready to sign on with a wedding planner but would like tips, tricks, hacks, and advice delivered right to your email inbox instead, sign up for our email list below:

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