Plan with Me: Creating Your Wedding Day Timeline

Planning your wedding day seems like a breeze and that you can wing it with tentative times. The biggest mistake that you can make on your wedding day is assuming you have enough time between hair appointments, first looks, the ceremony itself, and how your reception is supposed to go. So, that leaves the question, how does everything go, and how to you schedule it so that you can have a smooth and stress-free day?

My first tip is to start from the ceremony, as that’s a time that has been set in stone and announced on invitations and social media for a while. When talking to your officiant, ask about how long of a ceremony you should expect. Though you don’t need to write down every detail and time it to the minute, get a general idea, and make sure to write it down (I love using Excel for timelines and all things relating to planning…I’m a real big fan!). I’d also get into contact with your photographer, and ask as to how long it would take to do a first look, get bridal party photos. Whether or not you’re doing a first look will greatly affect your timeline, as you’ll want to fit in those pictures with your groom either before or after your ceremony.

So, ceremony and photos have been timed out, and then you can calculate about how long it will take for you to get to and from locations, especially if your ceremony and reception venues are a bit of a ways away from each other. Add in time for traffic (Google Maps now has feature to choose the time and day of the year to see how heavy traffic is!).

Now, you’re at the reception: determine now if you’re doing speeches, who’s speaking, if you’re doing a garter and bouquet toss, Money Dance, and if you’d prefer to have everything done at once or have the evening spread out. Different parts of the US do receptions differently, such as in Louisiana traditions are spread throughout the event to give guests time to eat and socialize with you, whereas East Coast weddings tend to do all everything right at the beginning and leave the rest of the reception to party and dance. You can certainly time it however you like, but remember that songs last roughly 4 minutes (so carving out 30 minutes of first dances isn’t quite necessary), the DJ or Band has to know when you’re doing various tosses and dances, and folks aren’t quite ready for cake right after dinner.

Whew! That’s a lot! But what about everything before the actual wedding? Go back to ceremony, and pictures beforehand, and map out how long it will take you to get to locations. Mark down when parents, groomsmen, bridesmaids, and everyone involved have to be dressed at the location. Refer back to contracts of how long you have your photographer and videographers, and include travel times in this, especially if they’re shooting you getting ready. Estimate roughly 30 minutes to get dressed, as pictures and poses will be taken throughout, and any last minute bathroom breaks and touchups will be needed then.

In regards to getting ready, think 1.5 hours per person getting hair and makeup done, and how many stylists will be working with you. Generally for a five person bridal party and two mothers, with two stylists working, look at roughly 4 hours. Be sure to remember to eat, as it might be a while before you get to sample your delicious wedding food! Again, include traveling, especially if you’re going from home to a salon. If you’re doing a massage or getting nails done, be sure to include that as well, and confirm all of your appointments.

Finally, you want to finish up the timeline with when you should be up and about, and look at when you should go to bed the night before so that you’re well rested and prepared for the big day. Taking the extra time to ensure that you’ve got everything planned out and taken care of well in advance will make a HUGE impact on whether or not you enjoy your wedding day. This also allows you to look at any last minute details or items that need to be taken care of, and you can delegate those tasks (and get a mimosa or two in the morning of your wedding ;) ).

Happy planning,

Randi