Creating a timeline can definitely be stressful and very confusing but it is so important to have your wedding day mapped out! There are so many moving parts to a wedding and if you don’t create a very detailed timeline, then things are bound to spiral out of control at some point during the night.
I recommend that if you have the finances, then hire a Wedding Coordinator because they will create a timeline for you and then you don’t have to worry about it. If you can’t afford a full time coordinator, consider hiring just a day of coordinator and often times they will still create a timeline for you! Having a coordinator takes the stress off of you to keep to the timeline the day of the wedding. If something needs to be pushed back 10 minutes or a vendor showed up late, they will be the one worrying about it instead of you. You should be enjoying your day!
Not all timelines are going to be the same because there are so many variables that go into each wedding. If you have to create your own timeline, here are some questions that I always ask:
- Are the ceremony & reception taking place at the same venue or will guests have to travel to a separate reception location?
- Where will the couple and there wedding parties be getting ready?
- Do you have any before wedding breakfast/lunch plans?
- How long will it take everyone to get hair/makeup done and get dressed?
- Is there going to be a father/daughter or fiance first look?
- How many people will be walking during the ceremony?
- Will you be hosting a cocktail hour?
- How many photos do you want your photographer to take during cocktail hour before your grand entrance & how long will that take?
- During the grand entrance, will you be announcing the entire bridal party or just yourselves?
- Will you be doing a first dance?
- How long will dinner take to serve?
- Will you be doing any other special dances? (Father/daughter, mother/son, anniversary dance, money dance, etc.)
- Will there be any other fun games or traditions? (the shoe game, the horah, etc.)
- Will you be doing a welcome toast or blessing before dinner?
- Will you as the couple want to make a formal thank you toast?
- Who else will be making toasts? (Maid of Honor, Best Man, Parents)
- Will you be doing a cake cutting ceremony?
- Will there be a bouquet or garter toss?
- What time is sunset & golden hour (for photos) if having an outdoor reception?
- Does your reception venue have a curfew?
- How long will your reception be?
- How long have your vendors been contracted for?
- Will you be doing a last dance or grand exit?
- Will you host an after party?
These are all essential questions that need to be answered before a timeline can be created. If one of these questions goes unanswered, then it could throw the entire timeline off.
Now as far as actually creating a timeline, what is the best system to use? I generally use an excel spreadsheet because it already has the lines to keep everything organized and if you know how to use it correctly, it can actually do some of the work for you!
Here is an example timeline based on a wedding that begins at 4:00 PM and ends at 10:00 PM because their venue had a curfew!
I recommend handing a timeline to all of your vendors when you have finished it so they know what timing will look like as well. Your photographer needs to know when and how long she has to take photos, your DJ needs to know when to make certain announcements, etc. It is always important to work with your vendors on timing as well because they are the professionals. They might have some knowledge for you on how long things like family photos generally take.
I also always recommend building a bit of cushion into your timeline. Often times, weddings do not go exactly to time because there are so many moving parts and people associated with the day. Give yourself some cushion between items that could take longer than anticipated. It could take longer to take certain photos than others or transportation to and from the wedding could be slightly delayed. Leaving a cushion in your timeline allows for these minor delays without throwing off your entire day. Always be prepared and always think ahead!