Once you are ready to start your timeline, write down the times of the following:
- ceremony start time
- cocktail hour start time
- reception start time
- reception end time
By doing this you can see how much you need to cram in a five to seven hour window.
2. The Rehearsal
The ceremony rehearsal often gets overlooked, but should be added to your timeline. Some of your vendors will need to attend, as well as your entire bridal party and some family. Usually the rehearsal is held the night before the wedding, but sometimes it's held two days prior.
3. The morning of.
I can't stress how important it is to plan out the morning of your wedding. If you fall behind schedule in the morning, everything else will run behind. Think about where you will be waking up that morning. Will you be in your own house? Your parents house? A hotel? If you won't be at your own house, think and prepare several days before about what you need. Think about where and what you will be eating for breakfast (You need to eat!).
4. Hair and Makeup.
This goes hand-in-hand with your morning schedule. Are you going to a salon? Do you have a hair and makeup professional coming to you? Are you doing your own hair and makeup? Try to nail down the times for hair and makeup well before the big day. If you are driving to a salon, make to sure take into account the time it takes to get there, traffic, etc. Create a detailed schedule for hair and makeup by each person. For example, Bridesmaid A is getting hair done while Bridesmaid B is getting makeup done. Then Bridesmaid C gets hair done while Bridesmaid D gets makeup done. And most importantly- make sure you schedule yourself enough time to for yourself get hair and makeup done. Don't go last. Go somewhere in the middle. If you don't like how your hair or makeup looks, you will have enough time to fix it.
Chances are you will be with your bridal party for most of the day, usually several hours before your ceremony starts. Don't forget to plan ahead for lunch. The easiest thing is to get something delivered to you. You (or your mom) should not be stressing over what to cook everyone. Get a sandwich tray delivered. Veggie trays go a long way too.
6. Transportation and floral deliveries.
Your florist will most likely work with you ahead of time to figure out a delivery schedule for your florals. The florist will drop your bouquets off to you, deliver florals to the ceremony location, and centerpieces to the reception venue.
Wedding Planner Tip: Make sure you have your bouquet and bridesmaids bouquets with you by the time your photographer arrives.
And please don't forget about transportation. Confirm arrival times with your transportation company well before your wedding day. Make sure they know the distance between venues and start times of everything.
7. Your vendors.
You will need to figure out what times your vendors are arriving and what time they are leaving. If your photographer is arriving by noon, you should have your hair and makeup finished around 11:00. Make sure you are aware of the time your vendors are leaving as well. Some vendors like photographers and videographers leave an hour before your reception ends.
8. Ceremony logistics.
As a wedding planner, I find the ceremony often gets overlooked. Couples don't realize that you need to spend time planning for your ceremony. Your timeline should include what time groomsmen will arrive to the ceremony location, who will be handing out programs and escorting guests, who will be pinning boutineers on, etc. Plan what time the girls will be arriving and where they will go when they get there. This is especially important if the bride does not want anyone to see her prior to the ceremony.
9. After the ceremony.
Congratulations, you're married! Now what? Are you staying at your church for family pictures? Are you doing a receiving line? Are you heading out somewhere for pictures with your bridal party? Think about this and time it out accordingly.
Wedding Planner Tip: Don't hang around in the back of your church or ceremony area if you're short on time. You will get bombarded with hugs and kisses from well-meaning guests. They will all want to get a picture with you. This can be a big time-suck.
11. Cocktail Hour.
Do you want to attend Cocktail Hour, or did you want to make a grand entrance at your reception? Plan this out in your timeline.
12. The Reception.
This is where couples get a little stressed. During your reception, several items will need to happen. Here is a sample of what to include during your reception timeline:
- bridal party gets announced in
- first dance
- first course served
- parent dances
- main course served
- cake cutting
- garter and bouquet toss
Wedding Planner Tip: The cake should be cut an hour and half before your reception ends.
13. After the reception.
Your wedding is over. But you should still have a few things scheduled. Who is packing up your gifts? Are you coming back to your venue the next day to pick up your decor? Will your florist or rental company be coming back to pick up items? Are you having an after-party?
14. The next day.
If you are having a ton of guests in from out of town, it might be nice to plan a brunch the next day. Sometimes parents host out of town guests at their house. If you are planning something, make sure your guests know so they can plan accordingly.
A wedding planner can help you create a timeline. But there are also resources available to help you. Timeline Genius is a great website that creates timelines for you. I personally use Excel to help my couples stay on track. Once your timeline is finalized, make sure all of your vendors get a copy.