Planning The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

Every couple wants their wedding day to run smoothly for both themselves and their guests. A wedding day timeline is one of the ways you can ensure that your wedding day unfolds exactly as you had planned it. 

Your timeline is the backbone of the day – the document that sets out the who, what, when and where of your entire wedding day. And whilst a wedding day timeline won’t guarantee that your day runs exactly as it’s been set out on paper, it is the best way to ensure you don’t run out of time for the important moments of your day or ever feel rushed or overwhelmed by what’s happening around you. It’s also the best way to set aside space within your day so it doesn’t whiz by without you being able to take it all in.

Every wedding requires a unique and customised timeline (something we specialise in at Evenio). But there are some things you can do to plan the perfect wedding day timeline and I’m sharing those with you today. Read on for with my five top tips, starting with what you already know.

Get started with a wedding day timeline outline

Your timeline should be started as an outline as soon as you have some fixed timings (the ‘what you already know’).

A timeline outline can be a simple spreadsheet or document with a two column table. In one column list out the timings of the day from early in the morning until the reception finishes. I like to start with 30-minute increments and move onto 15-minute increments a few hours out from the ceremony. You can go back to 30-minute increments after formalities are completed at your reception. 

In the second column start filling in the fixed times that you already know. Depending on where you are with your planning these may include:

  • Ceremony start and finish times
  • Reception start and finish times
  • Food service times
  • Sunset time on the day of your wedding (if you intend having sunset photos)
  • Transport times to get you to the ceremony

I also include the times required by your hair and makeup stylist for everyone in the wedding party. Plus any extras getting their hair and makeup done (Mum for example). And I will also include the address details of where everyone is getting ready.

Once you have those times and other details in your outline you can begin speaking with your venue and vendors for their recommendations. I usually start by sharing the outline with your photographer and videographer and then move onto the other vendors.

Planning your perfect wedding day timeline is a little like piecing together a jigsaw. It’s a collaborative process that takes a lot of time and insight to get right. Which is why your next step might be to hire the services of an experienced wedding planner or on-the-day coordinator to help prepare your perfect timeline, rather than attempting to nut it all out yourself.

Hire a wedding planner

I know this may seem like an obvious thing for me to recommend, but stay with me here. I mentioned that piecing together your wedding day timeline is a collaborative process and it is. But it’s also beneficial to have someone who is knowledgeable about all of the details of the day leading the process and acting as your advocate too.

A wedding day is full of moving parts and surprises. An experienced wedding planner is skilled at knowing how to manage all of this and also how to get things back on track if at any time your wedding day is running behind schedule. 

The greatest benefit of hiring a wedding planner or even a wedding day manager is that they will use their knowledge of all the weddings they’ve worked on to help you prepare a workable timeline that takes into account the specifics of your day. And then they’ll be there on the day to keep track of timings so you don’t have to worry about anything other than enjoying your special day.

Consider a first look

A first look is where the two of you see each other before your wedding and have your couple photos. Some couples choose to include family and even their wedding party so they can skip the post-ceremony photo shoot altogether and join their guests for cocktails.

It’s amazing how time can fly by between the end of your ceremony and the start of your reception. On average most couples only have 2.5 – 3.5 hours between the ceremony start time and the wedding party entrance at the reception. During that time, you will say your I-Do’s, receive congratulatory hugs and kisses and have photos. That’s a lot to fit into those few hours when you’re still buzzing from your ceremony.

First looks are incredibly romantic and can be a good way to calm your nerves ahead of your ceremony. They also allow you to go straight from your ceremony to cocktail hour with your guests. I know that this is something a lot of couples feel that they’re missing out on when they head off for photos after the ceremony. 

And in my experience, first looks are very timeline friendly. I’ve never had a first look delay a ceremony, but I can’t say the same for a post-ceremony photoshoot and the reception! 

Schedule buffers when planning your perfect wedding day timeline

No matter how well you schedule your day, something will cause it to run behind time. Aunt Judy might pop in to chat with you unexpectedly, causing a delay in you getting your dress on and getting into the waiting car on time. There may be an accident on the freeway causing the photographer to be delayed in travelling from your partner’s location to yours for getting-ready photographs. 

Any number of things can put a wedding behind schedule, which is why I recommend including buffer times in your perfect wedding day timeline. Everyone will appreciate having extra time around these things:

  • Hair and makeup
  • Travel times (for both you and your photographer/videographer)
  • Receiving congratulations after your ceremony
  • Portrait photography
  • Prior to your entrance at the reception (time to freshen up)
  • Speeches

A wedding timeline with buffers will result in you feeling less rushed and much calmer and more relaxed throughout the whole day.

Allow enough time for setting up and packing down

The wedding you’ve been envisioning takes time to set up and style to perfection. And at the end of the day, all of it needs to be packed down and bumped out of the venue too. When planning the schedule for your day you need to consider how much time will be needed for these activities. And particularly when it comes to setting up and styling, the more time the better.

After everything you’ve put into creating your special day, the last thing you want to do is limit the amount of time your team has to execute your wedding day vision. 

Every wedding is different and your wedding stylist is the best person to advise you on the time needed for setting up and packing down your wedding. But as a guide, allow 2 – 4 hours for set up and styling of your wedding (more if you have more than 150 guests or very intricate styling including ceiling installations). Plus 1 – 3 hours for pack down and bump out by your vendors and bump out team.

And if you’re thinking of setting up and styling your own wedding on the day,  do yourself a favour and have a re-think. Or at least plan your timeline outline first. That way you’ll have a much clearer idea of just how little time you’ll have available to you for these activities.

So there you have my five top tips for preparing your perfect wedding day timeline. But of course, if you work with me, I’ll be collaborating with you and your vendors to get this right so you two have the time of your lives on your wedding day!

To find out more about all of the things we can do to help make planning your wedding a joy, why not set up a free chat with me.

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