Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” A wedding timeline for your wedding day is a must! Coordinating vendors, wedding party, family, friends, and details can be like herding cats. But if you have a plan it can make things so much easier. A timeline gets everyone on the same page.
Once a timeline is created and sent to each vendor, wedding party, and family members, you will have one less thing to worry about on the wedding day. Your wedding party will know when they need to be where and it allows your family members to also be aware of your plans, so they don’t miss out on special moments. Above all, a wedding timeline helps you as the bride and groom relax and enjoy the day instead of trying to organize every aspect of it.
Your Photographer and Planner are Your Go-Tos
The first two people you should be chatting with about helping you create your timeline are your wedding photographer and your planner/coordinator. As wedding photographers, we like to work with your wedding planner to create a timeline that works best for your specific day.
We like to start with our couples ceremony time and work around that time as a starting point.
We provide timeline creation for all our couples that will advise when we will arrive and what we need to accomplish the photographic goals for the day. Wedding professionals like your photographer should know things like what time sunset is and if you would like a first look or not. Then they can advise on what needs to happen for you to get your must-have images. This timeline can serve as a greater outline for when you should start getting ready when people need to start arriving, when your vendors need to arrive and when your wedding party should be ready by.
We highly suggest building in an extra 5-10 minutes here and there for things that might not go according to plan, like traffic and a bridesmaid or groomsmen is late. This won’t be a big deal if you have built-in buffers here and there.
Here is an example of a timeline we would create for our brides (from just the photography basics point of view, your planner should help you create a more extensive timeline for vendors):
1:00 pm – photographers arrive (detail shots and getting ready)
2:30 – the bride in her dress
2:45 pm – bride and groom first look and portraits
3:15 pm – full bridal party photos
3:30 pm – bride with bridesmaids
3:45 pm – any family available
4:00 pm – groom with groomsmen (bride in hiding)
4:15 pm – photograph ceremony and reception area before guests arrive
5:00 pm – ceremony
5:30 pm – family photos & cocktail hour
5:45 pm – sunset photos of bride and groom
6:00 pm – bride and groom join cocktail hour
7:00pm – reception start
9:00pm – photographers exit
10:00 pm – bride and groom exit
Start from Scratch
This should give you an idea of what the flow of the day will be like and how to plan with your vendors. We suggest you start from scratch and begin with your ceremony time. Being able to show up and be present and enjoy your wedding day instead of being stressed is going to make all the difference in the world!
Now I will insert my shameless plug for a wedding planner. Please, please, please hire a wedding planner, they will make your wedding day so much more enjoyable than trying to do it all on your own. And a professional wedding planner that has executed may events will be able to resolve any problems that come up with ease because they have the experience under their belt. Just trust me! Hire a wedding planner.
A few things to think about when putting together your timeline:
- Remember travel times if you are moving locations, this could be getting ready, to the ceremony, to the reception.
- Cushion time between events, add a few extra minutes in your timeline here and there and if you are early then you have time to relax.
- Getting ready time, don’t underestimate how long it will take you to get ready, do a trial hair and makeup run to know how long it will take. It’s good to ask your beauty team how long each bridesmaid will take as well then budget time for mother of the bride and groom too if that’s something you are wanting. You should start earlier than you think!
- Add time to relax and breaks
- When you need your vendors to arrive
- Where and when flowers need to be delivered. I often ask my brides to have their flowers where they are getting ready so I can photograph them.
- Drive time between getting ready, to the venue, to the ceremony
- How long your ceremony will be, ask your officiant for a more accurate timeframe.
- If you do have to travel between ceremony and reception venues, budget time for your guests to drive to the next location.
- Your photos before and after the ceremony, your photographer should budget this time for you, by getting specific information like:
- Do you want to do a first look?
- How many are in your wedding party?
- How many family groupings after the ceremony?
- Any special events during the ceremony or reception.
- Any receiving lines, toasts, dances, etc.
- Anything you have planned before getting ready like a brunch.
You will want to make sure your invitation includes the exact time the ceremony is to start even if you think you should put an earlier time for latecomers. Don’t do this because your guests that are on time will get annoyed by sitting an extra 15-30 minutes. Instead, you can factor in an extra 5-10 minutes for everyone to get their seat and get settled.
Also having ushers help with your guests know where to sit and if they are late they can be shown to their seats with ease.
Another tip we would offer is making sure your guests are fed and taken care of. Having a cocktail hour is a perfect way to appease your guests while you take photos with your family. And having a first look with your bride or groom cuts down on the time the photos will take afterward. So, we highly suggest a first look. That way you are able to enjoy your cocktail hour or be promptly on time for your reception.
Looking for more wedding planning tips check out our Ultimate Month By Month Wedding Planning Guide. And if you are looking for a wedding photographer we’d love to chat with you.