Newly Engaged? Let’s Talk Wedding Timelines


One topic that is something every newlywed will come across during the wedding planning process is the timeline. All the day of details that your vendors, wedding planner (if you have one), bridal party, etc. will need to know. Details like what happens when, how long do things last, who needs to be where. Today I want to shed a little ray of sunlight and help you understand it all.

Please take note, that if you are working with a wedding planner or day of coordinator, this will more than likely be part of their role. If you are planning this on your own, it is absolutely necessary that you create one of these for yourself. A well-crafted timeline creates a seamless experience for your wedding guests, helps your vendors do their very best work, and cuts down on the amount of “managing” you’ll do on your wedding day – which is rather important!

If you’re ready to rock-n-roll, then let’s go ahead and get started!

Know your key details. You’ll need to collect all the information you currently have/know. Southern Weddings put it best by asking their couples to answer these key questions:

Wedding Timelines - Everything you Need to Know

Plan on having a conversation with many of your vendors in order to get these questions answered. If you don’t ask, they won’t know and just assume.

Next up: times and details. As decisions are made and information comes in, start plugging all pieces into a document. For example, if you already know what time you have to vacate the reception venue, put it in the document and start from there. Totally stuck? Here is a general example of how most evening dinner receptions go (courtesy of La Bohemme Paper Co:

Wedding Timelines- Everything You Need to Know

Here are the many, many, many factors that go into the above details:

1. Venue(s). If your ceremony and reception are at two different locations, you’ll need to add in enough time for your guests to get to their cars or to whatever transportation you may have set up for the trip.

2. Portraits. First looks are not the only option, if you’re not having one, it’s important to be realistic about a few factors – time of year and time of day you are getting married. Adjust your expectations accordingly (i.e. If you are having a ceremony at 5pm in the middle of winter, do not expect your photographer to capture daylight in your photographs.) If you decide to have a first look, we suggest getting as many of your bridal party and family portraits done prior to the ceremony, and leaving a select list of group shots for after.

3. Location and transportation. Be sure to confirm where the groomsmen and bridesmaids will be getting ready. If it is not at the ceremony venue, be sure to confirm transportation for everyone as well. It’s important to allot for any travel details. Are you planning on having a few portraits taken at the ceremony space but are getting ready somewhere else? Travel to the ceremony site with your wedding dress in hand and then put it on when you arrive. Will make travel MUCH easier!

4. Dances. Many couples opt to going right into their first dance when they entered the reception. If you prefer waiting, then you could use your first dance or parent dances after dinner as encouragement to get your guests on the dance floor.

5. Toasts. We recommend splitting the speeches up, perhaps between courses during dinner service. This way your wedding guests can focus on each speech individually.

6. Sunset. Even if you did a first look, your wedding photographer may suggest taking a few bride and groom shots at sunset. This is a great time to have a little “alone” time together during your reception, plus the gorgeous sunset glow makes for amazing lighting!

And finally, a few tips to remember:

Wedding guests WILL arrive early. Plan on having your pre-ceremony music start at least half an hour before your invitation start time. If you’re doing a first look or pre-ceremony portraits, be sure to have everything finished and get yourself and bridal party “hidden” away from guests sight at least half an hour beforehand. Doing so will give you some private time with your bridesmaids before the ceremony starts.

Make a couple versions of your timeline. The one you send to your coordinator should include every detail they would need – like where every member of the wedding party would be at. So that your wedding party and vendors aren’t overwhelmed with those details, create a simplified version. We recommend sending those out to vendors about a week before the wedding day. You can also print out personalized copies for your family members and bridal party. Here’s a peek at the beginnings of a wedding day timeline.

Wedding Timelines - What You Need to Know

For all this talk of detail, though, hear this: your wedding timeline is a guideline. As long as you don’t keep guests waiting and the food is fresh, it’s totally fine to deviate from it as the day begins to flow. And that’s where a talented wedding planner/coordinator comes in. We know having one is not for every budget, but we highly recommend making room for one if possible. If it is absolutely not an option, be sure to select a family member or friend as the point of contact for the big day. A wedding planner/coordinator is a great gift to not only yourself (and sanity), but also to your family and friends – both because you’ll be stress-free, and it allows all wedding guests to relax and enjoy YOUR wedding.

Do you have a wedding timeline yet? Do you have additional questions that may not have been answered? We’d love to know!

Featured Image: Photo from MOD Wedding

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