I know how difficult it is, you're planning out your wedding day and don't even know where to start. I am here to help! Creating a timeline will help your wedding day run smoothly and keep all your vendors, family members, and wedding party on the same page.
More likely than not, your wedding day is the biggest event you have ever planned, and there are so many moving parts, I am going to give you some tips to help your day be seamless.
(P.S. All of my wedding photography clients get a custom timeline built by yours truly)
What needs to go on my timeline?
Wedding Vendors, Wedding Party, and Family Members.
You should have a list of all of the people who are playing important roles on your wedding day. Anyone who needs to be at a certain place at certain times, needs to be listed as well as given a timeline.
All of the major details such as salon address, venue address, rehearsal dinner location, lodging accommodations, etc.
Schedule of Events -
Ultimately, the goal of your timeline is to create a list of events and times so no one is in the wrong place at the wrong time and there is no room for confusion. You cannot be too detailed with your timeline. More is always better in this case.
How to Build Your Timeline
Arrival and Departure Times
Contact your vendors and work out arrival and departure times with them. Make sure everyone is arriving within reason to each other. You don't want your hair stylist to arrive three hours after your makeup is done, or your bridesmaids to arrive an hour before the wedding, make sure everyone correlates to some degree.
Ask your photographer if they have a timeline for you, most professional photographers will build you one or at least help you build one.
Ask your hair and makeup artists how long each person they are styling will take.
Creating The Actual Timeline
A Word or Google Doc will work perfectly fine, but if you are wanting to use something a little more organized, Timeline Genius is a great place to start.
Start with your hair and makeup start time, if they have given you a schedule, this will be the perfect guideline for the beginning of the day.
Your photographer should be the next to arrive. If you have decided to do a first look or any formal images prior to the ceremony, this will be earlier than not. I typically recommend that I arrive 1-2 hours before the bride puts on her dress.
Also add when your florist and caterer need to arrive. They will have a recommended time for you.
If you are doing formal images prior to the ceremony, I recommend getting all of your family formals out of the way. If you decide to do this, have all of your family members that need to be in your formals, arrive around when your first look is planned for so that everyone will be ready for the family portion.
Groom + Groomsmen -
Most of the time, groomsmen are already ready when they arrive, or almost ready. Have them arrive at the same time as your photographer so they can be ready for some getting ready shots (these can be faked) and formal images before the ceremony.
Bride + Bridesmaids -
The girls definitely have the longest days, with hair, makeup, etc. If your bridesmaids are not having hair and makeup done at the venue, have them there while you get yours done for cute getting ready shots.
Formal Images -
Here is a base of how long each set of images takes:
First look - 15 minutes
Bride and Groom - 30 minutes
Wedding Party - 25 minutes
Family - 30 minutes
Golden Hour Portraits - 15 Minutes (Normally in the middle of the reception)
Unless you are having a catholic mass, which is typically a full hour, most ceremonies are 20-40 minutes.
Plan for guests to arrive 30 minutes prior to the ceremony though, so if you are not wanting to be seen by guests before you walk down the aisle, make sure you and your wedding party are hidden half an hour before the ceremony. This is the perfect time to touch up hair and makeup, say a prayer with each other, etc.
Your caterers should start off your timeline by knowing what time your reception is over and they should guide you through their process, each caterer is different, so I would leave that up to them.
Most DJ's will have a plan for the reception for you, but this is my recommended timeline for receptions.
Cocktail Hour - One Hour (Unless all formal images are done prior to ceremony)
Entrances - 10 Minutes
First Dance - 5 Minutes
Dinner - 60 Minutes
Speeches/Toasts - 15 Minutes
Father Daughter Dance - 5 Minutes
Mother Son Dance - 5 Minutes
Cake Cutting - 5 Minutes
Open Dance Floor - 1 Hour
Bouquet Toss - 5 Minutes
Garter Toss - 5 Minutes
Exit (Most of the time faux) - 10 Minutes
Open Dance Floor - Until Your Night is Over
Here is a full sample timeline to help you get started
7:30am - Hair and Makeup Begins (Most Hair + Makeup artists need at least 30 minutes for hair, 30 minutes for makeup, for each person, so factor that into arrival time)
10am - Photographer Arrives
10 - 11 Details
11am - Groom and Groomsmen Arrive
11am - 11:30 - Bride Getting Ready Shots
11:30am - 12pm - Groom Getting Ready Shots
12:30pm - Bride Puts on Dress
1pm - First Look
1:15pm - 1:45 - Bride + Groom Formals
1:45pm - 2:15 - Wedding Party Formals
2:15pm - 2:45 - Family Formals
3:00pm - Everyone tucked away for ceremony
4pm - Ceremony
4:30 - Cocktail hour (Any remaining family members formal images, and a minute for bride and groom to have a moment alone)
5pm - Entrances
5:10pm - First Dance
5:30pm - Dinner is Served
6:15 - Toasts
6:30 - Father Daughter Dance
6:35 - Mother Son Dance
6:40 - Cake Cutting
6:45 - 8 - Open Dance Floor
7:15 - 7:30 - Golden Hour Portraits
8:00pm - Bouquet and Garter Toss
8:45 - Photographers Exit
8:45 - The Night is Over - Open Dance Floor
(If you’re not planning to do a first look or are not planning to do a cocktail hour, or any other events listed, feel free to remove them and adjust your times accordingly.)
I hope this helps you plan for your day! If you have any questions, feel free to share them in the comments and I will get back to you!