As my husband said when I asked him to review the document I put together, I'm giving away some valuable information today. One of my biggest responsibilities as a wedding planner is to put together the wedding day timeline. It's an art, really, and is really dependent on the priorities of the couple, the expectations and needs of the vendors, and the feel of the guests.
I've created a basic wedding day timeline for you to print out and use when planning the order and timing of the events on your wedding day. I didn't include the time it will take you and the members of your wedding party to get ready, since that can differ for everyone. Be sure to ask the person/people doing your hair and makeup how long it will take to get everyone done, and plan accordingly.
Also, I didn't include time estimates for the individual parts of the reception, since it's pretty self explanatory. What really matters is the order, and I gave you a general order for the day. Obviously, the order can change according to your own preferences. For example, you may want to do your first dance after toasts, and you may not do the bouquet or garter toss at all.
Another big alternative for the timeline is doing a first look. Most wedding vendors, myself included, prefer when a couple does a first look, for a variety of reasons. Regardless of sentimentality and tradition, first looks reduce the amount of time you need for pictures after the ceremony and let you enjoy your cocktail hour or reception with your guests earlier. If you choose to do a first look, you can choose to do all of your photos before the ceremony and go straight into the cocktail hour or grand entrance, or you can do only some of your photos before. You'll want to talk to your photographer about how much time they like to allocate for a first look.
Whenever I meet with a new client, I always tell them how I handle the reception. I definitely put timeframes for reception events, but I make it clear that the times, and even the order, can change. It's all about getting a feel for the atmosphere and the guests during the actual event. For example, there are times when a reception can feel like it's dragging, like if some guests are done with dinner but others are still eating. In cases like this, I may decide to start toasts early to keep guests from sitting in their seats, bored. You may not realize when your reception is dragging as the bride or groom, so it's important that you are open with the DJ as to whether or not you want them to make these types of decisions.
Once you go through and create this timeline for the day, be sure to send it to your vendors to get their input and approval. You'll want to include their contact information (including a phone number that they can be reached on the day of the wedding) and their arrival times so that you can all be on the same page. Send the completed timeline to all necessary parties once it's confirmed. You can create a simplified timeline for your wedding party and family as well, to make things easier for everyone.
Click the above image to download the two page document.
Do you have any other questions about your wedding day timeline? Leave them in the comments and I'll answer them!