Planning your wedding day timeline is an important step in making sure your big day runs smoothly. Whether you have a wedding planner or not, wedding day timelines are a MUST!
First and foremost, plan your day around how you want to feel and who you want to spend it with. Let go of the “shoulds” and traditions if they don’t resonate with you, and celebrate your love the way you want! Do you have your wedding timeline figured out? Or are you feeling a little overwhelmed about where to start? Timeline planning can be so confusing, especially if you don’t know how long things usually take. After all, you probably haven’t done this before so it’s not like you’re an expert 😉
Here are a few of my tips for how to create a wedding day timeline that will not only help you to feel more organized, but to spend more quality time with your guests:
📝 01. BRAINSTORM SESH
Grab some wine (or beer), chat about how you envision your day, and then take some time to write down everything you both want to include. Champagne pop with your wedding party? Write it down. Pizza for late night snack? Heck yes. First look with your dog? Put it on the list. I always recommend doing sunset photos and I promise you won’t regret keeping me around for at least 15min of the dance party!
🥂 02. HARD TIMES
Okay so next up is figuring out your definite times. First thing to do when planning your wedding day is decide when your ceremony is going to be. This is the staple around everything else is built! If you’re having your wedding at a venue, you likely will have a shut down time (usually midnight or 1am).
This will drastically change the timeline of your day as we can fit most photos in before the ceremony. If you decide on one, it will take place 2-3 hours before the ceremony. This also lets you catch all the wedding party shots, bride portraits, and groom portraits. If you choose to forgo a First Look and head right to the ceremony, you’ll need to factor in time during cocktail hour to get all your wedding party + family shots.
These often take place after the ceremony when all of your guests have arrived. You can opt for doing these before the ceremony but make sure each family member knows to arrive early! I recommend no more than 10 groupings so we don’t keep your guests waiting. This should only take about 30min with cooperation! Tips for helping this run smoother: after the ceremony, have your officiant announce where close family should be headed to for their photos!
By this point, you should have a good idea of the time surrounding the ceremony and photos involved. Figuring out when to start your day depends entirely on how long you’ll take to get ready! Don’t forget to factor in drive time if you’re not starting the day’s events at the venue. Note: a lot of makeup/hair teams recommend 1hr/person. Generally, starting at 8am should have you ready by noon or 1pm!
The rest of the night:
Think about how long you’ll want speeches to run, when dinner will be served (no more than an hour after the end of the ceremony unless serving appies!), and whether you’d like a send-off. I ALWAYS recommend keeping me around for sunset/golden hour photos, after that it totally depends on how much of your party – ahem – reception covered. Again, if you’re doing a send-off, like a sparkler exit, make sure to factor that in to your photography time if you want me to capture it! This takes a lot more planning and effort than you’d think so make sure you let me know if you’re interested in one so we can plan accordingly.
Tip: Schedule extra time during transitions
People are almost never where they’re supposed to be on a wedding day. Whether you’re hunting down a rogue groomsman or trying to find out where Grandma Betty went so you can take family photos. My pro tip for timelines is to schedule some wiggle room!
Tip: Make sure YOU enjoy cocktail hour too
Keep family photos short if you’re doing them after the ceremony, and head right into cocktail hour yourselves. This is the best time to spend with your guests, grab a drink (and a snack!), and soak it all in.
🙋🏼♀️ 03. ASK YOUR VENDORS
Once you have a rough timeline, ask your vendors! I always recommend hiring a wedding planner or day-of coordinator and they’ll be the best person to vet your timeline! You can also ask your photographer, DJ, caterer, and often the venue will be a great source of info too.
✨ 04. Tips to Personalize your Day:
There is only one rule on your wedding day: enjoy the hell out of it! There are SO many ways to make it feel more like you, bring your personalities in, or even just incorporate stuff you love to do.
Consider incorporating family traditions, your favourite foods or hobbies, etc. This can be something like stopping at your favourite fast food/ice cream/coffee joint, bringing waffles for breakfast while you get ready, or playing your favourite board game.
Areas of your wedding like a unique guestbook, decor, lawn games, signature cocktails, and late night snacks are my go-to recommendations for personalizing!
Tip: Consider spending the morning together!
This isn’t for everyone but it can definitely be a romantic and intentional way to start your wedding day. Have some breakfast, write your letters side by side, go for a walk, whatever you’d like.
Tip: Reconsider the formal exit
Sparkler exits can be an absolute blast, don’t get me wrong, but continuing to spend quality time with all your favourite people late into the night? Even better.
I send all of my couples a timeline planning guide about 4-6 months out from their wedding day to help get them started! It can be useful to have your timeline finalized by the time you send save the dates or invitations to let guests know what to expect from your day.
However you plan to spend your day, make sure you prioritize the things you love most! Formal photos are important, and a big part of your keepsakes from the day, but leave time to just be in the moment. After all, that’s usually when the best candids are taken, and loving memories made.