There are two types of people in the world – those who are organization pros and those who aren’t. I happen to fall under the organization freak category so the idea of a wedding day timeline makes a lot of sense to me. I make to-do lists for pretty much everything in my life, I created the mother-of-all-spreadsheets when I was planning my wedding, and I tend to like being in control. But there are tons of people out there who would rather let things unfold in a carefree way or hand it off to someone else – and that’s totally fine. For all my couples who are planning a wedding (or a big event for that matter) I’d suggest having some sort of timeline even if you’re not the organization type. It doesn’t need to be strict and down to the last minute, but having a rough idea of how long certain aspects of the day will be or when things take place is a very helpful tool for all the vendors you’ve hired and to help those around you (so they aren’t asking you a gazillion questions on the day of).
These are my top tips for a successful wedding day timeline:
1. Lean on those around you:
No one expects you to know how much time should be allocated for each area of the day. (Most of us don’t have much experience in planning weddings!) I highly recommend leaning on the experts that you’ve hired to help you – they’ve done this before and can give you insight that’s specific to you. If you have hired a wedding planner then they will take on this job but if you haven’t, your photographer is the best resource. Ask your photographer how much time they need for certain photos and they can help build a timeline for you around the ceremony and reception. Once it’s finalized, you can pass it on to all important parties so everyone is on the same page and they can make suggestions if something doesn’t look right to them.
2. Anticipate traffic or delays:
Being rushed on your wedding day is one if the biggest causes of stress so if you can avoid it by adding an extra ten minutes here and there, you won’t regret it. Even if you’re having your ceremony and reception in the same location, you never know what sort of delays could come up – someone’s dress could be lost, hair could take longer than anticipated, or the officiant could be late. All these things will trickle down into your time for photos or chatting with guests, or dancing with your girlfriends. You want to enjoy those moments, not feel rushed.
3. Consider a “First Look”:
If you are open to ditching tradition then I highly recommend the first look. While it’s not for everyone (I didn’t do one), I will say that it allows for a very relaxed flow to the day. The majority of photos would be taken before your ceremony so it breaks up the amount of photos being done back-to-back in a short period of time (like your family portraits, wedding party photos, and then bride and groom photos all being done before your reception). Instead, it gives you a chance to hang out with guests during your cocktail hour and take some time to relax after saying “I do”.
4. Limit the number of locations:
The less you have planned on the day, the better. Weddings have a ton of moving parts and the last thing you want to deal with is getting from location A to location B then location C all within an hour. I’d suggest choosing a location that offers versatility so you can capture different scenes without having to go very far. Lean on your photographer here and ask them what location would be best based on the time of day, the weather, and the number of people. I will always suggest we move away from the ceremony or reception location for wedding party photos so there aren’t any interruptions – sometimes guests will see the group and follow along to take photos (it also helps you feel more comfortable not having a dozen cameras on you). We would work together to find a location that is meaningful to you, isn’t too far from your reception, and works with the lighting at that time of day.
5. Go with the flow:
Chances are, things will go wrong. Something will run late which means there’s less time for something else. Or it could be pouring rain so your outdoor location needs to change – all of this is ok! Your wedding day is just like any other day where you would go with the flow and your timeline isn’t meant to be a regimented schedule, but rather a guide to help the day flow as smoothly as possible. You’ve hired professionals who will work as hard as they can to keep things seamless and stress-free so you can trust in them and relax knowing everything will be ok. The wedding itself is about your marriage, so if at the end of the day you are married to the love of your life, then it went perfectly!
Planning a wedding is a lot of work – it takes a lot of time, money, and wine! The quote “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” applies so much to wedding planning. If you can set yourself up for success and do as much as possible ahead of time, then on your wedding day you can focus on one thing: marrying the love of your life! Hire vendors you trust, lean on them as much as possible for help, and be ready to go with the flow and you’ll be sure to have one of the most memorable days of your life.