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Whether you are planning for a backyard micro wedding, a virtual wedding or a full-blown high-guest-count celebration a timeline is essential to ensure that every part of your special day will go as smooth as possible.
The key to creating a wedding timeline is to make it as detailed as possible beginning from the preparations up to the last part of the reception. This will help everyone who is part of your wedding, suppliers included, to be on the same page all throughout.
If you’re getting started on drafting your wedding timeline, we created a guide that includes tips, important reminders and even a sample timeline that you can use and personalize.
First things first.
Before anything else, you have to identify the activities that will happen throughout your wedding: from getting ready, having your photos taken, and up to your wedding exit/closing remarks. To help you with how to make a day-of wedding timeline, we’ve listed the usual activities for a wedding, and we also included the approximate time on how long each will take.
You must communicate with your vendors and ask how long their services/activities will take FIRST before drafting your timeline. This way, you can incorporate those time frames accordingly into your timeline and work around it.
PRO TIP: Create your own wedding email. Create an email account specifically for your wedding – “email@example.com” (this is just an example). This will help you put everything together in one place. Also, manage the calendar for bookings and deadlines. When you book appointments on your wedding email calendar, invite your personal email so you can also see on your personal calendar! Having a separate personal/work and wedding email will make you more focused and organized!
PRO TIP 2: SPEAK TO A PRO WEDDING CONSULTANT.Even if you are not planning on hiring a full wedding planner, speak to a wedding consultant to help you organize your thoughts and plans. This will help you have a generic idea of the flow of the day, which will help you make a day-of wedding timeline. This can also help you with the execution moving forward. Speaking to a pro puts many things in perspective and gives you pro insights to help you move forward with your planning, ensuring you got the process working for you!
Later on, as you start putting things together and think you will need more help, you can consider hiring a day-of coordinator.
Note: You can adjust these time blocks when creating your own wedding timeline, depending on your wedding plans.
*** Pre-ceremony ***
Preparation of wedding party (bride and groom included!) (this depends on how many people in your wedding party!if you are doing hair and make up on your own – which you shouldn’t – you will need more time than this!)
Bride gets dressed
Solo portraits – especially if you are doing first look shots (you can have shots planned with your photographer, so this portrait session will be seamless and organized)
Photos with the wedding party/family (again, this should be planned and organized ahead of time)
Travel time to the ceremony venue
Prelude music as guests arrive (during this time, while your band/musician is playing, you also have an option to hand out welcome drinks)(another thing is you have to ensure that the band/musicians are done with their set-up and already playing as the guests arrive!)
*** Wedding Ceremony ***
Religious ceremony –or we can also call this FIRST ceremony
Secular ceremony –or we can also call this SECOND ceremony (if you are doing 2 ceremonies, it will help if you do one of them in a separate room, so there won’t be a lot of set-up time in between)
Newlywed/Family photos (as per earlier, discussing with your photographer your priority portraits will help keep this session organized)
*** Reception ***
Cocktail hour (you can also schedule a band/musician or DJ to play during this time to get the guests energy up!)
Family portraits/newly wed photos (more photos! the more the better! you can also use this time for make-up touch-ups or dress change, if needed!)
Wedding party entrance/ Newly weds (communicate with your band/musicians about transitions and music cues)
Introduction and first dance (tip: you can pre-edit your first dance song to only play your fave parts of the song! it can cut the dance to 5 mins!)
Welcome toast / cheers (this is optional, but really great to set the vibe in the room, either you and your partner can do this, or your emcee can do this!)
Dinner (this depends on the meal/s you are serving, take note that buffet set-ups will take longer than this as you have to include the time for line-up and seconds, etc., if this is a sit-down, with the usual 3-course meal, you can fit it in within this time frame.)extra tip: you can have the speeches scheduled right around when dessert is served or after cake cutting/serving.
Wedding party speeches (save time and make this part toasts instead of speeches!toasts can be 2-3 mins each! maybe let’s not bore the guests too much!)
Parent dances (an option that you can consider is that you can do both mom-groom and bride-dad dance at the same time!)
Bouquet and garter toss (if you are not a fan of this, you can skip this altogether, although I would say, getting the people to get up and shake it up and get acquainted, is a great idea to cue that the dance floor will open soon!)
Cake cutting/Desserts are served
*** Closing remarks *** (if you are not opening the dance floor) – wedding exit *** Dance floor opens *** (get the party started! yay! LET’S GET GROOVIN!)
Guide to making wedding timeline
1. Start with the details that are already locked in.
This is a good place to begin when figuring out how to make your day-of wedding timeline. List down the start time of the ceremony (printed on your invitation), as well as the start and end of the reception time. You can also include when your suppliers are allowed to set up your ceremony and reception venue.
** SIDE TIP: If you have DIYed many things for your wedding, it is necessary to label your products and match them to the labels you will be using for your timeline. Assign a person/team who will execute the products/things that you have already DIYed.
2. Coordinate with suppliers.
Remember that when figuring out how to make this day-of wedding timeline that this is not only for you and your wedding party but is also a reference point for your wedding suppliers/vendors. Arrange with your suppliers when the call time would be and how long they would spend onsite. It is also important to run your timeline with the venue coordinator to prepare and assist vendors as they arrive, load-in, execute and tear down.
PRO TIP#1: The best thing to do is go directly to your suppliers and ask them how long things would take. How long would it take for your hair and makeup artist to finish? What is the best time for your photographers to arrive so they can cover everything? How much time will your venue stylists, caterer, and DJ set-up for the reception? Your suppliers have pretty much-done weddings several times before, so you will most likely get helpful time estimates as you navigate how to make your day-of-wedding timeline.
PRO TIP #2: Create a custom timeline for each vendor so they won’t get confused. For example, if the DJ does not need to know when the flowers will arrive, do not include it on their timeline. Focus on what the DJ needs to follow in terms of the timeline; the clearer, more straight forward their timeline is, the easier it is for them to follow through.
3. Fill in the blanks.
Now that you have an initial framework for making a day-of wedding timeline, you can start mapping out your entire day-ofwedding timeline. The idea is to work your way backwards from the times that are already set in place. For example, from the start of your ceremony, you can plot backwards to figure out the time you need to start preparing, getting your make-up done, having your pre-wedding portraits taken and the travel time to your ceremony venue. You can also apply the same principle and plot forwards from the beginning of the cocktail hour, moving to the activitiesduring the reception up to your wedding exit.
4. Move to the finer details.
At this point, you may already have a rough timeline for your special day. Now, your goal is to add important details and answer the who, what, where, when, and how questions of each part of your timeline. Again, go as detailed as possible to make everything crystal clear to everyone involved in your wedding.
PRO TIP #1: Include a contact list, often a detail missed on making a day-of wedding timeline! If your florist needs to contact the venue manager, if you have that included in your contact list, then they won’t need to bother you at all. If you do not want to be contacted on the day of your wedding, add your maid of honor or bridesmaids (or whoever is in charge) for the day of. Clearly note these details in the contact list and timeline so all vendors will have a go-to contact person.
PRO TIP #2: Include announcements and cues in your timeline; this way, everyone knows when to transition and do it seamlessly.
5. Distribute your timeline.
Make sure to send across copies of the wedding timeline you created to key persons in your once in alifetime event. You can do this before the day, especially for suppliers who will need time to set-up on your wedding day.
PRO TIP: As mentioned earlier, vendors should have their own custom timeline. It will also be a great idea to send them the complete timeline to reference what is going on around them.
Wedding Timeline Sample
To make things easier for you *because we know you’re juggling too many things already *, we created a sample timeline for a wedding where the getting ready is at the bride’s house. The ceremony starts at 5:00 pm with the reception happening in the same venue. You can customize this sample so you can add details, such as travel time, if you’re holding the reception in a different venue.
This is a very straight forward sample of how to make a day-of wedding timeline. Note that weddings have a lot of moving parts. The decorator might need a longer time to set-up. The photographer might need extra time to put lightings up – depending on where you are doing the shoots. Literally, there are a lot of varying situations will need to be discussed with your vendors. But for a straightforward wedding, here’s a sample, and hopefully, this will give you an idea of how to make a wedding timeline!
SIDE TIP: doing a time frame instead of just a start time will be a lot easier for anyone looking at the timeline to follow, especially if they are only there for a specific responsibility. See below.
Hair and makeup artists to arrive;
(for wedding party + bride)(10:30am – 1:30pm)
Vendors arrive; access/set-up begins(for ceremony+reception)(11am – 4pm set-up time) TIP: always create a separate timeline for your wedding vendors!
Photographer arrives; getting-ready photos (behind the scenes fun shots)
Bride gets dressed (2 – 2:30pm)
Photos with family
Photos with wedding party
Vendors complete set-up/delivery
Wedding party arrive at ceremony venue (bride + make-up touch up)(4:15 – 4:50pm)
Guests begin to arrive/ Prelude music (welcome drinks passed)
Bridal Party line up for procession/entrance
Ceremony start time TIP: always create a separate timeline with procession details so your band/musicians know the flow and can also provide proper cues– emcee can also announce at this time that ceremony is about to start!
Ceremony ends/Cocktail hour; Newly wed photos and photos with family 6:55pm: emcee to announce that reception will start in the next 5 mins.
Reception starts TIP: always create a separate timeline with entrance and track details so your band/musicians know the flow and can also provide proper cues
Introduction of newly weds/ first dance(don’t forget to provide a detailed breakdown of the intro, first dance, toasts etc. cues and transitions with your band/musicians!) (7:15 – 7:20pm)
Wedding party speeches/toasts (you can do this towards the end of the main course)
Bouquet and garter toss
Cake cutting/Desserts are served
Closing remarks/Wedding exit (or open the dance floor)
Vendor tear-down/pick up (1 -2:00am) (technically next day)
You are free to make a wedding timeline that is suitable for you! If you like to start with cake cutting, please do it! Be your own party planner and shift things around! There is no right or wrong way! It is your wedding! You can shuffle things around the way you want it! Ask your vendors best practices (so it will still be organized and seamless!), and throw in your thoughts and creative alternatives to what is “common”! You do you! It’s your wedding! Have fun with it!
In conclusion, making a day-of wedding has some standard practices around it, but you also have the ultimate creative freedom to add your own flare! The secret to ensuring that your wedding would be one of the best days of your life is to book the vendors you really connect with (they get you!), plan, and communicate well. Just remember that even if some small details don’t go your way, do not stress yourself too much. Just relax and enjoy the special moment with the love of your life. Have a drink and party with the best people in your life!
There you have it! How to make a day-of wedding timeline! Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below! xo
We are a team of designers, planners, and creatives, working together to create tips and guides using our expertise and experience to help you plan, design, and execute your wedding, event, or celebration.