One of the most important things you can do to avoid stress during your wedding weekend is to make a wedding timeline. Providing a timeline for your wedding party, vendors, and your guests with all schedule events will keep everyone on the same schedule. It might sound like overkill, but including every last detail will make sure there is zero confusion about what is happening, when it’s happening, and were everyone is expected to be throughout the day—or the entire weekend!
While templates are a good start to creating your timeline, remember that your day will completely unique to you and all of the elements you’ve chosen to incorporate into your wedding day. There are a number of elements that will add to your timeline. Before you begin, ask yourself the following questions to accommodate for some of the elements you chosen to include:
- Where are you getting ready and how far is that from your ceremony location?
- Are your ceremony and reception in the same or different locations? If different how far apart are they?
- Will you be doing a “first look” with pictures before the ceremony? Or will pictures be after the ceremony?
- How long will your ceremony be—short + sweet or lengthy + formal?
- Will you have a receiving line? If so, will it be at the church or reception?
- How many toasts will you have? How many special dances?
- Does your venue have a curfew?
Once you can answer all of these questions, you should be ready to start your timeline! It is always best to use your ceremony time as a jumping off point. It is also important to understand the general length of time associated with all of the day’s activities. Here is a basic guideline for what you will be doing that day and how long to plan for each:
1. BREAKFAST: 30 minutes
This one is REALLY important. This is a LONG day. In your head, it’ll go by in a flash, but your body will notice and it will still need fuel. Be sure to eat a breakfast with lots of protein; think eggs, bacon, sausage, greek yogurt, protein shake, cottage cheese, peanut butter toast. Give you body what it’s gonna need to make it through this marathon day! And if you are going to be drinking yummy mimosas while getting ready, eat some carbs too to soak up that champagne!
2. GETTING READY: 2 hours
This is clearly different for the women vs. the men. For us girls, we get to do ALL the girly stuff: hair, makeup, dance party, champagne, robe wearing…The guys, well, that consists of putting on tuxes and doing shots. Oh, and if the game is on, that too! Note: all of your getting ready shots will be included in this time block.
3. SOLO PORTRAITS: 30 minutes
This is when you and your fiancé will get all of your portraits done with your photographers, individually.
4. FIRST LOOK: 30 minutes
This should give you plenty of time for the photographer to get you set up for the perfect first look photo op! Plus then you’ll want to capture photos of just the two of you as you take each other in for the first time that day in all of your gorgeous attire!
5. WEDDING PARTY PHOTOS: 30-60 minutes
These shots will be of your wedding party, of course. But you can also get shots with your parents, kids, and other important people involved in your day before the wedding. Timing will depend on how many locations you select for your photos!
6. TRAVEL TIME TO CEREMONY LOCATION, IF APPLICABLE: 30 minutes
If you are getting ready at your ceremony venue, disregard this. If you are traveling, be sure to leave enough time, as you never know what traffic there may be.
7. CEREMONY: 30-60 minutes
This will depend on the type of ceremony you are having. Many ceremonies that follow traditional religious formats tend to be longer (around an hour), but most tend to wrap up right around the 30 minute mark.
8. COCKTAIL HOUR: 60 minutes
I mean, it’s called cocktail hour, so… seriously tho, this is about right unless you’re like my family and can turn happy hour into several hours!
9. WEDDING PARTY / BRIDE + GROOM INTRODUCTIONS / FIRST DANCE: 15 minutes
Most likely you will have your entire wedding party introduced before you. Then it’s time for your grand entrance as husband and wife! Most couples prefer to do their first dance at this time. Be sure to soak this moment up!
10. WELCOME TOASTS + BLESSING: 15 minutes
Since you’re already on the dance floor with all eyes on you, now is the perfect time to take a moment—as a couple—to welcome your guests and thank everyone for joining you on your wedding day. As this speech will be a transition to dinner, this would also be the perfect time to say a blessing before you commence the meal, depending on your faith. Keep in mind, this is just a welcome toast; your longer, more emotional toasts will come later!
11. DINNER + SPEECHES: 60 minutes
Immediately following the welcome speech / blessing, your servers should be ready with the plated meals so they can begin serving right away. If you are having a buffet, your emcee (typically DJ or band leader) should let your guests know when it is time for them to make their way to the food.
Between courses is when the speeches should begin. Typically, speeches are given by the best man, maid-of-honor, and father of the bride. Discuss with each your ideal time limit for these speeches, as everyone loves a concise, thoughtful speech and pretty much no one likes a long-winded, boring one!
12. PARENT DANCES: 10 minutes
You know the drill here: Father + Daughter; Mother + Son (cue tears)
13. DANCING: 60 minutes
Since you guys are already on the dance floor, let’s get the dancing party started! Encourage your guests to join you as your DJ or band shifts into more upbeat music!
14. CAKE CUTTING: 5 minutes
Have your emcee make the announcement that you will be cutting your cake; your caterer will then cut up the cake for your guests to enjoy!
15. BACK TO THE DANCE FLOOR: 2 HOURS
Now that all of your official to-dos for the day are complete, you can focus on the party! Be sure to have your DJ or band announce a last song so people are prepared to wrap up the night and get ready to send you off!
16. GRAND EXIT
As you are saying your goodbyes, have your coordinator or your emcee instruct your guests to head to the exit to see you and new spouse off! There are a lot of ways to make your grand exit. Which will you choose?