Wedding Timeline: Tips + Tricks

Since I learned to write, I’ve been a list-maker. It started off innocently enough, with homework that I needed to complete and books that I wanted to read; but, as my responsibilities grew and technology evolved, so did my list-making.

Now, I constantly make new and updated “to-do” lists throughout the day and I create itineraries for my days and weekends…it’s become a compulsion! However, there a few benefits that come with my “little problem”—especially now that I work for a company that plans TONS of weddings and PR events! 

Many event planners and brides really struggle with the task of creating a wedding timeline. First of all, it’s difficult to know exactly where to begin, then there’s the added pressure of having to accurately estimate how much time should be allotted for each part of the the ceremony and reception! But, never fear, Dolls! As a certified list (and itinerary…) making machine, I’d like to share with you some helpful tips and tricks for creating a realistic wedding timeline for your big day!

Start At The End

When creating a timeline for any event, always start at the end! When our own sweet Caroline begins the process (…and it is a process!) of creating a timeline for one of her fabulous brides, she begins by thinking of the bride’s exit; so, if the brides wants to have a romantic sparkler exit at 11:00, she puts that on the schedule. Instantly, she knows that, in order for that to happen, she will need to arrange for the “getaway car” to arrive at the venue’s exit at 10:45 pm. Also, since the garter and bouquet tosses generally occur toward the end of the wedding reception, she can assume that those should occur around 10:00 pm. Essentially, you should work your way backwards through the timeline as far as you can; then, go back and start planning the beginning of the wedding day. 

Fill-In What You Know

Does the ceremony start at 6:00 pm, and last exactly 45 minutes…? Go ahead and block that time-slot. What time does the bride need to leave the area where she’s getting ready, in order to make it to the ceremony in plenty of time? Allot that amount of time for travel, and schedule to have everyone in the party ready to leave at least ten minutes before this time. When is the hair and makeup team set to arrive?  Schedule for a wake-up call for the bride around 40 minutes before this…so she has time to shower, drink a cup of coffee, and collect her thoughts before her big day! Filling-in the information that you know for sure will take-up more of your timeslots than you’d think! This, in turn, will allow you to breathe a sigh of relief…you’re almost there!

When In Doubt, Overestimate

No one wants to get to their big day, only to realize that they’ve not allowed enough time to get ready, or that they’ve failed to account for time to greet their guests! Or, what if you run short of time for pictures (gasp!)?! None of these things are acceptable…but, if you plan correctly, they are easily preventable. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when planning their wedding timeline is the aforementioned photography problem. However, in addition to not allowing enough time for the photographer to really capture the essence of the wedding, they also forget to consider the light. When deciding when to take wedding pictures, you should ALWAYS do your research—sunset hour is glory hour! Find out when it is, and allow time for your photographer to take advantage of it! In addition to this, though, people often fail to allow time for the entire wedding party to really assemble pre-ceremony. We’re talking wedding parties, parents, grandparents, readers, and honored guests…everyone that needs to be present for the ceremony to go-off flawlessly should be gathered well before the bride arrives. When in doubt about how long any given activity will take, overestimate the time that you’re going to allot by at least 15 minutes! That way, should some “snag” occur, you’ve got a built-in buffer!

This Is ONLY A Guide

On the day of the event, you’re going to have to be prepared to make last-minute changes. As this entire post as meant to be your guide for creating a wedding timeline, the wedding timeline should only be considered a GUIDE—it’s tentative. If it’s time to cut the wedding cake, but everyone is ROCKING the dance floor, why would you want to disrupt that incredible energy?! The cake can wait…let the bride, groom, and guests make their memories! Just because the timeline says that an activity is scheduled to commence or end at a certain time, doesn’t mean that you should feel the need to break-up the party. As I’ve said before, things change…don’t feel the need to follow this now FABULOUS timeline to a “T”!

At the end of the day, every event WILL encounter a “snag” of some sort. So, while it may not seem so helpful—or even possible—right now, take a deep breath and try not to stress about things that are out’ve your control. Have faith that you and your wedding planner (…or designated helpers!) will do everything in your power to plan the event well and safeguard against any and all “snags”. Moreover, if something does happen, think of it as another fabulous memory in the bank!  

Stay positive, sweet friends…you can do this!


Caroline Kalentzos