Creating Your Wedding Day Timeline
It is our objective that you are as relaxed as possible and that your wedding day flows seamlessly. As a Wedding Planner, it is my job to consider all of the key moments and plan the order and timing of these so that your guests feel they are moving along at a nice pace and you can relax and enjoy your day. If you are not using a wedding planner here are some of our top tips and a sample timeline for you to use to plan the perfect flow to your day.
We would advise giving this timeline guide to all your vendors including photographers, make-up and hair artists, hotel, transportation etc so that everyone knows where and when they are expected to be somewhere. Obviously, your timeline is fluid as anything could happen on the day so don’t get too hung up on everything not happening exactly on schedule once the day flows with some ease you and your guests will have a wonderful day. Having this timeline helps with that element of flow.
Weather – What will the weather be like on your wedding day, while the sun will be shining in your chosen location remember that earlier and later in the seasons the evenings will still be cool. If your wish is to eat outside your timing needs to allow for the dining to finish just as sunset is happening so that people can move inside where it will be warmer. If your guests are sitting listening to speeches or still eating dinner after darkness it will be a little cold for them and they may not have brought shawls or cover-ups for this. You don’t want unhappy cold guests.
Sunset – When will sunset happen on your wedding day. This is one is important incase there are any photo opportunities you wish to have at this golden hour. I use the following website http://www.sunrisesunset.com/ to estimate when sunset will be to optimise the use of this light with your photographer. Don’t forget while you are taking these photos (normally they take twenty minutes) to think about what your guests will be up to. Guests need to feel the flow of the day and moments like this can make the day feel a little disjointed. Our tip would be as dinner is finishing invite everyone to head to the bar for a drink, while they mingle you two can sneak off for your sunset photoshoot. Photos at this time of the day are more relaxed as you’re officially married and you have enjoyed a glass or two of bubbles so you should capture a magic moment in this golden light.
Invite time – This is the time you ask your guests to be at the venue or church for. It is best to have your guests arrive half an hour before the official start time. When planning your own timeline for getting ready take into consideration that your guests will have been waiting in the heat this extra half hour longer than you so try your best to arrive promptly, it will go down well with your overheated guests!
Photographs – if you plan on having photographs taken in a different location to your venue, take into consideration again that your guests will be waiting at the venue for your arrival. Make sure you have entertainment and an extended cocktail hour for them while they wait for your arrival. Typically, these photographs take forty-five minutes so factor this into your timeline.
The First Look Photograph – this is the photograph that always pulls at my heart strings. No one else is around while you and your future husband or wife see each other in your respective suit and dresses. It is a very emotional and special time and can certainly help calm your nerves before you walk down the aisle. This photo opportunity will only take fifteen minutes and should happen just before invite time so your groom can head back to the ceremony location to welcome your guests on your behalf.
Receiving Line – when your guests arrive for cocktail hour do you want to welcome them all individually? The benefit of this is that your photographer can take photographs of you with most of your guests during this time and the photos will be warm, relaxed and animated as your chat and welcome them to your celebration. If you are travelling from a different ceremony venue to your dinner venue and you wish to have a receiving line make sure to give yourselves and the photographer enough time to get to the venue before your guests.
Dinner How Long – this can vary depending on the type of food you are serving. If you are having a sit down full-service meal allow two and a half to three hours for all guests to be fed. If you are having a buffet style service your guests should all have helped themselves to food within thirty minutes for mains and a further twenty minutes for deserts. Your venue will be best positioned to guide you on this. Also, a little tip would be to make sure your photographer is fed first, this way they will be available to catch all the special moments during toasts and speeches.
Toasts and Speeches – ideally these should happen during your dinner. Toasts just as the first course is being served and speeches towards the end of the main course leading into desserts. Make sure your venue is aware that food and drink should continue to be served during the toasts and speeches. Also try and gauge from all of the speech givers how long they expect to be speaking for. You may have to alter the start time of the speeches if someone has a lot of good things to say about you both.
Cutting the Cake – typically this happens after the speeches and is a photo opportunity for you. If you are having a destination wedding and it is too hot for your cake to be outside you can position it inside and cut it just before the dancing starts, it will then be fresher when cut and passed around to guests as part of their late-night snack.
Last Drinks – making an announcement for last drinks is a subtle way of telling your guests that the party is winding down within the next hour or so. If you have transportation organised for your guests it will also allow them time to say their goodbyes and prepare themselves for their departure. The end time for your wedding will depend on your venues licence and your personal preferences should you wish for the party to end relatively early or continue onto the early hours of the morning – why take off that gorgeous dress until you absolutely have to! As a backup always have a Spotify playlist ready so that when its bedtime for the DJ you and your wedding party and continue to celebrate.
So, to help with putting a timeline together below we have outlined a typical wedding starting at 4pm to allow for the hot midday sun to have subsided somewhat. Please feel free to use this as a guide and adjust as you see fit.
Day Before The Wedding
4.00pm Wedding Rehearsal
6.00pm Rehearsal dinner or cocktail party with your guests. You should aim for this to finish around 9.30pm – 10pm so the Bride and her Bridesmaids can retire for some beauty sleep.
The Wedding Day
In this situation, we have assumed sunset is at 8.45/9pm, the couple are keen to have photos taken at this time so we use this as our baseline and work out from there. They have also chosen to have a receiving line and will have their cake cut after the band and before the DJ starts. There are three Bridesmaids and the Mother of the Bride all having their hair and make-up done.
11.30 a.m. Hair appointments for the Bride, Bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride
2.00 p.m. Make up appointments begin
2.45 p.m. Bride puts on dress
Photos with Bridesmaids, Mother and Father of the Bride
3.30 p.m First look photograph
3.30 p.m. Invite time Groomsmen look after seating guests
4.00 p.m. Music begins, Bride walks down the aisle and ceremony begins
4.45 p.m. Ceremony ends
5.00 p.m. Receiving line and cocktails begin
Photographs during this time
6.15 p.m Announcement to guests to move to dinner, time for the Bride to top up her makeup
6.30 p.m. Announcement of couple to dinner
6.45 p.m. First course is served
7.15 p.m Toast by the Best Man (service continues during this time)
8.00 p.m Dinner, dessert and speeches
8.45 p.m Sunset photographs
9.00 p.m Dancing commences
10.00 p.m Cutting of the cake
11.00 p.m Late night snacks
11.00 p.m to close Dancing and party
As always, we would love to hear from you please drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Note: Announce last call one hour before close.