How to create the perfect timeline
You’ve spent many hours putting together the perfect wedding. The right venue, the DJ who matched your personality, the beautiful flowers, the creative party favors and everything in between. The details alone can be overwhelming and if you aren’t a professional, it can be extremely difficult to try and make everything come to life the way you imagined it.
So, whether you are a bride mapping out her day or a professional coordinator getting started, having the perfect timeline is very critical in ensuring your day goes off without a hitch. As a bride, your timeline is a thorough way of making sure everyone is on the same page and everything is accounted for. As a coordinator, your timeline is the best way to communicate with your client to make sure you are giving them their dream wedding and it also is a common ground for all the vendors you will be working with.
Your timeline should be as thorough as possible. Now, it doesn’t have to be over the top, and every second of the day does not have to be accounted for to keep everyone on track. This will only stress everyone out and it sets yourself up for failure. However, it should at least highlight all the critical moments. For example, arrival times for bridal party and vendors, how long photos will take, how long the ceremony will take (roughly), how long you plan on taking photos, etc.
When it comes to the reception, having an idea for the order of events is important. It is a little tricky to plan how long your bouquet toss will take, so don’t sweat things like that, but rather than having a minute-by-minute timeline, give a general order of events you would like to happen during your reception.
Remember your timeline is the sole reference for your own knowledge and for your bridal party, but also the for vendors. It gives everyone a great idea of what you envision for the day and keeps your vendors and coordinator accountable throughout the day.
Things to keep in mind when creating a timeline:
- Be realistic!
- For example, if you know your bridesmaids are typically late, allow for a little more time getting ready to create a cushion in case people are running late.. Your first dance is not going to take 15 minutes if the song is only 3 minutes.
- Be specific about set-up and tear-down times!
- This will be something you speak to the venue about to figure out their policies. Some venues are open all day for set-up and others allow for a few hours before the ceremony start time. Make sure you know what they allow so you don’t incur additional costs due to miscommunication. Always be sure to ask how long the vendors and guests have to exit the venue at the end of the evening.
- Be conservative with time
- If possible, add some cushions of time to account for any mishaps that may happen. That way it is easy to get back on schedule. For example, you’ve spoken with the officiant and he said the ceremony will be roughly 20 minutes. Perhaps allow yourself 30 minutes for the ceremony in case you are running a little behind to start. Also, if you are conservative with time, chances are at some point you will be ahead of your own schedule, and who doesn’t love that!
- Be specific about where things will take place John & Jane Wedding & Reception Timeline4:30pm – 10:30pm Vendors: (include name and phone number for emergency contacts)DJ:Photographer: Caterer:Cake/desserts:Photobooth:Other:
- Candy Station:
- Saturday, April 8th 2017
- EXAMPLE timeline
- Many times you are working with a venue where the ceremony takes place in a different location than the reception. Or there are multiple rooms in the venue, such as a boat wedding. Be specific as to where things will take place. For example, if you are having a boat wedding, chances are you will be moving from deck to deck for ceremony, cocktail hour and reception. Be sure to be specific about where vendors will be setting up when they arrive for the boat wedding and where things will take place. (7:30 – dinner to be served, deck 1)
9:00am Venue open for all vendors and set up
9:00am Stylists arrive
9:30am Bride & Bridesmaids arrive for getting ready
11:00 am Coordinator to arrive to Venue
11:00am Florist to arrive for set up
12:00pm Guest book, signs, pictures, and seating arrangement set
1:00- 2:00pm Photographer arrives for photos (where?)
(Discuss game plan with photographer. Typically bride and bridesmaid shots first and then groom & groomsmen photos.)
2:00pm Groom and Groomsman arrive dressed and ready for photos.
2:30pm DJ arrive for set up
3:00pm Cakes delivery
3:30pm Bridesmaids dressed and ready
3:50pm Ceremony detail photos to be taken
4:00pm Earliest Guests arrive
4:00 pm Latest that Bride, Groom & Bridal party to venue
(if Bridal party is getting ready at another location other than the ceremony, have everyone to the venue no later than 30 minutes prior to ceremony. Also, have them arrive apart from each other so they do not see each other. If they do not care about seeing each other prior to ceremony, have everyone arrive together at this time)
Set-up/pre-boarding Checklist: (for Coordinator)
- Do a rehearsal (if needed)
- Put remaining “stuff” they bring where it needs to go
- Reserve front rows for ceremony
- Put bouquets in bridal suite
- Put boutonnieres on gentlemen/corsages on women (accordingly)
- Make sure all vendors have arrived
- Go through event sheet and make sure everything is ready! (recheck all your notes)
- Make sure they have marriage license
4:00pm DJ to play arrival music
4:00 pm Bride gets in dress
4:20pm Guests to be directed to ceremony and be seated (Coordinator & DJ)
4:25pm Bridal Party Lineup (coordinator)
confirm DJ, photographer, Bride and Groom are ready!
Second check for rings
If they are saying their own vows, make sure they have them
Give ring Bearer his pillow
Make sure Flower girl has her basket
4:30 pm Ceremony begins: (Location) (all that applies – traditional order)
Groom (typically groom wants to already be at the front, which is why he walks in
with the officiant – if the groom is escorting mom or someone, he will walk in after the parents right before bridal party)
Bride Mother & escort
(To be lined up from farthest away first, Best Man & Maid of Honor should be last in line ~ Women on the left, men on the right if you are facing the altar)
Bride (typically with Dad, Dad on the bride’s right side)
5: 00 pm MARRIED!!!!! *average ceremony is 20 minutes, adjust accordingly
5:00 All guests invited to Cocktail hour (location)
DJ to announce bar is open, appetizers are being passed and please be sure to sign the guest book as well as check their seating assignments
5:00 pm Bridal party & immediate family photos
(it is always smart to let those family members know that you want to take photos after the ceremony with them so that way everyone knows what’s going on)
5:25pm Couple photos begin
6:00pm Overall shots of reception room (coordinator to be in touch with photographer. When photos are almost over, start bringing everyone into reception area for grand entrance)
6:10pm Guests invited to find their seats at dinner tables
6:10pm Line Bridal Party up (Bustle Bride’s dress!) (coordinator to line up, DJ to announce!)
6:15pm Grand Entrance (song)
6:20pm First Dance (song)
6:25pm Bride and Groom Seated (coordinator to serve Bride & Groom dinner first)
6:25pm Buffet to Open (Coordinator or DJ to release tables?)
Vendors to eat at this time
*if you are doing table visits, highly encourage Bride and groom to eat first and then begin visiting tables – this TAKES A LONG TIME! So start this as early as possible, plan for 2 minutes per table
7:00 pm Toasts (List of names in order)
7:25 pm Cake cutting
7:30pm Festivities to begin in this order:
Any other special dances/performances
8:00pm Open Dancing
8:30 pm Cake to be cut and passed by service staff
9:00-10:00pm Photography ends
10:30pm Event Concludes and clean up begins (assign specific people)
*If you are not doing a grand exit, I suggest bride & groom stand near exit to say final goodbyes to guests as they leave!
11:30 pm All vendors off property
Timelines can be easily adjusted to make it specific to for your wedding day needs.
With a timeline like this, you are sure that no one will be overlooked. If you are assigning people to help with décor, include the names of those people and the specific task they are in charge of. For example, (3:00 – Cheryl to arrive and set up candy station – in this location) Also, don’t forget to assign people to help with clean up so nothing gets left behind!
Another tip would be to speak to your venue about what a typical wedding looks like so you can be realistic about the timing of things.
Don’t be afraid to be detailed, but be realistic and conservative. Once your timeline is complete, pass it off to your vendors and coordinator and allow them to do what they do best! Don’t stress, the timeline will be their best resource!