Creating your wedding day timeline shouldn’t feel like rocket-science. But, this is probably your first, and hopefully, only time! When else would you ever need to create one? So, how are you supposed to know what to do? To help you, here are some tips on creating your wedding itinerary.
First and foremost, this is YOUR wedding. There is no “right” way to do it. Keep your guests’ experience in the front of your mind while planning. Think of the flow from one scenario to another. Is it fluid? If you were a guest, would it seem disjointed?
You obviously know when you’d like your ceremony to start, or were forced by the venue! Your venue coordinator usually sends you a suggested timeline with how they usually run weddings, or what they’ve seen works best. It’s best to take their lead in terms of food service.
Next, grab all of your wedding partner contracts and go through them. Note down if there are any specified times you’ve agreed to. For example, your Photographer’s contract lists an 8 hour package. Note this down.
Begin your wedding timeline with the items above. Your set times. I prefer using a Spreadsheet – Excel, Numbers, or insert a Table on Word/Pages. It’s easier for changes and visually more organized. As a header, I use 3 simple headings: Time, Description and Contact.
Start inputting items under your description heading. You won’t know exact times until you have a fully formed itinerary so leave these as TBDs or simply, blank. Most of my itineraries begin with:
- Wedding Party begins to get ready
- Florist delivers personal flowers
- Photographer arrives for getting ready photos
- Wedding Planner/Florist/Decorator/DJ arrives on-site at venue
Ceremony & Cocktail Hour
Let’s say your ceremony time is 4pm. Expect the early birds to start arriving half an hour before your start time. Your officiant will also arrive around this time, or an hour earlier if they’re enthusiastic!
From here, everything will begin to flow quickly! If you’re having a non-denominational ceremony, allot for it to be about half-an-hour. if you’re having everything at the same venue, cocktail hour will start immediately after. And just like it’s title, allocate a full hour. I mean, you’re already paying for the bar!
I would then allot another half-an-hour for guests to find their chairs in the dinner area, wedding party entrances and MC’s to introduce themselves.
The dinner portion of your wedding itinerary will depend on the number of speeches and any entertainment you wish to have. The most typical number of speeches, I’d say, is 5. Your Best People, 2 sets of parents or family members and the Newlyweds. What I like to do is break them up during the different courses. If you’re having a 3-course meal, I’d plan for 2 of the speeches to go after the first course, 2 speeches to go after the main course and the Newlyweds to go after dessert. Again, you can do this however you’d like! I’ve had clients who were nervous speakers, so they wanted to do their speech first. Get it done and over with. So, we scheduled their speech before dinner even started! They were able to say all of their Thank You’s and was a great way to kick-off dinner. By having speeches broken up during courses, guests are more likely to pay attention instead of having all speeches done consecutively.
Ask your caterer or venue coordinator the typical time it takes for each course to be served and cleared. I usually account for about 45 minutes for the First Course, an hour for the Main Course, maybe even a bit more! And another 30-45 minutes for dessert.
Dances! Again, I’ve had First Dances happen right when the newlyweds are introduced for the first time, after their speech, and even in completely separate locations. What works best for you and your venue?
Parent dances. I’ve only really had them done after dinner, and is a great way to get the dance floor open. But again, it’s your wedding! I’ve also had couples who opted not to do them at all.
Cake cutting. If you’re going to be serving your cake as dessert, then you need to get those photos taken before or during your First Course. This will give the kitchen enough time in the back to cut it up and plate them for your guests. If you’re serving them as late night, then any time during dinner is fine. Most of my couples have opted not to have cakes, or don’t necessarily want all eyes on them during the cutting. If that’s what you’d like as well, place it on your timeline but don’t get your MC’s to announce it. Only a few of your guests will notice and take phone snaps!
Sunset. Photographers LOVE capturing those beautiful sunset photos of you, so set aside some time during dinner to sneak these in. I try to do this during the Mains, as they take the longest. Just type your wedding date into Google with “Sunset Time” and it’ll give you the exact answer you’re looking for.
Fill those TBDs
Now that you have your end times, you can work backwards and see when the ultimate times are for starting. If you want your photographer to capture all the formalities, including some fun shots on the dance floor, in the example shown, they can leave around 9:30pm. So if your contract is for an 8 hour package, they’ll need to start at 1:30pm. If you want your full hair and make-up done for when the photographer comes, ask your beauty team what time your party should begin getting ready so that you are all ready for 1:30pm.
Next, look at when all of your other items fall, usually First Look and Photos. You can usually tell if things seem a bit too tight. If everything is about 30 minutes, it’s tight. I’d want to arrange for at least an hour for getting ready photos, 30 minutes to an hour for family photos (depending on how many different family arrangements you want). Don’t forget to account for travel times between venues. Add padding here! Account for possible traffic or other issues.
You are unique!
Again, this is just a guideline of how to create your wedding itinerary. Every couple is unique! You could be having a breakfast wedding, or maybe even a wedding in reverse! Meaning, Dinner first, ceremony later. It’s all dependant on how you want your day to look like.
If you need advice on creating your ideal wedding day itinerary, head on over to the Contact page and give me a shout! I offer consulting packages for just this very thing!
Hope you all have a great rest of the week, and Happy Planning!