What You Should Know When Creating Your Wedding Day Timeline
Planning a wedding has A LOT of moving parts to it, and if you decide to go it alone, or work with a day-of coordinator, then you’ll definitely want to create your wedding day timeline early in the planning process. But first, what is a wedding day timeline? Just like it sounds, it outlines the day, who will be where and when. It creates a bit of expectation, but also organization. So we got with Kara Jones, Executive Planner from Michelle Leo Events for some Q & A that is designed to help you create your wedding day timeline.
Wedding Day Match (“WDM”): What suggestions do you have for the DIY bride who is going it alone?
Kara Jones, Michelle Leo Events (“MLE”): When building a timeline, always start by determining your ceremony start time. From there, you can work backwards to fill in the ‘getting ready’ phase of the day, and forwards to fill in the details of the reception. Don’t forget to use your parameters of when you have access to the venue to help you with the beginning and end of the timeline, and always check your contracts to ensure that you are not including too little or too much time for your vendors who are contracted by the hour (like a band, photographer, or videographer).
WDM: When should the timeline be drafted and finalized?
Kara Jones, MLE: I always draft a general timeline very early on in the planning process. You can do this by knowing the venue guidelines on when vendors and clients are able to arrive on-site and when everyone needs to be off-site. You work on the more fine-tuned details as you secure contracts with vendors and discuss things, such as special dance songs and toasts (how many are there and when during the night do you prefer to do them). It should be finalized 2 weeks in advance of your wedding.
WDM: When should the timeline actually begin?
Kara Jones, MLE: A wedding day timeline can begin as early as a couple of days before the wedding depending on the load-in schedule. For example, if you have a tent going up that needs to start installation on Thursday for a Saturday wedding, the timeline would begin on Thursday. If there is no need for set-up before the day of the wedding, then you would begin the timeline the morning of, usually beginning with the vendor load-in and hair/makeup schedule.
WDM: Which vendors do couples usually need to work with on specifics for the timeline, such as arrival of team members, etc.?
Kara Jones, MLE: All vendors will need to know your timeline details, however there are few very important ones that will need to be more tuned into the minute-by-minute schedule. These vendors include your hair and makeup team, photographer, videographer, band or DJ, and catering/bar teams.
WDM: What about sharing the timeline with the vendors?
Kara Jones, MLE: In order to ensure that your wedding day runs smoothly, EVERY vendor should receive a timeline. The timeline should be sent to vendors no later than 2 weeks in advance of the wedding. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and knows what to expect come the day of the wedding.
WDM: How long do first looks typically take, and how much time should allocated for that?
Kara Jones, MLE: After working with many photographers, I find that first looks have the best outcomes when we allot for 45-60 minutes. While it might sound like a lot of time for just one moment, this includes staging the couple, reading vows, and sometimes walking them to a couple of different locations to get some really good shots. Always make sure to check in with your photographer about how much time they need to capture the first look.
WDM: How long do toasts typically take, and how much time should be allocated for that?
Kara Jones, MLE: I suggest telling your speakers to keep their toasts around 3 minutes long. Many will go over, so I always allot for at least 5 minutes per person in my timeline. If you have 2 people toasting together, or just a talker of the family, you might choose to make that slot on your timeline 10 minutes long instead.
WDM: What is the “golden hour” and do you suggest it be highlighted in the timeline?
Kara Jones, MLE: Golden hour is the sliver of time we get when the lighting is just right for some beautiful “golden hour” photos! Usually at sunset, we will have your photographer sneak you away from the reception and spend a quick 10-15 minutes grabbing some of these gorgeous shots. I suggest highlighting this in the timeline so that it does not interfere with any other moments in the evening such as toasts, special dances, or cake cutting — none of which can happen if the photographer steals you away right in that moment!
WDM: If the couple is hosting an after party, should that be included as well after the grand exit?
Kara Jones, MLE: Yes, if you choose to have an after party, this will also be included on your timeline. Whether or not you want to do a grand exit still is up to you, many couples opt not to unless they just want it for the photo op.
WDM: How much time do you suggest scheduling for “cushion time” just in case?
Kara Jones, MLE: The cushion you plan to build into your timeline should be determined by your venue space and guest count. Does it take a couple of minutes to shuffle guests from cocktail hour to reception? Will it take 200 guests longer to find their seats than 100? Many of my timelines are built in 5-minute increments, so I always round up, giving myself a few extra minutes in many different areas of the timeline throughout the whole event.
Don’t forget to order our Essential Wedding Planner Organizer which has more on wedding day timelines as well as a template to guide you.
Photo courtesy of 28 North Photography
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