The thought of a wedding day timeline can be daunting. It could be a thought you never even knew you’d be having, but alas, here you are. There are SO many events throughout the day, and you’re probably trying to wrap your head around how they all work together. Is there enough time to do all of the things you want to do? Probably, you’ll just have to jig some things around to make it work.
First off, write down what is important to you. What traditions are you sticking to? What new ones are you making? You need to recognize first what is important to you, and what events you want to happen on your wedding day. Secondly, when you’re planning your day, do it in reverse. Reverse? Yes, reverse, as in reception backwards to morning preparations. It’s an easy way to make sure you have enough time to do all of the wedding things! All of the wedding things you want to do, anyways.
Beyond that, I’ve composed a few tips, in no particular order, that I often give my clients when helping out with their wedding day timeline. Take what you want, leave what you don’t.
1. Have more time than you think for bridal/groom preparations
Even though it’s almost expected that the bride and groom might be a few minutes late, you don’t want to keep people waiting for too long. Have your beauty squad arrive earlier than you think, and make sure the bride isn’t the last one to have her hair and makeup done. Go somewhere towards the end of prep, and if you have time for touch ups once everyone is finished, do that! Bonus tip, if mom is zipping you up, make sure she is dressed and ready to go before you are (you don’t want photos of her zipping you up while she is only half prepared)
2. Do a first look
I could go on about this, but I’ll get straight to the point instead. A first look is when a couple sees each other all dolled up before the ceremony. It’s a quiet moment between just the two of you that goes so far in so many ways. Not only does it calm the nerves, it allows more time with guests and more time together (which, ironically, is quite rare on a wedding day). It maximizes your timeline too, as this time typically doubles for newlywed portraits as well as group portraits… which leads me to my next tip.
3. Do your group photos early
Quite frankly, group photos after the ceremony (during cocktail hour) can be a bit of a drag. I said what I said! But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. So, after your first look and newlywed portraits, let’s get these ones done early as well! Why? Because the sooner your group portraits (wedding party portraits and family portraits) are done, the sooner you can unwind and connect with your guests. Imagine a wedding day where you can actually enjoy your entire cocktail hour? BONUS: A cocktail hour where your wedding photographer has free range to take all of the candid photos that we all know and love. In order for candid shots to be good, people have to mingle. Trust me when I say, cocktail hour is ideal for this!
4. Greet your guests
Again, I said what I said. But this is such a #weddingdayhack. Traditional timelines definitely focus on the big moments of the day, and I get that, because that’s what a lot of people want. But if you’re not the traditional type, imagine this. Imagine hugging every guest as they arrived. Imagine having a bevy with a friend you haven’t seen in ages before your ceremony. Imagine all of the “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” you and your partner would get during this time, as opposed to it happening at the grand reveal of the ceremony and it all being over in the blink of an eye. I WISH this is something my husband and I did on our wedding day because it really does go by at lightning speed. We invite people to our weddings because we love them, we want them there celebrating with us. But in many cases, you don’t get that quality time that we all long for. This is an option that bridges that gap.
5. Be flexible with your timeline
...And know that things will deviate. The point of a timeline is to keep your day on track, not to stress out about every single minute. Make sure each event has a little buffer room to ensure that extra peace of mind. Peace of mind = you being able to be present and really focus on what matters most to you on your wedding day.
6. Choose a good wedding photographer
Choose one who doesn’t mind helping out/sharing some insight into timeline dos and don’ts. On top of that, when a wedding planner isn’t present, for some reason timing often lands on the photographer. You want to choose someone who will gently (or not, depending on your crowd) remind you and guide you throughout the day so that things stay on track.
I always offer my clients timeline assistance, because hey, I've been there! I know the value of a timeline and I am so happy to provide that to you. If you're still feeling stuck after reading these tips, head on over to this blog that includes a few sample timelines for you to use as as start!
Not seeing what you're looking for yet? My 2023 books are open and I would LOVE to work with you on your wedding day. Not only to document it, but also to help you nail down the perfect wedding day time line.