Every bride wants her wedding day to be a magical event full of love and beauty. One thing brides do not want on their wedding day is to feel stressed out, rushed or to be bombarded with last minute questions about what needs to be done and when. Creating a detailed wedding timeline and distributing it to all who are participating in your wedding is an excellent way to ensure that your day runs as smoothly as possible.
An ideal wedding day timeline contains the responsibilities of every person involved in your wedding from the maid of honor and best man to the vendors servicing your wedding. Provide as much detailed information as possible about what time these individuals are scheduled to be doing their various tasks, and err on the side of too much information as opposed to not enough. When drafting a timeline be sure to include two or three phone numbers of people involved in the wedding that are not the bride or groom. You want to be able to enjoy your day, so delegate trustworthy people in your wedding to answer any questions or concerns that arise prior to your ceremony or during your reception. Send your wedding day timeline to vendors, the bridal party and anyone else necessary a week in advance of the wedding to allow for any necessary clarification.
Prior to the Ceremony
Most brides want to have photographs of the moments before walking down the aisle including hair, makeup and slipping into their gown. As you write out a timeline, plan on about 30 minutes per bridesmaid for hair and about 45 minutes per bridesmaid for makeup. The bride will take longer; one hour for hair and up to 90 minutes for makeup. In order to ensure the best photographs possible, schedule your photographer to come during the last hour or two of getting ready. This gives your photographer ample time to snap shots of the bride getting pampered while also allowing time for shots of her accessories such as jewelry and shoes. If you have a second photographer, plan on having that person arrive at the groom's location an hour prior to when they plan on leaving for the ceremony location.
Ceremony and Reception
One of the most important aspects of your wedding is your guests, so be aware of them as you come up with your timeline. The earliest guests will arrive around 30 minutes prior to the ceremony start time that you indicated on your invitations while stragglers will show up about 15 minutes later than you announced. To prevent awkward photos of guests standing behind bridesmaids making their way down the aisle, plan to begin your ceremony about 15 minutes later than the time you gave on your invitations. Budget between 20 and 30 minutes for the actual ceremony. You want to be sure to include meaningful readings and rituals, but you do not want your guests to sit through an unending ceremony.
If you plan on doing a receiving line, estimate on your timeline the amount of time needed using the number of guests present. A receiving line for a wedding of 100 guests should take about 15 to 20 minutes. If your wedding has a large amount of guests, 150 or more, consider eliminating the receiving line custom and instead plan to spend time greeting each table individually at the reception.
Plan on leaving one hour between the ceremony and reception for portraits and transportation, if required, between the venues. In the event that you require more time between the ceremony and reception, be sure to include suggestions as to where your guests can spend their time when you send out invitations. A typical reception timeline follows:
• Entrance - Introducing the wedding party and newlyweds takes about five to 10 minutes.
• First Dance - This occurs either directly after the entrance or immediately after dinner.
• Father/Daughter Dance and Mother/Son Dance - These two can be combined or done separately with the Father/Daughter dance occurring first. This takes another five to 10 minutes, depending on if the two dances are combined into one or not.
• Welcome Toast - Given by the father of the bride or the couple; allow five to 10 minutes.
• Food is served - If you plan on a buffet or family style dinner, anticipate that it will take 20 minutes for all guests to be served. For a plated dinner allocate 30-45 minutes per course.
• Maid of Honor/Best Man Toast - Typically these toasts occur after the first course is served, however, you can have your maid of honor (who goes before the best man) announce to guests to continue eating while they give their toasts. Plan on five minutes per speech.
• Cake Cutting - It is considered acceptable for guests to leave once the cake has been cut, so plan on doing so two hours prior to the scheduled end of your reception. This should take no more than five minutes away from your party time.
• Bouquet/Garter Toss - These activities immediately follow the cutting of the cake and take roughly 10 minutes to complete
• Last Dance - Announce the end of your reception with the last dance.
Include in your timeline those responsible for breaking down your ceremony and reception area so that you are free to enjoy your evening. Creating a detailed wedding day timeline takes organization, planning, and time. However, you will be glad that you worked hard on a timeline when your wedding day is free from stress, chaos and last minute emergencies.