Your Perfect Wedding Day Schedule

bridal-details-wedding-shoes

In life I’m a planner and a list maker. I don’t do any job, take any trip or throw a dinner party without sitting down and working through the details in list after list (flight and hotel information, menus, timeline for cooking, who has what allergies, etc. etc.). I’ve found that even when (especially when!!) I want something to feel laid back and fun I need to consider these plans beforehand because when you go into anything well prepared and well thought out it’s so much easier to relax and enjoy the experience. Your wedding day is exactly the same. If you set up a schedule that accurately allows time needed for each task and builds in some cushion here and there you are way more likely to have a day that is stress free and fun, even if things run behind a bit or something unexpected comes up.


When beginning to put together your wedding day schedule here are the questions I recommend asking yourself:

* What are the times that cannot be changed on your wedding day (i.e. what time the venue lets you in and closes it’s doors, the sunset time, if your ceremony has to begin at a specific time, etc.)?

* Do you want to do a first look with your partner? A first look can be a great intimate time where you get to spend some one-on-one time with your fiance before the whirlwind of the day really gets going. It also allows you time to take family and wedding party portraits before the ceremony, which means after the ceremony it’s all about the party. But for some people it’s really important to not see one another until they are walking down the aisle and that’s totally great, too. You just need to work the schedule so it allows for any portraits after the ceremony. I recommend perhaps having a slightly longer cocktail hour if you are foregoing the first look.

* How long is your ceremony? When should you be tucked away before the ceremony begins (i.e. many guests will arrive early and many couples don’t want to wait to see all of their guests until after the ceremony is over. I recommend hiding away from the ceremony room 30 minutes before the start time. This also gives you a bit of breathing time to mentally get ready for the awesome events to come)? You may also consider having the ceremony begin about 15 minutes after the invite time to accommodate anyone who may be running late or to give you a buffer if you are running a little behind.

* How many people are having their hair and makeup done by your team? How much time does the artist recommend per person? Hair and makeup tend to run longer than expected. This is often because you will get interrupted by phone calls, questions, getting up to grab something for a vendor, deciding you want something changed in your look after the first pass is finished, etc. Be sure to give yourself lots of extra time here. You don’t want to begin your whole day by feeling behind. It’s much more comfortable to be ahead of the game at this stage of the day.

* How many locations are you traveling between (I.e. getting ready location to ceremony, ceremony to reception, etc.)? How will you, your wedding party and family, and your guests be getting between these locations? How long does this normally take? How many people are traveling with you each time (the more people you have moving locations the longer it usually takes)? Be sure to account for possible traffic problems or train delays.

* Is your reception meal plated or buffet or passed? How long does the venue say it will take to serve your number of guests? How long do they recommend for the meal portion of the evening?

* How many formal, posed portraits do you have to take with family and wedding party? Speak to your photographer about the actual time frame required, but I recommend having 3-5 minutes for each formal portrait grouping. For many people this will feel like the longest part of the day and may be the most frustrating (as you stand in one place with a smile on waiting for your families to move in and out around you). Don’t base this list off of something you found online. Sit down and really consider which of these portrait groupings are important and which ones will you and your family actually print and hang? If there are some groupings that you think aren’t essential, but they could be fun, can these be taken a bit more casually during the reception instead? My basic suggestions would be: 1. Couple with Partner #1’s parents 2. Couple with Partner #1’s Immediate Family 3. Couple with Partner #1’s Extended Family 4. Couple with Partner #1’s grandparents 5. Partner #1 with members of their wedding party 6. Couple with all members of the wedding party. Repeat for partner #2.

* Do you want a more in-depth portrait session with your partner? Some couples want to hit up a great location that is nearby the venue to take some epic portraits in addition to a basic session at the venue. If this is you be sure to allow at least 30 minutes for this plus travel time to and from.

* How involved is your outfit and your finishing touches? A zip-up or slip-on dress requires less time than a gown with 100 buttons or lace corseting to tie up. Be sure to test out putting on your outfit so you know how long all of this will take (and you aren’t learning to tie a bow-tie for the very first time come the wedding day).


wedding-makeup-bridal-prep

What should be included in your timeline?

* Anything that is a special moment (i.e. I hope my photographer doesn’t miss this).

* Include addresses of each location and who should be at each one at which points (who is getting ready with you? Who all should be at family photos? Are ushers and the flower girl included in wedding party photos?).

* Phone numbers for any important players (vendors, someone who will be with each partner during the wedding day, etc).

* What time vendors are arriving/setting up/dropping items off and where?

* Buffer time. Pad your timeline, especially early in the day in case things run behind or a problem comes up.

*Sunset--some couples work their ceremony time around this but even if you aren’t, consider what time this will be happening on your wedding day. The light tends to be gorgeous as the sun is setting and your photographer will probably want to whisk you and your partner away for at least a few minutes to get some portraits during this time. If at all possible try not to schedule any reception events right at this time.


groomsmen-wedding-party

Who should get your timeline?

I recommend sending them a basic schedule leading up to the wedding day so they have an idea of what to expect and when they may need to be places. Give out more detailed schedules at the rehearsal dinner and/or in the prep room. Even though you’ve been living with this schedule and planning for months, no one else will know what is going on unless you fill them in and give them the info they need. I’m rarely at a wedding where I don’t get asked by friends and family what happens next and where/when they need to be somewhere.

* All vendors.

* All members of your wedding party.

* All members of your family who will be getting ready with you, who will be in formal portraits, or are expected to be somewhere at any point in the day besides at the time and place listed on your invitation.

* Someone who is helping you run the day on time. You’ve already got a lot going on this day--make sure to have someone who is able to stay on top of the schedule for you, whether this is a really reliable friend, a wedding planner, or a day-of-coordinator (these last two keep weddings on schedule for a living--they can be life-savers to your sanity).


Basic Timelines:

These timelines consider that the prep/ceremony/reception are all taking place at the same location, that the ceremony is about 20 minutes long, and the formal portrait list is simple and basic. They show a timeline where the photographer is hired for 8 hours. Adjust accordingly with your own special wedding day needs.

first-look-beach-wedding

With a First Look:

?: Hair and Make-up Begins (Dependent on how many people will be getting hair and make-up done. Work backwards from the time you will get dressed and take into account the HMUA’s suggestions for time based on number of people they will be working with)

2:00: Photographer arrives

2:45: Into wedding attire/final touch-ups and prep

3:15: First look 

3:30: Wedding Party and Family Portraits

4:30: Couple and Wedding Party tucked away

5:00: Invite Ceremony time

5:15: Actual Ceremony start time

5:30/45: Ceremony ends, guests go into cocktail hour

6:45: Guests invited into reception hall

7:00: Introductions

7:05: Dinner is served

7:30: Speeches during dinner

8:15: Reception traditions (1st dance, parent’s dances, bouquet toss, etc.)

8:30: Dance Block

9:15: Cake Cutting/Dessert

9:30: Dance Block

10:00: Photographer end time

11:00: Reception ends.


groom-sees-bride-walking-up-aisle

With No First Look:

?: Hair and Make-up Begins (Dependent on how many people will be getting hair and make-up done. Work backwards from the time you will get dressed and take into account the HMUA’s suggestions for time based on number of people they will be working with)

3:00: Photographer arrives

3:45: Into wedding attire/final touch-ups and prep. Individual portraits of each partner.

4:30: Couple and Wedding Party tucked away

5:00: Invite Ceremony time

5:15: Actual Ceremony start time

5:30/45: Ceremony ends, guests go into cocktail hour. Wedding Party and Family Formal Portraits

6:45: Guests invited into reception hall

7:00: Introductions

7:05: Dinner is served

7:30: Speeches during dinner

8:15: Reception traditions (1st dance, parent’s dances, bouquet toss, etc.)

8:30: Dance Block

9:15: Cake Cutting/Dessert

9:30: Dance Block

11:00: Reception ends/Photographer End Time.