Creating Your Wedding Day Timeline

Feb 4, 2019

Ahh, the wedding day timeline… This little secret weapon can prevent some serious issues with the overall flow of your wedding day. If you’re hesitant to make any kind of schedule, keep these two things in mind:

  • You’re bringing together lots of people with lots of different time commitments and expectations for your day. Some will be with you from start to finish, others will come and go throughout the course of the day. Having a tentative plan in place will help keep everyone happy.
  • You’ll want to make the most of the time that you have. Your big day is already going to fly by, so you really aren’t going to want to spend any extra time on organizational tasks because you didn’t plan ahead.

That being said, let’s take a look at one of my favorite ways to develop a wedding day timeline. Begin by thinking of your timeline as having 3 different layers. The first layer will be the one that everyone sees, and you should set this one before figuring out any other components of your timeline. This is the one that will go out on the invitations or will be posted on your wedding website. Guests need to know when the ceremony starts, obvs. But it’s also reallllly nice to know when key parts of the reception can be expected to happen. So in this layer, you’ll likely also include start times for the cocktail hour, dinner, and dance (provided, you’re having each of these elements!)

The next layer down, you’ll want to include your wedding party and immediate family members. Here you’ll add a few more things like the photo schedule, getting ready time, and any other necessary info. It’s okay to be fairly specific here. If you have an appointment at the salon scheduled for 8 AM, let your ladies know that they should be there by 7:45. If the groomsmen are getting ready on their own and meeting up for pictures, tell them what time they need to be at the venue ready to go (FYI this should be before they’re actually needed for photos). Build some cushion time into this schedule so that when things come up (as they inevitably do), it won’t set you back for the whole day. On a side note, this may be a good place to share any expectations you have. Let the wedding day VIPs know if you’re planning on having some lunch on hand or if you don’t want anyone boozing before the ceremony. Laying all of this stuff out ahead of time can help cut down on unnecessary drama or stress on the wedding day!

The final layer, or most detailed timeline, will be what you want to provide to your vendors and anyone who will be helping keep things rolling on the wedding day. Go crazy with this one and include any and everything you can think of. (Depending on how Type-B you are, you may not need the third layer. If that’s the case, then just make sure all of the people I mentioned here end up getting the most detailed version that you have.)

To wrap this up, I want to share a few tried-and-true tips for making sure your timeline is spot-on and ready for the wedding:

#1 Work forward and backward through your timeline a few times. Before officially setting the ceremony start time, determine if you’ll have enough time before and after to do everything you want to do. See #2 for more on that.

#2 Keep in mind any of the times throughout the day that you can’t control. How early can you start hair and makeup? Do you know what time you have to be out of the reception venue? How long do you have the band or DJ for?

#3 Use any of the timeline templates already out there to figure out if you’re on track with your own timeline. This will help prevent you from setting aside an hour for something that normally takes 15 minutes. Likewise, it can help ensure you aren’t caught off guard by things you didn’t even think of.

#4 Determine who needs to get a copy of the timeline and when. Some may appreciate seeing it the week before so that they can plan accordingly. Others will be perfectly happy getting the timeline at the rehearsal the night before. Decide what’s best for you, then go from there.

Regardless of whether you do any of this, at the end of the day, you’re going to be married to the love of your life and you will have celebrated that with all of your closest friends and family members. Don’t lose sight of that as you navigate the planning process! 

If you’re a current or future bride or groom of mine, just remember that I help all of my couples extensively with their timeline planning! So, if all of this seems super overwhelming, don’t worry one bit! I’ve got you!

As always, you’re always welcome to share your tips for crafting the perfect wedding day timeline with me at