The best 12 wedding timeline tips
Planning a wedding is both exciting and stressful. Having a wedding, and wedding planning is definitely not something people do on a regular basis, and for most people, something well out of the average “comfort zone” of things to do.
So much work goes into making this one day as perfect as can be. There are endless decisions to be made, and so many factors to consider. As a professional wedding photographer, I’ve been part of this process with couples for over 15 years now. And I can easily say the number one thing you can do for your wedding is to make a proper wedding day timeline. And to make it as soon as possible.
A properly made wedding day timeline will give you the confidence you need to have the day you want; and the ability to hire and manage your vendor dream team – all while saving you money and stress in the process.
My best 12 wedding timeline tips
1 ) Make your timeline as soon as possible.
Most couples don’t make a timeline until about a month before their wedding (even those with planners). This is the #1 mistake made during wedding planning. Your timeline addresses critical questions about what you want for your wedding day. And if you wait until weeks before your wedding, you’ll have a high chance of having to make compromises about your wedding day. The reason is that by this point, your vendors have all been hired, and their times are set. And for most weddings, it’s rare for vendors to communicate about your wedding on their own.
The sooner you make your timeline, the sooner you’ll address what you want for your wedding, and the easier you’ll be able to hire vendors that can meet your needs. You’ll find yourself not only in the position of empowerment and confidence but also saving a lot of money from the typical conflicts that ultimately arise when 6-12 different vendors try to come together to put together a large event.
2 ) Start your day sooner.
This is the second most important tip. Nothing is more stressful than being rushed. And then you’ll start just checking boxes, rather than enjoying all the experiences.
3 ) Sunset.
Before you set your ceremony time, you need to know sunset time. Most couples want some kind of outdoor photos. The worst-case scenario is setting the wedding, sending out invitations, and finding out weeks before your wedding that you forgot about sunset/daylight savings, and it’s dark by the time your ceremony ends.
4 ) Work backward.
There are three times you want to keep track of. How late do you think you want your wedding reception to end. What time you like to eat dinner. What your wedding ceremony start time is going to be (and how long it is going to be? A common duration is 30 minutes). If you’re going to DIY your timeline, you’ll need to work backward from these times. If you’re using our AI timeline generator, then you don’t have to worry. We take care of it for you.
5 ) Buffer times.
Everything on your wedding day will take longer than you think. Putting your dress on will take more than 10 minutes. When it comes to travel time, a 15 minutes drive will take 30 minutes. It’s just the nature of it. Start your day earlier, and add buffers. The best thing that can happen on your big day is to be ahead of schedule. You, your bridal party, and your family will love it.
6 ) Send your timeline to your wedding party and parents.
You can’t expect them to be on time if they don’t know what’s going on!
7 ) Send Google Map links to your wedding party and parents.
I’ve done mini weddings with just the couple and parents – and seen them be an hour late. Why? One set of parents is lost! This will help you in so many ways. (And yes, with Wedding Day Timeline, we send out timelines and Google Maps links automatically to emails and phones!)
8 ) Send your timeline to your vendors for feedback.
It’s important to send this out as soon as possible to your vendors and wedding planners so you can start getting everyone on the same page. This will go a long way to having a smooth wedding day.
9) Cocktail hour.
Do you want to be part of cocktail hour? This is one of the factors to consider when deciding if you want to do a first look or not. And that determines when you take couple photos, family photos and wedding party photos. And that’s going to all factor into your timeline!
10 ) Reception details.
You’ll want to be sure to include in reception details like toasts, formal dances, garter toss and bouquet toss, and cake cutting. Your DJ / band will need to know about these events in order to prepare for and to announce them.
11) Hair & Makeup.
When coordinating with hair, makeup, and photography, talk to your team about when is best for you to get your hair and makeup done. Consider if going second to last is beneficial. This will give you extra buffer time if the day starts to run over.
12) Family Photos.
When planning for family formal photos, consider how big or small your family is, and talk to your photographer about how much time they’ll need for family photos. If both partners have divorced/remarried parents with a lot of siblings/step-siblings, then that is going to take longer than usual. You’ll want to account for this in the timeline.