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How To Create A Wedding Day Timeline

  |   By Katie Gregg

Event planner Katie Gregg of Katie Gregg Events. Photo courtesy of Manifesto Photography.

Planning ahead for your wedding day is essential. A wedding day timeline not only connects your vendors, bridal party and family members but keeps everything running smoothly and effortlessly. It paints a picture of your entire day and allows everyone to know where they need to be, when they need to be and gives you an organized schedule of events. You've spent so much time leading up to the big day and countless hours of planning and a detailed timeline is there to keep things moving and have every special moment enjoyed by all!

You will want to fill your timeline with important information, whether these details be big or small items. Add specified time slots, addresses, vendor and bridal party names to make your timeline clearer and more detailed for everyone to follow. It is helpful to make subsequent notes that pair perfectly with your timeline (ex. Hair/Makeup Schedules, Family Formal Lists, Important Song Lists, Transportation Schedules etc.). Communicate with vendors to plan and confirm specific timeline items to coordinate a great flow for all parties.

Below I have compiled some very detailed information to include on your timelines (info that is essential when I create them for my clients) to help you create an air-tight game plan for your day.

THE MORNING OF
The morning is without a doubt the most important part of your morning timeline as it sets the tone for your entire special day ahead. Having a pre-planned morning including additional time for delays like hair/makeup running late will start the day off on the right foot and allow for things to stay on schedule for future timeline items. Having trouble knowing where to begin? Start your timeline with the first item of the day usually being the arrival of your bridal party. Once your photographer arrives don't forget to give them some time to capture your details before jumping into getting ready photos. You don't want to feel rushed or behind schedule, but instead, enjoy a lovely morning with the ones you love.

  • Bridal Party Arrives at Getting Ready Location
  • Hair/Makeup Begins
  • Photographer Arrives and Captures Details
  • Hair/Makeup Is Complete
  • Cozy Photos Before Getting Dressed
  • Bride Gets Dressed
  • Bridal Portraits
  • First Looks Between Bridal Party or Immediate Family Members

Planning Tips: Make sure your getting ready location is clean, free of clutter and full of natural light. Don't forget to schedule the little things like morning breakfast, floral deliveries and opening morning gifts or notes.

PRE-CEREMONY
It's important to note all wedding day timelines will look different especially pre-ceremony depending on if you are choosing to have a first look and back-to-back ceremony and reception or if you are opting for an earlier ceremony with no first look. In this case portrait photos, bridal party photos and immediate family formals can be scheduled post-ceremony making a few adjustments in the order of events. You can adjust the below timeline events, accordingly, making the day uniquely yours. 

  • The First Look
  • Portrait Photos
  • Bridal Party Photos
  • Immediate Family Formals
  • Bridal Party Lines Up for Ceremony
  • Ceremony

Planning Tips: Schedule your portrait photos immediately after your first look and take that time to soak in the moment with your soon to be bride or groom. Always factor in transportation time, especially if travelling from location to location to take photos. Give yourself some time before the ceremony to freshen up, grab a bite to eat and relax. It is a great way to break up the timeline and breathe before the big moment. Having your immediate family formals scheduled before your ceremony opens up more time further in the schedule to enjoy your evening with your guests.

COCKTAIL HOUR
And just like that, you are MARRIED! Cocktail hour is a modern-day transition between ceremony and reception that we couldn't love more! It’s truly the warmest welcome to your guests and utilize this time to add in custom pre-wedding experiences including a great music selection, signature cocktails and unique appetizers. If your ceremony and reception take place in the same venue it is a quick and smooth transition between ceremony end and cocktail hour but if you are changing locations in between make sure to factor in time for guests to travel from point a to point b.

  • Extended Family Formals
  • Cocktail Hour Enjoyment
  • Sunset Photos
  • Venue Reveal
  • Guests Begin to Be Seated for Dinner

Planning Tips: Give yourself some time to enjoy cocktail hour with your guests. If you are not having a traditional receiving line this is a great time to greet your guests, have conversations and indulge. This also gives your photographer time to capture venue detail photos and candid captures of you and your loved ones in the moment. You won't regret adding a quick venue reveal to your timeline, giving you a special chance to see your reception untouched before your guests and soak in your months of planning and see your wedding day vision before your eyes.

RECEPTION
Once guests begin to be seated for dinner this is where your wedding night truly gets started. The magic and love that fills this room is undeniable and there is no greater feeling as a newlywed. Many choose to have formal introductions where some opt to skip this altogether transitioning right into your toasts and formal dinner. You can customize when you would like to have your first dances, cut your cake and have your toasts given. Once dinner is finished and the dance floor is open the fun begins and everlasting memories are made with the ones closest to your hearts. Celebrate and dance the night away before you make your newlywed grand exit.

  • Reception Entrances (Newlywed and Bridal Party)
  • First Dance and Formal Cake Cut
  • Welcome Toasts
  • Dinner Service Begins
  • Bridal Party and Family Toasts Continued
  • Dinner End Time
  • Newlywed Thank You
  • Parent Dances
  • Party Begins
  • Bouquet Toss
  • Newlywed Grand Exit

Planning Tip: Mix things up a bit. Don't be afraid to try something different and have your first dance and formal cake cut before dinner. It's a great way to kick off the evening and embrace a special moment while you have all of your guest’s attention. Scheduling toasts between courses is a great way to break up speeches without having dinner interruption and unexpected delays. Have fun with your newlywed exit - consider sparklers or confetti.

Katie Gregg is the lead planner and founder of Katie Gregg Events & Co. Her wedding planning journey began two years ago, not long after saying ‘I do’ with her husband Chris; she discovered her passion for wedding planning and wedding media. Katie believes wedding planning is more than just staging and organizing an aesthetically beautiful event. It requires taking cues from a couple’s personal styles, incorporating details from their love story, and creating a thoughtful experience for them and their guests alike.

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