Wedding days can feel like a blur to couples. And that’s actually a good thing. It means that the day felt smooth and that you were able to just float through getting ready, your ceremony, cocktail hour and reception while truly soaking in each moment. And the way that that happens is through a lot of planning ahead and a clear event timeline.
We go into a lot of detail on event timelines for our clients- each one includes side by side schedules for the bride and her attendants, the groom and his attendants as well as production notes. Once the timeline is finalized (usually the week before the wedding), we distribute it to the bridal party as well as all vendors. This ensures that everyone involved is on the same page and gives them a chance to get an overview of the event well ahead of time. Whether there are last minute changes that final week or not, we also always print out hard copies to hand out to vendors on event day as well.
If you are taking on the task of creating your own event timeline, I wanted to share a few tips and things to keep in mind!
1. PAD YOUR TIMELINE
There is a reason this is number one! It is so much better to allow extra time for everything then to try to rush yourself, your bridal party and your vendors. You will be so much more relaxed if you wake up a bit earlier to start hair and makeup sooner (I know an early wake up call may not sound great but trust me, you’re going to be excited to get up and start the day!) and plan for extra travel time in case of traffic. And use this tactic throughout the entire day, not just for getting ready. Remember if cocktail hour ends at 6:00 pm, you won’t be getting announced into the reception at 6:00 pm. Depending on the number of guests, it’s going to take at least 15 minutes for them to find their seats and get settled. Additionally, if you are having a plated or family style dinner, check with your caterers to see how much time they recommend for each course.
The way the different events are organized can make or break a wedding. When you’re deciding which order to do everything in, think about where each item will take place. You don’t want to have guests seated inside for dinner, move everyone outside for dancing and then move back inside for a later cake cutting. Guests are going to feel like they’re being corralled all night! Either relocate the cake outside or cut it when you enter the reception, giving your caterers time to plate it in the kitchen during dinner and serve it after the entree, then move everyone outside for dancing.
People always ask how many toasts is too many. If possible, keeping it at three or four seems to work best in terms of holding guests’ attention. If there are additional friends or family who want to say something, I always suggest giving them a chance on the mic at the rehearsal dinner. However it makes sense that everyone is excited for you and your new spouse and there may be more people who want to share a few words at the reception. We have had weddings where there have been upwards of eight toasts and you can make it work. Two tips here. 1) It's completely okay to request time limits. Give parents and your maid of honor/best man 5 minutes each and all other speakers 2-3 minutes. 2) Break them up if possible! Have parents give a toast/welcome speech immediately after you are announced into the reception, let your maid of honor and best man speak in between the salad and entree courses and then have any additional toasts before dessert. If you’re having a buffet or food stations, do a majority of the toasts after guests have had a chance to eat. However you do it, keep in mind you’ll want it to be at a time when guests are seated and pretty much done with what they are eating so you won’t have the noises of plates being served/bussed or flatware clanking in the background.
When you’re planning your timeline, please make sure to review your vendor contracts and confirm all of their start and end times! You don’t want to plan on getting in your dress before the photographer arrives or on the other end, doing a later cake cutting or bouquet toss and then realize that they actually left an hour earlier! So know how many hours of service you have with each vendor and plan accordingly.
5. MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Recently we had clients who wanted to do cocktail hour before the ceremony. This was something new for us and it turned out that everyone loved it! It was a great way for our clients to relax before the ceremony and spend quality time with all of their guests. Another benefit was that, with the traditional timeline where a ceremony comes first, there are always guests who trickle in right as the processional is about to begin. This way no one walked in late or missed the ceremony! So don’t be afraid to shake things up and do something a little different!
It takes a lot of time to really think through an entire wedding day and to organize it in a way that works- which is why we offer it as an a la carte service to brides who aren’t even using us for month of or full service coordination. So if you spend all of this time creating a beautiful and detailed schedule, please make sure you have a designated person to put it into action! Your DJ/emcee should be able to help you when it comes to the traditions at the reception, but having a wedding coordinator or trusted point person to execute everything from start to finish will make sure all of your efforts result in that dreamy blur.