It comes as no surprise that the wedding day timeline is perhaps the most important part of the planning process. Sure, you can book your dream venue and craft an unforgettable menu, but it’s all for naught if you don’t set an itemized schedule. One misstep and you could find yourself delaying the ceremony, missing out on your first look, or dealing with vendors that arrive too early (or not early enough).
But have no fear – we rounded up some well-versed wedding pros to help you navigate the timing of your big day.
It’s all in the details
For many people, this is their first introduction to coordinating a large event. Even if you’ve attended your fair share of weddings, it’s understandable to be intimidated and unsure about all of the moving parts.
For example, Nora Sheils, founder of Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, states: “Have you checked your city’s event calendar? If not, do it right now! Many couples do not account for closed roads or detours because of a road race, construction, or even a parade. These are all things that you can plan around if you take the time to look into what is scheduled over your wedding weekend. Trust me, it’s worth the added effort.”
Lizzy Liz, wedding planner and designer of Lizzy Liz Events, advises setting up transportation for important guests that may be unfamiliar with the area. She also forewarns of any hungover guests or wedding party members. “No one is ready for an early and long day. So, make sure you don’t drink too much leading up to the wedding day. This can ruin the timeline, delay photos, and [leave you to] deal with cranky people.”
Why it’s important to stick to the schedule
After six months to a year of wedding planning, you may be thinking, ‘How much damage can a 10-15 minute delay really cause?’ In reality, any time gap has the potential to throw a lot of details off-track. Everything has a domino effect, so it’s important to keep yourself, your family, and your wedding party in line.
Janice Carnevale, owner of Bellwether Events, notes: “Once you fall behind your schedule, it can be tough to make up that time. On the emotional side, the loss of time likely means either less time taking couple portraits or less time dancing with your family and friends at your reception. On the logistical side, this might mean overtime fees with your transportation or other vendors.”
Lynne Reznick, owner of Lynne Reznick Photography, says that falling behind can actually affect the photos. “Running late can impact many aspects of your day, but one you may not think about is golden hour portraits. The warm golden light right before sunset is something many couples look forward to for a special set of portraits together. ‘Golden hour’ actually only lasts about 20 minutes, and portraits need to be timed precisely in the minutes leading up to sunset. With the sun dropping lower in the sky, being even just 10-15 minutes behind schedule may mean that you miss the light as the sun may already have fallen below the tree line or behind tall buildings at a city venue.”
Don’t underestimate anything
Even the things you think won’t cause too much trouble can inevitably be the reason why you’re scrambling instead of enjoying your wedding. Be mindful not to underestimate anything, no matter how small.
According to Bobbi Brinkman, owner of Bobbi Brinkman Photography, kids definitely need some extra time built into the schedule. “Either the couple’s kids or relatives – the adults in charge of the kids – never plan for meltdowns or how much time is needed to get them ready and still get themselves ready.”
“The usual culprit of a wedding running behind schedule is simply the idea that there is a large number of people you are trying to corral from one event to the next,” says Sarah Blessinger, owner, and designer of Kindred Weddings and Events. “Whether you are doing a buffet or a served dinner, remember that not all guests are going to start eating at exactly the same time. You will want to make sure you have scheduled enough time for dinner to be served and for your guests to enjoy their meal before diving right into the night’s festivities.”
What you can do to stay on track
So, given all of this – how can you ensure that your day of getting hitched goes off without a hitch?
Jamie Chang, owner and destination wedding planner of Mango Muse Events, says it best: “Building in buffer time is a great help when it comes to your schedule not going off the rails. Just having a little extra time in the areas that tend to run late ensures you’ll be okay if you are running late, because it helps to prevent the snowball effect. But you also need to be careful you don’t go overboard with the buffer time because if you’re too early, that can also affect your wedding, particularly when it comes to things like your meal. Working with a professional planner will also ensure you don’t get thrown off your timeline.”
She continues: “What also helps to make sure your timeline doesn’t get thrown off is to sit down with anyone involved in your wedding and make sure they understand the time constraints for the wedding. This would [entail] people like your toast-givers, wedding party, and family. Letting them know how much time they have or what is expected of them will help make sure they not only understand so they can plan for it, but it will also make them more conscious of it on the wedding day.”
The idea of creating an efficient yet enjoyable timeline can seem a bit intimidating for anyone, but with a careful eye and attention to detail, you can flawlessly pull off the day of your dreams.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.
We’ve partnered with OFD Consulting to bring you this great advice from their collective of wedding professionals.