How to Create a Day-Of Wedding Timeline

Wood pews at a church for a wedding decorated with flowers and programs.

Creating a timeline for your wedding can certainly be tricky and it may seem like a tall task, especially if you don’t have a wedding planner. However, it’s important to have a plan for the day so that everyone is on the same page and so that your event goes off without a hitch. Follow the tips and ideas below to create a day-of wedding timeline that will be easy to follow for all.

Determine the Start and End Times

The first step in nailing down your day-of timeline is to decide what time your ceremony will start and when the party will end. Those are pretty firm times and will give you perimeters to work within for the actual event.

Compile a List of all Tasks and Events

Compile a list of everything that will need to take place on your wedding day and separate the list into organized “buckets.” For instance, have a bucket of pre-wedding activities, which will likely include a hair and makeup schedule, rental deliveries, flower deliveries, and so on. Also have a bucket that exists solely for photography and videography since that timeline can get messy itself. Have a bucket just for your ceremony, one for your cocktail hour, and one for your reception. As you make your list, start organizing each individual bucket into exactly how long you think everything will take and the general order in which it will be done.

Once you have your buckets listed, organize the day into your timeline and put specific times. This will probably take quite a bit of tweaking and editing, so leave yourself ample time to get this done and don’t feel like you have to get it all done at once.

Organize the Timeline Well

Leave no room for interpretation or confusion with your timeline! Create columns that are labeled, “time,” “location,” “activity,” “description,” “responsible party(ies),” and “notes” on the timeline. Use this as a master document that houses ALL of the must-know information for those who will be following it. For instance, in the notes section on the line item “bridal party hair and makeup,” include a list of everything your bridal party is to bring to that event (for example: inspiration photos, their own lip gloss, and so on). For the line item “chair rental delivery,” include in the notes section the name of the rental company, a contact number, and the order confirmation code. The last thing you’ll want on the day of your wedding is people calling or texting you about these little details, so make them readily available.

Assign Items to the Right People

Wedding guests greeting one another.

On your timeline, assign line items to their “responsible party(ies)” in order to ensure that there is transparency as to who is doing what. For instance, if one of the groomsmen is responsible for greeting the ceremony musician and distributing their tip, add that on there so there is absolutely no confusion.

Consult the Professionals

A wedding photographer taking a photo of a bride.

Just because you don’t have a wedding planner doesn’t mean that you don’t have an entire team of professionals behind you for your wedding. Consult the people at your venue and other vendors—especially your photographer, glam team, florist, and rental vendor. Ask them not only what time they plan on participating in your day, but also ask their expert advice as they will have a good idea of what to anticipate on your big day. Vendors are full of great advice when it comes to weddings since they’ve done so many, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Pad the Schedule

Anticipate that things might run behind or go longer than expected here or there throughout your wedding day. Instead of allowing that to cause problems on your day, pad the schedule with extra time here or there in order to account for those inevitable hold-ups. Adding in an extra 30 to 45 minutes total throughout the day will be a big life-saver. Also ask everyone involved in your wedding to be 15 minutes early whenever you need them to avoid being held up by someone running late.

Distribute Your Timeline Appropriately

Make sure that everyone intimately involved in your wedding has a copy of your timeline—hard copy and electronically, if possible—in order to stay in the loop and to stay on schedule. This applies not only to the wedding party and immediate family, but also to people at your venue and any other key vendors, like your photographer.

Have Someone Check it for You

Making your timeline is a big responsibility, and it’s one that takes a lot of planning and attention to detail. Make sure you have at least one set of eyes look it over for you before you hit print in order to ensure that it all makes sense. This person can be on the lookout for anything you may have missed or any times that are erroneously overlapping in order to avoid problems.

Once you have your wedding day timeline sorted out, a huge weight will be lifted off your shoulders as you are confident you have a great plan for your big day.

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