Wedding Day Timelines

 In Media

You’ve invested countless hours researching, comparing services, making decisions, and choosing vendors.  Now it’s time to bring all the details together to create one incredible day! But where do you start? How do you know how to build the perfect Wedding Day Timeline?

Having a schedule of events is the key to ensuring your wedding day will run smoothly.

A wedding’s success depends on the timing of all the activities and key moments taking place throughout the day.  Without a realistic and thorough Wedding Day Timeline you run the risk of experiencing a far more chaotic and stressful day than it needs to be.

The average wedding will have anywhere from 8 to 15 or more wedding vendors involved in the day’s plan. Combine that with your wedding party and family and suddenly you have a lot of people that need to come together and know what’s happening and when.  That’s where a thoughtful and realistic timeline comes into play.

It’s important to breakdown all the main activities to ensure that the plan in your head actually works in real time.

From hair and makeup start times and number of people Getting Ready, to photography start times and locations, to First Look Photos, Transportation Movements including Wedding Party Transfers and Guest Shuttles, Vendor Arrival & Setup Times, Emcee Duties, Food Service Timing, Cake Cutting, Speeches, First Dance, to Late Night Snacks… It all needs to be accounted for!

You will also want to deliberately plan for some downtime and private moments with your new spouse.  Otherwise you run the risk of missing your wedding day and not being able to remember all the wonderful moments that took place.

Wedding Coordinators are more than candle lighters and favor/place card placers!  A dedicated and experienced coordinator will make all the time and money spent worth it!

If you have hired a Wedding Planner or Day Of Coordinator (and of course we are huge advocates for that) they will create your Wedding Day Timeline for you which can be shared with all your Vendors, Wedding Party, & Family in the weeks leading up to the wedding.

As one of Vancouver’s Wedding Planning OGs, DreamGroup has been praised for raising the bar in creating exceptional Wedding Day Timelines that help everyone do their jobs better!  If you are going it alone sans Wedding Planner, then let us share some helpful steps and questions in building a realistic and well structured Wedding Day Timeline.  This will help you achieve wedding day success!

As you answer or consider each question or point below start building your Timeline.  We love good old Excel, but any format that is easy for you to use is great!

Wedding Day Timelines that Sparkle & Shine!

Step 1: Schedule the Main Events

  • Hair & Makeup/First Look Photos
  • Ceremony Start Time listed on the Invitation (anticipate that Guest Arrival will start 20-30 minutes prior)
  • The Officiant/Celebrant will typically arrive 15-30 minutes before the scheduled ceremony start time.
  • Cocktail Hour — Immediately following at the same location or at a different location later on?  How long is it?  We suggest no more than 1.5 Hours.
  • Dinner Start Time.  How long is the Dinner period?  Ask your Venue/Caterer how long they need to properly serve your Meal. The rule of thumb is usually 30 minutes from serving to clearing for each course with length affected by number of guests and number of service staff involved.
  • Cake Cutting Ceremony — Is the cake being served as the dessert with dinner?  If so, you will want to cut the cake between the first and second course to allow enough time to cut and plate the cake.
Speechy Keen Jelly Bean!
  • Speeches… Feather in the speeches… It’s a nice idea to break up speeches in between courses during dinner to keep things engaging and exciting for Guests. Eat a little… Drink a little… Listen a little… Laugh a Little… Repeat. 🙂
  • First Dance (often followed by the Father-Daughter/Mother-Son Dance)
  • Late Night Snacks (usually about 2 hours after dinner has ended)
  • Bouquet Toss — If you don’t have at least 3-4 single girlfriends willing to “make a play for the bouquet” skip this and instead consider honoring someone special with your bouquet.
  • Garter Toss (a practice that seems to be less popular than it once was)

Step 2: The BIG Questions

  • Are you planning to do First Look Photos before the Ceremony?
  • Are the Bouquets needed for the First Look and Wedding Party Photos?  If so, alert your Florist that 2 separate delivery times/locations will be needed.
  • How much time does your Photographer suggest for First Look & Wedding Party Photos?
  • How many locations are you planning for your Photos?
  • Where’s the Bride Getting Ready? Where’s the Groom Getting Ready? **Include Phone Numbers for easy contact.
  • Consider how much time it will take to travel from one location to the next? i.e. How much time will it take to get from the Getting Ready Location to the Photo Location(s)?
Never Assume!  Asking the right questions beforehand can be the difference between easy and frustrating!
  • What time do Vendors have access for Setup at the Venue?  What time is Tear Down?  What time do Vendors need to be out by?  Can items be delivered early or left overnight?
  • Are there any specific load-in/load-out rules or suggestions?
  • How long is the Ceremony?  How many people are walking down the aisle?
  • Will the Ceremony be amplified?  If yes, be sure to let your DJ & the Venue know.
  • Confirm with the Venue official end times.  i.e. last call, music end time, when guests must be out by, when vendors must be cleared, etc. Don’t assume all are the same.
Timing is Everything!
  • When will Family Photos happen?  Often they take place immediately following the Ceremony.  Be sure to have a Must Have Photo List prepared for the Photographer so they can keep things moving and ensure no one gets forgotten.  It’s a good idea to have a family member from each side involved to help track family members down as needed.
  • Are the Bride & Groom taking off for a few private photos following the ceremony?  It’s a really nice plan if you can swing it!  Those “post ceremony glow” photos are often super romantic and joyous captures!
  • Who will be heading up to the Podium to share some thoughts and wishes?  Often this includes the Parents of the Bride, Parents of the Groom, Maid of Honour, Best Man, and finally the Bride & Groom’s Thank you Speech to end off the night.  Sometimes there will be additional speakers or performances to be factored in too!

Working Forwards & Backwards off of Key Moments is how you build a Smart Timeline!

  • It’s always best to ask your Hair & Makeup Stylists how much time they will need to complete their work.  For larger Wedding Parties you will almost definitely need 2-4 Stylists in order to avoid an extended Getting Ready time.  3-4 Hours is the maximum amount of time you should spend Getting Ready.
  • What time are you planning to get into your Wedding Dress?  This will affect when the Photographer should start if they are capturing “Getting Ready” photos and also when the Hair & Makeup Stylists should start/end.

Talking Points

  • Give your Speakers a 3-5 Minute range for their talk time so they know to keep things succinct and thoughtful.  Sometimes speakers talk for longer than they should because they think that if they don’t talk for a long time it means they don’t care.  Or they just don’t know when to stop!  Short and Sweet is the name of the game.
  • Be sure to appoint the right person as your Emcee!  Preferably not someone in the Wedding Party and ideally someone who knows you and a little about your love story.  If possible try and encourage your Emcee to refrain from drinking more than 2-3 drinks before they perform their duties.  A slurring Emcee that rambles on and on is a dinner buzzkill.

Parting Thoughts

  • Be sure to make arrangements for breakfast and lunch for The Wedding Party! Hungry leads to Hangry which leads to Grumpy and if they have been drinking…Tipsy!  It’s a long day!  Keep that energy up!
  • Don’t drink too much during the Getting Ready period as this will affect your energy and how you look in photos! A good rule of thumb is have a glass of water between every drink and try and only have 1 drink an hour at most.
Triple check quantities and delivery times to avoid disappointment!
  • Confirm the number of Bouquets & Boutonnieres with your Florist and where they are going and when they are expected as delays and miscommunication about these things can throw a Timeline off track!
  • It’s a good idea to pre-assign someone the responsibility of bringing the rings and marriage license to the Ceremony Location.  This could be a responsible Best Man, Mother of the Bride/Groom, or even the Groom!  You might tuck them inside his jacket breast pocket!
Vendors need Sustenance too Please & Thank you!
  • Don’t forget to confirm your Final Guest Numbers, Kids Meals (highchairs if needed), & # of Vendor Meals with your Caterer/Venue along with any Food Allergies that may be applicable.  When will the Vendors be fed?  It may seem unimportant, but Vendors are often forgotten or the last to be served, yet they are your engine behind a smooth and successful wedding day so keeping their energy up is key!
What goes up must come down!
  • Special Notes Section: Another GREAT thing to include at the bottom of your Wedding Day Timeline is a list of all the items being brought to the Venue for setup by Family/Friends/Planner.  Also information as to what’s happening with all these items at the end of the night and who is responsible for cleaning them up and taking them home is ideal.  What’s happening with the flowers? Who is taking home the leftover Wedding Cake?
  • Your Timeline should include a Contact List with names and on day phone numbers for all involved Vendors and Lead Organizers.  It’s way more efficient if someone can be contacted quickly in a time crunch!

Creating a thorough Wedding Day Timeline will allow all participants to know what’s expected of them and properly prepare for the day to come.  All activities and events act as a domino affecting everything else that comes after it.  Allowing everyone to be on the same page and plan accordingly with time to digest the plan (and in some cases voice concerns or offer suggestions for improvement) provides the proper insights and communication to help make a day run efficiently and enjoyably for all those involved.

Creating a Wedding Day Timeline offers the perfect opportunity to cross check all areas of the wedding plan and fine tune expectations.  It’s the cross Your Ts and dot your Is moment we DreamGroup Planners value and rely on in achieving wedding day magic! Now go make magic happen!

vancouverwedding #weddingdaytimeline #dreamgroupplanners #vancouverweddingplanner #vancouverweddings


Did you find this article on Wedding Day Timeline helpful?  Check out other inspiring and informative DreamGroup Blogs and articles here.

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