How to create a wedding timeline (when you’ve never planned a wedding)

wedding ceremony in northern Vermont.







Hey Beautiful couple, about to embark on the planning journey! #weddingplanning

Take comfort in knowing that, 95% of couples have not planned a wedding or large event (a basement party in college does not count). Thankfully, there are so many resources to kick things off – not to mention amazing professionals that you’ll meet along the way.

Let’s get this party started! #let’sparty

Creating a wedding day timeline can be a meticulous task, especially with multiple vendors involved. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure a harmonious flow throughout your special day:

1. List All Vendors and Their Needs #weddingvendors

Start by listing all vendors you’ve hired for the day. This could include:

  • Photographers/Videographers
  • Caterers
  • Florists
  • Musicians or DJs
  • Makeup and hair stylists
  • Decor teams
  • Officiant
  • Transportation (if any)

For each vendor, note down any specific requirements or constraints they might have. For instance, photographers might need time for ‘golden hour’ shots, or the caterers might need to know when to serve meals to ensure the food is fresh.

During the planning period, touch base with each vendor to ask the important questions of how much time they need to do their jobs successfully.

Example: a full bridal party (5-6 people) may take a makeup artist 4 hours+ to serve. They also might need to factor in a hairstylist’s timeline. This timeline will now also affect when the photographer will show up.

2. Start With Fixed Points

There are parts of the wedding that have set times, like the ceremony or reception. Start with these:

  • Ceremony start and end time
  • Reception start time
  • Meal times
  • Departure time

3. Backtrack from the Ceremony

The ceremony is often the anchor. Working backward can help you allocate time for preparations:

  • Hair and makeup
  • Photography (pre-ceremony shots)
  • Arrival of the bride/groom
  • Vendor setup times (e.g., florist setting up ceremony arch)

4. Fill in Reception Details

Once you’ve set the reception start time, fill in:

  • Cocktail hour (if any)
  • Dinner serving time
  • Special dances (first dance, father-daughter, etc.)
  • Cake cutting
  • Speeches and toasts
  • Party/dance floor opening

5. Allocate Time for Vendor-specific Needs

With the general flow set, now ensure vendors have their specific needs met:

  • Photography sessions (post-ceremony shots, family photos)
  • Music/DJ setup and sound checks
  • Catering prep and serving times
  • Decor adjustments between ceremony and reception

6. Build in Buffer Time

Things might not always go as planned. Always build in some ‘buffer’ or ‘breathing’ time. For instance:

  • 15-20 minutes post-ceremony for any overrun or unexpected delays
  • Some buffer between dinner and the start of the dance floor

7. Coordination Points

Assign a coordinator or a responsible person (could be a wedding planner or a trustworthy friend) to:

  • Ensure vendors stick to the timeline
  • Assist vendors with any immediate needs
  • Act as the main point of contact to prevent the couple from being overwhelmed

*** Ok, side note: Day of coordinators are the unsung hero of the wedding day. Even if you do have a point person (a close friend or family member) you’re not only taking them out of the moment, adding pressure but also expecting for them to juggle a large event (they may not have experience).

8. Communicate the Timeline

Once your timeline is ready:

  • Share it with all vendors. This ensures everyone is on the same page.
  • Inform key family members or friends about the times they might be specifically needed (e.g., for family photos).

9. Print and Share

On the day of the wedding:

  • Print multiple copies of the timeline.
  • Hand them out to your bridal party, family members, and coordinator.
  • You could also have a bigger timeline displayed at your venue for guests to get an idea of the flow.

10. Stay Flexible

Despite the best planning, there might be unexpected changes or delays. Stay adaptable. The primary goal is to enjoy your day!

Final Thoughts: A well-planned timeline ensures a smooth wedding day, but remember that the essence of the day is about celebrating love and togetherness. Enjoy every moment, even the unexpected ones. They often make the best memories!

Planning a wedding can feel totally overwhelming. Let’s connect on how we can help support your timeline through photography and media services:

#weddingphotographer #newenglandwedding #vermontelopementphotographer #weddingphotos #planning #weddingplanner #weddinginspo