For anyone who knows me, it came as no surprise that for our wedding week I mapped out a minute by minute timeline. While I know timelines can be intimidating, I always encourage brides to make one. The process of creating one is more important – in some ways – than the timeline itself.
Going over all that needs to be done and thinking through some logistics allows you to see where there might be holes or outstanding projects. With this in mind, creating this timeline a month out and then revising it as you get closer is your best bet. You might also put together multiple versions of the schedule – the parents of your ring bearer probably don’t need to know that you’re getting your nails done Thursday night at 6pm or a massage Friday morning at 9am. Putting together a master schedule for you, and a summary of what is needed for each event, or what transportation looks like for each piece, will allow you to piece out and share relevant information with your parents, wedding party, coordinators and anyone else who is involved in your day.
So what should you consider in your timeline?
- Start at the end – I always build timelines backwards, starting from the latest “deadline.” So, if your cocktail hour begins at 5:30pm, you can figure out how much time you want to build out between your ceremony and cocktail hour. You’ll definitely need to build in any travel time for guests, and perhaps time for photos for you, your soulmate, and wedding party. Gaps between ceremony and cocktail hour can be nonexistent or up to 3 or 4 hours. If there’s a larger gap, consider including suggestions for activities on your wedding website or in your welcome bag. Walk through your day backwards to figure out what time hair and makeup will start.
- Talk to your vendors – continuing on the point above, information about how long your hair and makeup will take will be provided by the relevant vendors. Hair might take 30-45 minutes per bridesmaid, and makeup, if it’s airbrush, an hour. Figure out what time you need to be done with this part of your day, and figure out how long your hair and makeup team estimate it will take, and ta-da, you have your start time.
- Build in cushion time – your day will at some point fall off schedule. For most brides, it’s better to build in an extra 30 minutes at some point so that you’re not rushing and missing your moments.
- Don’t forget meals – you’ll want to figure out a way for your wedding party to eat breakfast and lunch. Figure out what you want to serve and who can deliver it (cue the father of the bride).
- Putting on your gown – isn’t like throwing on a summer dress and skipping out the door. You’ll likely have this moment photographed, so zipping it up will take some time. Do you have buttons? Those take more time than you’d think (also consider getting a button hook helper!).
- Getting ready photos – so many brides decide to have getting ready photos. Often times this involves robes, jammies, or flannels. Remember, getting ready photos happen right at the end of hair and makeup – so coordinate your photographer’s arrival with this, and leave time from when you plan to wrap up hair and makeup and when you plan to get your dresses on.
- Exchanging gifts – can be tricky. If the wedding parties are getting ready at separate locations, be sure the MOH and BM know they’re responsible for exchanging gifts. If you the gift for the groom has to be driven across town from the bride, this might be a good job for an aunt or your MOH’s husband. Be sure that your significant other remembers to wait to open it until the photographer is there! You should plan to add 10 minutes to your timeline for opening gifts.
- Think sequentially – one of the things that drives me nuts is when the bride’s big moment to get her dress on comes along, and the bridesmaids, mom, or grandma, are still in their adorable robes. Everyone should be dressed before the bride – because they’ll be in the photos. Why capture your mom zipping up your gorgeous gown while she’s in a flannel?
- Don’t forget the days ahead of your wedding – be sure to communicate any times you want your wedding party around to them well in advance. If you’re trying to get your girls together for nails, confirm the date and time before booking appointments. If you need help dropping off decor at the venue, see who is available. If your wedding party will be helping with setup at the ceremony site, be sure to build in time for that ahead of the rehearsal time itself.
- Talk to your wedding consultant – to be sure everyone is on the same page with your timeline. Your consultant might point out holes or express concerns – this input is meant to help improve your day, not stress you out.
- Pause for prosecco – don’t forget to take a moment in your schedule to celebrate your day.