Updated: May 2
Whilst creating a wedding day schedule is not necessarily difficult, it is something that requires knowledge and an awareness of how long each part of the day takes. In this blog, I will share some key things to consider when creating your wedding day schedule that people often overlook. Some of them are really obvious, yet I have found time and time again that people forget to make allowances for them and then are stressing out on their day because they have realised things aren’t going according to plan. Whether you have some or no idea of how to create your wedding day schedule, I am sure this blog will be useful and helpful for you and hopefully, it will help ensure that you aren’t feeling rushed or stressed on your wedding day, and it may help you decide how to order certain parts of your day so that you make the most of your special day.
Hello, I’m Georgia, a wedding and lifestyle photographer and I want to share my experience and knowledge to help you lovely couples in all of your wedding planning and preparations. I am sure that my tips, inspiration and advice will help relieve some of the stress and help answer some of those questions you may have. Many people have no idea what to expect when it comes to the booking processes, prices and payment plans, insurances, etc. and to be honest, a lot of people just don’t know where to start and who’s advice to listen to – family and friends are happy to share advice but often it is what THEY like/dislike and think you should do, and it often contradicts what another person has told you. I cover all things weddings and not only the photography side of things and I include interviews with other suppliers so that you get to learn from their expertise as well.
So with that said why not subscribe to the blog and receive my free wedding checklist bundle (this has some timelines to help get you started.) If you are looking for a photographer you can find all of my prices on my website and there are contact forms if you wish to enquire about my availability. Also, feel free to connect with me on Instagram.
Back to the topic at hand……
I will break this blog down into a few sections for you. Firstly I will share some things to consider about the whole day. Sometimes just hearing or reading someone shares a few simple things makes you realise how easy it is to overlook certain aspects of the day. Secondly, I will explain some of the information that you need to know and pass on to others about the set up which you may not be present at but it is your responsibility to sort and arrange. I also give some useful information regarding your photos in my blog on how to schedule my wedding day photos and I would definitely recommend reading that as well before making your own wedding day schedule. I also encourage you to download my free wedding day bundle which has some timeline templates in them that you can use and adapt to suit your own needs.
Things to consider:
What do you want the day to look like?
It goes without saying but before you put any schedule together you need to have a list of all the different things that you want to happen on your day. For example, do you want a sit-down meal or help yourself buffet? Do you want entertainment, and if so is it throughout the day or just in the evening? Some people have a fireworks display which obviously needs to happen when it is dark to get the full experience, and the time that it gets dark will be different depending on whether you’re having a summer or winter wedding. Do you want to have a first dance? To cut the cake? To have speeches? - remember just because these things are traditional doesn’t mean you have to have them. Some people have a specific entrance that they want such as turning up in a horse and cart, and others want a proper send-off as they are driven off into the sunset to go to their honeymoon suite for the night (or airport if you are heading off somewhere that night). And if you desire to have your wedding at a particular venue (or venues), then they may have certain times that they set for the ceremony and reception meal and so you may be governed by them to some extent. Whether you have these things booked in already or not isn't a problem, although you may need to adapt your plan slightly if a particular supplier stipulates certain things.
What photos do you want to capture?
Then there are other things to consider such as what do you want to capture during your day. So do you want family portraits? Whole guest party portraits? Bridal party and couple portraits? If you do, you will have to factor these into your schedule as well. There is quite a lot to say on this topic and as I mentioned earlier I have written a separate blog on it called How to schedule my wedding day photos So be sure to check it out.
Make sure that you have all of your photo lists and all of the other things you want to get down in your day, ready on paper when you sit down to prepare your timeline and don’t do them both at the same time because you will probably miss something.
Consult you suppliers
When creating a schedule for your day it is also worthwhile consulting with your different suppliers to ask whether they have any specific requirements. For example, some make-up artists may ask that everyone has their hair done first, whereas others are happy to do it before. This may not be a big deal if you are having a late wedding or if you have a small bridal party, but if you’re getting married quite early in the morning and/or you have a large bridal party, doing all the hair first may not be practical time-wise. Along the same trail of thought, it depends whether you are having your hair stylists and make-up artist come to you or if you are going to them, and whether you are getting ready at your wedding venue or if you have to travel there still once you are all ready.
It is worth remembering that the different suppliers time needs have a knock-on effect on other suppliers. The example above about hair and make-up suppliers reveals that they will need to work together in one way or another. Whether that is in a conveyor belt type system where as soon as the first person’s hair is done they go to the make-up artist, or if they work simultaneously where some get their hair done first whilst others get their make-up done first. The other suppliers that will be affected by them are the photographer and videographer, assuming you want them to capture you getting ready. And if you are hoping to capture both the bridal and grooms party getting ready, then you may be forced to get 2nd shooters, or have 1 of the parties start getting ready earlier so they can travel between the 2 groups – again this will be heavily influenced by the destinations of both the parties and the wedding ceremony as the groom needs to be at the ceremony earlier to welcome guests, as does the photographer and videographer so they can capture guests arriving and be in position for the bride to arrive!
For a great place to start, check out our blog on Choosing your Wedding Venue - after you've finished reading this article, of course!
I have already alluded to this next point a few times, but you must take into account where the different destinations are, and if you are having to travel between places, then make sure you allow some extra time for traffic and finding parking. I know this sounds obvious and you may even feel offended by the fact that I’ve put it down, but you would be surprised how many people have completely forgotten to allow for travel, or they have only allowed the exact times to travel between destinations and then been held up because of a road closure on the day. And whilst it is customary for the bride to be a little late, I have been a guest at weddings where they were an hour late. Now if you have plenty of free time within your day you should be able to make it up elsewhere and still be on schedule for everything else, BUT you don’t want to be getting stressed or panicking. And if you are on a tight schedule, and you have only paid for your photographer or videographer for a certain number of hours, you could have unexpected bills. I have also known those conducting the service to have a cut off time because they have another service later on.
Being late at the beginning could also have a knock-on effect on the catering. Caterers work hard to try and get the food ready on time, and whilst it’s not the end of the world if they are running late, if you are, then they can’t always keep the food piping hot.
Something else that you should consider is who is doing the speeches, and how long realistically will they will be. I have been at weddings where the speeches are still going when the evening guests arrive, and because the venue hadn’t reset for more guests, or created the dance floor area by removing the tables and chairs, they were left standing outside for a good 45 minutes or more. Also, do you want to do the speeches before the meal? Many grooms have been unable to enjoy their dinner because they are overwhelmed with nerves as they know that they will have to give their speech shortly and so a way around this is to have the speeches at the beginning of the meal.
Give yourself more time than needed
Finally, don’t feel pressurised into cramming it all into a tight streamlined schedule so that people aren’t waiting around. First of all, it’s your day and not theirs, and secondly, people tend to enjoy themselves anyway as long as the bar is open and there are people to talk to. I would always suggest you give a 10-minute buffer to pretty much everything on your schedule, and maybe a little longer for the start of the day to allow for your getting ready time and for any travel arrangements. It is much better to have too much time than not enough, and you really don’t want to feel rushed on your special day.
For more advice on planning your wedding in a simple, stress-free way... check out our FREE wedding planning bundle! It's packed full of tips, advice and lots of space for you to make notes and timetables!
Stick to it
And the other thing to remember is that you have made your schedule for a reason, so try and stick to it. Sometimes it is easy to put something off during the day until later, but then later may never come or it ends up causing an issue to something else.
Something that you have to also take into account is how long do the suppliers need to get everything set up for the day. I have already mentioned about hair and make-up and how they may have certain requirements, but make sure you also ask them and everyone else how long they think they need. And when it comes to make-up, remember there may be some tears of joy that means some people need a few touch-ups before they head out!
But aside from those that are actively involved with you in your day, others such as florists and cake designers will need to be given time to set up on the day. How long will depend on whether they are going to multiple destinations and how many displays you’re having, so make sure you liaise with them as they will need to drop off bouquets, buttonholes, and decorate the venue(s). The same goes for those that are decorating the venue(s) if they are not in house suppliers of the venue itself. Catering (including the cake), the drinks bar, photo-booths, and entertainment may all need time to set up before any guests arrive, or they may need a time in the day when they can have space clear for them to set up. It will be your job to organise and delegate people to oversee this where necessary.
Now sometimes this can have a direct effect on the schedule of your day. For example, if someone needs time to set up an area during your day, then you may decide to use that part of your day for something else. So you could decide that whilst the bouncy castle and giant games are being set up in the late afternoon, that you will have the meal at this point. Or you could decide that because the florist, caterers or venue need a little longer getting ready, that you do all of your group portraits straight after the ceremony so that it delays their arrival time.
For more advice on scheduling your portraits - one of the most important parts of the day - make sure to save and check out this post later!
The key is good communication
Sometimes parts of your schedule will be determined by others, whereas other parts can be done when and as you decide, and it may be the case that much of your set-up is done the day before. The key to all of this planning is good communication between you and your suppliers. Make sure you check in with them what time they need as a bare minimum, as well as what they would ideally like. Put a draft plan together, share it with them all and ask for feedback, and where necessary you can make slight adjustments.
For more advice on contacting your suppliers, make sure you check out our YouTube channel - where we post the insider scoop on wedding planning - all to help you have a happy and stress-free planning experience!
How long do things take?
Over the years this question has become more and more difficult to answer because weddings vary so much now. So much depends on how much of your day you want to capture, the size of your bridal party (bridesmaids & groomsmen), the number of guests you have, whether you’re at 1 or many locations and whether you have a huge photo wish list. Do you want to capture photos during golden hour? Do you want to do all of the traditional things like cutting the cake, speeches and the first dance? Are you having a sit-down meal, a whole day wedding or just a late afternoon one that will go on into the evening? And are you planning on staying until the end or are you leaving early to go to your honeymoon suite or the airport?
The 2 main things that you want to know first so that you can work the rest of your day are the following:
Time of the ceremony
Time that you are leaving
Then the other thing you will have to know is where everything is happening. Is everything at one destination, including getting yourselves dress and ready, or is it in multiple locations. Factor in your travel times if needed and then you will be able to start to plan the rest of your day.
So the next few things to find out and/or decide would be:
1. When is golden hour (sunset) – if you want to have photos at this point
2. When will the meal be
3. When will the evening guests arrive
If you’re having certain things like entertainment or fireworks then you would slot them in next because they will usually be at set times. And even if you don’t have the exact times you can start to slot them into a list. So you may have a solo artist playing some music when your guests arrive, an entertainer for the kids to occupy the kids before dinner, and then fireworks in the evening before the band starts playing – you don’t want an empty dance floor when the fireworks are on or for everyone to be dancing and miss the display outside. First dance and speeches will slot in the appropriate places if you’re doing them (remember speeches can go before the meal or after).
So you may have something like this:
1. Ceremony - 1pm
2. Guests arrive at reception with musician
3. Kids entertainer
5. Meal - 5pm
6. Golden Hour - 7pm
7. Cutting the cake
8. Evening guests arrive - 8pm
10. First dance & live band
11. Exit to honeymoon suite on-site - 11pm
With the list above you could swap 4 and 5 around so the speeches are after the meal, and 8 and 9 as well so the fireworks display is after the live band and then everyone can wave you off. You could also have the evening guests arrive before you cut the cake and do the cake directly before your first dance. The point is you can be flexible and where possible do what you want!
As you can see this list is for a wedding at 2 locations, let's say a Church wedding and a reception elsewhere. So you will have travel times between to factor in, and this will have an effect on when you get ready. And if you want to go get your couple portraits done at a different location then you will need to make allowance for that and slot it in between points 1 (ceremony) and 2 (guests arrive at reception). This means you will have a different arrival time at the reception which may mean you want guests to be somewhere, in particular, to welcome you when you arrive.
You will also need to decide what formal photos you want of your guests and where you will take them – again see my blog How to schedule my wedding day photos? for more details. Once you have all this info you can start to speak to the relevant suppliers, showing them this draft schedule and start to fill in the appropriate timeslots, and remember that you may have to adapt it slightly if they need time and space to set up – for example perhaps you would see if you could have the meal at 4 pm so that you definitely don’t miss photos with that lovely sunset if the caterers are running behind schedule.
Eventually, after some swapping and changing, you will have a finished schedule that you and your suppliers are happy with:
Bridal prep 9 pm – Photographer with bride until 12 pm
Guests arrive at reception with musician 2:30-4 pm (couple portraits elsewhere)
Guests arrive at reception with musician 2:30-4pm (couple portraits elsewhere)
Kids entertainer 3 pm – 4 pm
Couple arrives 3:15 pm
Speeches 4:30 pm
Golden Hour photos 7-7:30 pm
Evening guests arrive 8 pm
Cutting the cake, first dance & live band 8:30-10:30 (2 sets with a break in between)
Exit to honeymoon suite on-site 11 pm
11:05pm…...sleep ; )
Hopefully, this has given you plenty of food for thought and has been helpful to you. If you want some free example timelines then download my wedding planning bundle, and why not subscribe to the blog and my YouTube channel to get much more wedding tips and inspiration. If you are interested in me photographing your wedding day then I would be more than happy to check my availability, so please drop me a message or give me a call and we can chat about what you are hoping to capture. And if there is anything else you need help with or want to ask then feel free to get in contact.
I am always cheering you on…...