While your photographer will be happy to help you create a timeline of the day based on photos, it’s really up to you or (preferably) your wedding coordinator to create a full-fledged timeline. The day-of timeline is an easily overlooked, but essential piece that ensures your day runs smoothly. In case you don’t have a wedding coordinator, here are a few tips what to do if you’re creating your own wedding timeline.

Edgewood Tahoe Wedding

What to include (and what not to include)

Start with listing major events and times, like your ceremony and cocktail hour, then work in smaller items, like when you’d like to cut the cake or have your first dance. Don’t forget important things, like eating meals (unless you want to be hangry) and signing the marriage license. When in doubt, always factor in more time than needed.

As you’re creating your wedding day timeline, you may realize why I’m a big advocate of the first look. When you zoom out, you’ll see there really isn’t much time the day-of to mingle with your guests. After first dances are done, cake is cut, and dinner is served, you may only have a couple of hours left to hang out with the people who came to celebrate you. That time is going fly by, and skipping the first look to take photos with your new spouse afterward will only further cut into it.

creating your own wedding timeline

Put the main contact person front and center (a parent or maid of honor/best man) on your timeline. Note when vendors will be arriving and how long the item will take, but don’t write a paragraph for each item. Keep the document simple so that anyone reading it can easily find what they’re looking for. This means keeping your font treatments consistent (size, boldface, italicized, etc.). For ease, keep a second document with vendor contact information and confirmation numbers (if necessary).

Most importantly, add extra, transitional time in between items. It takes time to get from one place to the next, and sometimes vendors run over time.  If you are not having your hair and make-up done by a professional, but rather by a friend or family member, definately plan for twice as much time as you think you need.  While most professional hair and makeup artists are well-adept and on point for allotting the correct amount of time for your day and number of people, I have found that friends and family are not usually as punctual.

Are you or your friends and family members routinely described as punctual or always late?  If it’s the latter, add in WAY more time than you think you need for anything that happens pre-ceremony.  And y’all – steam your dress the day before.  I’ll say it again, a little louder for the people in the back.  STEAM YOUR DRESS THE DAY BEFORE.

creating your own wedding timeline
creating your own wedding timeline

Plan for enough time for your formal photos

Wondering how long everything takes?  If you are interested in getting ready photos, photographers generally need to be on site 45 minutes before you put your dress on.  You should put your dress on 15-20 minutes before you need to move to the next activity.

Formal family photos are generally done during cocktail hour.  As a general rule, every combination takes 2 minutes – no matter how large or small the group is.  The less people you include in your formal photos, the faster this will go and the less likely you’ll spend 20 minutes trying to hunt down your Aunt Myra who beelined for the bar.  I restrict my clients to 15 combinations or less and generally recommend that you include immediate family and grandparents only.

Wedding party photos will take 20 minutes if you have 8-10 people or less, and longer if you double those numbers.  You should budget 15-20 minutes for a first look and another 10 for some formal portraits of the two of you after that.  If you do not have a first look, you’ll want to make sure that you buffer in time for both wedding parties to have portraits with their side done BEFORE the

ceremony, so that you only have to do the full wedding party photo afterwards.  Otherwise, your cocktail hour is going to be a cocktail hour and a half (and you don’t get to enjoy any of it). If you want lots of fun variety in your wedding party photos, lots of variations, or anything candid, you’ll need to set aside time for a first look before the ceremony so that you can also set aside extra time for this.  Again, just in case you didn’t smash that button before – I have 700 reasons about why you should have a first look, the number one reason being that it makes your day smoother, more efficient and way less stressful.

Kirkwood Hideout
creating your own wedding timeline

Send the timeline to all vendors

Once you’ve ironed out the details of your timeline, put your wedding party to work! Have one person be the keeper of the timeline and instruct them to send out the timeline to your vendors with you cc’ed. Ask for any input from them before you finalize it to make sure that they have enough time for everything that they need. If you’re creating your own wedding timeline, Airtable is a great resource for building a timeline in a document that allows folks to make comments and give their input. Make sure they print out copies to have on hand the day of the wedding so anyone who is willing to help can easily see where and when they’re needed. This way, you won’t be bothered by inevitable day-of questions and concerns coming from many directions.

When in doubt, keep your timeline simple, straightforward, and have it done well ahead of time so any requests can be accommodated—you’ve got this!

Tahoe River House Retreat Wedding
creating your own wedding timeline