Let's chat about wedding day timelines! (Or oftentimes referred to as "Day of" timelines.) A wedding day timeline is an essential key element to a smooth wedding day! It outlines how the entire day will play out, from the start of hair and makeup, all the way through your send-off at the end of the night. Not only is this helpful to your family and bridal party members, but it's also necessary for all of your vendors. If you have a wedding coordinator you are working with, chances are they will help you with creating this for you. (We HIGHLY recommend hiring a coordinator! It will save you so much stress!) However, if you are opting to forgo a coordinator, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you are creating a wedding day timeline:
One of the things to keep in mind is the length of time you have your venue rental. What time can you arrive on site and when does your event have to end?
Once you know what your venue rental times are, you can begin to fill in the blanks. *Please note- the following tips are in no particular order, but rather a list of various time frames to keep in mind while drafting your timeline.
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to your ceremony and reception timing, is your DJ- How many hours of service will your DJ be providing? Typically most provide between 4-5 hours
So let's say you have contracted your DJ for 5 hours. If you were to start your ceremony at 5:30 pm, your DJ would end his time at 10:30 pm. So based on that, it just depends if you want to have your reception last until the venue cut-off time, or if you prefer to have your reception end a little earlier in the evening.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you want sunset photos. A lot of couples like to do evening ceremonies just before sunset, so they can capture sunset photos afterward with their photographer, while the cocktail hour is happening. You can search online to find out when the sun will set on your wedding day.
Another big component to keep in mind with your timeline is the length of hours you will have your photographer for to make sure they'll be able to get all the important photos you want. It's also a good idea to send your draft timeline once you have completed it to your photographer and make sure they don't see any issues with timing in regards to photos and lighting. Some photographers may even offer suggestions to help you with creating your timeline or suggest switching certain events around throughout the day/night, to work better around the lighting.
In addition, if you plan to do a first look before the ceremony, it can drastically reduce the number of photos you'll need to take during cocktail hour. You'll get more photos of just the two of you, including the big emotional reveal of you in your dress, and you can knock out the majority of your group bridal party and immediate family portraits before the ceremony. In return, it will give your photographer more time to focus on the creative aspect with the two of you during sunset and photos won't be as rushed. However, if you decide not to see each other before the ceremony, you can ask your photographer to try to knock out a good portion of bridal party portraits at least before the ceremony, without the two of you seeing each other. This can also help free up a little extra photography time after the ceremony.
Another factor to keep in mind is how long it will take you and your bridal party to get ready. If you will have a large bridal party and all of the ladies will need hair and makeup services, just make sure you discuss with your photographer when you will need to be ready by, in order for them to begin taking the necessary photos.
Based on all of that, here is an example of a full "Day of" timeline:
10:00 am- Hair and Makeup begin
2:30 pm- Photographer arrives, begins taking ceremony and reception table detail shots (if doing 8 hours of photography)
2:50 pm- Photographer begins taking photos of the bridal party getting dressed
3:30 pm- First look
3:45 pm- Formal bridal party and formal immediate family portraits
4:30 pm- Head inside for touch-ups and hide away until the ceremony
5:00 pm- Guests arrive
5:15 pm- Bridal party lines up
5:50 pm- Cocktail hour starts, then your photographer would have an hour to take any remaining bridal party/family photos, and still sneak in a couple of sunset photos of just you two
6:50pm- Bridal party intros
7:00 pm- Bride and Groom first dance
7:10 pm- Dinner served
8:00 pm- Speeches/Thank you toasts
8:10 pm- Father/daughter, Mother/son special dances, while guests are finishing up dinner (if you plan to do these)
8:20 pm- Cake cutting (If you plan to have a cake)
8:30 pm- DJ kicks off the dance party
9:00 pm- Bouquet/garter toss (if you plan to do these)
10:00 pm- Last call for drinks
10:15 pm- Last dance of the night
10:20 pm- DJ announces send-off (if doing a send-off)
10:30 pm- Send off, DJ time is finished, and guests exit
While that is just a generalized example, and your timeline will vary somewhat based on your individual needs, venue, and vendors, hopefully, these tips help provide a better understanding of how a full wedding day timeline will look.