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How Do I Build A Wedding Timeline?

Your wedding timeline is essentially the “bible” for your day. It determines who is where and when. It tells you when your hair and makeup starts, when it ends, when you’ll be taking hair and makeup photos. Literally every detail of the entire day should be in there. Does your MIL need to have a first look with your fiancé? Put it in the timeline. Do you want to make sure you use the bathroom before you put on your dress? Put it in the timeline. Does décor need to be moved over from ceremony to reception? Put it in the timeline. Without a timeline you have chaos. With a timeline, you have organized chaos. 😁 A much better alternative! The idea is that wedding day is such a highly stimulating day that sometimes things get forgotten - enter, timeline, your reminder list of what to do and when. As your Seas Your Day Coordinators, we always provide an extensively detailed timeline to be sure not even a flower petal falls out of place. Did you know the average SYD timeline has 45 (yes FORTY FIVE) individual events on it? Even the potty breaks are factored in! However, just in case you are trying to work on yours before you get to meet your coordinator, we want to make sure you get at least the basics down!.

  • Start at ceremony and work backwards and forwards. You’ll want to choose a time about 1.5 to 2 hours before sunset to allow for a 30 minute ceremony and an hour of photos before you lose the light. This is a huge first step because the time will be going on your Save The Dates and your invitations. Start here!!

  • Since we know you are probably considering those EPIC sunset photos (and we and almost every photographer HIGHLY suggests you do) look up what time sunset will be on that day, so you can begin to map out that ceremony start time. (This helps for the point above too!) It's also a great opportunity to spend some alone time together and take in the day!

  • Next ask your photographer how many hours you have contracted and decide where you would like those hours to be. In the instance you would like getting ready photos to start at 2, so your first look can go down at 3 and you will bouncing, stress free all the way to ceremony by 4 but your photography package only comes with 6 hours it may seem like you are losing a lot at the end. There is almost always an option to add an extra hour or two, but if you need to make some cuts we suggest the last couple hours of the night. Yes, everyone is having the time of their lives and those photos can be so fun!! But you won’t miss out on all of them, and those moments before the ceremony are so personal and special we would hate for you to miss them. Also ask your photographer for a basic outline of how long they are considering it will take for each photo segment (ie getting ready photos, couples photos, bridal party photos) to help get an idea of how much time is needed for each section of the day. We’ve added the typical times later in this blog but it’s always good to ask the photographer how much time they like to allot for each part of the day.

  • Decide if you’re considering a first look, first touch, or if you’re seeing each other for the first time down the aisle. We LOVE suggesting a first look for so many reasons. From the practical side of things, you will be able to get many couples and bridal party shots done before ceremony. This means that you'll actually get to share some of those delicious appetizers you paid for during cocktail hour with all your guests! Another great reason is for all those feelings you have on wedding day!! A first look gives you a super intimate experience where you both get every ounce of love and happiness just for the two of you. Now that doesn't mean it's all business when it comes to that big walk down the aisle, that just means once you get there you'll have gotten all the big feelings out of the way and you get to be totally present in the moment.

    • SYD Pro Tip✨: One SYD teammate raves about her first look because she was able to take in so much more while walking down the aisle instead of panicking about keeping the tears at bay. She remembers all the faces of the guests on the aisle, and the wink her soon-to-be husband gave her while she was walking down with her dad. All those butterflies and overwhelming emotions got to be shared at their first look and her ceremony was actually that much more special because of it.

  • 🔥HOT TIP🔥: If you’re going straight into couple’s photos, consider having your rings on hand for ring shots. You can take them off again before ceremony! You can’t have wedding photos with no wedding rings!

  • If you’re not doing a first look: consider doing a first touch. You can read each other letters, do private vows, exchange gifts. It can be a really emotional moment while still keeping that grand reveal for that moment down the aisle.

  • Our friends at Beaute Speciale say to allow one hour for each hair and makeup service. This amount of time allows for a timing buffer and time for more complex styles. That being said, communicate with your bridesmaids about their desired styles and with your vendor on how long a specific style will take their team that way you can allot the correct amount of time…. Then add 15 minutes. The more stylists can prepare, the more efficient they will be. For one reason or another, oftentimes hair and makeup can run behind. It’s best just to add time - if you don’t need it on wedding day, that’s extra down time to just enjoy yourselves.

  • 🔥HOT TIP🔥: Schedule a hair and makeup trial so that you and your stylist know around how much time your bridal style will take! So helpful!

  • Allow 20 minutes for your photographer to capture detail shots. This is where you can get all of your accessories and mementos photographed!

  • 🔥HOT TIP🔥: This will be the first thing your photographer does so be sure to have a box with all of these items ready to go!

  • Allow 25 minutes for getting ready photos. This is your chance to show off robes or PJs, get “fake” makeup application and hair spray photos, pop open a bottle of champagne and spray it everywhere, clink those champagne glasses… get all those fun pre-wedding outfit giggles out and photographed!

  • 🔥HOT TIP🔥: When spraying a bottle of champagne: shake, pop, and immediately cover most of the opening with your thumb to create the spray. Keep shaking until it’s all gone! Follow up tip: make sure that cork is pointed anywhere but at the moneymaker!!! Keep it far, far away from your face, and your besties too!... and your photographer, please don’t hit your photographer.

  • Allow one hour for all of your bridal party photos - both solo guys and solo girls and photos with the whole bridal party. Create a shot list for this! Write down all the combinations you want:

    • Bride and all girls

    • Bride and Sally

    • Bride and Susie

    • Bride and Mary

    • Groom and all guys

    • Groom and Bill

    • Groom and Bobby

    • Groom and Joe

    • Bride and Groom with whole bridal party

    • Bride with guys

    • Groom with girls

    • Etc..

  • Allow 40 minutes to an hour for couple’s portraits. This time will fly but it’s so special and they are honestly our favorite photos. Make sure you have your rings on for these moments to show you’re HITCHED. (Don’t forget you can apply some of this time during your first look so you don’t miss any of those post ceremony celebrations!)

  • Allow 30 minutes for family photos

    • Create a detailed shot list! Instead of saying “Bride with Uncles” say “Bride with Joe, Hank, Bill, Tom”. When each person’s name is specifically called they are more likely to respond rather than having to guess if they’re included in that photo. Another example, instead of saying “Bride’s extended family”, list out every person that you want included in the photo, that way your mother’s bff who thinks of herself as family and is hanging around family photos will also realize that she’s not actually included in the photo. Awkward…but true story!

    • Tell everyone where they need to be and when for family photos. Ideally you do them right before ceremony or right after ceremony, that way people can either go directly to their seats afterwards or straight to cocktail hour - they’re not just roaming around with nothing to do. (Btw, this is absolutely something your SYD coordinator will be helping with. It’s one of our specialties to help make sure this part of the day runs smoothly and does not accidentally take two hours... which happens….. a lot….. )

    • 🔥HOT TIP🔥 - If you’re doing family portraits before ceremony, tell people to be there 15 minutes before they actually need to be there. Then they’ll be right on time!

  • Include the times that vendors are arriving and leaving that way whoever is checking in your vendors will know what time they should be there and can track them down if they haven’t arrived yet… wait… “check in vendors”?? That’s a thing? Yes! It is! You’re going to be busy doing all of the above mentioned things. For some vendors, it will be their first time at the venue and they won’t know where power is or where the bathroom is. A SYD COORDINATOR would be happy to touch base with all arriving vendors and show them around for you! We actually have an ala carte option that solely deals with communication with vendors to make sure everyone is on the same page!

  • If you have time after ceremony to join cocktail hour, do it! Or if you’re feeling like you need a break from all the smiling and kissing and hugging (Trust us, your cheeks will hurt), then hide away until your grand entrance. We love adding 10 minutes here for the couple to just be together and take in the day.

  • Allow 5 -10 minutes for introductions and start lining up 10 minutes before! Sometimes it really just takes that long to wrangle the bridal party.

    • Do you know who’s lining you up? Sometimes it’s the DJ but oftentimes the DJ would need to run back and forth from you to the booth… Best let a SYD coordinator help with that!

  • Allow 2-3 minutes for the first dance and about a minute for each special dance.

    • We recommend doing your first dance immediately after your grand entrance - you’re already standing up and all eyes are on you… also, if you're nervous, best just to get it over with. Then it’s a swift transition into parent dances.

    • Songs can last 3-4 minutes and can feel like an eternity for hubby and his mom as well as the guests watching. Consider asking the DJ to fade out your songs about 1 minute and 30 seconds in to avoid awkwardness.

  • Allow 5 minutes for each speech/toast

    • We recommend doing speeches about 20 minutes before dinner ends, that way people are able to eat and not have to wait through 20 minutes of speeches before eating.

    • 🔥HOT TIP🔥: When asking friends and family to make a speech at your wedding, tell them to keep it between 2-3 minutes, that way if they go over by a minute or so it’s not the end of the world. A 3 page long, single spaced, typed “speech” is actually a lecture and nobody wants to sit through that. Small notecards are a’okay!

  • Do a mental tally of how many people in the room are actually single and would participate in a bouquet or garter toss. 3-5 people? Don’t feel bad about skipping it! The last thing you want to do is start up the dancing only to stop it for the bouquet or garter toss when there really isn’t a huge interest in that part of the night. There’s no rule that says you have to do it, so feel it out and make your own tradition! But if you have a pack of ladies at the ready for Beyonce to come on with “All The Single Ladies! ALLLL The Single Ladies, then put yo’ hands up” and get that bouquet tossed and keep the night rolling! The take home here is to do what is best for YOU and your night!!

I know it’s a lot to think about but if you have any questions on how to build your wedding day timeline, please do not hesitate to ask! We love building timelines and LIVE for the details. I always say, if you want it done, put it in the timeline! Schedule a consultation call today and let’s talk details!

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