Its not as hard as you think
What should be one of the easiest parts of planning that turns into the biggest challenge is creating an ideal wedding day timeline for your wedding day in particular. I feel like every wedding is a living breathing thing and while general ideas about the timeline for the day is helpful, most people fail to think about the most important thing in planning for the day, how you feel in the process of living it all out.
In all honesty there are two timelines that are happening on your day. The first is the vendor timeline. In a ideal world, you have decided to hire a wedding planner so this timeline is something you don’t have to worry about at all. You don’t want to worry about what time décor is being delivered and how much time the draping team needs to handle their part of the plan. When flowers should arrive. When the champagne wall will arrive. All of those tiny details require, more than anything, this very beautiful dance that happens behind the scenes, that dance is the number one reason you need to consider a wedding planner. Consider one from this article we wrote about our favorites. Wedding planners are absolutely specialists in what they do, they are the experts in making a day go exceptionally well. I am confident you will be thrilled with the stress relived from planning if you choose to utilize a planner. (PS not a venue coordinator either, they are great but in addition to, not instead of your own personal planner – we’ll talk more about the difference soon.)
I’m an oddball who likes to think about the timeline backwards. If your reception ends at 11 pm, then you are likely planning on roughly 3 hours of party, right? which means dinner and all the wedding type stuff ideally is over by 8pm. which means parent dances and toasts (which take 30-45 minutes should happen around 7:30 at the tail end of dinner so dinner is likely being served at 6:30 which means you are being announced in to do cake cutting and your first dance right about 6:15. 6pm is when the doors open for guests to sit down at their beautiful place settings. 5pm is cocktail hour. 4pm would be family formals if they were not done with bridal party photos and transportation to your reception space if it is not in the same location as your ceremony. 3pm ceremony start time which gives you a little wiggle room. that means we arrive from photographing your first look and bridal party and family formals if they were scheduled before hand. We’d start that first look at 12:30 pm and finish at 2:30. Getting ready would likely start right around 10am.
So depending on the bride this is my ideal wedding day timeline to make sure you get the gorgeous images I am so ready to capture for you, but it fails to ask two super important questions.
We have an whole other post to talk about why you should or shouldn’t have a first look.
So I want you to just hold on to the idea that maybe the ideal timeline for you does include a first look (and I’ll concede it might not). The other big question is – in St. Louis, are you have a catholic mass ceremony? St. Louis has some of the MOST BEAUTIFUL Catholic churches in the country here. They host many many weddings every year, but they also host mass, and the schedule for mass does not move no matter who is getting married. So if you are having your wedding and you have to adjust for mass at noon or one pm, this might be one of those times where the ideal wedding day timeline for you does not include a first look because we have roughly 4 hours between your ceremony before mass and your cocktail hour at your reception venue.
Other things to consider
There are lots of factors that go into creating the ideal timeline for you wedding day. Like, is your ceremony and reception happening at the same location? If not how far is the drive from ceremony to reception, if there is one? How large is your wedding party? How large are both families for family portraits. Are you having receiving line or a cocktail hour? If you are do you want to be available for greeting and mingling during the cocktail hour? (I ALWAYS VOTE YES! The people you invite are the reason you are having a wedding, or you’d just go to the court house. So plan to spend time with them). Is dinner buffet? do you need to account for tables being released? Or is it sit down? And how much time does the wait staff generally need to serve your number of guests? What kind of interactions will you be having during your reception? Traditional toasts and bridal events? (like first dances and parent dances) Will you be having special cultural events that you need to plan time for? Gonna do a surprise for your new spouse? Learning a cool dance? (SAWET!!) Are there any other activities you want to include? (tray-passed late-night snacks, karaoke, flash mob, wanna stop for Ted Drews? Lots of wedding parties do it and it makes for a great picture, etc.) Planning to do a grand exit? (sparklers, confetti, glowsticks etc)
I know it seems like a lot to think about but its these questions that will make you have the best chance of your wedding day timeline working for you and not against you.
No matter what you got this!
No matter what you decide that your wedding timeline will look like, there is one thing you want to do as sure as you have to say ‘I do’: Build some cushion into it, because you will need it no matter how well planned your day is. Why? Because it’s pretty much a sure thing that you’re gonna need a bit of wiggle room in your day. While we can control ourselves outside elements always make a wedding day more interesting.
Hair and makeup usually takes a little longer than planned. Getting the whole crew together for getting ready sometimes takes more time than planned, as does getting the right family in place for formal portraits. If transportation to the ceremony and or reception location is part of the day you have to factor in some buffer time for unexpected traffic. (Is there a sports game with lots of traffic letting out at the same time as your wedding? Big concert traffic flooding the streets?) And if you don’t plan on having a party bus or limo, (I really suggest a limo or bus) you have to budget for the inevitable lost members of the wedding party. Planning extra time for the unexpected glitches in every wedding day lets you breath and not have to sweat the small stuff.
Our general rule is you should expect things to go a little haywire, that’s what wedding day stories are made of. If it all goes perfectly what will you remember? So enjoy the little snafus that come up and notice how your people come through for you.
Ready? You got this!