I’ve seen my fair share of really well-thought out wedding day timelines and some poorly created timelines. The timelines that weren’t created strategically caused way more stress for everyone involved (including the bride and groom). No one wants to be stressed on their wedding day. You want to be relaxed. Chill. Calm. And guess what? There are some intentional ways to create your wedding day timeline to help you be more relaxed.

By intentionally planning ahead, you can reduce the stress you, your family, and your guests will experience on your wedding day. If the thought of creating your wedding day timeline overwhelms you, please consider hiring a Wedding Planner. A planner can create your timeline for you… and help you throughout the entire planning process.

Without further ado, let’s get into the 10 ways your wedding day timeline can help you relax.

If you want it to happen, make sure it’s on the timeline.

I know it’s weird that I’m saying this, but the reality is that sometimes couples think that it’s a given that something in particular take place on their wedding day when in reality, no one else may think of it. For example, let’s say you two want to exchange gifts and letters to each other before the Ceremony. Cool. I love that. But let’s make sure it’s on the wedding day timeline. It’ll take anywhere from 15-20 minutes, especially if you want these moments photographed and/or videoed. 

If you don’t include it on your wedding day timeline, your photographer, planner, and videographer has to figure out how to make time for it on the fly. You may not have as much time to enjoy it. Which means you end up stressed.

So, if there’s something you want to happen, make sure it’s on your timeline. This makes sure everyone is aware and no one is rushed.

Understand that it’s going to be an early day.

This is a big one that people tend to not understand. If your wedding ceremony is going to start at 5:00 pm, go ahead and plan for your wedding day to start at 9:00 am at the latest. It takes a lot of time for hair and makeup to get done. (And the more people who need to get ready, the more time it’s going to take). It takes longer than you think to get dressed.

And you don’t want to rush through the morning. You want to spend time with your closest friends and family. You want to be able to move through the morning with ease. You want to have time for your photographer to take all the photos you want without you being quickly rushed off to the next “thing”. 

Pro Tip: If your dress has a complicated corset or design, pad your getting dressed time. 

Give yourself some breathing room.

Don’t let your schedule be so packed that you don’t have time to breathe. Like I mentioned above, it’s going to be an early day, but don’t be afraid to get up a little earlier so you can pad breathing room and breaks in throughout your day.

Plus—something is going to go wrong. Something will be delayed. So if your timeline is padded here and there, when something does go off schedule, it won’t throw every single thing after it off.

Pro Tip: For whatever reason, it takes bridesmaids and groomsmen longer to get dressed than you think. Give them more time to get dressed so that the ones who are going to run late don’t actually run late. And that way you’re not left staring at some of your friends, dumbfounded as to how it’s taking them so long to get dressed.

Plan for a 5-10 minute buffer after your Ceremony “start” time.

People show up late to weddings. Always.

While it’s tempting to tell guests the ceremony starts 30 minutes earlier than it actually will, I don’t recommend doing this. People can get really annoyed by this. Let’s say your invitation time says the Ceremony starts at 5:00 pm, but you’re secretly not starting until 5:30 pm. Well… Aunt Sue shows up at 4:30 pm because she doesn’t want to be late. Now she’s an hour early. She may not be happy when she’s sitting in the pew waiting for a 5:00 pm start time and it’s not starting.

My solution is to plan to start your processional 5-10 minutes after the invitation time. So, using that same 5:00 pm Ceremony start time… you’d start the Processional and Ceremony at 5:10 pm.

That way they guests you show up at 4:55 or 5:00 pm (yep… it happens…), aren’t trying to sprint down the aisle right before your grand entrance.

Pro Tip: 5 minutes before you plan on starting the Processional, have your Wedding Planner or Ushers hold back any late guests until you’re down the aisle.

Here’s a sample timeline:

4:30 pm – Doors open to guests

5:00 pm – Invitation time

5:05 pm – Wedding Planner or Ushers hold back any late guests

5:10 pm – Processional starts

Keep everything flowing with always something to do

No one likes lulls. No one likes standing around trying to figure out what they’re supposed to be doing or what’s supposed to be happening.

So keep it flowing. 

This means, have someone direct your guests to Cocktail Hour, and make sure Cocktail Hour is already starting by the time guests arrive (aka, ask your Caterer to make sure food is ready and the bar is open). 

This also means that you consider having some sort of activity available during Cocktail Hour (i.e., photo booth, guest book signing). 

Keep the reception flowing, too. After guests are invited to find their seats, don’t keep them waiting long for whatever you have planned next.

Schedule in time for you to eat

It’s going to be a long day, and you need to eat so you don’t pass out.

Make sure there’s food in the room while you’re getting ready. And make sure you eat some of it. It doesn’t have to be heavy food. But you probably won’t be eating again for several hours, so go ahead and give yourself some fuel.

Ask your Wedding Planner or Caterer to have small plates of Cocktail Hour food prepared and set aside for you and your new spouse to enjoy after Post-Ceremony photos and before you head into the Reception. 

Make sure you schedule time for you to eat during the Reception when everyone else is eating.

Pro Tip: Ask your Caterer to prepare your dinner plates so you don’t have to go through the buffet or food station lines.

Make a list of all the photos you want

One of the things that always tacks on time is those last minute “Oh shoot, I forgot I want a photo of me and So-and-So.” Think through all of the photos you want, make a list, and give these to your photographer well advance of your wedding day. (If I’m your photographer I send you an email 1-2 months prior to wedding day to go through all the details. There’s a questionnaire where I ask for names of family members. This is the place to let me know that you want photos with so-and-so!!)

If you love details photos, then schedule time for your photographer to take photos of your invitations, jewelry, shoes, veil, bouquet, boutonniere, rings, etc. This will take anywhere from 45-60 minutes.

Go ahead and make sure your photographer has 20-30 minutes to take photos of your reception space before your guests enter. This means making sure your Post-Ceremony photos end at least 30 minutes before guests are asked to take their seats for the reception.

And really think through whether or not you want extended family photo(s). These take A LOT of time.

Pro Tip: Go ahead and gather all of the items you want your photographer to take photos of. That way your photographer isn’t bugging you by asking you where certain items are located.

Schedule some time for just the two of you

Above all, your wedding day is about the two of you. And more than likely, this one person helps reduce your anxiety and stress more than anyone else. So go ahead and schedule some alone time for just the two of you.

Some ideas of where to build some alone time in:

  • Consider a  First Look (consider hiring someone or having 1 bridesmaid come along to hold things for you)
  • Build some time in the schedule before the reception (maybe when your photographer is taking photos of your reception space and when you’re eating those small plates of food you’ve already asked your Caterer to prep for you).
  • Instead of rushing back to the reception after Golden Hour/Sunset pics, maybe tuck away somewhere for 5-10 minutes just the two of you. You could also use this time to finish eating dinner.
  • Consider a Private Last Dance, just the two of you, your band/DJ, and your photographer/videographer capturing this sweet moment. Your guests can be ushered outside for your grand exit while you’re enjoying this moment alone.

Get the formalities out of the way quickly

Get all of your formalities out of the way at the beginning of the Reception rather than sprinkling things in throughout the night. This will allow you (and your guests) to relax and celebrate the rest of the night.

For example: After you/your Wedding Party are introduced into the Reception, go ahead in to your First Dance, Parent Dances, any speeches, and cake cutting. Then dinner gets served, followed by lots of dancing. 

YES IT’S OK TO CUT YOUR CAKE EARLY.

Pro Tip:  Consider having your Best Man and Maid/Matron of Honor giving their speeches during your Rehearsal Dinner rather than at the Reception. This is more intimate, and it’s probably less intimidating for them. AND it gives you more dancing time at your Reception.

Don’t forget travel time!

This is huge. It’s SO easy to forget to factor in travel time. Pull up Google Maps and make sure you’ve factored in enough travel time to/from every location.

Pro Tip: Check your wedding location’s event calendar for any events or festivals that could increase traffic. Not only will it affect your travel time, but it will affect your guests’ travel time, too.

Bride Groom walking down stairs at Reserve at lake keowee

Remember… nothing goes perfectly. It’s ok if something goes off. You may not even notice it.

But these are some of my top tips in helping you be more relaxed on your wedding day.

You might also be interested in reading:

10 Ways Your Wedding Day Timeline Can Help You Relax

September 22, 2022