Preparing for Wedding Day Part III: The Timeline

When approaching the wedding day, most brides begin to feel anxious about the little details and concerned with how everything will come together. This is where hiring an Event Day Manager (EDM) is truly one of the most important investments in a wedding. Some planners refer to this service as “Day of Coordination”. However, for me, I start working with my clients 45 days prior to the wedding so I can be fully briefed and knowledgeable on all aspects of the wedding. Truly, there is a difference in simply coordinating the bride’s plans vs. managing the logistics, set-up details and executing the event. The cost for a highly skilled, professional and experienced Event Day Manager (EDM) is between $1,000 – 2,000.

When considering an EDM, it’s important to ask for references. Don’t hesitate to ask them to describe the level of service provided to each client so that you can better understand their experience. Most importantly, if their pricing seems to good to be true, it probably is. Most professional event planners know their worth and their cost of operations and will not give away their services dirt cheap. I’ve seen it too many times. A bride will hire the cheapest planner only to regret the decision later as the “said planner” had no experience and made a mess of their wedding day.

Another service option to consider, have a professional event planner create a personalized timeline for you. This will require at least a two hour conversation to discuss the details of your day. This meeting should be scheduled 21 days prior to the wedding.

If you’re budget does not allow for an EDM, there are many things you can prepare in advance to ensure your day runs smoothly. One of the most important tools will be your timeline. I have included some helpful tips in writing your timeline:

1. Write your timeline in chronological order of the day with the day starting as early as when you wake up and shower. Don’t forget your bridesmaids, groom, and groomsmen. They need guidance on when to arrive and the location. Don’t assume that it is understood. A newsletter can be prepared ahead of time for your bridal party. (Example).

2. Include an address for each location which you instruct bridal party members and vendors report to. This will certainly help eliminate the chance of anyone getting lost or going to the wrong location. If you know you have bridal party members prone to getting lost, help em out! Provide a map!

3. Provide your vendors a contact number for the day of the wedding. This needs to be a person who can be reached no matter the time or what is taking place. It would be best if it were an aunt, cousin or close friend whom will be in bridal pictures and helping you dress. This will allow any last minute questions to be resolved with the highest level of efficiency.

4. Make your timeline as detailed as possible including set-up details (ex: where should the guest book be placed, how the napkin should be folded or how to place the table number in relation to the centerpiece), behind the scenes logistics (ex: time which the bartender will begin pouring champagne for the toast), transportation pick-up times and even a hair/makeup schedule for the bridesmaids.

5. Be realistic when timing your events for the day. Remember that even in a perfect world nothing happens in 5 minute increments. Talk to your pastor/officiant to get the exact estimated length of the ceremony as this will determine when your cocktail hour will start. Remember to include drive time to and from locations. And for most brides, you tend to walk a little slower in a wedding dress. This will need to be accounted for as well. At the reception, remember the following:

  • The time it takes for you to arrive and bustle your dress

  • Your guests will need adequate time to be seated

  • It roughly takes 3-4 minutes to introduce your bridal party

  • Toasts on average are only 1.5 – 2.5 minutes long. For those more passionate, a max of 3 minutes

  • If you have a photojournalist photographer, it will only take 4-6 minutes to cut the cake, 6-9 if there is a grooms cake

  • Post ceremony pictures should never take more than 30 minutes or else your bridal party and immediate family starts to get overly restless and less attentive causing the pictures to take longer

  • For hair and makeup – discuss this in detail with your stylist to accurately plan the timeline of service for the bridesmaids
  • To move through a 3 course meal, the wait staff on average should only take 45-50 minutes if they are adequately staffed. If you are having a soup, intermezzo or appetizer course, add on 15-20 minutes for each item.

6. For the purpose of logistics and set-up, call all your vendors 7-10 days prior to the wedding to confirm load-in and set-up details. This is information which will need to be included on the timeline for the reception venue. AND, most importantly, it will give you peace of mind. Make sure to have the vendors arrive in sequential order, linens first, flowers, lighting, cake and entertainment. It would certainly put a kink in the process to have the flowers arrive before the linens. Or worse, have the cake arrive before the lighting. It would be disastrous to have the lighting crew bump the cake table when running cords or lights. Remember to communicate to the florist when you will begin shooting pictures before the ceremony. The flowers will need to arrive 30 minutes prior to the photo start time to allow someone an opportunity to pin and distribute the personal flowers. Remember to confirm the exact count of flowers. (Photo credit: Serendipity Photography)

7. Include in your timeline drawings of your personal decor or unique detail items and how you would like them set-up. You’ve put so much thought and preparation into your wedding. This will be the last step in knowing it will come together exactly as you’ve envisioned.

8. To better assist your vendors, include in the timeline your “Must Take Photo” list for the photographer, specific shots the videographer should capture and the song list for the ceremony and reception.

9. Share your timeline with all those directly responsible for executing the details of your day. It will be important to email one to the venue coordinator, musicians/entertainment/DJ, church coordinator, photographer, videographer, florist and personal friends who are helping. Your vendors should receive the timeline at 5-7 days in advance.

10. And lastly, this item isn’t directly related to the timeline, but very helpful. When organizing your personal decor items for set-up, pack your ceremony items in a separate box from the items for your reception. Remember to remove all price tags prior to packing them. Put Post-It note tags on all items stating exactly what the item is or intended for. Secondly, put a packing list on the outside of the box indicating what is inside the box. Lastly, inside the box, place a master checklist of the contents inside the box along with a description of the set-up. Second copies of the set-up would be helpful.

Included is an example of a timeline to get you started.

Blissfully Inspired,

Samantha Darr


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