Tips for Building a Successful Wedding Timeline

tips for building a wedding timeline

Timelines are quite possibly the most important element when planning a wedding. No, they ARE the most important element for a wedding. Without this all in one guideline, who knows what could happen! Its important for all the vendors to be on the same timeline. How can the cake designer put down the cake if the rental company hasn’t shown up? How can the rental company set up if they don’t know what time the venue opens? Its all about LOGISTICS. Having all the right information before you begin timeline is also important. Here are some tips for building a successful wedding timeline.

I recommend downloading the Wedding Timeline Template as well as the timeline + ceremony worksheets which all work together to create a perfect timeline!

Always prepare for the unknown

Things can always happen. Traffic, rain, pictures running over, or longer than usually toasts by a drunk best man. Always allow for a few extra minutes here and there just in case.


Work with the photographer to make sure everyone is on the same page about the photography shot list. Some brides are now doing “first look moments” which are helpful alleviating some of the pressure of photos after the ceremony. Its also great to be able to get in as many family photos BEFORE the ceremony as well. Also, be mindful of the temperature conditions, location, and timing. Clearly, a winter wedding at 5pm wont get too many daylight portraits. If the couple is married in a small darker lit church, make sure the photographer is aware ( although good photographers will have already made a plan!)


Ceremonies are typically about 20 minutes but depending on readings, type of religious ceremony, entrances, vows, etc they could run longer. I typically allow 30 minutes for a typical wedding, longer if its a full religious ceremony as those tend to be much longer.

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If the ceremony and reception are at different locations, allow for travel time, traffic and some of those unknowns as this is when they most occur. Make sure you have ample parking for guests as this could become an issue as well. If transportation is something you have coordinated, this should be listed in the timeline.


Ah, nothing like when some drunk friends grabbing at the microphone… Talk with your Bride ahead of time on who is authorized to give a toast ( I always recommend a limit of three which would include the best man, maid of honor, and whoever has hosted the wedding)
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Moving into the first dance right after the bride and groom are announced is a great way to keep momentum and shave a few minutes off the timeline. Easy flow and you still have your guests attention.


I liken guests to a herd of cats. Super easy to corral. {insert sarcasm here} Almost always guests will show up early to the ceremony ( and some will be late) Have plans in place for keeping the Bride tucked away or perhaps a guestbook or refreshment table to keep them entertained. If its super hot, like most Southern weddings I have coordinated) having some shade or umbrellas is also nice. For ceremony music, have them slated to start at least 30 minutes in advance before the ceremony.

Cocktail Hour

This “hour” is a great place holder for portraits. Guests are entertained by the appetizers + drinks while the wedding party and/or family take the photos. On a standard timeline I allot 30 minutes of picture taking then have the Bride + Groom and wedding party join the cocktail hour afterward.


Is the dinner served as a buffet or sit down? Allow time for guests to receive their food and eat. Note the guest count for estimating your time. I also love to plate the Bride + Groom’s food myself and have a table all for them to eat if it is a buffet. Often times they are so busy with greeting their guests they rarely get to eat. Sometimes a quiet minute alone together scarfing some food is also good for them. I highly recommend making sure you get them to eat, after al alcohol doesn’t go great on an empty stomach!

Start + End Times for Venues

Its very important to follow instructions of the venue contracts with start and end times. If vendor clean up should be done and finished by 11pm, make sure your guests are out by 10pm. Know who is in charge of cleaning up and securing any personal items the bride + groom may have had at the wedding {hint: its probably you, planner!}. Clean up is typically faster than set up but ask the vendors how long it usually takes them if you are unsure. Another HOT tip is to begin your timeline construction backwards.

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Do you have any other tips for constructing a perfect timeline? Comment in the section below and don’t forget to check out the business kit which includes timeline templates, ceremony worksheets, and vendor information.