A timeline is known as a schedule list of events in chronological order. However, when it comes to a wedding, any wedding expert would be able to attest that typically quite the opposite is true.
A timeline is essential to a wedding. Almost as essential as the bride and groom themselves! It serves as the schedule of events and the schedule of the wedding day for all of those involved including guests and vendors. The timeline is essential for guests to know when to arrive for the time of the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception, whereas the vendor would require to know what time their part requires to begin or end at. Speaking with many clients, they often hinder that it sounds simple enough to just choose times for the schedule, which it can be, however there is information all brides and grooms should know why it’s best to work backwards for a timeline.
So what is needed to know in order to confirm a timeline? The best place to start, is to estimate how much time is needed for each component of the day. Let’s start with the ceremony shall we? The ceremony is probably the most important part of a wedding (as that is the part that’s actually what everyone is there to celebrate), now depending on religion or personal preference/wishes a ceremony can have a variance of how much time it takes. Typically a formal church ceremony (communion and all) takes roughly about an hour between the bride walking down the aisle to the announced newlyweds walking away into the sunset. Of course, if you add extra readings, choir hymns or long vows, this time can be extended. On the other hand, a simple outdoor ceremony from a wedding officiant can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes (again adding extra components can extend this time). So let’s say a bride has hopes of a church ceremony, wanting it to be begin at 4:00pm; if the ceremony is an hour running time, and the church is half hour away from the venue, then this bride would likely have to start her cocktail hour(s) at 5:30pm and no earlier.
Another scenario is if the same bride is very hopeful that her guest dance party begins at 9:00pm then the timeline would need to work backwards with everything that has to happen beforehand. At this point, I always start with dinner. A 200 person plated dinner for a wedding, can typically take anywhere between an hour-and-a-half to two hours to execute (this time can also be extended or closer to the two hours if speeches are between courses), which is from the time everyone sits down to eat, to the time everyone is done eating. If there are specialty dances and cake cutting after the dinner, which could be an estimate half hour that would be added after dinner before the dance as well. Calculating dinner, specialty dances and cake cutting, which puts dinner to begin at minimum 6:30pm. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean 6:30pm should be put on an invitation for dinner to begin. Let me explain.
Most wedding planners will also advise clients to always have buffer time, as unfortunately even if every minute is planned, wedding schedules are almost always more often than not, behind. If a dinner is desired to start at 6:30pm, more than likely it is best to advise on the invitation that it begins at 6:00pm. That way even if people arrive late, the schedule still on time because don’t forget, the wedding party entrance and the MC opening speech is still required to happen before dinner can be served.
Now going back to the ceremony time still wanting dinner to begin at 6:30pm, a 4:00pm church ceremony might not be best at this point if it was preplanned to have cocktails at 5:30pm, that doesn’t give much time for cocktails, which means the wedding ceremony might need to start at 3:00pm instead.
Confusing right? It sadly can be as each part of the wedding day should be looked at in terms of time it takes to complete in order to book in each time for everything. But never hesitate to talk to a wedding planner for assistance. Not planning on having a wedding planner? No problem, connect with us anytime and we would be happy to help with a wedding timeline and you won’t even have to hire us for the day! With love, happy planning.