How to Create a Stress-Free Wedding Day Timeline

The cardinal rule of wedding planning is to keep calm. After all, no blushing bride-to-be needs to stress herself out ahead of the most important day of her life. Still, wedding planning can be more than a minor headache—it can be a total migraine. If you're about to start planning your big day, here's your complete guide to creating a genius schedule without getting completely undone:

Creating Your Wedding Day Timeline

Every savvy bride knows a tight wedding day timeline is at the very heart of her plans. If you get this wrong, your entire day's schedule could come crashing down around you. Have no fear, all it takes is a little planning! Here are four handy tips that will help you along the way:

  1. Design a rough draft ahead of time.
  2. Confer with your wedding staff and make sure it works for them.
  3. Share the finished plan with your party so everyone is on the same page.
  4. Allow extra time for error.

Planning Your Wedding Time Slots

One of the major things that troubles brides is how long each time slot should be for each part of the wedding. It may help to break down each element of the event and estimate how long it will take. Here's a rough guide to help you do just that:

  • Hair and Makeup: Typically, the bride's hair and makeup should take the longest. You will need to book at least an hour for yourself, along with 30-minute time slots for each bridal party member.
  • Pre-Wedding Photos: Before you walk down the aisle, you may wish to take the opportunity to take some professional photographs with your party. You should spend 30 minutes on this task.
  • Guests' Arrivals: You will need to leave at least a 45-minute space in which your guests can arrive, so you can plan for untimely latecomers.
  • Post-Ceremony Photos: Don't underestimate how long photos of the bride and groom can take. You should set aside at least an hour for this part of the day.
  • Cocktail Hour: While you're playing model, be certain to keep your guests entertained. Organizing a cocktail hour to coincide with the photography slot is a great idea.
  • Reception Arrival: Don't make the mistake of underestimating times here. There will be a lot of meandering. Allow around 45 minutes for guests to get to the reception—depending on where the venue is, of course.
  • Dinner or Buffet: If you're opting for a three-course affair, you'll need to allow two hours for the entire dining experience. Buffets may be more casual, dominating just an hour of the reception.
  • Speeches: Most brides tend to allocate around 30 minutes for this part of the night, but you should allow for around 45. Having that extra leeway will make all the difference, since speeches always take longer than you expect.
  • First Dance: The first dance is an emotional part of any wedding reception. Allow a few minutes for this part of the event, and then about an hour for your guests to hit the dance floor.
  • Cake Cutting: The next big milestone within the reception is the cake-cutting ceremony, which you should allocate around 30 minutes for.
  • Reception Closing: After the cake is cut and much merriment has been had, it's time to close the ceremony. Some guests will drag their feet when it comes to leaving, so allow at least an hour to shuffle everyone out.

When the big day comes around, you'll want to keep your timings as smooth as possible. The best way to do this is to enlist the help of your wedding party and staff. At the end of the day, this task should never fall solely on your shoulders. If your bridesmaids, caterers, and photographer each have a copy of your wedding day timeline, they can help rally people and move the event along.