Creating a timeline for the wedding day

Woman writing on a note pad

Creating a timeline for your wedding day can reduce the stress of the day

I am a really organised person so having a timeline or a schedule of the day is a really important tool that I use. As a celebrant, I use a timeline of the day for every wedding that I perform. I just can’t function with out one.

The first step to planning a wedding day is to work back from the ceremony start time. You can then plan everything around that time in the day.

Then you can start to add all the other services and tasks around the ceremony start time. Most ceremonies only last 20 – 30 minutes so once you have that time locked in use it to anchor the day.

Where to begin

How I would organise a wedding day is in 2 parts with a bridge of time between the two parts. The 2 parts are “the ceremony”, “the reception” and the time “in between”.

Write down everything you need to think about on the day and then start organising it. Will it go before the ceremony or after the ceremony?

The below timeline I organised for Reiko & Josh’s wedding, we made 4 versions of this timeline – before it was finalised. We added bits and pieces as we thought of something or as things changed.

Then the main idea with this timeline is to give it to everyone who is involved in the day. You can give it to your vendors, bridal party, definitely the MC (masters of ceremonies), the celebrant and the reception manager. It is how your wedding will run smooth.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Before the ceremony

So the timeline may include the following:

  • make up and hair arrival time?
  • picking up suits, who will do this?
  • delivery of flowers
  • who will hold the rings?
  • rehearsal dinner
  • delivery of the cake
  • the photographer arriving to the brides home
  • when the cars will arrive
  • who will take Mum to the ceremony?
  • who will feed the dogs that night?
  • Who will look after your 3 year old while you are getting ready?

In between the ceremony & reception

This is the time usually when the couple go off for photos with their bridal party. Here are a few things you need to think about for this bridge of time:

  • Where are your guests going to go in this time
  • For out of town guests, how will they get there
  • How will the bridal party get to the photographic location, who will drive?
  • What type of drinks can your guests order?
  • What food will you serve them? Or will you provide any food at this time?
  • If you have a child, who will take them or will they come with you?

The Reception

If you are not having your reception at a reception venue with a wedding planner you will have to think of absolutely everything.

  • Setting up the tables
  • Set up the decorations
  • When will the DJ arrive
  • Who will be your MC (masters of ceremonies)
  • What does your MC need to do and know
  • Will you have speeches? What order will they be
  • Let the people who are making speeches know
  • If you have kids at the reception, what activities will you have for them
  • If you are having catering, when will they arrive?
  • What equipment and tables do you need for the caterer
  • What time will the cake arrive? Who will be there to help put it on the cake table
  • Organise a cake table
  • Who will take home the gifts
  • Who will look after your 3 year old at the reception so you can enjoy your night?
  • How will you get back to the hotel?
  • Who will clean up the venue? What time does it need to be cleaned by?
  • Where are you going to put the rubbish? Who is going to take the rubbish for you?

These are just a few ideas. Try and think of everything. The more that you can think of the better the day and night will run. Don’t run the timeline yourself. Have a trusted friend or your MC keep to the timeline.

Skip the reading,

listen to my podcast with all the answers.

My biggest tip to you – risk manage

This is a tip from organising weddings. You need to think of everything, I mean everything! The wedding in the template below we had a huge storm happen in the middle of the speeches. The lights went out! Yes it did. It was the hottest day of the year, we changed the ceremony venue on the day to the reception venue (It turned out lovely) after the ceremony everyone went inside of the community centre and enjoyed the airconditioning and I served cool drinks (which was not on the plan) and when the reception was in full swing we had a huge storm. Guests had to run out and grab chairs and bring them inside. Then the power went out. If this was your reception, what would you do?

Photo: Offbeat Bride

So here are a few things you need to think about if you are organising your own reception:

  • What if it rained? What is your back-up plan with your ceremony if it is outside
  • If the power goes out, what would the plan be?
  • If you run out of drinks, who will go and get some more?
  • Do you have enough desert? People love desert. Maybe you will need to eat all of the wedding cake
  • Make sure you have a cake knife and server
  • Have a parent take the presents – one of my brides reported to me that her gift cards were stolen at their reception
  • Do you have anyone at the wedding that doesn’t like someone attending? How will you handle an altercation? Have a plan
  • If it is hot, make sure you have lots of cold water on hand
  • If you have kids at your wedding, have some activities for them – such as colouring in.
  • How will Grandma who is blind move around the reception or ceremony? Who will be her support person on the day?

These are just a few ideas. Think of everything you can. Make sure you communicate to everyone and you will have an amazing wedding!

“You’re the dream I go to every time

I close my eyes”


I hope this post helps you and your partner with ideas about organising your day. Please contact me if you would like anything clarified or if you have any questions.

Always here to help,

Download my “free” template

I will send you an actual wedding I was a celebrant and the planner. It will give you an idea of what you may need to organise and how to organise it. The wedding reception was at a community hall, so we had to plan everything. Which was fun. The timeline includes:

  • the day before the wedding – when everyone is arriving, the rehearsal dinner and setting up the venue
  • the day of the wedding, before the ceremony, getting ready, getting to the ceremony
  • how the reception was organised, the MC’s tasks, the bridal party entrance, the speeches and what order they were.
  • when vendors would arrive and how they would set up the food
  • the end of the reception and the clean up of the reception

You can have your wedding how you like, this is just an idea and a place to start. It will show you things that you will need to think about that might not be so obvious. Happy planning!

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