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  • Writer's pictureBrandi Smalls

How to Build Your Wedding Day Timeline

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

You might think it is an effortless task, but creating a timeline for your wedding day is one of the most critical parts of wedding planning, take it from a pro! When building your wedding timeline, you have to thoroughly consider each event planned for the day, estimate the amount of time each of your vendors' needs, and then add buffers in case the schedule runs behind! To help walk you through it, we have listed some tips to help you craft your wedding day timeline.


While it may seem tempting to copy a template from the internet, try to start from scratch when planning your wedding timeline. As each wedding is unique and tailored to a specific couple, using someone else's timeline could mean unknowingly cutting details that you didn't realize were an option to include. Instead of copying the timeline outright, simply find ideas that you could tweak to fit into your personalized timeline.

To do so, think about each of your events thoroughly. With most weddings lasting a minimum of five hours, it is understandable that there are a lot of details to account for!

Are your ceremony and reception being held at different venues? Are you traveling from a hotel to your ceremony venue? Write down each major event scheduled for your day to build a basic timeline.

Once you have an outline of your major events, work backward to fill in the rest of your timeline. For instance, if your outline says hair and makeup begin on-site at 9 AM, you have to factor in what time you need to leave your house and include buffers for potential traffic.

You also have to consider that it generally requires at least three (or more) hours for the bride and bridesmaids to get their hair and makeup done depending on the number of the hair and make-up artists and how many people are in the bridal party.

If your outline says your first look is scheduled at noon, that means you have to schedule in the time needed to travel from the bridal suite to the location for your first look.

As we're sure you're starting to understand, no detail is too small to be accounted for when it comes to your wedding timeline, and having a clearly-laid plan for your day will save you unnecessary stress and will keep you and your guests running according to schedule!


When creating your wedding timeline reflect on each vendor's contracted hours and decide which portion of your day you'd most need their help. This means breaking down your timeline for each of your vendors and reviewing your contract to remind yourself of all that's included in your package. Doing this will help you to form a clear idea of their day-of routine and how they can best work with your schedule.

Once you've reviewed your contracted packages, allot each vendor's time according to your specific priorities and which moments during your day matter most to you and your partner.

Reflect on your priorities and select specific events of your wedding that each vendor is needed for. If dancing isn't a priority to you both and you've booked a six-hour package with your videographer, chances are their time will be better spent capturing your getting-ready footage rather than your family doing the cha-cha slide on the dancefloor. When building your wedding timeline, you also need to be conscious of your venue's hard-out time, as well as your rental pickup time.


Although you can't predict the future no matter how much you plan, it's still crucial that you prepare for the unexpected! From ripped gowns to getting stuck in traffic, planning for the unexpected means building buffers into your timeline so that if anything should go awry, you have time allotted to adjust your timeline as needed and resolve the issue.

Incorporating buffers into your timeline means that even though you know your first dance will only take you two minutes to complete, you allot seven to ten minutes in your schedule, just in case.

Even if that event does run according to schedule and an event later in the day skews the schedule, that mishap won't delay your timeline because you've been running ahead of schedule all day! The only time that you shouldn't have a leeway is with your ceremony start time. If your invitations say that your ceremony begins at 4, it should begin no later than 4:10!

A general rule, be respectful of guests who arrived early or on time rather than be considerate of the guests who are running behind. If your earliest guest arrived at 3:30 but you decide to wait for your latest guest who arrived at 4:30, not only has your earliest guest been waiting an hour for your festivities to begin but you are also late for the rest of your entire day. Instead, hire ushers to assist your late guests to their seats, or you could ask close family members who aren't in the wedding party to be volunteer ushers.


Once you've finalized your schedule, distribute your wedding timeline to all vendors and your wedding party two weeks before the big day. This way, all important parties are informed of what will happen next, when they are needed, and what time they need to be there.

You could also invest in buying wedding programs or signage to communicate your day-of timeline to your guests. Displaying large format signage is more eco-friendly and budget-conscious than providing individual programs (and menus) for each guest and they're an awesome way to keep guests alert and informed of what your day entails.

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