How to create the Perfect Wedding Timeline | Timeline Template & Example
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
There is SO much that goes on during a wedding day. It can be difficult to wrap your head around all that needs to happen and when they need to happen:
"What time should the ceremony be?"
"When does hair and makeup need to be done?"
"When should I tell my family to be ready for photos?"
What is a wedding timeline?
A wedding timeline is a glorified to-do list that is assigned a time of day and location. Having a great wedding timeline is arguably the most important part of planning a wedding. A perfect wedding timeline ensures all of your vendors are on the same page. It provides clear communication and sets expectations. Setting expectations is HUGE. The last thing you want is thinking your caterer was supposed to arrive at 3:00 but really they won't be there til 5:00.
There can (and should) be many different phases of a timeline. Start out with bare bones; just the time for the ceremony and when sunset is. Eventually you'll have a master timeline with data for when every person is arriving, when HMUA should be wrapped, and even the exact time you need to step into your wedding dress.
When to begin creating a wedding timeline:
So, when should you begin to draft a timeline? I suggest creating a timeline early on in the planning process to be able to discuss your plan with vendors. For instance, you'll want to know how many hours of photography coverage you'll need when consulting with a wedding photographer. The difference in photos between 6 hours and 8 hour coverage can be significant. Build a timeline that includes your priority events being photographed.
By the end you'll have a timeline that has every minute accounted which will be so helpful for all parties involved (though albeit sounds a little type A).
If you're starting to break out into a sweat thinking about crafting your own timeline- HAVE NO FEAR! I have created the perfect wedding timeline templates for you to build off of!
Wedding timeline templates:
I'm going to lay out all the info you need. Every single thing that needs to be on your timeline. Below you'll see a blank timeline for you to fill out your own details, a sample timeline to showcase the difference between 6 hours vs 8 hours of photography coverage (with and without a first look), and examples from real weddings to reference. Your timeline will be the belle of the ball and break dancing on the dance floor.
*Disclaimer* - before you look at these templates, don't feel like you need to mimic anyone's timeline! If you want to get married and then eat cake, then do your first dance, then do family photos - no one is stopping you! Create a wedding day that reflects who you are and what you want! I"m here to support YOU!
You may also choose to create a smaller timeline for your wedding party and family so they have clear terms for where they have to be when. While the master timeline will include this info, a smaller timeline will shield them from needing to sort through all other irrelevant details.
How to create your own wedding timeline:
1. Start with the ceremony time. When trying to choose a ceremony time, plan around sunset! A good rule of thumb is to have your ceremony two hours before sunset.
2. The next easiest step is to have the end cap- the venue exit time. What time do you plan to leave the venue? Will you have a grand exit? What time will your transportation arrive? From there, work backwards.
3. The majority of weddings have a similar chain of events: ceremony, cocktail hour, reception. If you plan to follow through with a traditional wedding, yours will be the same. Ceremony lengths range from 15 minutes to one hour. After the ceremony is the cocktail hour which is usually one hour. Then the reception lasts until the venue lovingly sends you on your way. Don't worry about filling in specific reception events just yet (first dances, speeches, dinner, etc).
4. Now that you have from the ceremony to the end of the night roughly planned, we'll work backwards. Before the ceremony you may opt for a first look. If you do a first look, you'll most likely do family photos right afterwards. You'll need to build that into the timeline. This is 1-2 hours before the ceremony depending on travel.
5. Before the first look you're looking cute with your crew in matching robes or PJ's, exchanging presents from your loves, and putting your dress on. This takes roughly another hour.
6. Before that you're getting your hair and makeup done, eating breakfast, and at peace knowing that your florist is at your venue decorating it because you have a bomb, reliable timeline in place!
7. Once you're ready to get nitty gritty with details, you'll also want to nail down the arrival time of all your vendors, when you and your boo will arrive, and the sequence of reception events.
While it's important to have events accounted for, it is also important to write in down time. You don't want to feel rushed at any point during your day. Although you may have nervous energy and want to get the day moving, it is just as important to be able to take that minute to just sit and breathe.
Who should help with planning the timeline?
If you're reading this, chances are you don't have a wedding coordinator or planner, but if you do - definitely consult with them! You can hire a planner to do every single step of the planning process, or you can hire a coordinator to help just on the day-of.
If you don't have any kind of coordinator, you'll need to rely on other vendors. Depending on what stage you are in your planning process, I highly recommend you consult with your photographer and DJ. A photographer will be the one to keep things on track pre-ceremony. Post-ceremony, the DJ keeps things on track. You can also ask for assistance from your family and wedding party. I recommend not putting TOO much pressure on them though, as you'll want them to be by your side to party the night away!
*affiliate link disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.