It’s no secret that a wedding planner’s job is...shall we say multi-faceted? You’re responsible for keeping track of everything from budget to vendors to a wild wedding party that keeps making their way to the bar during photos. On top of that, you’re responsible for the biggest beast of them all: the timeline. A wedding-day timeline acts as a foundation for the entire event itself—a poorly executed timeline will lead to a chaotic event...while a well-done, accurate one will lead to a seamless, stunning soirée. But even the most seasoned of wedding planners can fall victim to a handful of timeline traps. Today, then, we’re breaking down the top 6 spots wedding planners tend to lose track of all-too-precious time, and we’re offering up suggestions for ensuring it doesn’t happen to you. Read on for some pro tips on keeping your couple’s wedding day right on track!
1. Beauty Schedule
This is the trickiest part of any wedding timeline, as far as we’re concerned. You’ve got two different groups getting ready in two different spots, a photographer who needs to capture great getting-ready images of both groups, and a hair-and-makeup team to manage!
When it comes to your bride’s beauty schedule, always pad the timing. All too often, planners leave only enough time for the services, without realizing that bridesmaids will stop to chat, take photos, eat breakfast, sip champagne, use the restroom, etc. The general rule of thumb is 45 minutes per-person for each service, and usually one hour per-service for the bride—but always check with stylists ahead of time to find out exactly how much time they require. And don’t be surprised if your bride wants a last-minute makeup or hair change...or if one of the bridesmaids is still blow-drying her hair at the time she’s scheduled for her updo service to start. (Also, don’t forget to add 20-30 minutes onto the end of your beauty timeline for touch-ups!) Make sure you also check in with the hair and makeup team as well—while building your timeline and on the day of. You’ll want to get a look at their timeline, ensure they arrive early to set up, and check that your timeline works for them as well!
2. First Look
So often, planners schedule a first look for five minutes after the bride or groom is done getting dressed—but, in reality, first-look setups take much longer than that. There are photographers and videographers who need to get into place, as well two individuals who need to be strategically guided to the right spot to make the magic moment happen—this often takes longer than you may anticipate. We recommend leaving at least 10-20 minutes for the first-look setup alone on your timeline. Also, try to never rush a first look. It’s such an important and memorable moment for a couple. Even if you’re running behind and itching to get things moving along, remember that this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for your couple—leave them the time and space they need to enjoy it!
It’s also important to note that, depending on your photographer, she or he may want to go right into wedding-party photos after the first look. If this is the case, ensure you have the entire wedding party nearby (but no so much so that they end up encroaching on the couple’s first look), so you don’t have to waste time wrangling them when the photographer calls for wedding-party shots. Our general rule of thumb is to start first look photos two hours prior to ceremony start time if you’re going immediately into wedding party photos afterward. That will also leave you enough time to get wedding party photos done and tuck away the bride and groom before the guests arrive.
3. Post-Ceremony Family Photos
Family photos can easily turn into a game of hide-and-seek if you’re not on top of it. Make sure the photographer has a list of all of the family groupings (with names) he or she will need to shoot beforehand. You’ll also want an assistant on hand (either your own assistant or a helpful wedding party member you can recruit) who can help by calling out the names of those you need. Make sure you spend time at the rehearsal dinner the night prior going over who needs to stay after the ceremony on the day-of for photos. A pro tip for ensuring those guests don’t jet off for cocktails and appetizers when they should be taking photos? Have a server on standby passing out drinks and apps to those taking photos if possible. One major tip for ensuring this always-tricky task goes smoothly: we know you have other areas of the wedding to get to, but make sure you have an assistant hang back to ensure things are moving in the right direction with family photos before handing this over fully to the photo team and moving onto your other tasks.
4. Lining up for the Ceremony
If there’s anything more akin to herding cats than wrangling a wedding party, we have yet to find it. From groomsmen who keep sneaking away to the bar to bridesmaids who just want to check their hair one last time, lining up for the ceremony is never as simple or quick as a two-minute ordeal. Everyone is excited, emotional, and ready to celebrate their friends’ big day—even if they lined up perfectly during the rehearsal dinner, chances are things may not go as smooth on the day-of.
In addition to going over the schedule (and practicing) at the ceremony rehearsal, we recommend lining up the wedding party at least 15 minutes ahead of time on the day of. Ensure you have the most current wedding-party list on hand so you can easily cue everyone as to where they need to be. Also, remember to gather any family members (such as grandparents or aunts and uncles) who are part of the processional—sometimes, they take their seat up front and forget (or did not know) they were formally walking in. When in doubt—be proactive! (Psst...channel your inner grade-school teacher and make sure you remind everyone to use the restroom one last time.) Our biggest tip for this one, though? Remember to smile and make this a fun process for everyone (even if you’re annoyed as all get-out)—kindness will go a long way...especially with those unruly groomsmen!
5. Grand Entrance
This is where I see the most experienced planners lose control of timing most often. Cocktail hour is not a time to be complacent, rather to be proactive. Schedule time at the end of the cocktail hour to collect the wedding party and have them wait in the bridal suite (or a good holding area out of the mix of the guests). During this time, you’ll want to go over where they are seated as well as give them an idea of the layout of the room if they haven’t yet been inside. After all of the guests have entered the reception area, line the wedding party up just outside in the correct order—that way the DJ or MC simply has to make the announcement and they can walk in as they’re called!
6. Formalities After Dinner
I can remember so vividly at one of my first weddings the Father of the Bride was toasting prior to dinner service. I mentioned the timeline to him, as well as to the couple, prior to the Big Day. They assured me I had given him enough time and that his speech wouldn’t cut into dinner. Fast-forward 30 minutes and I’ve got an angry chef breathing down my neck, dinner plates that are growing cold, and a Father of the Bride who’s still giving his speech! Now, I make sure to clearly communicate (again and again...and again) how much time each and every person has for their toast. A good rule of thumb is 3-7 minutes per toast. Once you add a little cushion to the timeline, a safe bet is to plan for 10 minutes per toast. Again, make sure you clearly communicate this to each person who’s giving a speech ahead of time. You have to keep those ramblers in check and be careful about cutting into dinner, or you’ll have an irritated chef and hangry guests.
Overall, these 6 wedding timeline traps are easy to avoid if you plan and prepare ahead of time. Above all, communication is absolutely key—be clear about what you’ll need (and when) from the wedding party, the couple, and any family members involved in the Big Day ahead of time!