Creating a timeline for your wedding abroad is essential if you are arranging your own wedding. This is one of the many tasks a wedding planner will do that you may not realise. It’s imperative that every supplier and person employed on the day knows your expectations, what time they are expected to arrive and what you expect them to do.
It will also help you visualise how the wedding day will flow and highlight any possible problems well in advance so they can be solved and worked around.
Although this is something you will normally do in the latter stages of your wedding planning journey, it’s good idea to have an overview of how the day will flow at the start. For example, if you can only afford to have a photographer or videographer for a few hours, a schedule will help you to identify the key parts of the day you want covered, and you’ll then know when to hire them from and to.
Download our Wedding Timeline template to insert your own times and notes for your final schedule. Or alternatively go to your wedding acount and use the ‘timeline tool’ to create your own personalised wedding day schedule.
Think of the day in four sections: before/preparation, the ceremony, the dinner and finally the party. You may decide to do things in a different order. For example, we had one bride who had her first dance before sitting down to eat as she wanted to have the dance at sunset. But typically, dinner will follow the ceremony and the party will be towards the end of the day.
Before the wedding
- What is the access time for venue?
- For decorators or florists to set up any decoration
- Arrival time of hair and makeup people.
- This can often be earlier than you imagine, especially if you have a number of people having their hair and makeup done. How long will this take?
- Arrival of photographer and videographer
- Transport pick up times for guests:
- Find out what the earliest time is that guests can arrive at the venue before the ceremony and work back depending on the distance of hotels – your transport company should do this for you.
- If guests are making their own way, find out if there is a local bar they can wait at before the wedding, and with a private venue you need to ensure someone will be there to welcome guests on arrival.
- Pick up time for the groom and best men
- Pick up time for bride and her wedding party
- Arrival time of guests at venue
- Live musician set up and start time
- Time of welcome drinks if being served on arrival
- Ceremony start time
- Ceremony end time
- Ask your registrar or for a religious ceremony the person performing the ceremony how long the service will take
- Photographs following the ceremony
- Group photos should come first followed by couple shots
- Drinks and canapés
- Following the ceremony
- Bride and groom
- Second location shoot – how long will this be? Check with your photographer.
- Reception start time
- Ask your venue if there is a specified time that the dinner can be served and start the reception fifteen to thirty minutes before this.
- Do you want them before or after dinner? If speeches are before dinner, you will need to time them and stick to the timings so the venue knows when to serve dinner.
- Dinner served
- Will there be a gap between courses for speeches or sunset photos or the first dance?
- Entertainment during dinner
- Dancers or a singer or live music?
- Estimated end time of dinner
- We usually allow ninety minutes for a buffet and two hours for a set dinner. These times are based on a party of fifty to seventy-five. It could easily be longer if you have a larger party.
- Sunset photo shoot
- You can find out the time of sunset on your wedding day at www.timeanddate.com
- First dance
- Cutting of the cake
- Ask your venue what the cut-off time is for fireworks
- DJ or live band/entertainer start time
- Bar closes
- What time are last orders (usually fifteen minutes before the end)?
- Coaches come to pick up guests
- Make sure this allows enough time for guest to board the bus and leave by the close time. Some venues can be strict about this. You want to avoid having guests standing by the road after the venue closes waiting for transfers.
- Time guests have to leave by.
Once you have your finalised schedule, send a copy to everyone involved in the wedding. Don’t forget to send a copy to the DJ so they can co-ordinate the music for each event. You could also send an edited version to your guests so they know what time to be ready for and when they will be eating etc.
Do this in plenty of time for your suppliers to email you with any concerns or timing issues. Make sure every supplier has received their copy
On the day, make sure your person in charge has a copy to refer to, but do be relaxed. I tell my brides each wedding day has its unique flow. The only things that need to start on time are the ceremony, the dinner (as cold food is miserable), and the end time! The rest is up to you. Don’t stress if the cutting of the cake isn’t exactly on time. Try to enjoy the experience – it will go by quickly enough.