A timeline is essential during the final stages of planning. Why you ask? Because you want to have a timeline listing the evenings events to limit the amount of stress on your wedding day. By providing a detailed timeline to your wedding planner, vendors, and reception staff everyone will be prepared and aware of what will take place next. Now this does not mean you have to go overboard and plan your day from the moment your feet hit the ground, but it is essential to provide a timeline to your wedding vendors.
We assist our couples with the creation of their timeline 2-10 days before their event and make sure each one is unique and on par with their expectations for the evening. The best advice we can share when it comes to creating your timeline is to plan each event in 1 hour or 30 minute increments. To get the process started, we suggest that couples pick the most anticipated event for the evening and place it first. We had a couple who planned their first dance following their ceremony while surrounded by their guests holding sparklers. Not only did this create a joyous starting point for the reception, as well as amazing photos.
The very first thing we put on our timeline is when the bride and groom will arrive. In the event that the bride and groom don’t want to see each other before the ceremony, we suggest scheduling their arrivals at least 30 minutes apart for traffic, running late, getting lost, or any unforeseeable mishaps that could leave either one waiting. We recommend allowing extra “buffers” for times like these so you don’t lose time that could be utilized later in the evening. One “buffer” scenario is to switch photography sessions should either the bride or groom run late so you still get the shots you want without pushing later events behind.
It’s best to share the breakdown of the evening with a program during the ceremony or at guests place setting during the reception, especially if the reception will be rather long. The program should start with the official ceremony time which is typically 20-30 minutes long. However, do be sure to consider the processional, especially if you have an excessively large bridal party. If you do have 26 bridesmaids, time how long it takes them to walk down the aisle during rehearsal because this alone could add an additional 10 minutes to your ceremony.
Once the ceremony is complete and sealed with a kiss, guests will then enter the reception site to kick off cocktail hour and celebrate! Based on the title alone, “cocktails” generally will be served for about an hour while the bride and groom take photos and sign their marriage license. Cocktail hour is a chance for guests to get situated in the reception area and prepare for the bride and groom’s grand entrance. If you take the majority of your photos before hand, or are planning on a sunset ceremony, the cocktail timeline can be shortened.
Which leads us to our next timeline event, grand entrance. This is considered the “official” start to the reception because once the guests of honor arrive, the party can officially begin. This is a perfect time to put your personal, creative touch on the wedding with your song choice or choreographed dance. Afterall, the grand entrance does set the theme for the evening.
Once the bride and groom have taken their seat, food service or toasts take place next. Toasts are great to give during food service, especially if you have an extremely shy maid of honor or groomsmen. With a plate of delicious food in front of them guests tend to be preoccupied and less likely to stare down your nervous speaker. If you expect long, drawn out speeches, we also suggest giving toasts during food service because it will once again keep the guest occupied, and prevent evil hunger glares should the speech suddenly become a novel. Toasts typically take 10-20 minutes, but if you plan on leaving the mic open it’s best to let your DJ and caterer know so they can extend food service and not rush into the next event. It’s best to start food service once all your guests are seated, so you don’t leave anyone without a meal, and do allow one hour for guests to enjoy their meal. A delicious meal will get guests energized for the upcoming events as well as for the remainder of the evening.
First dance is the best event to shorten because you may not want to dance through your entire song after all. It’s best to speak with your DJ about your song choice and discuss how long you want for actual “dance time”. The majority of guests may not want to see the bride and groom awkwardly dancing through an entire 7 minute song. We suggest practicing your first dance once in your living room just to see if it feels boring or excessively long. The average first dance is less than 3 minutes and while you want to have time to enjoy it and get photos, you don’t want to spoil a good thing. There’s plenty of time for dancing later in the evening. It’s also good to note the artist and version you would like played because as well all know, the majority of songs are either re-done or remixed.
Next, cake cutting! The best part! The cake has been staring at you all night, and now, it is time to enjoy your delicious slice. Take your time with this event and feel free to play background music. Another silly, but thought-provoking matter you may want to discuss with your fiancée beforehand is whether you want to have chocolate cake smeared across your perfectly applied makeup? If not, do let the groom know he will be sleeping on the couch if he does apply a layer of chocolate frosting to your face or your dress. Also keep in mind, if you are going to smash cake on his face he’s more likely to do the same to you. Therefore, practice the old saying, and do on to others as you would have done unto you. Once you have politely served the groom his slice of cake do give a “peace-offering” kiss so you can both share a bit of frosting and keep your pact as well as your picture perfect makeup.
Once the bride and groom have had their cake, a perfect segue into the next event would be the bouquet and garter toss. This allows the cake to be quietly taken behind closed doors to be cut or takes the focus away from the cake while the reception staff cuts it . In other words, it keeps everyone distracted, minimizes the pauses and breaks in the evening, and alleviates the pressure on the person cutting the cake. Some guests also use cake cutting as an acceptable time to politely leave for the evening. Our recommendation is to not cut the cake too early or too late into the evening so guests don’t feel like their being held hostage.
Once cake cutting is complete consider the timeline non-existent. Dance the night away!