Planning a Smooth Sailing Day With a Detailed Wedding Checklist

Planning a robust wedding day timeline may be the most critical thing you can do in your wedding planning process. A clear wedding timeline will curtail any confusion and scheduling conflicts and will keep everyone on the same page, from your wedding parties to your musicians to your caterers. Breaking down everything hour by hour with every element accounted for will also be helpful when planning vendor deliveries, transportation, and speech times.

From food to flowers, the list can go on and on. But, while all these things can be daunting moving puzzle pieces, when they all come together, they create your dream wedding. And the key to having a perfect, seamless, and stress-free wedding day relies on your wedding timeline. At Walter Knoll Florist, our experts have seen almost every type of wedding under the sun, and some of the most smooth sailing wedding days have revolved around a precise itinerary from morning to night. 

While keeping everything on track is an understatement, your wedding party, family, friends, guests, and, most importantly, your vendors will thank you for having a clear timeline on your wedding day. As you put together your timeline, be as detailed as possible. List out the who, what, where, and when for everything you can think of. It is also a good idea to consider hiring a wedding planner to make sure your vision comes to fruition.

Flat lay composition with Wedding Checklist and planner on wooden table

Best Practices for Creating Your Perfect Timeline

Thinking about all the various elements that go into your special day can feel overwhelming. One of the best ways to ease potential stress is to organize all the small and large details in an Excel timeline template. Since it’s good practice to have everything finalized about a month before the wedding date, it’s helpful to get on the same page with your wedding planner as soon as possible in terms of your wedding day schedule. A few important elements to consider when creating your template timeline include travel times between venues (if you have multiple ones) and ensuring you and your wedding party are properly fed before the ceremony begins.

A Bride Stands By Her Bridemaids While Getting Ready For Her Wedding Day

4 Hours: Getting Ready & Pre-Ceremony

Assign around four hours for you and your wedding party to feel fully prepared for your wedding day. A sample itinerary may look like arriving at the bridal suite by 9 am for hair and makeup, getting dressed, and taking photos before a 1 pm ceremony. Also, make sure to have champagne and a delicious food spread so you can enjoy each moment and keep the vibe energized. Finally, consider bringing in a photographer to capture the “getting ready” parts of your day to convey a complete story of your perfect day. While grooms might think this is a long time to prepare, this time can also be used to make sure vendors have what they need, have a moment to sit with vows and reflect, or spend time playing poker or hitting a few golf balls with your best mates. 

Professional photographer man holding camera with macro len to take photo

2.5 Hours: Photos

Scheduling the right amount of time for photos depends on what types of photos you’re getting. Will you be wanting “getting ready” photos? Family photos? First look photos? Make a list of their estimated times and work backward from the ceremony start time to determine the optimal time for your photographer to arrive. You should also make sure to have everyone ready to go before your photographer shows up to keep your day running efficiently and smoothly.

White flowers decorations during outdoor wedding ceremony

1.5 Hours: Ceremony

Your wedding ceremony is yours to shape however you want. It can be any length, size, and form as you see fit. On average, modern ceremonies range from 20 to 30 minutes, and it’s often good practice to buffer in time for guests to arrive 15 to 30 minutes before the time listed on the wedding invitation. No matter how long you plan your ceremony, factor in some before and after time on your day-of timeline, especially as it may take guests a few extra minutes to make their way to the cocktail hour. Transition times are key in creating a good flow to the day. 

hands of happy people toasting and cheering with glasses of champagne, celebrating wedding, luxury life concept

1 Hour: Cocktail Hour

In a matter of 60 minutes, cocktail hour provides a moment for guests to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and officially kick off the celebration after the ceremony. Make sure that bartenders have the supplies and space to accommodate everyone on your guest list. If you’re working with a wedding planner, ask them if they can start ushering guests into the reception area 15 minutes beforehand so they can finish their conversations, grab one more drink, and transition to their assigned seating.

black microphone on ceremony table on wedding day

1 Hour: Reception Entrances, First Dance, Parent Dances, Speeches

When scheduling times for formalities, it’s important to outline them in detail on your wedding day timeline to keep your venue, wedding planner, and caterers on the same page. For example, if you’d like to choreograph a fun entrance with your wedding party, coordinate with your band or DJ and factor in a few extra minutes. When moving into your first dance and special parent dances, consider if you’d like everyone to join you on the dance floor. 

After the formal dances are finished, this is typically the time when people start giving toasts and speeches—ideally not embarrassing ones. Speeches can take from 10 to 30 minutes, so we recommend that you check in with the people you have chosen to speak to ensure everyone is aligned with how much time they have. We also highly suggest serving either a salad or your first course with a glass of champagne before the speeches begin. This will help keep your guests’ stomachs and glasses full.

Beautiful English White Wedding Cake in Pakistan on November 2019

3 Hours: Dinner, Dancing, & Cake

Speeches have been made, tears of joy have been shared, and dinner has been had; it’s now time for dancing! Before you show off your dance moves, you may want to cut the cake while you still have a captive audience. Make sure to give your guests a lot of time to honor cultural traditions, spend quality time with friends, and generally let loose. At the end of the celebration, consider playing a meaningful “last song” to send everyone off properly, or curate the perfect soundtrack for you and your partner’s “grand exit.”

After spending intentional time organizing your wedding beforehand, you’ll be able to fully enjoy it as it happens. Take some time to envision your dream wedding and start mapping it out to ensure you can fully be present during your celebration of love. For more wedding planning tips or to create a stress-free wedding design, connect with the experts at Walter Knoll Florist.

Create a wedding day timeline