I'm Mallory, a wedding planner based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Traveling throughout Richmond, Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. With a passion for weddings and an eye for details, I help create a personalized and seamless experience for you and your guests.
A good wedding timeline is the thing that ensures a stress free wedding. Timing is everything! It keeps everyone organized, sets expectations with vendors, and lets everyone know where they should be and when.
Let’s dive right into some tips that you want to make sure you keep in mind when planning out your wedding timeline.
Will you be getting ready at your ceremony location or somewhere else? Are your wedding ceremony and reception in separate locations? If so, you’ll have to factor travel time into your wedding timeline. Will you be providing transportation for your wedding party members and/or guests? Are you planning on having a first look and doing photos pre-ceremony? Or would you rather wait until cocktail hour to do couple and group/family portraits? How long will your ceremony be? (This will require a discussion with your officiant.) Do you want to go around to each table during dinner service?
There are lots of questions you need to answer in order to make sure there is enough time for everything. As your wedding planners, we will help you not miss a single logistical question in order to determine the flow of your day.
Before doing anything else, check what time the sun will set on your wedding day! Your ceremony is always our starting point for a timeline and the way we figure out the best time for the ceremony is based on the sunset time. The sun affects your whole day and when and where photos will take place.
The best time for an outdoor ceremony is generally two hours before sunset – but obviously there are also other factors to consider (which are included in this list!)
Every vendor has their own timeline for their service. Making sure they all overlap in the best way can be an artform! What time does the venue open? Is there a curfew or noise restrictions that will determine when the party will need to be over?
If you booked your wedding photographer for 8 hours, you’ll need to be strategic about when your photographer will start and finish. This will include deciding if it’s more important for your photographer to shoot your getting-ready activities or the sparkler send-off at the end of the night.
Is there a room flip from ceremony to reception? This can dictate how much time you will need to put in between those two main events. How long it will take the florist to set-up, especially if it’s an elaborate install, can alter a timeline, as well.
Some venues in DC have very strict load-in schedules. Figuring out which vendor to go first and when takes time – luckily we have a lot of experience with that!
Your wedding day goes by in the blink of an eye and you need to plan for moments just the two of you. Whether it is a private first look moment or a quick 10-15 minute breather post ceremony – take it!!
If you are joining cocktail hour, we suggest having some time alone to eat/drink before you enter or leaving cocktail hour a tiny bit early to gather yourself and take a chance to see the reception space.
If you have the opportunity to sneak away during the reception for sunset photos – do it! No one ever regrets golden hour bride and groom photos!
Things can run over or take a little longer than expected. Simple acts like getting into your wedding dress or bustling it can add a few minutes here and there, and all of a sudden the timeline is off. So it’s never a bad thing to have some buffer room.
Also, always add a buffer for travel time in the city – hello DC traffic!
It is important to keep in mind small details. There are little things that can add time that we just forget about. Things such as when are you going to eat in the morning as you get ready? Or if you are doing a first look, are you going to be sharing vows or gifts? These little things take more time.
Are you planning on changing outfits at any point in the evening? You’ll need to add in a spot in the timeline for that.
You can also “save” a little time with things like cutting the songs after a minute and a half for special dances instead of dancing to the entire song.
Toasts are the moment you can lose track of time. There will always be that one speaker. It happens, guests want to give a heartfelt speech and sometimes it can go on for much longer than we allotted for. This can delay food service or dancing. Try to minimize this by talking to all of your speakers beforehand, and making sure they know the recommended speech length. You can also avoid this issue by asking those to give toasts at the rehearsal dinner – then you don’t have to worry about the big night getting off track!
We want to be thinking about ceremony time and the flow of the day from the very beginning, because all that information is vital as we start booking vendors.
On the day of we are orchestrating the wedding timeline. This means we are making sure things are happening when they are supposed to and you don’t have to worry about it. Not only are we on top of the vendors and seeing that they are arriving based off of contracted times, but we keep the day running smoothly. If things get behind, we know how to adjust to get back on track, staying in constant communication with the vendor team of changes and the ability and flexibility to deal with the unexpected.
So if you’d like someone to help you navigate the potential stress of a solid wedding timeline, reach out! We’d love to take that on so you don’t have to.