Wedding Day Prep Timeline: How to Keep Your Morning on Track
Your wedding is just a few months away. You probably already have a good idea of the timeline for your big wedding events -- ceremony, cocktail hour, grand entrance, first dance, cake cutting, etc. But do you have a wedding day preparation timeline, too?
Anyone who's been in a wedding knows that the morning and afternoon leading up to the ceremony goes by extremely quickly. It's also pretty easy to lose track of time, especially if your bridesmaids and groomsmen are getting ready in different locations and you're all trying to coordinate transportation to the ceremony site. That's why it's so important to have a detailed schedule for your pre-ceremony preparations before your photographer and/or videographer arrive. Creating this plan and distributing it to your family and wedding party will ensure that everyone's on the same page and nobody goes MIA on your big day.
What to include on your day-of prep timeline
Your wedding day preparation timeline can be merged with your regular timeline, but it should include all key details of who needs to be where and when. This includes the timing for specific hair and makeup appointments, when people should be dressed and ready, photographer and videographer arrival times, the limo pick-up times and locations, etc.
Essentially, anything that's happening before your official wedding events begin should be included on this schedule. The more granular and precise you are, the more likely it is that everyone will be able to stick to the schedule. You may also wish to include reliable points of contact for the wedding party and family members -- you don't want to be fielding logistical phone calls and texts while you're getting ready for your wedding!
Some items to schedule on your prep timeline include:
- Arrival times for vendors assisting with preparations, including hair/makeup stylist, photographer, videographer, florist, etc.
- The bride's hair and makeup appointments
- When the bridesmaids and groomsmen should arrive for preparations, and where they should meet you
- Specific times for each bridesmaids' hair and makeup (if you have a professional stylist coming)
- Time and location for pre-ceremony meal/snack and champagne toast with your wedding party (if applicable)
- When the bride is putting her dress on (and who's helping her, if applicable)
- When everyone else should be dressed and 100% ready for photos
- Logistics and times for transportation to second and third locations (even if all your wedding events are happening in the same building, specify where everyone should meet and when)
- Start and end times for portraits with wedding party/family members
What happens if you don't have a detailed wedding day preparation timeline?
A typical wedding day timeline usually has a start time listed for "hair and makeup," and then a big gap until the photographer arrives. It may seem like overkill, but if you don't break down exactly what happens during those hours in between, your wedding party may procrastinate and end up waiting until moments before the photographer gets there to put the finishing touches on their looks.
If your prep timeline doesn't include enough details or contact information, you also run the risk of someone running late or missing out on key photos. Imagine that your timeline jumps from "3:30 p.m. - Everyone dressed" to "4:30 p.m. - Wedding party portraits begin." Someone in your wedding party may think they have time to run a quick errand nearby and make it back to the ceremony location in time for photos. It's better to specify an in between step, like "3:30 p.m. - Wedding party gather at portrait location," even if that means your wedding party spends a few minutes waiting before they have their pictures taken.
How to keep your wedding preparations on track
1. Give everyone the schedule ahead of time.
The week of your wedding, email a copy of your schedule to everyone involved in the preparations, including any family members who will be in formal portraits. You may even wish to print out your schedule on paper and distribute it at the rehearsal dinner.
2. Leave enough time during the rehearsal dinner for Q&A.
We get it -- you want to relax and have a great time with your family and wedding party before the whirlwind of the big day. Before everyone starts in on their main course (and second glass of wine), check in with your rehearsal dinner guests to ensure that everyone understands where they're supposed to be and give them an opportunity to ask for clarifications on the schedule.
3. Enlist your vendors to help keep everyone moving.
Your photographer and videographer are pros who know how to keep an event crowd organized and on schedule. If it's time to move onto the next item on the timeline and one or two bridesmaids or groomsmen are lagging behind, you can trust your media staff to gently nudge them along and ensure that everyone is on track and where they need to be.
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