Amid all the details and logistics of an event, the timeline acts as the backbone that keeps everything organized and running smoothly. From orchestrating entrances and exits to timing the major moments throughout the day, crafting a reliable timeline can require a lot of thought and effort. Refining a timeline takes time, so allow yourself enough to work through the kinks with your client and their other vendors.
Let’s walk through the steps of creating a comprehensive timeline that will keep everyone on the same page.
Start at square one: The venue
The venue plays a major role in defining the timeline, as you’ll need to consider the accessibility of the location and the parameters for deliveries in the days leading up to the event.
In general, allot an extra day on each side of the event. Communicate with your point of contact at the venue early on to avoid any last-minute surprises, and work together to draft a comfortable framework of the timeline. Ask if it might be possible for the room to be available the day before to load in items, as well as potentially the day after so that you can store everything until the next day. It can be rare since most venues book back-to-back events, but it is worth asking.
Next: Bring in the creatives
Once you have a working timeline, you’ll want to consult the rest of the vendor team, starting with the photographer. All creatives have their own way of approaching a wedding day, so don’t assume all wedding pros are the same.
Work alongside the photographer to understand their schedule and how to incorporate their needs into the flow of the day. Remember to set aside some time for the photographer to eat!
After the venue and photography time frames are in place, the rest of the team’s schedule usually falls into place.
Don’t forget to allot time for unloading and setup, and plan deliveries in the order that they are needed--for example, have the cake table and linens set up before the cake and centerpieces arrive.
Then: Add in a cushion
Even if you’re the most meticulous planner out there, some things are just out of our control. Building in some flextime into your timeline is a great way to accommodate any unplanned surprises and still ensure that things run smoothly.
For example, getting ready in the morning often takes longer than expected. Schedule an early start in order to provide some extra time for the wedding party to get dressed and look pretty. Cocktail hour is another period you can stretch a bit to buy time, but don’t go overboard--the guests will be ready for the festivities!
Last: Add in the final touches
If possible, aim to have a final timeline one week prior to the event.
You will need two versions of the timeline: one comprehensive vendor sheet for the team and a simplified version for the couple and wedding party. The vendors will need to know all the little details, but do what you can to keep the key players stress-free on the big day.
As with most things, practice makes perfect. The more you work on perfecting your vendor timeline, the simpler the process will become. It will also become easier as you work with creatives more, as you’ll get a better understanding of what they need from your timeline.
Familiarity is key, so keep practicing and learning--that’s the real solution to a stress-free wedding day.
Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans that serves couples everywhere.