What makes a wedding progress smoothly? A wedding timeline! I met with wedding planners Wendie Bass and Norie Hamilton to learn more about wedding timelines. I wanted to know what a wedding timeline was, how wedding planners put timelines together, and the consequences of straying from your timeline.

What is a wedding timeline?

So, what is a wedding timeline? Norie describes the wedding timeline as a who, what, where, and when throughout the day. The wedding timeline defines what is happening throughout the day, where everybody fits in, how they get there, what they’re doing, and when it will happen. Your wedding timeline is the itinerary of the day and setting expectations with a schedule helps everyone have a good time.

Definition of a wedding timeline

How to design a wedding timeline

Now that you know what a wedding timeline is, how do you put one together? Where do you start? Wendie and Norie recommend starting with the wedding ceremony. When you plan your wedding ceremony will determine when all your other activities will happen.


Clock, keys that say love, and a bride and groom photo frame atop a rustic barrel


Timeline before the ceremony

Once your wedding ceremony time is set you can start asking questions about the rest of your schedule. How long is your ceremony going to take? When is your dress rehearsal? Do you want to have a first look? Are you doing family pictures before the ceremony? When do you plan to do hair and makeup? Who’s doing hair and makeup? Is it just you, or the whole wedding party? How big is your wedding party? Is transportation needed from doing the hair and makeup to the ceremony site?

Pre-wedding ceremony short timeline


Happy bride and groom in front of a large clock


Timeline after the ceremony

After the ceremony you have a different set of planning questions. What’s the transportation requirements from the ceremony to the reception? Are you doing cocktails post ceremony? Are you doing a reception dinner? Who is doing a wedding toast? When is your first dance? When do you want to serve dessert? By what time do you have to leave the reception hall? Are you planning an after party?

Short reception timeline

Designate someone to keep the timeline flowing

Now you have put your wedding timeline together. You may be able to run your wedding if nothing were to go wrong. What can possibly go wrong? Murphy’s Law can visit your event at any time. How can you focus on being in your wedding when issues come up that could draw you somewhere else?

When things pop up, somebody other than the bride and groom must have authority to take control; to ensure the remaining events of the day flow smoothly. You do not want to be racing to cut the cake, do the toast and first dance in 3 minutes or less. This is unreasonable to accomplish.

Who is best at keeping you on schedule? A wedding planner. They are paid to handle the drama, so you do not have to worry about the schedule of the day. So, when your mother-in-law melts down, the planner can care for it. When the family needs to be gathered for photos, the planner can handle it. When the wedding needs to move 150 people from the ceremony to the reception, the planner can help manage this efficiently. You get to just relax and enjoy your special day.

Thank you to the expert advice of:

Many thanks to Holly Collins - Tomazin from Adventures in Dance for this blog. For more information, please visit them here.