top of page

Wedding Day Timeline Mistakes

Updated: Apr 2



Not to be dramatic, but the success of the wedding day really depends on your ability to master one thing, and that’s your wedding day timeline.   In fact, it’s so important, I’m going to be hosting a free workshop on How to Create your Wedding Day Timeline on April 2nd Hope to you see you there!



When it comes to creating your wedding day timeline, sometimes it's easier to start with what NOT to do, so today I want to discuss the Top 7 Wedding Day Timeline Mistakes, along with tips on how you can avoid making them!


Mistake 1 - Not Enough Buffer Time

I know, that sounds a bit backwards, right?  As a wedding planner with 20 years experience, shouldn’t I be able to plan things down to the minute?  The truthful answer to that is actually - NO.  While you spend countless hours planning your wedding day, it is still a regular day to the majority of the world, which means you’re vulnerable to all of the variables that come with daily life.  

As much as we strive to create the perfect timeline prior to the wedding day, a huge component of timeline creation is adding in buffer time throughout the day, to make sure that we are actually NOT scheduling things down to the minute.  If things are too tight, one 5-10 minute delay can really derail things. 

Now, you’re probably thinking something like “that sounds great, but how the hell am I supposed figure out where and when to add in buffer time?  It’s actually much easier than you might think!  “Buffer time” is not something that I list out in a timeline, but rather build into the flow of the day.  I do this by slightly overestimating how long things will take, which actually leads us into the second mistake couples make, and that’s...

Mistake 2 - Underestimating Timing   

Underestimating how long things will take throughout the day.  Don’t worry, this will all circle back to how to create the perfect amount of buffer time in just a minute.  Just like not having any buffer time in your schedule for the unexpected things to pop up, underestimating how long certain things will take can really throw the timeline off.  The most common culprits are getting dressed, transportation, family photos, and toasts.  Let’s talk about each one of them real quick.  

  1. Getting dressed - when I see a couples first draft of their timeline, they usually have 5-10 minutes down for getting dressed.  Now, for the guys, this may be realistic, but definitely still tight.  For the ladies, I typically recommend 45-60 minutes for the getting ready process, and it all ties back to adding in the buffer.  Is it going to take you 45-60 minutes to actually put on the dress? Probably not, unless it’s very complicated with hooks and accessories.  However, from the moment you say “EEK!  It’s time to get dressed!!!” to when you’re ready to walk out the door, will likely be 45-60 minutes.  There are usually multiple last trips to the bathroom, undergarment adjusting, photos of mom or the girls helping  you get dressed, put on your shoes and jewelry, touch ups with hair pieces or a veil, and any first looks with your parents or wedding party.  While I will put some of this in the subtext of the timeline, I’m not going itemize each of these things down to the minute in the timeline, thats simply not realistic that you’ll stick to your scheduled bathroom times.  Instead, I’m going to slightly overestimate how long this process will take, which in turn gives us this buffer time for the other things that may pop up.  That way if you’re scheduled to start getting dressed at 1pm, but hair and makeup isn’t done until 1:10, we know we have a bit of buffer time already built in there.    

  2. Transportation is another area that many couples UNDERestimate when it comes to timing.  Most commonly, couples will take a look at how long GPS tells them the time is from one venue to the next, and that’s what they put in the timeline.  However, there are a few things that I see make this inaccurate right from the start.  2:15 - shuttle takes groom and groomsmen from the hotel to venue       However, in the likely scenario that we discussed, if the ladies don’t actually leave until closer to 2:15, we’re already running late for the guys, and you may have an accidental first look in the hotel lobby. This could then further derail the shuttle schedule for either the guest transportation or for the wedding party photos. Make sure that you’re adding 5-10 minutes of buffer time for each trip, to account for the loading and unloading process between trips. c. And the final transportation error I see is not recognizing that limos, shuttles, or other rented transportation typically goes SLOWER than the normal flow of traffic.  Just because you got from the hotel to the venue in your car in 7 minutes, doesn’t mean the party bus will be able to do the same, for a number of reasons.  Large vehicles naturally go slower, but they may need to take a different route, or load/unload from a different area, depending on your venue.   

    1. The first is not accounting for packing up or transition time.  If you have “leave the hotel” at 2pm in your timeline, does that mean leave the hotel room, or actually on the shuttle bus pulling away from the hotel?  Again, I don’t expect you to be down to the minute with these things, but if you just allow for the exact amount of time it takes to physically drive from one venue to the next, you’re not accounting for the time it takes to get everyone out the door, wait for the elevator, load into the vehicle, and wait while someone runs back for something that was inevitably forgotten.  If you plan to leave the hotel room at 2pm, that shuttle will likely pull away around 2:10/2:15, which would be a more realistic time for you to put down in the timeline.  It might not sound like a big deal, but it leads into the second transportation timing error, and thats

    2. Not scheduling enough time between trips.  If you have one vehicle that will be making multiple trips, especially for the wedding party, make sure to be realistic with the timing between.  In the example we just discussed, it’s common to see an initial timeline say something like: 2pm - shuttle takes bride and bridesmaids from hotel to venue - returns for guys

  3. Moving on to - Family photos.  I’m not going to go into too much detail on family photos here, that’s for whole different episode, the main point is, they typically take much more time than you might anticipate, especially if you have a large group.  Chat with your photographer about the size of your family photo list, and they should be able to help you determine about how much time this will take.  And you can get the family photo list that’s a part of the “pre-wedding worksheets” download at planningcollective.com/freeguides  

  4. The toasts or speeches at a wedding are probably the biggest wildcard we have, as once the mic is given to your parents or wedding party, it’s out of our control!  I always recommend 2-3 minutes per person, as that’s really what the max attention span your guest will have for each toast.  Having 3-4 toasts total, including parents and wedding party, is ideal, anything more than that will feel like it’s dragging on.  HOWEVER!   If you know your dad or Maid of Honor will not stick to that 2-3 minute timeframe, it’s better to be realistic about it with your timeline, so the dinners you’ve spent the majority of your budget on aren't getting cold.  Quick tip - this is something to remind your dad of, if you’re worried he’s going to be long winded on the wedding day! 

So again, remember to slightly OVERESTIMATE how long these things might take, and that’s what will help give you the buffer time on the wedding day itself.  


Mistake 3 - Waiting on Formal Photos

Ok, the third mistake I see couples make with their wedding day timeline is not taking any formal photos before the ceremony, especially if the ceremony and reception are in the same location.  I’m not going to get into the first look debate here, you can get my thoughts on that in Episode 88.  However, regardless of whether you’re doing the first look or not, I HIGHLY recommend taking as many of the formal photos, meaning posed photos with your family and wedding party, before the ceremony.  If your ceremony goes right into cocktail hour for the guests, this is the only time you’ll have to take pictures, and that 45-60 minutes is going to fly by!  You’ll also likely have to sign the marriage license at this time, which can take 10-15 minutes on it’s own.  Unless you have several  hours between the ceremony and cocktail hour, I recommend getting as many formal pics out of the way ahead of time, leaving you more time to enjoy the reception. 

  1. The fourth mistake is not taking external factors into consideration with the flow of the day.  This is obviously going to be different for each wedding, but to the best of your ability, try to think of any outside factors that might have an impact on your day or timeline.  For example, if you want to take sunset photos, or if a portion of your event will be outside, what time will the sun be setting that day?   Weekday weddings or rehearsals, make sure you consider rush hour traffic delays, or see if there are any major events that would impact traffic.  Many guests look at your ceremony start time as the time they need to arrive.  If your venue requires them to park further away, or if it may be tricky to find, plan on starting 10-15 minutes after the stated time on your invite.  And finally, keep hotel check in times in mind for the wedding party and getting ready, as this may require that you reserve the room the night before to guarantee  you have access early enough on the wedding day.  

There are obviously many other potential external factors, but doing a quick “run through” in your mind prior to the wedding day may help to think of some.  I talk about this more in Episode 62 - 10 Tips for a Stress Free Wedding Day


Mistake 5 - Not Communicating the Timeline

Not communicating the timeline with wedding party and family.  This one might sound silly, but you may be surprised with how many couples don’t think to share the wedding day or weekend timeline with the wedding party.  I recommend you give them a general timeline a couple of months before with the main events that they will be expected to be at.  A few weeks before the wedding, share the more detailed timeline with everyone, and make sure to include addresses, and a day of contact number, in case they need to reach someone with questions or issues. 


Mistake 6 - Not Scheduling Alone Time

Not scheduling any alone time for the two of you.  It’s easy to think that just because you’ll be spending the majority of the day with your new spouse, that this won’t be necessary. However, you’ll be absolutely bombarded by loved ones that want to share in the excitement with you, which is amazing.  But it also makes it important to set aside a few moments throughout the day for the two of you to take a quick breath together.  Just after the first look is a perfect time for this, many couples are now choosing to take some time to share private vows at this time too.  Immediately after the ceremony, before the guests are allowed into the reception room, and after the dance floor has opened are other great times to take a couple of quick moments to just check in with each other, and really soak everything in! 


Mistake 7 - Not having a Wedding Planner/Day Of Coordinator

And the final mistake shouldn't be a shock to anyone, but it’s not having a planner or at least day of coordinator to keep things on track.  Not only will this person help talk you through your timeline the couple of months before, but it’s also important to have one person that’s in charge of keeping everything flowing that day, and you do NOT want that to be you!   Something always goes off plan on the wedding day, (think back to mistake number 1), and a professional planner is going to be able to make the necessary adjustments before you even notice!  If you have a planner with your venue, make sure to ask if this is something that they are able to manage for you, as some do not get involved with the timing outside of the reception details.

232 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page