Relaxing Wedding Day Timeline
Weddings can be extremely stressful. There is a lot of money tied up in a day that seems to have unnecessary pressure to be absolutely perfect. Let’s face it, something likely won’t go right on your big day that you never could have anticipated. But, the key is to not let those things shake you. It is important to create a relaxing wedding day timeline that allows for flexibility so all those little imperfections don’t seem such a big deal.
Prepare the Night Before
There is a lot going on the night before a wedding and it can get stressful pretty quickly. Make sure you gather all of your wedding day attire and lay it out so you have everything ready to go in the morning. Steam your dress and veil, place your shoes out, and put your accessories where they are easy to find. Don’t forget to make sure that your appropriate undergarments are clean as well!
If you are anything like me, sleeping the night before will be very hard because your mind will be racing with a million things. I woke up at 4:00am the morning of our wedding and decided to read Harry Potter just to pass the time. Limit your drinking the night before and try to get to bed at a decent time to set yourself up for success in the morning.
Start Morning Off Right
Create a positive vibe for the morning by making a playlist of your favorite songs. I asked one of my bridesmaids to create the perfect getting ready playlist filled with a bunch of oldies. Singing along to every song while my bridesmaids got ready is honestly one of my favorite memories from the day. I still listen to that playlist today years later to bring me back to that moment.
Most importantly, remember to eat breakfast in the morning! It will be a long, crazy day and it is easy to forget to eat. The last thing you want to do is find yourself crashing right before your ceremony or feeling sick from not eating enough. If it is in your budget, some brides like to have a catered breakfast in the morning. I just recommend staying away from anything too heavy or greasy, but make sure you have more than just coffee!
Rely on Your People
If you have already read my post about bridesmaids expectations, I mention it is a great idea to designate a specific go to person. Hand over your phone to one of your bridesmaids and allow them to handle any issue that might arise. You do not want to be fielding calls from Uncle Lou who got lost on the way to the ceremony or the groomsman who forgot his tie at home. Let your bridesmaids handle that!
Your friends and family are there on your wedding day to celebrate you and want to make it as perfect as possible. So, be sure to let them help! Since I only slept maybe two hours the night before, my bridesmaids were amazing to get me a hot chocolate with espresso in it while I was getting my hair done. They were also the ones to steam my dress and veil because I had forgotten to do it.
We also hired a day of coordinator that took care of setting up a lot of our decor, which made things very easy for us. If you don’t have a coordinator though, delegate these tasks to other family. My dad and uncles even got involved hanging string lights for our dance floor. Relying on my people allowed me to relax in the moments leading up to the wedding making the day really stress-free.
Hire a Wedding Day-Of Coordinator
There are various types of coordinators from people that plan everything to those that just come in during the last month or day-of. I strongly recommend getting a day-of coordinator. Their job is to take care of every little thing that might go wrong on your wedding day so you don’t have to worry about it. They will help with set up and clean up and will keep your timeline on track. If they are good at their job, you likely won’t even know that there ever was a problem since they will just handle it.
We worked with the fabulous Michelle at Party Envy and I could not have gotten through the day without her. Leading up to our wedding, she participated in numerous zoom calls with us and our venue making sure that every detail was accounted for. She offered great recommendations and really helped us bring our wedding vision to life. The worst thing that went wrong on my wedding day was a pesky fake eyelash that wouldn’t stay on. Thanks to Michelle, she tracked down eyelash glue and fixed it for me before the ceremony even started.
If you want to make the day of your wedding as relaxing and hands off as possible, budget for a coordinator. You will not regret it.
Create a Timeline by Starting Backwards
The best way to start your wedding day timeline is to start by scheduling things backwards. Your venue likely dictates when your party has to stop so start with that time. Then, subtract 2-3 hours for dancing and an hour for eating dinner. Perhaps you want a cocktail hour or time to take larger group photos so add in another hour or so for that. From there, subtract time for your ceremony, potentially a first look, and hair & make-up.
Ask your photographer and hairstylist how much time they need to help you get a sense of how much time to budget. We choose to get our hair and make-up done off site with the photographer only joining us back at the house. So, we made sure to build in some time for getting ready shots. Work with your photographer and they will help you adjust your schedule to decide on the time you need to be ready to go.
Hair & Make Up
First decide how many people are getting their hair and make-up done. For our wedding, my stepdaughter and I got our hair and make-up done, but my bridesmaids chose to do their own. Once you know how many people need to be made up, ask your hairstylist and make-up artist how much time they need. You will likely need this information when you book them anyways so they can decide if they need an assistant.
No matter how many people are in your bridal party, always start with yourself! I know this is contrary to what you might think, as you likely want your hair and make-up to be the most fresh. However, if they are crunched for time and rushing, you don’t want to be the person that they short change. Make sure you have enough time to get your hair and make-up exactly how you want. Scheduling a hair & make-up trial prior to your wedding day will help speed this process along.
Hot Tip: Make sure to wear a button down shirt so you do not ruin your hair and make-up trying to get your shirt over your head.
Consider Travel Time
As I mentioned, we had to go off-site to get our hair and make-up done. Be sure to add in travel time when creating your wedding day timeline. Give yourself more time than you think just to account for traffic or weather.
Additionally, work out any travel logistics the day before so everyone knows where they need to go. We had a lot of coordinating between the rental houses where we were getting ready and making sure we all got to the venue. We were also making sure our kids got to where they were spending the night and needed to coordinate to have a car available for us to take home. It was a lot! Obviously, you can eliminate some of this coordination if you hire a limousine or party bus.
There are a lot of benefits to doing a first look where the groom sees the bride for the first time prior to the ceremony. A wedding is supposed to be celebrating your coming together as a couple, so why would you want to spend more than half your day apart? Having a first look gets all the nervous jitters out of the way and then you get to just relax and be together. Many people also use this time to say some private vows together to avoid having to say them in front of a bunch of people.
The biggest benefit of doing a first look is being able to knock out a lot of photos prior to the ceremony. You can get your couple portraits but can also take a lot of family photos. This allows you to relax and mingle with your guests during cocktail hour instead of being tied up with photos.
Cocktail hours certainly aren’t necessary but they can be great for a few reasons. First off, we had a dry wedding and still had a “cocktail” hour so don’t feel like you need to skip this if you don’t plan on drinking. Because we had already done a first look, we instead used this time to mingle with our guests and eat food. If you didn’t do a first look, then cocktail hour is an ideal time to knock out some group photos. Just be aware of the time though as the last thing you want to do is leave your guests waiting.
The night will likely pass by very quickly so it is important to steal away moments with your partner whenever you can. Immediately after our ceremony, our coordinator assembled a plate of hors d’oeuvres that were waiting for us in a private dressing area. There, we got a few minutes as a newly married couple just to laugh and enjoy being together without anyone else around.
Our photographer also made sure to schedule in some sunset photos where we got to step away from all the dancing. We got to walk along the beach while we heard music playing and our guests having a great time in the background.
Probably our top moment of the day (besides saying I do) was getting to share in a private last dance. After all of our guests had gone, we coordinated with our DJ to play one last song for us. This was a final moment with twinkling lights all around us just soaking in everything that had happened that day. It was the perfect way to end the night.
This is the rough schedule that we used for our wedding. We were married at a resort so nothing was too far away other than hair & make-up. My bridesmaids had opted to do their own hair and make-up, so that also drastically cut down on our getting ready time.
- 11:00am – Hair & make-up
- 2pm – Photographer gets pre-ceremony shots
- 2:30pm – Photographer gets detail shots before bride/groom gets ready
- 3:00-4:00pm – Pre-ceremony candid shots, getting ready, etc.
- 4:00-5:00pm – First look; family & bridal party portraits
- 5:00-5:30pm – Ceremony
- 5:30pm-6:30pm – Large group photos & cocktail hour
- 6:30pm – First dance & parent dances
- 6:45pm-7:45pm – Dinner & toasts
- 7:45pm-10:00pm – Party time!
Wedding Photography Credit: Asheville Wedding Photography