Short answer: It's the one thing you can do to help ensure your celebration goes off without a hitch.

By Lauren Katims
December 13, 2019

You've spent months hiring the vendors, choosing the flowers and décor, and generally figuring out how to make all the details of your wedding day flow together flawlessly. But how can you be sure that everyone is on the same page when the big day actually arrives? So much of the wedding is dependent on the timing of the events—like the caterer relying on the ceremony staying on schedule so that they'll have the hors d'oeuvres warm for cocktail hour—and your celebration can easily turn from a blissful occasion into a stressful one if one of these components throws everything else off course.

Having a master schedule of events, accessible to everyone who has a role in your wedding, is vital to ensuring that your day runs smoothly. Here, three wedding planning professionals tell us why creating a wedding-day schedule should be at the top of your to-do list.

Related: Wedding-Day Timelines

The schedule keeps all parties organized.

No one knows better than the vendors how much time will be needed for each component of the wedding, such as how much time should be allocated for makeup and hair, the first look, serving dinner, and toasts. "(Vendors) do this all the time, so they can give you really good feedback," says Natalie Pinney, owner of Whim Events. She says her team starts contacting other vendors months in advance of an event in order to get everyone on the same page with the schedule.

By the time your wedding day arrives, details might be different than they were on the day you signed your vendor contracts. For example, if you booked a transportation service nine months ago but have since have decided to extend your reception time by an hour, the transportation service will see the change on the timeline and can adjust accordingly. To ensure everyone knows what the plan is, send an initial schedule to confirm with all the vendors two-to-four weeks prior to the event, says Pinney. Then confirm again a week before the wedding.

The schedule acts as a central contact sheet.

Since so many independent vendors will come together on your wedding day, it's helpful that everyone has access to the same information in one central location. Include all the vendors' and key wedding members' phone numbers and emails on the schedule to make communication easy. "We want everyone to be on the same page," says Pinney, referring to everyone onsite, not only those you've been working with prior to the event.

The schedule keeps all duties clear and outlined.

There's no such thing as a schedule that's too detailed, wedding planners agree, as clearly outlining everyone's responsibilities and timing commitments is of the utmost importance. "My timelines have every 5, 10, 15 minutes of the day scheduled," says Mandy Scott, owner of Mandy Scott Events in San Francisco. Having two versions, a more detailed timeline of events for the vendors and a lighter list for the wedding party and family, gets the important information to those who need it. The wedding party doesn't need to know what time the cake is being delivered, but it would be helpful for them to know when it's being cut, says Scott.

The schedule helps avoid pitfalls.

Because each event is dependent on the one before being timely, a wedding planner with a great schedule can adjust accordingly if there is a blip in the schedule. For example, if a reception toast goes 15 minutes longer than expected, the wedding planner can contact the kitchen to hold dressing the salads. If hair and makeup is running behind, the ceremony start time consequently be delayed. "Many people don't understand the impact that that may have down the line," says Scott. With a clear schedule, the wedding planner can coordinate with the vendors and adjust the events later in the timeline to keep the day running smoothly.

The schedule takes the pressure off the bride.

The timeline of events gives your bridesmaids and family a concrete outline, which means they won't feel lost on the wedding day and won't need to look to you for answers. "If you don't have that, you are going to have a lot of people asking you questions the entire day," says Renny Pedersen, owner and creative director of Bliss Wedding & Events in Chicago, whose timelines sometimes run 15-20 pages.

Gather as much information as you can before the event, says Pedersen, and include it in your schedule. Visit the venue, ask for the names and contact information of any people you haven't met who will be involved on the day, the delivery time for welcome bags, parking information, and high traffic times coming into the city, so you can prepare and have a plan for people who will be late. If all these answers are communicated beforehand, there will be less questions on the wedding day.

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