And, an Illustration of an Actual, Realistic Wedding Timeline
Tips for Before the Ceremony
1. Allow yourself plenty of buffer time
When planning your day-of timeline allow for ridiculous amounts of buffer time. Then when things happen on schedule you'll be pleasantly surprised. And when other things run late, you'll have the time built in.
2. Take some personal time in the morning
This might be my number one tip for a truly peaceful wedding day. Allow yourself some meaningful personal time before everything gets going. Don't wake up at 6am and jump right into a makeup appointment (or something). Even if it's just an hour, take it for yourself. Maybe it's a yoga practice, maybe your favourite breakfast, maybe it's writing in a journal, or watching a favourite TV show. Take some time, just you, to remember that it's going to be a beautiful day. It's also some time to reflect on your last moments as a single person.
3. Do getting ready pics
Once things do get going have your photographer there to capture it all. Don't worry about altering your schedule - they are professionals and it's their job to capture your authentic moments. You can relax and get ready knowing that you're already capturing your special day.
4. Accept Help
They want to help you, they really do. Delegate different tasks to trustworthy people and you won't have to worry about getting everything done yourself. Examples: Have people at the venue to supervise / start getting set up, ask a family member to bring you food, have your bridal party arrive with their hair or makeup done and/or dressed.
5. Don't do a first look/photos before the ceremony
This will push your getting ready time way earlier than it needs to be. Enjoy the morning getting ready with supportive people, remember to eat, relish the anticipating and last moments of singledom. Plus hair, makeup and dress can happen later in the morning, which means it won't have to last as long (and you can stress less).
6. Stay at the venue or as close to it as possible
The closer you are to the venue the less you will stress about getting there on time. Stay in the closest possible hotel, at a friend's house or at the venue itself. When it's time for the ceremony you could maybe just take an elevator, walk over or take a quick drive. I can't imagine how stressful it would be trying to get to a venue in Toronto traffic!
Tips for Ceremony Onward
1. Your ceremony will start late. Factor this in and don't stress.
Guests arrive late, traffic is bad, weather is bad, set-up goes over time, the flower girl has a meltdown...all or none of this and more will happen. Just factor in that the ceremony will start half an hour late and be ok with it.
2. Everything will run a little late. Factor this in and don't stress!
Make the schedule for the ceremony onward. Now make a second schedule with everything running half an hour late. Now do it again with everything running an hour late. Somewhere in between these three schedules will be your reality. Be ok with it.
3. Delegate to bridal party
Same as before the ceremony, delegate tasks so you don't have to worry about everything. Examples: give the rings to the best man, the photography shot-list to the MOH, the tips for vendors in labeled envelopes to a bridal party member, have your bridal party bring food and drinks to YOU (if it's a buffet)
4. Be open to spontaneity
Because everything will run some degree of late, and nothing will go 100% perfectly, treat it as an opportunity for spontaneity. Maybe it rains when you planned to do outdoor pictures, so you find a creative way to do indoor pictures instead. Or a steamy kiss in the rain. Be open to moments that you can't plan for, like impromptu toasts. Enjoy the ride.
5. Find a moment - even a moment- for just you and your spouse
Similarly to taking personal time in the morning find a moment for just the two of you. No relatives, no photographers. Sneak off to the bridal suite, a bathroom, outside, anywhere, and bask in the amazing energy that is your wedding day!
If you'd like to read on for an example of a relaxed wedding day timeline, check out what we did, below! It wasn't perfect, and I understand that every couple and wedding is unique. I've included things that "went wrong" and things that went great; my goal is to illustrate a realistic wedding day timeline.
The goal timeline:
"First Dance" & Hora 7:00-7:30
Seated and first speeches 7:45
Dinner and Speeches 8-9:15
Party 9:15 onwards
What We Did, Pre-Ceremony
- Slept in hotel suite alone
- light breakfast alone in the hotel (ended up sitting with grandparents)
10:30am private yoga practice, with a friend who I'd hire
11:30am mom arrived, I took a shower
left at 12:30pm, 1pm got my hair done in a salon and left myself plenty of buffer time. Since we left so much buffer time we finished early and got back to the hotel with lots of time to spare.
2:30pm bridesmaids and photographer to arrive. (I gave my MOH a key to the room the night before). Bridesmaids arrived with their hair done, and they all arrived early.
2:30-4:30pm allowed plenty of time for makeup and getting into dresses. Since the bridesmaids arrived early we had over 2.5hrs to do our makeup, get dressed, hang out and take pictures. Since we had so much buffer time we had a totally impromptu bridesmaids photo shoot in the hotel lobby.
4:30pm bridesmaids and parents went to the venue early to make sure everything is set up
5:15pm my father and I left the hotel 15 minutes before the scheduled ceremony time in a cab. The cab ride was only about 5 mins, we actually had to circle the block as guests were still arriving!
- slept at best man's house, played video games the night before
- groom and best man went out for brunch and hung out in the morning
2pm groomsmen arrived at the venue dressed in their suits. They had plenty of time to set up / supervise set up. Photographer also arrived.
4:30pm-ish groom got changed at the venue
5pm *our groomsmen played music as the guests arrived. Set-up ran late, so they didn't start playing until about 5:15pm.
Once it was time for the ceremony to start they just stopped playing, stood at the Chuppah and were ready to go!
What We Did, Ceremony Onward
- the groomsmen played late. The ceremony started late. Guests arrived late. We had planned for this so it wasn't a big deal.
5:50ish: ceremony was incredible! Things did "go wrong": our flower girl had a meltdown and had to be carried down the aisle by her mom, a mic wasn't turned on and our groomsman had to vamp while we waited for it to be turned on, a mic stand fell (gently) on the organ and depressed one of the keys. Things "go wrong" but it's all part of our story!
6:20ish: guests headed to cocktail hour and we headed to photos
- our MOH was in charge of the shot list/photography schedule. She did an amazing job of keeping everything running smoothly
- we ran overtime taking photos. We had planned for this.
- after the photos we snuck off to the bridal suite for a moment alone. My mom actually brought us glasses of champagne and then left us alone to breathe for a minute!
7:45ish we returned, refreshed, to have our "first dance" (which for us was a "first jam" as we are both musicians and not great dancers)
8ish? I don't even know at this point: the hora was awesome and went way overtime!
8:30ish? dinner started late. We had planned for this. I have no idea how the timeline played out after this.
- our bridal party brought us drinks and food so we didn't have to leave the table
- spontaneous events that took place: the hora lasted much longer than anticipated, but it was so much fun and a big highlight for our guests. Bridal party members surprised us with a song they had rehearsed. We ran outside just before midnight for some night shots with the photographer (unplanned). The band surprised us by playing a third set and staying right until the end!