Coordinating a wedding is tough--there are so many moving pieces and vendors that all need to work together. Coordinating your own wedding as a bride is even harder.
So here's some times, that as a pro, I've found the timeline can get thrown off. If you know that these are problem areas in advance, you can try to work in fixes!
Make sure you schedule enough time for you and your bridal party to get ready. Hair and makeup can take awhile, especially if the glam squad is coming to you. They need some time to set up and bring in all their tools. And you'll want some time to relax-sip some mimosas, take the pictures in your cute robes, and still have time to get into your dresses.
The groomsmen usually don't have quite as much to worry about during this time, but make sure they know where they're going and what time they need to be ready!
You have to account for travel time. Even if you're getting married in a small town and it's just down the street. Account for those five minutes and give yourself five minutes extra to load the cars and get into the new location. If you're traveling more than a few blocks, account for traffic. You never know when there might be an accident or construction. Make sure everyone knows where they're going and where to park.
If you're getting a party bus or other form of transportation, make sure that you're planning enough time to get everyone on and off the bus. Even being a few minutes over your scheduled time will result in an additional fee from the transportation company--and often times that has to be paid in cash before they'll let you off.
Build in travel time for your guests as well. If your ceremony is located 10 minutes from the parking lot, either make a note in your invitation or plan to start your ceremony 10 minutes later than your planned time. You may have guests show up at 4:55 expecting to be at your ceremony location, but then they need to walk another 10 minutes to the ceremony site. And you don't want guests walking in during the middle of the ceremony!
The photographers I work with are great about keeping on schedule. They know exactly how long they need for each section of pictures and they stick to it. But, if everyone isn't gathered and on time, that can really throw off your timeline. Make a list of who you want in formal pictures and make sure everyone on that list is aware where they need to be and when. There's nothing worse than getting everyone in place for a picture and then realizing that Uncle Jamie is missing and at the bar.
Entrance and Exit for the Ceremony:
When guests arrive at your ceremony, I ALWAYS suggest having ushers. Even if they're not actually seating your guests, having someone to direct guests to be seated will help cut down on a lot of time. The last thing you want is for your ceremony start time to arrive with guests still standing and talking in the entrance hall. No one ever wants to be the first guest in and they'll be unsure if they can sit anywhere or if you have designated a bride and groom's side if you don't have ushers. If you absolutely don't want ushers, at least post some signage. The bridal party should be hidden away and you may have no idea that guests aren't being seated until it's time to start the ceremony.
If you're going to have guests toss confetti, release balloons, or wave ribbon wands before heading to the reception, make sure to account for time for this. People tend to talk and congregate after the ceremony and may not know what they're supposed to do next. Ask your officiant to make an announcement or your ushers to direct guests after the ceremony. If you're not doing an exit, ask ushers to send guests directly to their cars, especially if you need to take additional pictures or sign the marriage license. If guests see the newlyweds, they'll want to talk and congratulate you.
Love them or hate them, they're a great way to make sure you personally greet and thank every guest. But, they take a lot longer than you might think. If you have 200 guests and every guest takes 10 seconds of your time, the receiving line will take 30+ minutes. And the more people your guests have to talk to, the longer they take.
Moving Guests from Cocktail Hour:
Depending upon your venue and your crowd, this is one of the most major items that throws off a timeline. Most of the time my couples opt for a cocktail hour in a separate space from their dinner reception. It's great because it gives the guests a chance to mingle in a less formal setting. But, depending upon the length, the location, and the crowd, getting them to move to the reception can be difficult. Again, no one wants to be the first guest into a new room. Also, moving guests away from the bar can be hard-everyone always wants one more drink, especially if you're opting for open bar for cocktail hour and cash bar the rest of the night. My suggestion is to make announcements early. If you want everyone seated by 7, ask everyone to get their last drink at 6:40 and open the doors at 6:45. And, if possible, close the bar at cocktail hour at about 6:55 and move the guests to the bar in the reception area. If you announce the guests to move to the reception at 6:55, everyone tends to head to the bar, not the ballroom.
Take Time for Dinner:
Feeding 100, 200, or 300+ people can take a long time. Talk to your caterer about how long they normally see dinner taking for your guest count and service type. A plated dinner that's served in multiple courses takes a lot longer than a buffet. Make sure you schedule enough time, because if dinner runs long and you don't get to your first dances by the scheduled time, your photographer may need to leave before they get all their shots.
Schedule the Details:
Schedule time for the bride to take a bathroom break, retouch her makeup, and bustle her dress. Depending upon the dress, this can be a process! Again, if guest are in the area while you're trying to do this, they start to chat and you can be held up. Try to schedule a time and place that you can take care of everything without having to take time out of your reception.
Be Realistic about Timing:
Your wedding day is going to fly by no matter what. There's so much to fit into a few short hours. But, be realistic about how long each task takes. You'll be so much calmer throughout the day if you're running a few minutes ahead than if you're rushing or running late. And if you're looking for a coordinator to help you manage the timeline, let me know! I'd love to help you plan your wedding day, timeline, and relieve some stress from you!
Next week I'll post some details about what to do if your timeline is thrown off.