6 Common Wedding Timeline Mistakes (+ free timeline download!)

Putting together a wedding day timeline can be a massive task, and a good timeline will be lengthy and include ALL wedding day details and times. Here are the most common timeline mistakes I've seen over the years, and how you can avoid them! Also, at the end of the post you'll be able to sign up for my newsletter and receive my wedding day timeline template right to your email!

1. Not adding enough "buffer" time - especially for hair/makeup and photos

The areas that you are most likely to run behind on on your wedding day are during getting ready (especially if you have a large bridal party or are doing fancy up-dos), and during wedding party/family/bride and groom photos. The best way to avoid having your whole wedding running late is by padding the timeline with extra time, so if things run over -- no problem! And if it stays on schedule, then you just have a little time to chill.

For example, if your hair stylist says to schedule 45 minutes per hair per person, and you have 4 bridesmaids - go ahead and tack on an additional half hour just in case. Things can also get behind during portraits, so be sure to account for extra time especially if you have a large bridal party or a large family. Make sure to give your photographer a complete list of everyone you want to have photos with -- this will keep things running much smoother!

Also, since you'll probably be getting ready all morning/afternoon, don't forget to schedule in time for a quick lunch!!

2. Not considering the flow of the evening

When you think about your wedding day, you need to think about what will "flow" the best from event to event. This can be best explained with an example:

Let's say you want to start off the reception with your first dance, followed by dinner, and then cake cutting. But, the dance floor is not in the same area as the reception tables, so guests would have to gather around, then head to their table for dinner, then get up again for cake, and then back to their seats for toasts. Depending on the venue this could work, but for a smoother flow it's helpful to allow people to stay seated for toasts, then get up for cake and then right into dancing. Of course each wedding is different and certain things work for some and not others, but in general, you'll want to consider how to make the smoothest flow of events throughout the evening, with the least amount of confusion and back and forth. 

3. Not scheduling a few minutes of alone time with your sweetheart

Once the ceremony's over, typically you head right into photos - and then the reception, where you will be constantly bombarded (in the best way) by family and friends. I always suggest to factor in a quick minute after the ceremony to soak up the fact that you just got married (!!!), usually before/after the marriage license signing. Another option is to sneak off later in the evening for golden hour photos (also HIGHLY recommended regardless), and enjoy some alone time! 

4. Leaving all of your photos for after the ceremony

I know I can't convince everyone to do a first look, but if you opt not to see each other until the ceremony, at least get as many photos done beforehand as possible. This include's bride and bridesmaid photos, groom/groomsmen photos, any special photos of the bride and /or groom and parents, siblings, etc. Otherwise, you will keep your guests waiting for an hour to an hour and a half doing all of your wedding party, family, and newlywed photos during the cocktail hour.

If you are open to doing a first look, I HIGHLY recommend it. It is such a sweet moment between just the two of you, and it will help the rest of your evening go much smoother and not keep your guests waiting and waiting. 

5. Expecting things to run perfectly on schedule

There is a very good chance things may fall a bit behind on your wedding day -- and that's okay! It's very common for weddings to run 15-30 minutes behind (or longer), so don't fret if this happens on your big day. As professionals, your coordinator, DJ, and other vendors will work together to get you caught back up and on schedule. Try not to stress too much about it, and just enjoy your day. <3

6. Forgetting to fill people in on your wedding day timeline

One of the best ways to help stay on schedule for your big day and to set yourself up for success is to make sure everyone's on the same page to begin with. Be sure to send your finalized timeline to all of your wedding day vendors, and bring copies to your ceremony rehearsal for your wedding party. 

So, there you have it! 6 wedding timeline mistakes, and how to avoid them. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter to get a sample of my timeline right to your inbox!! This timeline is based on a 5:00 pm ceremony, and includes the basic line items included in each of my timelines, but does not include all of the details and specifics that I would incorporate into an actual wedding day timeline. 

What to Expect at Your Ceremony Rehearsal

After coordinating 50+ ceremony rehearsals, you learn a thing or two about how to run them in the most efficient way. My goal when coordinating a rehearsal is to make things as clear as possible, and to be very thorough and anticipate questions before they're asked. I thought it would be helpful to put together a brief run-down of what to expect at your ceremony rehearsal for my current (and future) brides, and anyone else who wants to know what this whole rehearsal thing looks like. 

I will say, when I first started coordinating weddings over 5 years ago, I was terrified and SO nervous to run the rehearsals! These days I genuinely love them and it allows me to get to know the wedding party and family a bit more before the big day. All of my wedding planning packages include a ceremony rehearsal (which you also might hear me refer to as a run-through) that is typically the day before the wedding, but depending on the venue and any restrictions, it may fall on a different day. 

So, how long will this whole rehearsal thing take?

You should set aside one hour for the ceremony rehearsal, but depending on the size of your wedding party it can definitely be a bit shorter or longer. 30-60 minutes is usually a safe estimate, but I've had them as short as 20 minutes and as long as 1.5 hours. 

Who should be present for the rehearsal?

In a perfect world, we'd have all of the bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, officiant, parents of the bride, parents of the groom, any guests being seated (grandparents, etc), along with the DJ or live musician. I definitely know that isn't always possible and some wedding party members might be getting in to town later, etc. In this case, I just use a family member as a "stand in" so we can still get spacing and everything correct.

I've done plenty of weddings without officiants or DJs/musicians present and it's really no big deal if it's not an option, they are experienced in their jobs and I will touch base with them early on in the wedding day to make sure we're all on the same page. 

Photo by  Catalina Jean

Photo by Catalina Jean

What's the purpose of the rehearsal?

The purpose of the rehearsal is to make sure everyone in the wedding party (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl/ring bearer, immediate family, officiant, etc) knows exactly where to be, what order to walk in, and when. It's also a time to answer questions and make sure everyone is on the same page for the big day. 

Here is a quick run-down of how I coordinate the rehearsal:

  • Once everyone has arrived, I gather them together and introduce myself, and I like to go around and have everyone introduce themselves as well. I make sure everyone knows that I will be the point person for the day of the wedding - and that if there are any questions tomorrow (or whenever the wedding is), to please come to me and not the bride and groom.
  • Next, I get the bride and groom, officiant, bridesmaids, and groomsmen lined up at the ceremony arch/alter/arbor/what-have-you. I go over some notes with the wedding party at this point, including how to hold the bouquets, how groomsmen have their hands, how they angle their bodies, etc.
  • After that, it's time to run through the recessional (the music that the bride and groom exit down the aisle to). 
  • Lastly, I get everyone lined up for the processional (and since we started with everyone lined up at the front, everyone knows exactly where to go). If there are family members being seated, we run through that at this point as well.
  • Depending on how everyone is feeling and the size of the wedding party, I usually run through the recessional and processional 1-2 more times until everyone feels confident.
  • Before I leave, I check to see if anyone has any questions and just make sure everyone is feeling good about things. I also make sure to touch base about who will have the rings on the wedding day, who will have the marriage license, etc. 

Rehearsal + Ceremony Tips!

  • Try to schedule your ceremony rehearsal for the same time as your actual wedding ceremony! This way, you'll see exactly how the light will be and you'll know just what to expect the next day.
  • As mentioned, try to have your entire wedding party, special guests being seated, both sets of parents, officiant, and DJ/musician present, if possible
  • Sometimes it is not possible to do the rehearsal at the actual wedding venue -- and that's okay! I've done plenty of off-site rehearsals, and things still run just fine. Just try to find a park, backyard, or another convenient location for everyone to meet at. The most important thing is that everyone knows the order to walk in, who they're walking with, and so on.
  • If you want to have your officiant run through the ceremony during the rehearsal, he/she totally can, but you can also keep it a surprise for the big day!
  • It's always a good idea to remind the officiant at the rehearsal to try and step out of the way when it's time for the kiss, so that he/she isn't photo bombing all of the kiss photos.
  • Make sure to consider commute and possible run-over time when scheduling the rehearsal dinner -- you won't want to plan a 6:00 pm rehearsal and a 7:00 pm dinner. Shoot for 7:30 instead. 
  • As far as the ceremony goes - you don't have to do the "traditional" sides with bride on the left and groom on the right if you don't want to; I have SO many couples who switch this up for various reasons.
  • Traditionally, the bride's parents sit on the "bride's side," but it's actually a much better view for parents if they sit on the opposite side of their child! 

Alright, are you still with me? I hope this wasn't too much of an info overload! If you have any questions, comments, or even some tips I may have missed, please leave a comment below or email me directly at becky[at]eventcrush[dot]com! If we're currently working together, I'm super excited to coordinate your rehearsal and make sure things run smooth as butter!