The One Guide You Need To Make Your Wedding Day Timeline Seamless…

A Springtime Malibu Wedding ceremony at Calamigos Ranch, Redwood Room
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Wedding planner, designer, photographer and creative entrepreneur who helps curate epic events and sparks joy for clients through curated photography art. Let's hang and chat!

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My Expert Tips To Create A Seamless Wedding Day Timeline

I’ve created a lot of free resources for couples over the years. For example, how to create a seating chart, how to budget for your wedding, how to word wedding invitations, etc! It’s one of my favorite things to do. To share my knowledge with my couples and even other wedding planners is a wonderful side of my business. One of the biggest parts of my job as a planner is working on the wedding day timeline. It’s not always as easy, because there is a lot to take into account. However, I’ve learned all the tricks to make it seamless. So today, I’m sharing my tips on how to create a wedding day timeline. But that’s not all, I also created a free download that you can get right HERE!

Start With Your Ceremony Time

A Springtime Malibu Wedding ceremony at Calamigos Ranch, Redwood Room, wedding day timeline
Photo by: Sun and Sparrow

This may be surprising but when you first begin to build your wedding timeline, don’t start in the morning hours. The first place I start is the time of your ceremony and then I build out the timeline. From there, add in however long your ceremony will take, and then move to cocktail hour, reception, etc. After you have that nailed down, discuss with your photographer on when they want to start taking photos. Then work your way backwards. Discuss with your glam team their start time in order to be done in time for photos and getting changed. This includes you and your partner both having enough time.

Always Add Extra Time As A Buffer

A music festival themed wedding reception at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, bride and groom first dance
Photo by: Kadi Tobin Photography

I always make sure to include extra padding in my timeline. It helps to avoid stressful situations. For example, if hair and makeup ran long or if the ceremony starts later than the invitation time. And don’t forget to give guests time to travel from one location to the next. Trust me, this will help make the day run like clockwork. The reason I add a buffer is because if things are running late, you don’t want your guests to wait. For ensure dinner isn’t cold, you can cut the cocktail hour short if you need to catch up. Adding in a 10-15 minute buffer here and there can save you from feeling frantic (and guests won’t even know that there’s down time). Honestly, it’s more time for them to mingle and grab a drink!

Check The Time Of Sunset

Sunset wedding photo, coastal beach wedding in Montecito
Photo by: Kelsea Holder Photography

When building your wedding day timeline, check to see when the sun is projected to set. There are multiple websites that will give you an estimate, even if your wedding day is a year in advance. This is extremely helpful for your photographers and videographers. Knowing the time of sunset will help determine your ceremony time and if you want to do a first look. (Fun fact: for those “magic hour” photos, you actually need an hour before sunset!) If sunset is during your ceremony, the good light will be gone, and all your photos will need a flash. And trust me, no one wants that. This is why it’s important to talk to your planner and your photographers.

Weather tip: Additionally, you’ll want to consider the time of year. If it’s going to be hot or cold during part of your wedding, consider adding a/c, fans, heaters and/or scarves for guest comfort.

Limit Speeches

A classic greenhouse wedding reception at Dos Pueblos Orchid Farm, limiting speeches on a wedding day timeline
Photo by: Sisterlee Photography

I get it, you have a list of 15 guests who want to give a speech during your big day. While generous, I encourage you to limit speeches to 4-5 total with a window of 2-3 minutes max. Trust me. I have seen this play out a million times. Friends and family members get understandably emotional during speeches, tell inside jokes and try to be funny. Pick people you trust, give them some guidelines and tell them to keep it heartfelt but to the point. Trust me. Still have multiple people wanting to speak? Offer to do a reading during ceremony, or ask them to speak at the rehearsal dinner the night before. As much as everyone loves you, no one wants to sit through 45 minutes of toasts from your loved ones. Your guests want to party and celebrate!

Pick Your Priorities

A Classic Vineyard Wedding reception at Triunfo Creek Vineyards, bride and groom grand exit on wedding day timeline
Photo by: Dillon Phommasa

Another misstep I often see in timelines, is when a couple jam-packs their wedding day. By nature, a wedding day is going to be busy, and there will inevitably be delays. That is why we add buffers into the timeline. When I see a couple listing multiple dances, guest speeches, cake cutting, and a sparkler send off, I have to honestly say…that’s not going to happen. You simply will not have time and again, no one wants to sit through all of it. I suggest adding blocks of open time, so you can mingle with guests, have a dance (or eat some food!) Only include the most important activities to you and your partner on your wedding day timeline and keep it minimal. The less formalities and the more time celebrate, the more fun you will have and so will your guests. (I’ve seen people leave a wedding early because they are bored and don’t want to keep listening to 20 guests give a toast).

Communicate With Vendors

Union Station Wedding reception, gold white and green table accents, sweetheart table
Photo by: Loie Photography

As your planner, once I draft the timeline together, I review it multiple times with every single vendor. I triple check delivery times, transition times, and any other scheduling issues. Then I tweak the timeline until everything fits. It’s a lot of back and forth, but it’s the best way to ensure everyone is on the same page and that logistically, it will work with each vendor and the space we’re in.

I hope this was helpful to understanding how I approach a wedding day timeline! If you’re ready to build your own seamless timeline, download the template HERE! Contact me here and to start planning your wedding day!

Feathered Arrow Signature Kari Dirksen


Expert Party Planner, Podcaster, and Creative Entrepreneur.

I'm a creative entrepreneur at heart and have been running my business for over 10 years and have planned and executed over 150+ weddings. I'm an expert in this industry and care deeply about my clients and making sure they have the best experience. I just launched a podcast with my work wife, Gabby Pinkerton of Cause We Can Events, called Just Another Biz Podcast! Go check it out!

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