Anatomy of a Wedding Day: Tips for Organizing the Day’s Events
Want to know the secret to a stress-free wedding? A timeline of events! In creating this, however, a bride may feel the weight of having to pull all the details together to develop a seamless outline. And that’s where the assistance of a wedding coordinator comes into play!
Now, the key makeup to a successful timeline is organization and strategy. At about 6 weeks out from a client’s wedding day, I typically start to finalize the details—from reaching out to vendors, to confirming payments, arrival times, and more. With those details, I will craft a detailed schedule for the items that day and pass out to all vendors necessary to ensure everything remains on schedule. Tip: it’s also nice to share with those in your wedding party so that everyone is in the loop and not coming and going during their important duties (hair and makeup, toasts).
Keep in mind, the schedule for the day is simply an outline. But, the goal of this outline is to allow you to enjoy the fun-filled activities of the entire day—getting ready, marrying your best friend, dancing the night away with family and friends, throwing back the last drops of champagne, and leaving the venue as newlyweds to begin this next exciting chapter of your life together!
So, in order to craft the most realistic timeline possible for your special day, we're sharing our top four tips to help you keep calm and party on.
1. Ask vendors questions to successfully establish an outline of events.
As a bride, you get into the nitty-gritty of each and every single detail, from the font and colors on your wedding signage to who your wild Great Aunt Rita is going to be sitting with during the reception. In doing so, you might forget to ask your vendors very important questions in the days leading up to your event to help your wedding coordinator develop a detailed timeline. Consider asking your photographer, florist, caterer, and other vendors, the following:
Can you provide the contact information for the best person I could reach if any issue arises on my wedding day in which I would need to speak with you?
What time can everyone begin setting up? *This is a specific question to ask your venue.
What time will you be arriving on the day-of?
Who will be providing specific items (ex. Vases, signage, ribbon, altar arch, etc.)? The bride or the vendor?
How long do you anticipate the ceremony lasting? *This is a specific question to ask your officiant.
What time will you conclude for the evening?
Are all final payments to be made on or before the day of our event? If not on the day-of, how many days prior?
Is there any additional information you need me to provide in order to ensure our wedding day goes as smooth as possible?
2. Don’t forget to incorporate time for unfamiliar must-haves.
After having grilled your vendors for the answers to your questions in prep for your wedding day, you may be wondering if there’s anything you could have possibly left out when thinking about your day-of timeline. The answer is, YES! During touch base meetings with our brides, we get to asking them questions about unfamiliar details and they oftentimes didn’t have those things on their immediate radar. Here are just a few of the important timeline must-haves that may catch brides off-guard and say, “Oh, wow! I haven’t even thought about that being a component of the timeline yet.”
Last-minute wedding touches: Does the wedding party have their boutonnieres, corsages, flower girl accessories...? Be sure to add an extra 10 minutes to the timeline to factor in these crucial details before getting lined up to walk down the aisle.
Travel time from the ceremony to the party: If your ceremony location is different than your reception, be sure to account for travel time, adding an extra 15 minutes to the known duration of driving time. From traffic, to a bridesmaid needing to stop to use the restroom, many things can happen that potentially affect the schedule.
Mixing and mingling with your guests: Will you choose to greet all (or almost all) of your guests individually? Or will guests be escorted out of the ceremony and head directly to the cocktail hour?
Cocktail hour & after-ceremony portraits: Will there be a cocktail hour or a place designated for guests to retreat to while the wedding party has portraits taken? Be sure to also ask your photographer how long portraits should take, and ensure that your timing matches up with the duration of the cocktail hour.
Battle the bustling of the wedding gown: Once photographs have been taken and it is time to party, make sure to have a few people designated to help bustle your dress. It is also helpful to have someone from the wedding party (mother, maid of honor, etc.) go with you to your final fitting to understand how to do the bustling. It can be very complicated, depending on the style of the dress, and may cut into your time of making your grand entrance as husband and wife!
Blessing of the food: Will you prefer to have this before guests are released to the buffet line or a plated dinner is served? If so, who will be handling that? This could be your father, father-in-law, pastor, etc.
Reception details for an unforgettable celebration: Will you be incorporating any fun events during your reception, such as the garter toss, bouquet toss, dollar dance, anniversary dance, special exit? Make sure to coordinate the timing on those events with your entertainment vendor, whether that be a DJ or band. For example, one of our brides hired a DJ who does a group photo trick. There was a scheduled time for this to get everyone out on the dance floor before the party started, so the timing of this also needed to be coordinated with her photographer.
Collection of the goods as the evening’s celebration winds down: What items are important to collect at the end of the night? Who will be designated to do that? What time should this process take place? Think of this time as an opportunity to gather gifts, cards, bouquets and other floral arrangements, rentals, and more. It definitely saves you and your family some time if you need to have the space cleaned up that evening or the morning after!
3. Remember your guests!
From the invites to the wedding day signage, you’ll be able to help keep your guests informed and the day organized. The “invite” time is the time you’ve listed on your invitations, so be prepared for guests to start showing up about a half an hour before this. That is, if they’re punctual. ;) And in creating wedding day signage—from ceremony programs to a creative outline at the entrance to your venue—your family and friends will appreciate you thinking about them and letting them know what to expect for the evening.
4. Go with the flow when it comes to unexpected situations that arise on the day-of.
While putting weeks and months of your time into wedding planning, you think you’ve done your duty preparing for any situation that could possibly arise. However, maybe there are a few things you haven’t quite thought of just yet. There are always some difficult-to-anticipate situations, and that’s what the McKenzie Phillips Events team is here for—to give you the heads up.
Whether it be the weather, a wedding party member gone AWOL, an unreachable (or worse, a no-show) vendor...there really is no "easy" way of planning for these things. The key, however, is to always have a backup plan to make stressful situations, well, less stressful, and just remember that at the end of the day, everything will work out beautifully.
As a wedding coordinator, we’re trained to roll with the punches and be prepared for any unexpected situation to come our way. Our minds are already thinking of a backup plan before something ever happens, allowing us to fix the problem many times without anyone ever noticing so you can just enjoy your special day and celebrate being newlyweds!
So, are you ready to have a stress-free wedding day? Contact the McKenzie Phillips Events team today—we’ll create a personalized, detailed timeline for you to help you make every second count!