Did you know that how you plan your day’s timeline has one of the biggest impacts on whether you enjoy your wedding or not? Of course, there are always crazy aunts or rogue snowstorms in April to cause stress; however, a well-planned timeline is something that you can have control over leading up to your day. Today we talk with Shannon St. Ours of SES Events who is an expert at helping couples create enough space in the day to actually take a deep breath and enjoy this once in a lifetime moment. Shannon shares her tips for coordinating all aspects of your day, including working closely with your vendors, to give you a plan that is as low stress as a wedding can be!
I am the Owner and Lead Planner at SCS Events in Warwick, Rhode Island. We serve New England including New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine. We offer wedding planning – everything from full planning to the day of coordination. So we’re here to serve people that need help finding a venue from really the very beginning and through the whole process as well as the people who just want help when things get closer and they want to avoid the stress!
Let’s just get right into it and talk about timelines! Start with the basics – what is a wedding day timeline?
Sure! A wedding day timeline, or even broader- a wedding weekend timeline – really allows couples to have an idea of what’s happening during their special day. Obviously there’s a million benefits to that and why that’s important, which we’ll go into. But having a timeline really spells out when things are happening which is good for both couples and their vendor teams. Even though it might seem really simple and unnecessary, there are lots of moving parts to a wedding day that help it run smoothly. A timeline helps make sure all of your vendors are on the same page, and understand your expectations. A timeline also ensures nothing is overscheduled. You don’t want to accidentally have your photographer arrive at 11am if you aren’t starting until 5pm, for example.
Where do couples start when they start thinking about the timeline of their day or their weekend?
For the day of the timeline, you really want to have a rough idea from the get go. From the minute you have your venue, you want to know what time your ceremony will start and roughly end. The same with your cocktail hour and reception. Those are the basic pieces that you’ll need to be able to start talking with vendors. Once you know your ceremony time, you can talk with your vendors and work backwards to determine when you need to be ready by, when you might do a first look, and other travel you might have to accommodate for during the day.
Love it. So if someone has an event coordinator like you, obviously you assist them with that. But, if a couple doesn’t have a coordinator, how does a couple figure all of that out?
There’s a lot of logistics, and not everybody has an event planner or wedding planner that can help with this… but you likely do have other vendors. I recommend starting with your venue, they’ll be able to help you lay out the basics of your timeline. They’re the experts on when things can happen at their venue, so ask what your options are (if you have any). Your venue and your photographer are generally the first vendors to be booked. Photographers often help build timelines, too, so don’t be afraid to ask them for assistance, too.
Yes! We help clients build timelines all the time. Can we talk about travel and the impact of that on a wedding day timeline?
Absolutely! That’s a huge consideration. It’s one of the logistics that goes into building a timeline that I think most couples don’t think about. It’s not just about traveling from your ceremony to reception. But what about if you’re getting ready somewhere that is different than your ceremony? Or if you want to do a first look somewhere else, too? Those little 10 to 15 minutes between locations can add up. With traffic or unexpected issues, a 15 minute car ride easily becomes 30 or 45 minutes up the road.
For example, if you’re planning a first look that’s offsite, I would always err on the side of caution and tell everyone to be ready about 10-15 minutes earlier than you might think they’d need to be. Personally, I’d rather have couples and their bridal parties arrive way early because everyone was ready on time (which is really early!) and just be able to relax and kick back with a drink instead of panicking and rushing.
Tell us a little bit about some realistic expectations for timelines when we’re actually at the venue!
First, it’s important to remember that something may go a little off the timeline. That’s normal and to be expected. Even with an event or venue coordinator, we all know that things can run late. So set yourself up with the expectation that things won’t happen down to the minute the way that you planned. And that’s okay! That timeline is just helping us to keep things moving and on track.
Use the timeline to help you decide on the important pieces for your day. It helps your team to know when things happen – like are you doing a receiving line after your ceremony? Are you going somewhere else for portraits? For the reception, think about the dances or special moments you want to include. Again, this helps give everyone a layout for the day and makes sure we didn’t forget anything. This is especially important when it comes to photographers. We want to make sure all of the big moments have been captured before your photographer leaves for the night, so knowing what you want done is key.
Another expectation to have is that your event coordinator may re-arrange things at the moment. If dinner is running long, maybe we’ll bump up the Best Man speech so it’s not missed. Things you may not have even thought about can impact your timeline, so that’s why we’re there to help everything run smoothly. And, if you don’t have an event coordinator, another vendor like your photographer or DJ might help make those calls in the evening.
Let’s go back to transportation for a second. What does that entail and how will it impact your timeline?
Absolutely. So remember that your vendors are the experts and you should absolutely use them to help plan your day smoothly. When you start thinking about hiring transportation, you’ll need to know your timeline (roughly) so they can give you proper estimates for time. You’ll also need to consider exactly how you’re going to transport people. Will it be all in one big bus? Are you going to do separate cars? Having an idea about how you want to approach some of those logistics is key when talking with your transportation company. A good transportation company will be able to help guide your final decisions, too. So don’t panic if you’re not sure the best way to handle it all. They’ll help you!
What suggestions can you give people about not over scheduling their timeline?
That’s a BIG question and an important one. We want couples to enjoy their day and capture as much of it as possible, but it also goes by so quickly. It’s going to be over before you know it, so it’s important to not overschedule yourself. You want to be able to have time to pause – and just breathe… and enjoy being a newly married couple. I think it can be easy to overlook that the day is about YOU in all of the chaos. So I always encourage couples to have a moment to pause, drink something, and look at what’s going on.
When you’re worried about overscheduling, just make sure you think about what needs to be done in the night and leave it in broad terms. What I mean is that, we don’t have to schedule out that your best man gets 2 minutes and Uncle Tim gets 3 minutes to speak. We just need to know that they’re going to happen and approximately where they’ll go during the reception. Don’t think you have to go non-stop the entire day! It’s just not reasonable.
What advice would you give to couples about when to start and finish their timelines in the process of wedding planning?
Absolutely! Okay, so first off – you don’t need to have a perfect timeline right away when you start planning. But, you don’t. You just need a start. Once you have the venue, that’s the time you want to start working on your timeline because they’ll provide your big key times like your ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. About 3-4 weeks before your wedding, you’ll want to have it pretty finalized for your vendors. At that point, your vendors need to finish their logistics for the wedding day. But, you really don’t need it to be “perfect” until about then! And frankly, if you try to finalize it too soon, you’ll just be spinning your wheels because things will keep changing!
What should couples consider when they’re thinking about their timeline?
Focus on what’s most important to them first.
Work backwards from the set items on the timeline, like your ceremony, cocktail hour and reception times. This allows everything to flow a bit better.
Try to avoid overplanning your timeline too far in advance.
What We Discussed
What’s a timeline
How to start your timeline
Does travel impact your timeline
How to avoid overscheduling your timeline
Your timeline’s timeline (when to start and finish your timeline in wedding planning)
Wrap-Up Question: What to consider when thinking about your timeline
Links Mentioned in the Episode
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