OK, the title of this post is a misnomer. There isn’t ONE best timeline. Every couple and every event is different.
BUT, having a well-thought-out timeline is essential for your day to flow smoothly.
Many wedding venues in Seattle and the area require music to be done at 10 p.m. So a classic Summer wedding here will run 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
If you’re getting married on a Friday, if your venue allows it, I think the best timing is 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. And if you’re getting married on a Sunday, I think 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. is the winner. You really want to start early and end early so guests will stay to the end and not let Monday thoughts creep into their heads.
So here are some ideas and you can tweak accordingly
Ceremony Start Time
I strongly believe in starting as close to the announced time as possible. Ignore those who suggest to you to build in a 15-minute-late start time. Your guests will appreciate it.
Pro Tip: You can save a little time by signing your certificate early.
Pro Tip 2: It is a much greater risk to schedule your cocktail hour too long than too short. You don’t want guests to get bored.
Invite Guests to Sit
The time needed for this can vary a bit depending on your guest count and the complexity of the walk from the cocktail area to the reception area.
Grand Entrance/Welcome from Couple
You can start this by introducing your wedding party or just introduce yourselves. This a great opportunity to personalize and have your MC share more of your story before introducing you.
It’s the best spot for you to welcome your guests and thank them for coming.
Some couples do their first dance at this part of the evening.
You should eat first (that way, you’ll have some time to mingle during the meal.) I have some ideas about fun activities to invite guests to the buffet.
If you have a fun photographer, a popular activity is to have that photographer take your photo with each table, all in the time of one song playing.
Post-dinner, an activity like the shoe game is a great way to refocus guests’ attention after dinner. Then usually cake/toasts or toast/cake depending on the space, the needs of the caterers and what will have the best flow.
First Dance, Parent Dance(s), Anniversary Dance
For your first dance and the parent dances, I strongly recommend that I edit those songs down to 2:00 or 2:15 to preserve the emotional impact of these moments. I can also make a special version of your song that tells your story.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as dancers, try to commit to dancing at least the first few songs. It helps build a dancefloor and allows your photographer and videographer the chance to get some shots of you enjoy yourselves.
For summer weddings, this is also when you’re likely to sneak away for sunset photos.
I think the best time for bouquet and/or garter if you’re doing them is during dancing. And you can certainly just to a bouquet toss by itself if you like the photo.
This is when you want to have all your guests on the dancefloor and have them ROCK OUT one final time. End the event on a memorable high note.
The visual of an exit can surely be enhanced by sparklers, glow sticks, bubbles, ribbons or other props. But it’s still completely effective to have your guests form a tunnel and cheer for you as you go through.