Published February 14th, 2012

For your wedding, it’s important to keep to a realistic timeline that allows for every part of the celebration that is important to you. A schedule is your friend — as Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Dillard wrote, “A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.”

First, identify with your partner and anyone else central to the planning what elements of the wedding are priorities: Do you want a long photo shoot or would you prefer to make the photos relatively brief so you can experience all of the cocktail hour? Do you want to maximize the time spent with your guests? Do you want to bust out your best moves with extra time on the dance floor?

Whatever your preferences, figure out your rough timeline before talking to vendors so that the vendors don’t impose their standard timeline on you.

After you and your partner have figured out your basic timeline, one of the most critical things you can do is to assemble a cohesive team that buys in one and all to your schedule. All of your vendors and planners must work together to avoid bottlenecking and the stress and missed experiences that can come with it.

Typically, some of the most important timeline players are the photographer, the caterer, and the bandleader or DJ. These three tend to occupy the largest portions of the day and so really need to work together to make sure your wedding fulfills your wishes. For example, if the photographer knows she has a firm end-time then she can work toward that goal rather than running way over and driving the timeline right off the cliff. It’s also important that the bandleader is flexible. If the celebration falls behind schedule, it’s often the bandleader who has to work with the event planner and caterer to make sure the reception goes according to plan.

Remember: Don’t go ahead with your planning without a timeline in mind.

Then work with your vendors and your venue to make the timeline a reality. Both will make certain recommendations that come from experience and are therefore often helpful but don’t hesitate to ask questions and tweak the template to your specifications. The net that catches your day, to recall Dillard, must be your own.

– Jessika Brooks Brewer, CEO