When planning your wedding in Chicago, it’s important to have a detailed timeline. This not only serves as a roadmap of your wedding day, but includes logistics and important details that help your wedding vendors work effectively. The average timeline we create for our clients is around 16-18 pages long. This lengthy document ensures that wedding days run smoothly and efficiently. Having planned hundreds of events, our Chicago wedding planners have compiled some of the small, but important, details couples often overlook.
The 10 Most Overlooked Items We Include on Every Timeline
Wedding Planning Tip #1: Add important security, safety and communication details
At the top of every timeline we note the locations for defibrillators and fire extinguishers as well as the direct phone number for the hotel/venue security staff and location of the nearest hospital. If there is a WIFI password, we will include it in this section as well. Safety is a priority for our wedding planners. Before every event, we send out a quick questionnaire requesting emergency contact information for both vendors and wedding party members alike
Planning Tip #2: Indicate parking, roadway and loading dock information.
Abbreviated versions of the timeline go out to wedding party members and the wedding vendor team. We always let them know the parking situation at each location (rehearsal dinner, getting-ready locations, post-wedding brunch, etc.). Our team also researches local events to see if there will be any road closures that make getting to your locations difficult. As Chicago wedding planners we also know to check the bridge lift schedule as those times can negatively impact a wedding timeline if not accounted for in the pre-planning phase
Chicago Wedding Planning Tip #3: Note who has the rings and who will bring them to the ceremony.
The timeline details let the photographer know who is in possession of the wedding rings so they can be photographed. We also like to include who is actually responsible for taking the rings to the ceremony site so they don’t get left behind.
Wedding Planning Tip #4: Transition time
One would think that the transition from “getting-ready” time to heading off to the ceremony would be fairly straight forward. Having more than a hundred weddings under our belts, we can tell you that is far from the truth. We always include how long it takes to walk to a first- look location or to an awaiting shuttle. While it may seem excessive to allow 15 minutes for an elevator ride to the hotel lobby; we can tell you the delay is real. On a busy weekend in the Windy City (like 4th of July or Labor Day), our Chicago wedding planners know there is always a lengthy wait for elevators because hotels are at full capacity.
Additionally, we ask the venues if there are any other wedding room blocks staying at the hotel. Likewise, if there are any other large events taking place on the premises. Typically, we find that other wedding parties are running on a similar schedule.
Planning Tip #5: Private time for the newlyweds following the ceremony
“Yichud” is a ritual followed by the Jewish faith whereby the couple has private time together immediately after the ceremony. We love this ritual and recommend all our couples take some time for themselves. Having 10-15 minutes alone before joining guests at cocktail hour, gives you a much-needed breather away from cameras and well-wishers.
Chances are if you weren’t hungry prior to the ceremony, you’re probably ravishing by now. We always request that the catering team have a plate of appetizers, water and favorite beverage for our couples. As the private time wraps up, our team will use this time to bustle the bride’s dress if needed.
Chicago Wedding Planning Tip #6: Save time for a first reveal of your reception space
We love allowing for overview photos and a couple’s first reveal of their reception space. Shortly before guests are allowed into the reception, our timeline requests all venue, catering and band/DJ members to step out of the room. This allows the photographer and videographer to capture some great overview photos without staff in the background.
Additionally, our team goes in and ensures that the head table placesettings and chairs are perfectly lined-up for some stunning detail photos. (As wedding planners, our biggest pet peeve is seeing social media photos of a gorgeous table with chairs all askew.) We will also designate which guest tables the photographer should shoot. Often, we will temporarily remove extra items like salt and pepper shakers as well as a place setting or two. This keeps he photographed table from looking too crowded.
One of our favorite moments of the day…
Once those shots are done, we bring in the newlyweds for a first look at their space. After months of planning, they finally get to see the space they have only been able to visualize. It’s so much fun to see their expressions of excitement and wonder.
Wedding Planning Tip #7: Timing for Sunset
Sunset is one of the first things that gets plugged where we’re developing our client timelines. While summer offers plenty of daylight, late-Fall and Winter offer fewer hours to capture outdoor photos. Once we have this time, we work backwards to figure out scheduling for first-look and wedding party photos. Certain religions also require couples to marry before sunset, so this is important information to note. Even at the peak of summer solstice, it’s nice to know the “Golden Hour” or “Blue Hour” period. You can then schedule 10 minutes to sneak away and capture those perfect, pink-tinged photos.
Planning Tip #8: Anniversary Layer Instructions
Cake-cutting time always includes instructions to either serve or save the top layer for the newlywed’s first anniversary. Other instructions include the use of their own cake knife and server or if the venue/caterer will provide. If you would like them to provide these items, make sure you have this pre-arranged. (This is a great detail to go over during your final venue walk-through).
Tip #9: Vendor mealtime
Be sure your timeline includes the designated time for your wedding team to take a quick dinner break. Since their dinner is often served in a separate space; pick a time when the photographer can safely be away from the main reception room. You don’t want to miss capturing any important moments.
Don’t forget to check if any of your vendors have allergies or dietary restrictions. While we communicate this information ahead of time to the catering staff. We also include vendor meal counts and allergy information in this section of the timeline so the vendors can easily see that we have taken their needs into consideration.
Wedding Planning Tip #10: Event Strike Details
The timeline not only indicates when the event concludes but how much time vendors have for breakdown. Most venues allow for a 1-hour clean-up. You may be charge overtime if the space is not cleared within a certain timeframe. Be sure to convey this information to your wedding pros and alert your venue should more time be needed.
This section of our schedule also outlines the couple’s personal items and where our staff should bring them at the end of the night. This includes items such as the guest book, cards, gifts, bouquet, cake topper, etc. Some of these items may get relegated to a parent’s car or hotel room and others may go to the couple’s suite. Post-wedding day, our couples don’t have to wonder about the whereabouts of their belongings because it’s all been detailed in the timeline.
Some final suggestions from our Chicago wedding planners
As a final note, its important to not overwhelm your wedding vendors with too much detail. We provide each vendor with a filtered timeline that only contains the information they need. Your make-up artist could care less when the band loads-in. The florist, on the other hand, will need the band’s load-in time if they are sharing a loading dock or fright elevator with the band’s set-up crew.