Ask the Expert: Alicia Caldecott

Last week we introduced the new column “Ask the Expert” and one of our lovely readers commented that they would like to know a bit more on the production and creation of the wedding timeline- thank you Jessica for directing for this week’s post!

I sat down with one of our founding members who also happens to be an event planner, Alicia Caldecott of A Day in May, Event Planning & Design, to discuss the craft of building the perfect timeline and here is what she had to say…

One of the most commonly asked questions from any bride is, “where do I start when building my timeline?”

Many factors influence the timeline of a wedding day and wedding weekend.  I always start by asking my client’s the known parameters that range from their personal preferences to the details defined by their location/venue (beginning and ending rental times) other existing vendor contract, etc.  In all aspects of the planning process one must start “macro” to work “micro.”

For example, many outdoor locations in Northern Michigan have earlier contracted ending times for their events.  Even those events at private residences are subject to ending earlier in the evening as there are township ordinances that prohibit loud music or excess activity past a certain hour in evening due to the surrounding neighbors or observed “quiet hours.”

But to answer your original question Cammie, I start at the “end” time when building a timeline.  When do the guests depart the venue?  How long is your band/DJ scheduled to play?  What time do you want to sit for dinner?

As you know, there are many layers to planning a wedding and copious amounts of logistics that intertwine, how do you keep them all straight?

Planning a wedding can be overwhelming as most people have never done it before.  I recommend breaking the wedding day into a series of events within the scope of the entire day.  In other words your day is broken into segments; perhaps something like this- Ceremony, Cocktail Reception, Dinner Reception and Dancing.  Within each of those segments consider the order of each “event” that has to take place.  For example- once you begin the seating of your guests make sure to allow appropriate migration and transition time.  If your cocktail hour is outside and it’s an idyllic summer day near the water good luck getting guests to move easily!  Consider politely closing down the bar as guests enter for dinner but open the bar near their dining tables to get them to move from one space to the next.  Or, pending the number of courses you are offering with dinner coupled with the desired service, make sure to give your caterer and guests, enough time to finish each course while creating an inviting and flowing dining experience.

A timeline is a chronological order of transitions- how guests move from space to space, where the bride/groom are, what special guests and vendors are doing, etc.  But a timeline should also look beyond the transition itself and highlight the experience along the way- what are the guests seeing/being greeted with as they move from space to space, what is their assumed traffic route, what time are photos for the bride and groom and the proximity of the photo location to the rest of the event, etc.

(It is impossible to outline all the scenarios that effect a timeline make sure your layout and budget are consulted with your desired timeframe.)

If you could give one piece of advice to a bride and groom planning their wedding regarding their timeline what would it be?

Always allow for more time! And no I am not talking about the “wedding time” in which everyone assumes that things are running late because that is not always the case, and it should not be. What I am referring to is your guest (and host, bride, groom) experience.  Our clients love to entertain, they love to celebrate life and they love to engage in purposeful interactions with their guests- albeit a minute conversation thanking someone for traveling to celebrate or spending a drink or two laughing about memories of old.  It is about creating an authentic and real experience during one of life’s most momentous occasions.

Your wedding is a part of life and life is real.  There is no play book, no second chance.  There are no dress rehearsals and no do overs.  By making the investment in hiring the vendors that best uphold your vision and wishes you still have communicate your expectations for execution and the timing of said details.

But on top of all your planning and logistical coordination you will always have an unknown factor… your guests.  Maintaining a captive audience is key to the success of your overall event as well as insuring the success of your timeline.

Thank you Alicia for sharing your insight and thank you Jessica for your comment so we can be purposeful in directing our content to your needs!

Alicia and Cammie at an event in Suttons Bay, MIPhoto: Jen Kroll Photography