Planning a wedding can most definitely prove to be a stressful task for the bride, groom, and everyone in the wedding party. Staying organized by creating a wedding day timeline can really eliminate a lot of that stress leading up to the big day. When the big day finally arrives, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed knowing that your timeline has been set into place. Here are some great tips to follow in order to create an excellent wedding day timeline so you can spend more of this time celebrating, and less time losing your sanity.

First, it’s a good idea to start early. Giving yourself plenty of time to create a rough draft so that you can have ample time to make additions and changes to your plans. Make sure everyone involved in the wedding planning are on the same page. Family and friends who are helping should all be given the details of your plan, as well as any and all wedding staff. They should all be consulted and included in the curation of your timeline. This helps ensure everyone understands what their responsibilities are and when they come into play so that the day goes smoothly.

Start by brainstorming all the parts of your big day. Under each to-do, be sure to include who is involved in that specific task. Once you’re sure you haven’t forgotten anything, start arranging them in order. What is the first thing to do that day? What is the last? Once all the tasks of the day are in order, you can begin writing out the actual timeline.

When you begin writing out your timeline, make it simple and easy for everyone to follow. A time block/slot style is best. It can be difficult to measure the amount of time you’ll need for each time slot. That being said, it’s better to over-estimate than to under-estimate so that no one is scrambling for time at the last minute. Remember, the point of your wedding day timeline is to take the stress out of the equation, not add it by not allowing ample time for tasks to be completed.

You can follow these helpful guidelines to get you going on your own timeline. Of course, you may have additional things to add or change, but this is a good general guide to follow.

Hair/Make-up — You will need to coordinate the timing with your beautician. You will have to take into account your own styling as well as that for each of your bridesmaids. Give your beautician the number of bridesmaids and ask her for an estimation. Add 30 minutes, so you can relax and enjoy this time, instead of stressing and rushing.

Pre-wedding photos — You can decide how much time you want to dedicate to this, but at least 30 minutes is suggested. How many people are to be photographed can determine how much more time you will need to allow for this.

Arrival of Guests — Not everyone will be on time, so leave at least a 30 minute stretch for everyone to arrive and get seated.

Ceremony — Coordinate with the officiant for a time slot estimate on the length of the actual ceremony. Your wedding rehearsal should help you get a good idea of this also.

Reception — Be sure to take into account the distance your guests will travel to get from the ceremony to the reception. You want to be sure to leave plenty of time for everyone to arrive so that no one misses out on dinner and whatever else you may have planned at the beginning of the reception.

The Meal — Make sure to set aside enough time for everyone to finish eating dinner. This can vary depending on what style of meal you’re serving. Buffet? Three courses? The meal should take anywhere from one to two hours to get through.

Speeches — Speeches can be unpredictable. Sometimes they can take longer than expected, and sometimes the opposite. Take into account how many speeches will be given and the expected length of time they will take, then add 15 minutes just in case.

Cake Cutting — The cake cutting is such an iconic moment on your special day! The actual cake cutting doesn’t take long, but dispersing cake to everyone can take up to 30 minutes so be sure to allow at least that long when planning your timeline.

First Dance — Your first dance should in all take 5 to 10 minutes. People will be photographing you and you may need a moment to be emotional.

Party — Now it’s time for everyone to let loose and start dancing, singing karaoke, taking photos, and whatever else you may have planned for your guests. This part of your reception can vary. Some tend to be pretty long, others keep it to about an hour depending on their plans for after the reception.

Reception End — Allow enough time here to say your thank you’s and good-bye’s. Usually your guests will be waiting around to take turns wishing you well prior to leaving.

Now that you have a general idea of how your wedding day timeline should go, start thinking of  how you want your special day to flow. What should you add to this list, or change? Remember to include everyone involved in the planning to ensure everything goes off without a hitch! Enjoy being in the moment of your big day, instead of stressing over the details. You will be happy you put in the extra effort.