The Ultimate Wedding Vendor Timeline for Your Big Day

Florist arranging a floral centerpiece before a wedding

Tiffany Tullgren

September 5, 2023

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As the Event Manager at Rough & Ready Vineyards, I have gained enormous experience in planning and implementing weddings and events, both big and small. Your first step is to choose the professionals for your wedding day so you can create your timeline.
When selecting your professional vendors, ask questions and take notes. For your timeline, you will want to know details such as:

  • What equipment will you be bringing, and is there anything you need the venue to supply?
  • How long will it take to set up and break down?
  • Do you bring backups and have alternate plans for situations that may arise, such as inclement weather?

Once your vendors are selected, and you have their information, you can begin planning your timeline. Free online timeline templates can help with the planning, or you can just outline your timeline in a notebook. There is no right or wrong. Just do what is most comfortable for you.
A caterer puts the finishing touches on the food at an outdoor wedding

Details and Timing on Your Wedding Day

Part of your timeline planning will involve working with your photographer and Venue Manager regarding the details and timing of your wedding day events. They can advise you on how much time you need to ensure smooth transitions and plenty of time for each event to allow for a buffer if one item is taking longer or another is going quickly.
You want to be sure all of your wedding day events that you want to experience and your guests to enjoy are on your timeline. Ensuring you’ve added all events to your timeline will direct your vendors and guests to know where to be and when. As a result, your guests can celebrate with you and not miss any fun activities or memorable moments.
Here is a general timeline of what you can expect on your wedding day:

Two hours before the start of your ceremony

DJ will arrive and complete their ceremony and reception set-ups. That way, they’re ready to play pre-ceremony music half an hour before. When your guests arrive, they can enjoy a welcoming environment!

Two hours before the start of meal service

The caterer will arrive. Some items require more time if they cook onsite and will come accordingly. All of your meal service items will be set up before your ceremony so as not to interrupt the flow of your wedding events.
Kayla of Ashton Imagery photographs a bride and groom at the Rough and Ready Vineyards

A few hours before your ceremony

Your photographer will arrive if you have chosen to have some getting-ready, first-look, or family photos before your ceremony.

Various times before ceremony

All of your specialty vendors will arrive according to when their services are planned.
Take the time to make a detailed timeline and then have a pre-picked, reliable individual in charge of checking in with each vendor as they arrive to ensure they have all they need. Make sure there is contact information for each vendor on the timeline in case a vendor doesn’t show up on time. Your timeline keeper can reach out to them for an estimated time of arrival.

Vendor Etiquette

Many brides and grooms wonder which vendors they should feed at their wedding reception. You will want to add the vendors providing a service during the reception, such as the photographer, videographer, wedding planner/coordinator, bartender, and DJ.
Once you’ve added these professionals to your dinner service, submit a final headcount to your caterer. Most likely, your florist, makeup artist, baker, and officiant have all departed by the time dinner is served, so there is no need to include them in your vendor meal count.

Tipping Guidelines for Vendors

As with any service gratuity, this is at your discretion. If you want to be sure your vendor knows what an amazing job they did and thank them for going above and beyond for your event, a gratuity or gift is a great way to show them your thanks. Always leave your vendor a review on Google, too. It won’t cost you anything and it will significantly impact their local business!
Below are a few guidelines that are universal and industry-wide. If you are planning a wedding, birthday party, or event, these vendors are the ones you will most likely need to pay attention to when making your gratuities.
Always read through your signed contract with your vendor, as they may have already added gratuity to your total. Typically, this is the case for caterers and their team members.
Be sure to check when booking transportation for you or your guests, as this tip is also usually included in their contract.
Close up photo of a DJ adjusting switches on his panelHow much to tip:

  • Bartenders 15-20% of alcohol total
  • Catering staff 15-20% of food and beverage total
  • Transportation 15-20%
  • Parking valets $1-2 per car
  • Catering/banquet manager $100-300
  • Servers and kitchen staff $20-30 each
  • Chef $50-100

Tipping the vendors on your hair and makeup team is good etiquette. Remember to tip for any deliveries begin made, as well as your officiant. Here are some tipping guidelines for these vendors:

  • Deliveries $5-$50 per delivery personnel (after they complete the delivery)
  • Officiant $50-$100 donation or a gift (given at your rehearsal)
  • Hair & makeup 15-25% of service cost (after services are completed)

Etiquette does not expect you to tip these vendors. However, if they did an excellent job, you might consider tipping:

  • Wedding coordinator/planner 15-20% of the fee or a gift (after the honeymoon)
  • DJ 15-20% of their fee (at the reception)
  • Live musicians $15-50 each (at the reception)
  • Photo booth attendant $25-100 (at the reception)
  • Photographer $50-200 or a gift (at the reception)
  • Videographer $50-200 or a gift (at the reception)

Your Wedding Day Timeline

Having a detailed timeline and planning ahead can take a lot of stress out of your special day. Consider having labeled envelopes with the tips for your vendors made up ahead of time. Enlist one of your bridesmaids or groomsmen to hand out the tips at the end of your event.
Think about printing out your timeline to distribute it to your vendors. As a result, everyone is on the same page and knows when you need them to provide their service.
Plan and prepare ahead of time so you can enjoy your day without any worries!

Tiffany Tullgren

Written by Tiffany Tullgren

As Venue Manager for the Rough & Ready Vineyards, Tiffany has a genuine love and passion for planning and organizing weddings. She shares, “Being able to create memories that will last a lifetime for you and your guests is so rewarding. I enjoy making your dream wedding day come true!” Tiffany specializes in personalizing wedding services for each client and handling stressful event situations with grace.

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