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PRO TIP: Timeline Management

Hosting a wedding or private event? Here are some hints on how to pull together a detailed timeline that will keep the good times going!

We have all likely been to some kind of organized event. It could be a wedding, a concert, a meeting, awards ceremony, fundraiser, birthday party -- any occasion. I would also include a conference or a travel program like a cruise ship for that matter. There is a lot to consider in timing and managing an event from load in, to the vendors, the guests, and through the program all the way to load out. These organized events go over best when there is a plan (or sometimes a method to the madness).

Planning out the details and the timeline prior is like practicing, and we know that practicing helps in making [it] perfect! The more we go over a detailed timeline and discuss it with our event team, the more we will feel comfortable and confident in our overall event flow. When I plan my events with Penny Haas, LLC, I tell my direct contacts that we plan from A to Z; 1, 2, 3... so that we can use any brain power or energy to assist better on site.

A major part of planning out the event day(s) is creating a timeline of the event and having a BIG bird's eye view of HOW it all comes together. Clients will often have an idea of when they want the event to happen -- Guest Arrival and Cocktails at 6pm, Dinner at 7pm. GREAT! But what the planner (ahem!) can help the client with is figuring out what happens before, during, and after those set times. To do so, a planner or event host will want to curate a run of show with a few major considerations.

Who Is Hired For The Event?

What vendors are booked for the event? Is there a photographer or maybe a live performance from a band? Is there a catering component? The vendors provide some building blocks for our timeline. As a planner, it is important to read over each vendor contract or scope of work to understand expectations and arrivals. The contracts most likely will line out if that photographer is hired for 8 hours or 10 hours, if the band needs a sound check 2 hours prior to guest arrival, or if the caterer has a specific food service time for buffets. The vendor contracts will help create the timeline for the set up and arrivals, as well as the departure. It is important to note that this is a collaboration and all vendors will be working together, but some contracts may note parameters to stay within (ex: a venue's rental window will determine what time rentals arrive or when a HMUA can get in to begin glam on a wedding party).

What Is The Event?

The nature of the event has an affect on the timeline. Is this a daytime event, brunch, lunch meeting, dinner, or after party? The style of event calls for different rental windows and prep times. Is the event happening midday on a weekday? If so, a meeting planner would want to consider an efficient program at a venue with consideration to parking, accessibility, and any waits (lines, service) so that the guest can get back to their work day or personal day after the event. Would this be an event with a show involved to where we cushion time prior or during an intermission for guests to go to the concession stands? It is important to understand WHAT the event and main goal is in order to build the timeline.

When Is The Event?

The stated event time is really the pinnacle piece to planning out a run of show. If we are having a wedding ceremony at 5:30pm, we will want to leave 30 minutes prior for guest arrival/prelude, and then backtrack to a 4:30pm "ROOM READY" note to make sure everything and everyone is in place about 30 minutes to one hour before the actual event. A planner will want to be aware of any invitations or posted times (flyers, social media posts) so they can monitor both vendor set ups and guest expected arrival times. WHEN the event is happening will also be helpful in creating a timeline because the event time will fall in the middle of the venue rental window with respect to any load in and final load out times.

Where Is The Event?

Ok, have I mentioned that the venue and location is important in creating an event timeline? Ah, yes, because of the contracted rental window! Location is also important because of travel and deliveries. WHERE the event is happening helps in making a timeline in case the planner is calculating transportation pick up / drop off between hotel accommodations and event productions. I have planned and assisted in many events that had multiple sites for ceremony/reception, conferences, and reunions. To understand location and the distance between sites will only be helpful in planning out the overall order of activities.

These tips will be great when putting together a timeline for your next event. Of course we can go into great lengths of constructing a timeline and get down to how many hours hair and make up will be, or how long a plated meal service for 300+ guests takes, or even what the sessions look like for a 3 day conference with 60-90 minute seminars, but we know those conversations will come up in customizing the event production. Keeping focus on the contracted services and communication will help in organizing an event. A great timeline will clearly note the DAY, TIME, ACTIVITY, LOCATION, and VENDOR (or party associated with the task) in order of occurrence. As long as the rental window, venue ready, and guest arrival / departure times are noted in the framework, the puzzle pieces from other partners will come in to give support to the event's success!

Need timeline templates or techniques? Email me for more advice!

Penny Haas

Owner, Lead Planner

Penny Haas, LLC


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