Your master schedule (even if it’s for your eyes only) begins with the pre-ceremony rituals of getting dressed and — if you’re not waiting until after the ceremony — taking photographs. The timing of what has to happen before the ceremony is crucial. Make sure you take into account even seemingly little things, such as when you’ll have time to eat before the ceremony. Putting these items on your master schedule will act as a reminder on a day when time can be on warp speed.
In many hotels, check-in is at 2 or 3 p.m., so the bride should either stay in this room (perhaps with her maid of honor) the night before the wedding or try to negotiate with the hotel for an early check-in. Even couples who are living together often spend the night before the wedding in separate places.
Whether the attendants are getting dressed in a hotel or at someone’s home, always arrange for lunch or tea. They won’t be eating for hours, and the combination of starvation and the first glass of champagne can be explosive. Also, the bride should usually be last to have her hair and makeup done so that she waits the least amount of time “done up” before the ceremony.
Then you have the ceremony itself. For the master schedule, you’re interested in the broad strokes.
Finally, the master schedule segues into the reception, where you want your caterer, band, bartender, and other vendors to know exactly when (at least in theory) you want to eat, dance, and toast. It’s a good idea to send the vendors the details of their duties a week before.
Many couples still prefer not to see each other before the ceremony, though. If you prefer to slip away and have formal portraits taken while the guests are having cocktails, configure your schedule that way.
The do-si-do of the first dance and cut-ins becomes infinitely more complicated if you have myriad sets of parents who don’t speak to each other, widowed parents, or hypersensitive mothers. If the groom’s mother feels she should be first to dance with him — after the bride, hopefully — then do so. If a parent is partnerless, be sure to pair him or her with someone and give them top billing in the dance order. If the entire situation seems too complicated, give up and invite everyone onto the dance floor simultaneously after your first dance.
If you’re having ethnic dancing, such as an Hora or Tarantella, schedule it after the main course to get guests moving again after eating and drinking.
When the guests are seated for the main course, some of the band (those members not required to play subtle background music during the meal)? the photographer, and the videographer should eat as well. Assistants should eat when the others are finished so someone is watching the room for any spontaneous toasts and so on. Arrange with your caterer ahead of time to serve them something appetizing even if it’s not exactly what you serve your guests.
A head waiter should be prepared to choreograph the bouquet toss. Participants should be several yards behind the bride, arranged into a semicircle. If possible, gather participants on a softer surface than a dance floor; competition can be ruthless and people have been known to go down.
The bride stands with her back to the crowd, in a place with no chandeliers or other possible impediments to a high, vigorous fling. To the sounds of a drum roll if possible, the bride bends ever so slightly at the knees and tosses the bouquet over her head, aiming high. If the bouquet collides with the ceiling or other stationary object, the toss results in a foul and she must attempt again.
If you don’t have a critical mass of single friends at the wedding, you may want to simply present the bouquet as a memento to a favorite aunt or other person you want to honor. If you want to keep your bouquet for yourself, make one specifically for the toss.