Helpful Tips For Your Wedding Day Timeline

Stay on schedule and stress-free on your big day!

Read to the end for a sample timeline!

Timing is so important when it comes to your wedding day! Running late during your wedding can throw your entire day off track and cause confusion with your guests, that's why it's so important to build your timeline in a way that suits you and helps keeps things running smoothly all day. To help you create that perfect timeline and stay stress-free for your big day, here are some helpful tips to help make your day run as smooth as silk!

Before you start creating your timeline, there are a few things you need to think about and questions you'll need to answer about what you want for your wedding day. A few things to consider are...

  • Where will you be getting ready? Is there travel between the getting ready location and the ceremony location?
  • Are you planning on doing a first look or photos before your ceremony?
  • Do you want to do couple's portraits at a specific time i.e. golden hour, the last hour of light before the sun goes down (highly recommended!)
  • How long will your ceremony be? Most ceremonies tend to be around 30 minutes, but some religious ceremonies may take longer.
  • Does your venue have a curfew or any noise restrictions? Your wedding reception will most likely need to be shorter if this is the case. 
  • Will you do a bouquet toss, garter toss, or any other dance floor activities?
  • How long are your vendors contracted to be at your wedding?

Once you have the answers to some of these questions, you're ready to start building your timeline!

1) Think about the logistics of your wedding

You know your wedding is going to be awesome! But, it's also going to be a long day. You might think you don't need to start getting ready too early, but trust me, on your wedding day there is no such thing as too early! I recommend starting your day-of preparations at around 9:00am. I know, I know, that seems a little crazy, but consider that it can take an hour and a half for a bride to get her hair and makeup done! If you have bridesmaids or parents that are also getting their hair and makeup done, starting early is essential! Also consider that if you are doing a first look or photos before your ceremony, you will need to be dressed and ready about 45 minutes to an hour (or sometimes even more) before your ceremony. So yeah, you will not regret getting an early start to your wedding day!

2) On your wedding day - Start Early!

There are going to be a few things that you may forget to account for in your wedding day timeline, such as signing the marriage license, bathroom trips (made infinitely longer in a wedding dress!), budgeting time to eat breakfast in the morning (don't forget this one), etc. If you have a planner or day-of coordinator, they know this and should be able to help you add some cushion time into your big day. If there's transportation involved at any point during your wedding day, make sure to account for delays due to traffic. You'll be glad your added some extra time into your timeline!

3) Add some buffers to your timeline

Unless your ceremony location and your reception location are held at the same place, you will need to budget some time for travel. Consider how much time it will take to travel between locations and don't forget to add additional buffer time for any potential traffic! This is simple, but it's often an overlooked detail in your timeline that can make a big difference on your wedding day!

4) Be mindful of travel time!

It's super important to have all of your vendors informed and on the same page about your wedding day timeline! Sharing your timeline with your venue, photographer, videographer, DJ, etc. As a wedding photographer, I am a vendor for many people's big day. I do my best to make sure that your wedding stays on schedule! Having everyone in the loop about when things are supposed to happen, helps keep your day running smoothly and helps keep you stress-free!

5) Share your timeline with your vendors

9:00am – Hair & makeup begins for bridal party
12:00pm – Lunch delivered to wedding parties
1:00pm – Vendor arrivals begin at venue
2:30pm – 8-hour photography session begins with detail shots
3:00pm – Bridal and bridesmaids portraits begin
3:30pm – Groom and groomsmen arrive at venue, dressed and ready for photos
4:00pm – Couples steal away for a first look
4:30pm – Wedding party photos
5:00pm – Ceremony start time
5:30pm – Ceremony concludes, cocktail hour starts for guests, and family photos start
6:10pm – Guests are invited to the reception space
6:15pm – Grand entrance for wedding party, first dance immediately follows
6:30pm – Welcome toast
6:45pm – Dinner service begins
7:15pm – Champagne is passed and Best Man/Maid of Honor toasts begin
7:30pm – Father-daughter dance / Mother-son dance / or other special dances
7:40pm – Dance floor is open!
8:30pm – Cake cutting/dessert is served
10:55pm – Last dance
11:00pm – Grand exit!

This is a common scenario where the ceremony and the reception are held at the same place. Guests will not need to travel to separate location, so cocktail hour happens right after the ceremony concludes. 

Sample Timeline