How to Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline

Having trouble where to start when planning your wedding day? 

A lot of us are not wedding planners by trade, so it’s understandable that trying to plan your wedding can seem stressful or a little overwhelming. We all want things to be seamless and have no conflicts. To create a thought out timeline will help reduce the anxiety of “Holy S#!+, the day is finally here, I have no idea what’s going on and it’s not what I planned” moments.

Not only is a timeline for your wedding day beneficial to you and the guests, but it tremendously helps out the vendors working your event. When everyone is on the same page, this is when the magic happens and you get to enjoy it all.

In my experience, the more planning a couple does, the better the chances of the day being flawless. You know the quote, “nothing is ever perfect”, although that is true, we can get pretty damn close. The best part of planning ahead of time? When your wedding day comes, your only responsibility is to enjoy the moment!

When allocating time for the events throughout the day, be realistic. It’s impossible to teleport from one location to another. (always account travel time to and from each location along with wrangling up the bridal party)

When in doubt, always give some buffer room if need be. Some things to consider when planning out your timeline include:

  • Bride prep (include any champagne popping, matching outfit photos, in this)
  • Groom prep
  • Putting the dress on
  • First looks (if applicable)
  • Vow readings (if applicable)
  • Arrival to ceremony (guests)
  • Arrival to ceremony (bride/groom, bridal party)
  • Family photos
  • Bridal party photos
  • Couple portraits
  • Cocktail hour
  • Guests to be seated at reception
  • Bride and Groom reception arrival
  • Bridal party & bride and groom Intros
  • Cake cutting
  • The first dance
  • Speeches
  • Meals
  • Father/daughter & Mother/son dances
  • Sunset portraits or “magic hour” (my favorite)
  • Dancing
  • Exit

More things to consider when creating your schedule..

Getting Ready

Getting ready can be a long process if you have a larger bridal party. If everyone getting their hair and makeup done at the same time, I would recommend hiring more than one hair stylist and makeup artist. Having multiple people getting ready at the same time will save a bunch of time and keep the energy/vibes going. I suggest having the bride sit to get ready last, this way your hair and makeup are as fresh as possible for the ceremony.

Ask your hair stylist and makeup artist how much time they think they’ll need for your party to get ready. This information can help when communicating with your photographer and videographer for arrival time. Always give yourself some extra time so that getting ready is stress-free.

If the groomsmen is getting ready in a separate location be sure to coordinate with the photographer and videographer, this way we can allocate time or crew to capture you both.

During The Ceremony

When thinking of what time to have your ceremony at, it’s important to consider what time of the year your wedding is taking place. The sun sets at very different times when comparing summer to winter weddings. If you plan on having a summer wedding, I would recommend having the ceremony in the later half of the afternoon, especially for outdoor weddings. Having the ceremony later in the afternoon will generally give us better lighting opportunities for your photos and video. Also, your guests will be more comfortable compared to sitting in the hot sun earlier in the day.

If you’re getting married in winter, I believe it’s best to have the ceremony earlier in the day. Having the ceremony earlier in the day will allow more time to make use of the natural light from the sun (if we plan on going to other locations or outside). If everything for your wedding is happening indoors, there’s not much to worry about when the sun sets then.

How long should you plan to have reception start after the ceremony? It may vary based on if the reception and ceremony are at two different locations, but nonetheless, I think a good idea is to leave anywhere from 1-2 hours between ceremony and reception.

If you’re not sure how long the ceremony should be, talk to your wedding planner or venue coordinator. They can help give you a good idea based on their previous experience. Ceremonies can be unique yet similar at the same time.

Taking Portraits

Do not forget to include portraits in your timeline schedule. On average, family photos after ceremony can take anywhere from 10-20mins, bridal party photos can take anywhere from 15-30mins (more if you have a large bridal party), and bride and groom portraits can take 30-60mins. Every photographer and location are different, but these are good estimated times to allocate when planning.

If you’d like some outdoor photos, I highly recommend having a portrait session during sunset. There is usually a more dramatic vibrance in the sky and the lighting is much better compared to noon. This usually happens during dinner or open dance floor (itinerary depending), it is totally worth sneaking out for 15 minutes.

During the day, we’ll most likely want to find some shade. Oddly enough the sun is not necessarily good for photography. We will position your back to the sun compared to staring straight at it. Facing away from the sun is not only more comfortable, but better lighting on the face.

If you’re interested in taking photos at an offsite location, you should factor in travel time (with traffic). This includes driving, parking, and the time it may take to find a good and uncrowded spot at the location. A good tip is to use Google Maps to see if there are any locations that interest you that are on route to reception, this could save time and give more flexibility for more portraits or chill and relax moments.

During the Reception

Make sure everyone is on the same page, this goes for the bridal party and vendors. There are generally some formalities that happen during the reception, consider having these earlier in the night compared to later.

With having the formalities done at the start of the night, you are able to enjoy the rest of the night without worrying about what time it is or what’s next on the list. This can be a great option especially if you paid for a smaller package and don’t have the photographer/videographer around all night. Plus, who knows what kind of songs the DJ will play or when the dancing will end?

It’s always fun doing any type of ‘send off’ before the night is over. If you plan on doing a ‘sparkler or confetti exit’ for example, discuss this with your photographer and videographer so it fits within your package timeline. We don’t want to miss any important moments!

Do not freak out if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned on your wedding day (you can’t control the weather, right?) It is better to be flexible and hang on loosely. In all reality, a lot of the best moments in your celebration come from improvising and going with the flow.

In the end, we can always make things work with what we got. Just remember to always keep your photographer and any vendor updated if there are any last minute changes.

Leave plenty of buffer space throughout your schedule so that you have time to enjoy yourself and sip champagne. With your wedding timeline completed, you’ll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

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