The best way to ensure a seamless wedding day is to plan a detailed and well thought out timeline. This will let everyone know when and where to be at all times so there is no confusion! But creating the timeline can sometimes be a puzzle. Start at your ceremony time and work your way in both directions. To create the perfect wedding day timeline, we’ll start with a ceremony time of 5pm.
9:30am-2:00pm Getting Ready
Let’s pretend you have 5 bridesmaids, plus your mother and yourself, all getting makeup and hair professionally styled. Your artists tell you it will take approximately 30 minutes per person to complete. This gives you 3.5 hours of prep, but also try to give yourself a little bit of buffer for any what-ifs that may arise (bridesmaid oversleeps, makeup artist gets stuck in traffic, etc.)
2:00-2:15pm Photographer arrives for Getting Ready photos
Your photographer should arrive towards the end of your hair and makeup sessions to document the process and any touch ups that might be happening, that way no one is bare faced or has bed head by this point!
2:15-2:30pm Bride gets dressed
This is something to document with your photographer, but also something to make sure to schedule in the timeline. Even if your dress is so simple to slip into, you’ll want photos of your mom, grandma, bridal party and anyone else involved “helping” you! This can be doing up buttons, clasping your necklace, or even fluffing the train.
2:30-3:00pm Solo Portraits
You’ll want portraits of you in your dress, and before the ceremony is the best time to do this! Get any and all shots of each detail from your shoes to your veil, and have fun with it!
3:00-3:30pm Bridal Party Photos
To save time after your ceremony, it’s a great idea to take pictures with the bridal party! Make sure to include your partner’s parents and grandparents and any little ones that might be a party of the ceremony.
3:30-4:15pm First Look and Couple Portraits
While this is a little more modern tradition, a first look is a great way to save time on photos after the ceremony. It also gives you time to focus on each other as a couple since the rest of the day will go by so fast.
4:15-4:45pm Travel to Ceremony Space
You’ll want to leave ample travel time for your entire bridal party to make their way to the ceremony. If the anticipated drive is 15 minute, give yourselves 20-30 just in case!
5:00pm Invitation Start Time
At this point, you are already at the ceremony space and doing last minute prep. Most ceremonies don’t start at the exact time listed on the invitation, but plan to start approximately 15 minutes later to allow for guests who might be a bit late and enough time to settle in their seats.
This timing is all dependent on the type of ceremony you are having. Some ceremonies will be as quick as 15-20 minutes, while others might be an hour. Make sure to take this into consideration for your timeline.
5:45-6:00pm Receiving Line
While a lot of couples are opting out of this wedding tradition, you can definitely add it into your timeline. A recessional line at the back of your ceremony can be a way to snap a quick photo with each guest at your wedding and say hello to everyone before the reception begins.
6:00-7:00pm Bridal Party Photos & Cocktail Hour
While the bridal party has taken many photos before the ceremony, you’ll want to schedule time into your day to take the formal photos after the ceremony as well. This is also when many couples will decide on a cocktail hour as it gives your guests something to do while you and your bridal party are busy.
7:00-7:30pm Travel to Reception & Prepare for Entrance
If your ceremony and reception are all in the same venue, the timing might look a bit different. For this time before the bridal party enters the reception, you can do a quick hair and makeup touch up, have someone grab a quick cocktail or hor d'oeuvre for you to enjoy, and step aside to have your bridesmaids bustle the gown.
7:30-7:15pm Grand Entrance
This is where you’ll be announced as the newly married couple! Many couples will take this opportunity to either thank their guests for attending, cut the wedding cake, or perform their first dance. The important thing is to make the entrance that makes sense for you.
Whether you are having a plated dinner or a buffet, plan a general time for each guest to get their meal and begin eating.
Once everyone has their dinner and is beginning to eat, this is a great time to schedule the toasts. The bridal party, parents and even you and your partner might want to say a few words.
8:00pm-8:15pm Traditional Dances
If you don’t plan to do the first dance with your grand entrance, schedule 10-15 minutes for any of the traditional dances that you want to perform and what order you’d like them to go in (i.e. mother-son, father-daughter). After the last dance, guests should be invited onto the dance floor to join you and get the party started!
9:15-9:30 Wedding Events
This is where you can schedule all of the traditional or not-so traditional events in your reception. Cutting the cake, the bouquet toss, the garter toss, the shoe game, or the dollar dance are all things couples are adding in as a fun moment for their guests. After any and all events you decide, have your DJ or Band invite everyone back onto the dance floor to celebrate and dance the night away!
10:45pm Grand Exit
Whether you plan to retire to your hotel room after a long day, or continue to celebrate with your bridal party at the hotel bar, you’ll want to plan for a grand exit. Whether you have confetti to toss, sparklers to light or some other festive send off, have someone from your bridal party designated to organize guests at the exit for whatever you have planned.
The important thing to remember about your wedding day timeline is that it is yours. Cater it to fit you and your partner’s vision of the big day. And make sure to share it with EVERYONE!