How to Plan and Put Together Your Wedding Day Timeline

Hey friends! I know planning a wedding is an exciting and can be an overwhelming journey. One of the most crucial parts of wedding planning is creating a wedding day timeline. This detailed schedule ensures that every part of your big day runs smoothly, allowing you to enjoy each moment without unnecessary stress. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you put together the perfect wedding day timeline.

1. Start with the Ceremony Time

This is what I call the hinge point of your wedding day timeline. Once you have the time and location of the ceremony, you can work backwards and forwards to schedule other events. Consider the type of ceremony you’re having and how long it will take, including any readings, vows, and rituals. For instance, a traditional religious ceremony might take longer than a civil ceremony. I have seen wedding ceremony’s from 10 minutes long, start to finish, to an hour long.

2. Factor in Travel Time

If your ceremony and reception are at different locations, account for travel time between venues. Include a buffer for potential traffic or unexpected delays. This ensures your guests and wedding party can transition smoothly from one place to another.

3. Hair and Makeup

Bridal hair and makeup can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the complexity of the styles and the number of people getting ready. Start this process early enough to accommodate any last-minute adjustments. Aim to be finished with hair and makeup at least an hour before you need to leave for the ceremony, giving you time to get dressed and take some pre-ceremony photos. On average, hair usually takes about 1 hour, and your make up usually takes about an hour.

4. Getting Dressed

Whoever is getting the bride ready, needs to be the one directly before the bride for hair and make-up. This way they are photo ready and can start getting dressed before the bride needs to be getting into her gown. Allocate about 30 to 45 minutes for getting dressed. This includes putting on your gown, accessories, and any final touches. For brides, this is a good time to have some intimate moments with your bridal party or family, which can also make for great photo opportunities.

5. First Look and Photos

Many couples choose to have a “first look” before the ceremony. This private moment not only calms nerves but also allows for some stunning photos. Schedule about 30 minutes for the first look. If you prefer to take all photos post-ceremony, add another 45 minutes to an hour for wedding party and family photos. adjust your timeline accordingly.

6. The Ceremony

Plan for the ceremony to start on time, with a bit of buffer for guests to find their seats. Depending on the length of your ceremony, this could be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or more. Ensure ushers and coordinators are in place to assist guests and keep things running smoothly.
Decide if you will do a receiving line after your wedding. If you decide to greet each guest leaving your ceremony, plan on adding an additional 45 minutes after your ceremony.

7. Family Formals

Directly following your ceremony, you will have your family formals Usually 10 groupings of your family portraits to document everyone. I typically ask my bride and groom’s to put together 5 groupings for each side of their family. For example, Bride and groom with Brides entire side of her family. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Siblings, Parents, and Siblings families. From there you pair them off. Take out your Aunts and Uncles and Cousins, where you are left with Siblings, their families and parents. This way your grandparents are able to leave immediately. Keep in mind elderly guests and small children. They are usually the first to get their portraits taken.

8. Cocktail Hour

Immediately following the Family Formals, guests usually head to the cocktail hour. This gives you and your new spouse time to take any remaining photos and have a brief respite. Cocktail hour typically lasts about an hour but can be extended if needed. Make sure there are enough drinks and appetizers to keep guests entertained.


9. Reception Timeline

The reception is the celebration part of the day, and it includes several key events:
– **Grand Entrance**: Announce the newlyweds and the wedding party as they enter the reception.
– **Cake Cutting**: A traditional moment that can be done before or after dinner. (The new trend is for the cake to be cut directly after the grand march. During the grand march the attention is on you fully. Cutting the cake is a great way to have all of your guests to watch you cut your cake. Also, this gives your servers time to cut up the cake while guests are eating dinner and everyone is free to take dessert as they wish.)
– **Dinner**: Plan for 1 to 2 hours depending on the style of meal (plated, buffet, or family-style).
– **Toasts and Speeches**: Schedule about 20 to 30 minutes for speeches by the best man, maid of honor, and any other significant figures.
– **First Dance**: Often follows after the speeches.
– **Parent Dances**: Dances with parents or anyone super special in your life.
– **Open Dancing**: Once formalities are done, open the dance floor to everyone.

10. End of the Night

Consider how you want to end your night. Whether it’s with a grand exit, a special last dance, or an after-party, ensure you have transportation arranged and a plan for how you and your guests will transition from the reception.

11. Buffer Time

Include some buffer time throughout the day. Weddings rarely run exactly on schedule, so having extra time built in helps to accommodate any delays without causing stress.

## Sample Wedding Day Timeline

Here’s a simplified version of a wedding day timeline to give you an idea:

– 8:00 AM: Hair and makeup begins
– 10:30 AM: Bridesmaids and groomsmen get dressed
– 11:00 AM: Groom gets dressed
– 1:30 PM: First look and photos
– 3:00 PM: Ceremony (30 minutes)
– 3:45 PM: Family Formal Portraits
– 3:30 PM: Cocktail hour
– 4:15 PM: Bridal Party Portraits
– 4:45 PM: Couples Portraits
– 5:30 PM: Grand entrance and first dance
– 5:45 PM: Dinner service begins
– 6:30 PM: Toasts and speeches
– 7:30 PM: Parent dances & Special Dances
– 8:00 PM: Open dancing

Creating a detailed wedding day timeline ensures that everything flows smoothly and allows you to focus on enjoying one of the most important days of your life. Take your time to plan, consult with your vendors, and most importantly, be flexible. This is your day, so make it unforgettable!


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