Planning a wedding whether big or small is hard enough. Now let’s add a pandemic to the equation and it can feel like the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Having a timeline for your big day may be the most important thing you can do to minimize the stress the weekend might bring. . A clear wedding timeline will take away all confusion and scheduling conflicts, and that way everyone on the same page, from the wedding parties to the caterer to the Photographer. Putting things on a timeline will keep everything in check—from the time you open your eyes to when you’re grand entrance at the reception. Make sure you finalize your wedding day timeline no less than a month before your date. This guarantees you enough time to share the details with everyone who needs them.
To help, here are some outlined wedding day timeline blocks to get you started. After that, you'll be ready to create a wedding itinerary that fits your needs perfectly. For a little more help, I’ll share 3 sample wedding day timelines from a few planners that we’ve worked with that can help you with your event. You can follow these schedules to the T, or simply use it as a template to help create your wedding day timeline.
Wait! wait! wait. Now before you make your wedding day timeline, let’s make sure you know what a general wedding day timeline is and how long each activity takes. This is how much time you'll need to make for everything from the first look photos ( if you're doing them) to the first dance. Keep in mind nothing is set in stoned. You can tailor this to fit what is most important to you. Again this is simply to give you an idea of what to expect.
3hours: The wedding party gets ready.
Begin by making sure that you give yourself plenty of time to get ready with your wedding party.
15-20 minutes: Bride gets dressed.
Depending on the dress you chose, make sure you are not rushed while you get dressed and soak up the moment, and also leave time to accessorize. The last thing you want is to feel rushed while slipping into your gorgeous dress.
30-45 minutes: Solo portraits.
Now's the time for your photographer (Shameless plug for you to pick me) to document your wedding day beauty routine and get all the amazing fine art shots you want and need.
20-30 minutes: Photos with your wedding party.
Gather your squad for wedding day pictures. Make sure to not forget any kids or parents or anyone else important to you.
15-20 minutes: First look and photos with the couple.
This actually doesn’t take as long as you might think to photograph, you really only need a few minutes. The rest of the time can be allotted for wedding party photos if you want to capture some before the ceremony. Brides are always shocked at how quickly these pictures go.
20-30 minutes: Wedding party travels from getting ready location to the ceremony venue.
If you're getting ready at your ceremony venue, this isn't a necessary time block. If you will be traveling to the ceremony space, though, give yourself ample time to avoid travel mishaps.
20-30 minutes: Prelude music begins as guests start to arrive.
This is extremely important for your guest, this not only sets the mood it takes away any awkward pauses or confusing moments.
1 hour: Ceremony.
This time block will vary most among couples. Some ceremonies can take 15-20 minutes, while other ceremonies will take closer to an hour (if not more).
30-45 minutes: Family photos.
Make sure you give your photographer and planner a rundown of family dynamics before the wedding. Keep this photo time no longer than 45 minutes to one hour. If you don't catch the 'perfect' photo at this time, don't stress. You have the rest of the evening for more organic photos to take place."
1 hour: Cocktail hour.
Family portraits will still be going on while your guest will be enjoying cocktails and music. This is one of the most important time blocks to focus on, so be sure to touch base with all relevant vendors to have a smooth transition between the ceremony and reception.
10-15 minutes: Reception begins. The new couple is introduced and has their first dance.
After everyone finds their seats, The newly married couple is announced along with the wedding party and that leads to the first dance.
10-15 minutes: Welcome toast.
The hosts traditionally give a welcome speech as the first course is served. Parents can speak during this time, or you can thank everyone for coming g and sharing your special day. Do what feels right for your wedding.
20-30 minutes: The main course is served.
Once the first course is cleared, move to the second.
10-15 minutes: Wedding party speeches.
Make sure everyone has an order when they are giving their speeches. The best man is traditionally the first to speak, followed by the maid of honor. This order, though, is completely up to you.
5-10 minutes: Parent dances.
What a special moment for the parents and kids. This doesn’t last long but this is probably one of the most important parts of the night. (Minus the ceremony of course).
5-10 minutes: Cake cutting ceremony. Dessert served.
After the parent's dance is done it's time to cut a rug. You can also break up the fun by setting aside a few moments to cut your wedding cake. The guest will love it and these photos are always great.
15-20 minutes: Wedding exit.
Get the exit music going and get the camera ready for your big send off. Make it fun with sparklers or fireworks. Or keep it traditional and just walk through a sea of your loved ones. This is your time to enjoy every last moment of your wedding day.
Weekday Wedding Timeline: Rehearsal Dinner, Ceremony, and Brief Reception
These are good for a couple planning a smaller wedding. Since a weekday celebration will be more condensed than a traditional wedding, you can eliminate certain elements like a cocktail hour, dinner service, speeches, and reception games. Doing so will allow you to focus on what's really important: YOU GUYS!
- 12:00 p.m. Wedding party arrives; Hair and makeup team arrive; Photographer arrives
- 1:00 p.m. Family members arrive
- 3:00 p.m. Rentals arrive, setup begins;
- 4:00 p.m. Additional vendors arrive; Setup continues
- 5:00 p.m. Cake is delivered
- 5:30 p.m. Hair and makeup is complete for all; All wedding party members are dressed
- 5:30-5:40 p.m. First, look at photos
- 5:40-6:30 p.m. Wedding party and family portraits
- 6:15 p.m. Officiant, catering team, and reception entertainment arrive
- 6:30 p.m. Couple departs to prepare for the ceremony
- 6:30 p.m. Guests arrive; Prelude music begins
- 6:55 p.m. Planner/Coordinator prepares wedding party
- 7:00 p.m. Ceremony begins
- 7:30 p.m. Ceremony ends; Planners/caterers/wait staff distributes champagne and beverages as the reception begins
- 7:35 p.m. First dance followed by parent dances
- 7:45 p.m. Cut the cake and begin toasts
- 7:50 p.m. Cake is distributed to guests, the entertainment continues
- 9:00 p.m. Reception ends
A Traditional Wedding Weekend Timeline: Rehearsal Dinner, Wedding, and Brunch
A Friday evening rehearsal dinner, a Saturday evening wedding with an early evening start time, and a morning-after Sunday brunch are one of the most common timelines for a wedding.
Thursday: Check-in and setup
- 1:00 p.m. Check-in
Friday: Rehearsal dinner
- 5:00 p.m. Rehearsal begins
- 7:00 p.m. Rehearsal dinner begins
- 10:00 p.m. Rehearsal dinner ends
- 9:00 a.m Hair and makeup arrive on-site
- 12:00 p.m. Hair and makeup prep begins
- 1:00 p.m. Photographer arrives on-site
- 1:45 p.m. Videographer arrives on-site
- 2:15 p.m. Wedding party gets dressed
- 2:40 p.m. Couple first look and photos
- 3:30 p.m. Wedding party and family shots
- 3:30 p.m. Shuttles from hotels begin
- 4:30 p.m. Wedding party arrives on-site
- 4:30 p.m. Ceremony musicians arrive and begin to play
- 5:00 p.m. Wedding invitation start time/DJ or reception band to arrive on-site
- 6:00 p.m. Ceremony ends/cocktails begin
- 7:00 p.m. Cocktails ends and guests are ushered into the reception
- 7:20 p.m. Introduction and first dance—guests asked to join after
- 7:45 p.m. Guests take their seats and the first course is served
- 8:00 p.m. Welcome speech from parents
- 8:10 p.m. the First course cleared and the main course set
- 8:45 p.m. Toasts from maid of honor and best man
- 9:00 p.m. Parent dances
- 10:30 p.m. Cake cutting
- 10:30 p.m. First shuttle leaves for hotels
- 11:30 p.m. Second shuttle leaves for hotels
- 11:00 a.m. Brunch starts
- 1:00 p.m. Brunch ends
Early Afternoon Wedding Weekend Timeline: Rehearsal Dinner, Wedding, and Brunch
f your ceremony starts in the early afternoon, you'll need to prepare for a fast-paced morning-of timeline.
- 10:00 a.m. Mani-pedi/beauty appointments
- 5:00 p.m. Rehearsal begins
- 6:00 p.m. Rehearsal ends
- 5:45 p.m. Shuttle pick-up for rehearsal dinner guests
- 6:30 p.m. Rehearsal dinner
- 9:30 p.m. Shuttle drop off at the hotel for rehearsal dinner guests
- 7:15 a.m. Hair and makeup artists arrive
- 8:00 a.m. Hair and makeup appointment begin
- 9:00 a.m. Food and drinks delivered to the wedding party
- 10:00 a.m. Wedding dress steam and prepped/photographer arrives for getting-ready photos
- 11:15 a.m. Wedding party finishes getting ready
- 11:45 a.m. Bride puts on the dress
- 12:00 p.m. First look with parents
- 12:15 p.m. Wedding party portraits
- 12:30 p.m. Ceremony setup
- 1:30 p.m. Pre-ceremony music begins
- 1:15 p.m. Family photos
- 1:30 p.m. Wedding party departs for the ceremony
- 1:35 p.m. Guests arrive at the ceremony
- 1:50 p.m. Couple arrives with parents at the ceremony
- 2:00 p.m. Ceremony begins
- 3:00 p.m. Ceremony ends
- 3:10 p.m. Transportation for guests from the ceremony to reception
- 3:30 p.m. Couple photos at the ceremony location
- 4:00 p.m. Cocktail hour begins
- 5:30 p.m. Reception begins
- 6:00 p.m. Couple introduction and first dance
- 6:25 p.m. Parent speech
- 6:30 p.m. Dinner first course served
- 6:50 p.m. Best man and maid of honor speeches
- 7:25 p.m. Dinner second course served
- 7:45 p.m. Parent dances
- 8:00 p.m. Dancing begins
- 8:30 p.m. Dessert course served
- 9:30 p.m. Cake cutting
- 11:30 p.m. Reception ends
- 10:00 a.m. Brunch
And there you have it, our hope is this helps give you a better idea of what to expect and this prepares and relaxes you for your big day.