How to Make a Wedding Day Timeline
As I meet with soon-to-be brides and grooms, I am hearing that it is really challenging to try to figure out just how to make a day-of timeline. What goes where? How long does each thing take? What things do you have flexibility on? Here are some tips to help you figure out how your day should go, starting from the first part of the day.
To note: One way to do this is to start from the ceremony time and count backward. Also remember to add the travel time between places, as well as what times you have booked and have access to your venue.
Before the Ceremony
Bride’s Hair: 1 hour
Bride’s makeup: 45-60 minutes
Bridesmaids’ hair: 30 min/person
Bridesmaids’ Makeup: 45 min/person
To note: When getting pro hair and makeup for everyone, start with the bridesmaids so that when the photographer arrives, they can take getting ready shots of the bride and the bridesmaids will already be able to go. Does your hair and makeup stylist have an assistant? See how much it is to bring them to cut down on the time needed to get everybody ready.
Additionally, the photographer should arrive about an hour before the bride is ready to go. That gives time to capture details and to capture the last part of the bride getting ready. Make sure you leave time for how long it will take you to get into your dress and to get your veil situated (which should be after you get into your dress).
Are you doing a first look? See here why that is a good idea.
First Look: 15-20 minutes.
This should just be you, your fiance, and the photographer. This gives you a chance to have some breathing room and a small break before the rush of festivities.
Bridal Party Pictures: 45-60 minutes
It is important to note that this depends on the size of your bridal party. But you do want to have enough time to get the pictures done and still be out of sight before the majority of guests arrive. Otherwise, not only are they seeing you in your gown before they are supposed to, but often you will be accosted by well-meaning guests who want to say hi. You won’t be able to get out of sight in time!
Family Pictures: 15-30 minutes, depending on size
These can happen before or right after the ceremony. If there is time, I highly encourage them to be before, that way we can keep the gap between the ceremony and reception as short as possible.
The wedding ceremony is usually about 30 minutes. This gives time for music and special moments while not becoming too long.
Are you doing a receiving line? This will add another 15-20 minutes after your ceremony. Depending on how many guests you have, I highly suggest making time during the reception to visit each table instead!
After the Ceremony
You will want to allocate 30-60 minutes for pictures of just you two after the ceremony. If you need to have family pictures done now, they will take another 15-30 minutes.
If you had a first look, this time can be kept relatively short, depending on what kind of pictures you want. This is often a time to get a little adventurous and go off-site for a short while to get some shots of just the two of you. It gives you guys a few minutes to just be together in newly-married love! It is a lot of fun to just have a chance to snuggle and be in your own world for a little bit.
The reception can be however long you want! Often they are 3-6 hours.
General order of events:
First dance: as you enter the reception (or you can wait until after the meal)
Father/Daughter dance: right after the first dance
Mother/Son dance: right after the father/daughter dance OR at the same time.
Potential time for welcome
Meal/Dinner. This is often where your photographer will take a break. Nobody likes pictures of themselves eating!
Toasts: Starting with the maid of honor, then the best man, then usually the fathers or mothers of each partner. You may want to take the moment to thank your guests for coming and supporting you on your big day!
Cake cutting: While not all the guests may take a slice at this point, the slices should be left on a table or passed out for guests to enjoy at their leisure.
Bouquet and garter toss: This often happens not too long after the cake has been cut. It is a good way to get people out of their seats to get onto the dance floor!
Dancing! Often the DJ will get some music going and everybody will loosen up! This is a great time to visit with those sitting at the tables, as well as getting your groove on.
Farewell: Depending on what your plan is, make sure you have a designated point person if doing something special, such as a sparkler exit. They will need time to get guests moved to the farewell point and to get any bubbles ready or sparklers lit. If you have hired a photographer for a certain length of time and you specifically want this photographed, make sure you have someone designated to keep track of time!