Wondering how to create a wedding day timeline? I got you. I like to work a little backwards when helping you plan your wedding timeline. Follow the steps I have listed out below and don’t be afraid to reach out to me if you have any questions. Remember everyone’s wedding is different (and I’m all for the non traditional) so if you want to completely change up the order of things and don’t know where to start I’m here to help!
To create your wedding timeline, start with the details you already have set in stone.
This is usually your ceremony time and dinner if you’ve already confirmed this with caterers. If these aren’t set in stone yet, then you can either still do it this way or start from the beginning of the day and decide when you want to get ready.
If you don’t have your ceremony time set yet, then follow this link for some tips on when you should based on the lighting.
Start with your ceremony time to create the first half of your wedding day timeline.
I always recommend couples give themselves about 30 minutes of free time before their ceremony. This will allow you to relax and take a breath before your ceremony (either together if you do a first look or separately) instead of feeling the stress of being rushed.
Now take that time and if you’re wanting to do your group photos prior to your ceremony, add about 30 minutes onto your timeline. This is very dependent on how big your family/ friends shot list is but I find this is the average amount of time needed for these photos. If you’re wanting to do bridal party photos in this time, then add on another 30 minutes. Depending on where you want to go for these, you may need to add in travel time.
If you’re doing a first look at the ceremony location, add that in here (give it about 15-20 minutes.. o more if you have the flexibility so you have some time to enjoy with each other).
If you’re getting ready off site, add in travel time here.
I would give yourself about 45-60 minutes of time after your hair and makeup is scheduled to be done. This way you have time to get dressed and relax before leaving for your venue. When booking your hair and makeup team, let them know what time you want everyone to be ready by. Then they can give you a time estimate and figure out when they should start. This estimate is going to be different for everyone. Whether you’re getting your hair and makeup done on location/ off site, how complex your hair and makeup is and how many other people are your party all play a factor in this.
Have your photographer arrive 30 minutes before your hair and makeup is done. This is so we can get some photos of those finishing touches on your makeup and any detail shots you want. I love getting a photo of your dress hanging up so I also need time to find a spot for this before you get into it.
Now that you know what time hair and makeup starts, you can plan your morning with anything else you want to do. Go jump in the lake to wake up, have a big brunch (and I recommend this cause it might be a while until you eat again!!), go fishing, relax on the dock – whatever you want!
Ask your officiant how long your ceremony will be when you create your wedding timeline.
Most have a script and have been doing this long enough that they can give you a rough estimate. This will give you an idea of when everything after your ceremony can start. Give yourself about 5-10 minutes extra after the ceremony end time to allow for all the congratulations from your guests.
Keep in mind if you plan on doing a receiving line these take a longggg time to get through. It also isn’t very common anymore.. I’ve only had about 1-2 weddings do this over the past few years.
Some couples like to opt for a giant group photo with everyone that was there right after the ceremony instead.
If you already have a time set for dinner, you’ll need to work around this when you create your wedding timeline.
If you haven’t already done your group/ family/ bridal party photos prior to the ceremony, then the best time to do those are now. AKA before everyone disperses after the ceremony and it’s really hard to wrangle them all together again. This is honestly the most stressful part of the day lol. Make sure they know this is happening beforehand so they stay in the same area waiting for their turn. Find approximate times for these above in the pre ceremony section.
If you already did these photos, you get to do whatever you want to right now. WOOOOOO!! Go enjoy cocktail hour with your guests, do your couple photos, or run off to the dock with your *official* wife/husband or anything else your heart desires. Give yourself some time to let everything really soak in.
For your couple photos, I have some couples choose to do about 30-45 minutes of photos right after their ceremony and then another 15 minutes during golden hour right before the sun sets. It’s also possible to do all of your couple photos right before sunset, depending on what time dinner is at. If sunset is the same time as dinner, I’d recommend to just run away for 15 minutes so you can still get those photos – you won’t regret it! Click here to find out what time sunset is at on your wedding day.
Dinner & Speeches
If you’re going to have speeches during your reception, I recommend spacing them out between each course of dinner. You can definitely do this however you want, but I find that this is the most typical order of speeches. First course – have your maid of honour and best man speak. Second course – have parents speak. Third course/ dessert is usually when the couple speaks. If you want to make sure these don’t go on too long (and they often do), tell everyone that’s speaking they have a time limit of x amount of time. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya lol.
After dessert, you’ll probably want to get the party started which can be kicked off by your first dance if you haven’t scheduled it already.
I usually recommend to have your photographer stay until about 30 minutes into your dancing/ partying. Unless you have something else you want coverage of afterwards, you’ll be receiving a lot of the same photos. Plus you might not want the photos you get as the night goes on and the drinks keep coming lol.
Some other things to consider including on your timeline during your reception:
- Parent dances
- First Dance
- Cake cutting
- Sparkler photos
- Couple photos using flash outside