Wedding Day Timeline

While most weddings include the same flow of festivities, the order of these moments might vary depending on your preferences. Below are some suggestions from The Event Planners on how much time to allow for each event, as well as a general order of things to help you plan the perfect wedding day timeline.

1. The Wedding Party Gets Ready

Time: 4-6 hours

Start off your wedding day by giving yourself plenty of time to get ready with your wedding party. Throw on your custom robes, blast a getting-ready playlist, and enjoy the glam process. Allocate 2 hours for bridal hair and make-up.

2. The Bride Gets Dressed

Time: 15 minutes

If you’re wearing a traditional wedding dress, you’ll want to give yourself enough time to get dressed and accessorize.

3. Bridal Portraits

Time: 30 minutes

Now’s the time for your photographer to capture you in your wedding day look. More time with your photographer means plenty of chances to get every single shot you want. During this time the 2nd shooter will normally take the groom’s getting ready photos and portraits too.

4. Photos With Your Wedding Party

Time: 20 minutes

Gather your crew for wedding party photos. This includes the bride with her bridesmaids and the groom with the groomsmen. Don’t forget your parents.

5. First Look And Family Photos

Time: 15 minutes

The first look doesn’t take very long to photograph, so you only need a few minutes.

6. Travel From Getting Ready Location To The Ceremony Venue

Time: 30 minutes

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 enough time to avoid travel mishaps.

7. Music Begins As Guests Start To Arrive

Time: 30 minutes

Having music play as guests arrive will set the mood, and it’ll alleviate any awkward pauses or confusing moments.

8. Ceremony

Time: 1 hour

This time block will vary most among couples. A non-religious wedding ceremony can take just 15-20 minutes, while a religious ceremony will take closer to an hour.

9. Family Photos

Time: 30 minutes

When it comes to family portraits, it’s best to prepare a generous amount of time. Give your photographer and planner a rundown of family dynamics before the wedding. Keep this photo time no longer than 30 minutes.

10. Pre-Drinks

Time: 90 min – 2 hours

Depending on the logistics of your wedding reception, Pre-drinks typically begin immediately following the ceremony, or about 30 minutes later (if there’s travel involved). During this time, the bar will be open and canapés are served. Live music entertainment helps to get guests mingling and in a celebratory mood.

11. Invitation To Dinner

Time: 10 minutes

After the pre-drinks, guests are invited to take their seats for dinner in the main dining room and the MC makes a short welcome speech.

12. Grand Entrance

Time: 10 minutes

Once everyone has found their seats, the couple is formally introduced to wedding guests by the MC. Some couples opt to precede their reception grand entrance with an introduction of wedding party members.

13. Dinner

Time: 1 hour

Typically dinner will last about one hour, depending on the meal-service style you choose for your reception (buffet, family-style, traditional three-course dinner, etc.)

14. Speeches And Toasts

Time: 30 minutes

In between meal courses, wedding-party members are usually invited to say a few words, namely the maid-of-honor, best man, parents, and bridal couple. Encourage toasters to keep their speeches short so that in total it does not take up more than 30 minutes.

15. First Dance

Time: 5 minutes

Keep the energy high by transitioning straight into your first dance with your partner. You can certainly choose to dance for a full song or ask your band or DJ to fade out about two minutes in.

16. Parent Dances

Time: 10-15 minutes

If you’re doing father-daughter and mother-son dances, we recommend doing them after the opening dance.

17. Cake Cutting

Time: 10 minutes

If you have not cut the cake earlier, now is the time. The cake is normally cut before the serving of dessert.

18. Bouquet And Garter Toss

Time: 10 minutes

It’s becoming increasingly common to skip these traditions, so if the bouquet and garter tosses aren’t quite your style, don’t feel compelled to include them in your reception schedule.

19. Last Song

Time: 5 minutes

Next, it’s back to open dancing until the last song, which should be scheduled five minutes before the conclusion of the reception.

20. Grand Exit

Time: 5 minutes

If you’re planning to depart from the reception in high style, schedule a grand exit as your final farewell.

The sample timeline below is based on a one-venue wedding with a ceremony that starts at 16:30.

08:00 Vendors arrive for setup

09:00 Hair and makeup artists arrive and start with the bridal party

12:00 Bride begins hair and makeup

13:00 Photographer arrives and begins shooting getting-ready photos (including the groom)

14:15 Bride gets into her wedding dress

14:30 Bridal portraits and wedding party photos

15:15 First look photos (if applicable)

16:00 Guests and Wedding party arrives at the wedding venue

16:30 Bride walks down the aisle and ceremony commences

17:30 Ceremony ends, signing of the registry and confetti ritual takes place.

Guests ushered to pre-drinks. Family and bridal party stay behind for photos.

18:00 Couple portraits (to end when sunsets for those beautiful “golden hour” shots)

19:00 Guests are seated at the reception

19:10 Welcome by MC

19:15 Couple’s grand entrance. Cutting of the cake (optional).

19:30 Starters served

20:00 Main course served

20:40 Speeches and Toasts (can also be between starters and main course)

21:10 Cutting of the Cake (if not done earlier) and Opening of the Dance Floor

21:30 Dessert served or dessert buffet open

22:00 Bouquet and garter toss (if applicable)

23:50 Last song and couple’s grand exit

00:00 Guests depart

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