The majority of us have never planned an event quite like a wedding before. A wedding is a momentous occasion, with a lot of different moving parts and things to keep track of. When the wedding day has finally come, the most important thing to have to ensure things go as planned is a timeline of events. Having a schedule of events will keep things running smoothly and reduce the amount of stress on you, the wedding party and your vendors.
Keep in mind that although this covers many traditional wedding activities, every wedding is unique and this is only meant to serve as an example.
This sample wedding follows a timeline in which the ceremony starts at 5pm.
- 12:00 PM Start hair and makeup for you and your bridesmaids
- 2:00 PM Getting ready pictures begin – feel free to ask your photographer for fun poses as well as candid shots
- 2:30 PM Put on the wedding dress, creating a picture-perfect photo op
- 3:00 PM The first look and couples portraits
- 3:30 PM Pictures with the wedding party, both formal portraits and casual shots
- 4:45 PM Guests are seated for the ceremony
- 5:00 PM Ceremony begins
- 6:00 PM Second round of photos and cocktail reception
- 6:30 PM Grand entrance as newlyweds and your first dance
- 6:45 PM A toast from a parent
- 7:00 PM Dinner is served
- 7:45 PM Toasts from maid of honor and best man
- 8:00 PM Cut the cake
- 8:15 PM Parent dances, then the dance floor is open to guests
- 9:45 PM Last call – lets your guests know that the night is wrapping up
- 10:00 PM Grand exit to the afterparty!
5:00 PM Ceremony begins
6:00 PM Second round of photos and cocktail reception
6:30 PM Grand entrance as newlyweds and your first dance
6:45 PM A toast from a parent
7:00 PM Dinner is served
7:45 PM Toasts from maid of honor and best man
8:00 PM Cut the cake
8:15 PM Parent dances, then the dance floor is open to guests
9:45 PM Last call – lets your guests know that the night is wrapping up
10:00 PM Grand exit to the afterparty!
What Time Should My Wedding Start?
Your wedding invitations will have a start time listed on them, and no matter how hard you try, some of your guests will arrive early and some will arrive late. Therefore, we suggest that you send out invites with a start time 15 minutes before the actual ceremony starting time. This way, any late guests won’t have to awkwardly sneak into their seats as your wedding party is already making their way down the aisle.
Dinner, Toasts and Timing
Wedding toasts are usually done before or during dinner, meaning that you’ll have to coordinate with your photographer and caterer to ensure they’re ready on time. If you plan to have toasts during dinner, make sure the photographer knows so that she can capture the speech and emotions. You may also want to remind the first speaker to tell the guests to continue eating as they speak so that things can move along.
Depending on the style of dinner you’re serving (plated, buffet or family style), you’ll want to account for the time it takes for everyone to be served. It takes about 20 minutes for 100 guests to be served either at a buffet or family style. Plated courses are typically served 45 minutes apart. Take your dining option into consideration when planning out your timeline.
Sunset and Wedding Photos
The time just before sunset is called the golden hour or magic hour in photography, and it makes the entire setting look completely different and absolutely beautiful. Make sure you check the sunset time for your wedding day ahead of time and coordinate with your photographer to ensure you have time allotted for additional photos. If you’re having an afternoon ceremony, then the sunset time may be conveniently in between your ceremony and reception.
This provides the perfect opportunity for a second round of portraits – the lighting will be amazing, and you and your spouse will have the “just married” glow.
When thinking about your wedding day timeline, be sure to allocate plenty of time for photos, travel and traditions. Having that extra wiggle room on your schedule will come in handy should anything go wrong on the big day.
We recommend speaking with your vendors to see how much time they recommend for their respective duties. Remember that your venue coordinator is always a helpful resource and can offer expertise and advice on most wedding day-related things. Most importantly, remember that having a wedding day timeline is just a guideline.
Don’t stress out if things don’t go perfectly on your big day. Stay focused on the happiness and joy of getting married and seeing all your dreams and plans fall into place!