The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline

Marshall Arts Photography

By Tatiana Kekuna, Simply Charmed Wedding and Events

Creating a perfect timeline for the wedding day is truly the basis for ensuring everything goes as you envisioned. If a wedding were a house, the timeline is the foundation.

Sunset Time

Most couples want outdoor photos for lighting purposes or because of the views of their venue. Knowing the sunset time on the day of your wedding is extremely important in deciding the ceremony time and therefore pictures for your day. If you are getting married in the winter or fall, the ceremony likely needs to be earlier than if you choose a summer date.

The First Look

A first look is the moment before the ceremony for you and your soon-to-be spouse to see each other (usually privately) just prior to walking down the aisle. Deciding on a first look allows you to get formal photos before the ceremony. If you choose to go this route, the sunset time isn’t quite as big of a factor, allowing a bit more flexibility in your timeline. If the wedding is in fall or winter when there’s limited daylight, a first look is usually ideal.

Hair and Makeup

It’s not a secret in our industry that hair and makeup services can take hours on the wedding day, especially if you have a large wedding party. Determining when photos will begin will be imperative for deciding what time hair and makeup services should start. This may also impact cost – staffing may need to be increased, or it’s possible the hair and makeup team will charge extra for having an early morning start time.


A large majority of weddings take place during dinner. Ensuring it isn’t served too early or too late can have a serious impact on guest experience. If the ceremony is around 30 minutes long, you can expect dinner to be around 1.5 hours later. This accounts for cocktail hour and introductions into the reception. If guests are bringing children, this may be more of a prioritized concern. If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, you’ll want to factor in travel time as well. Use a GPS app to determine travel time. Make sure you check it on the same day of the week and wedding start time so it is accurate. It is also recommended to add a cushion in your timeline whenever travel is a factor.

The End Time

Most venues have a designated time that events must conclude. Additionally, there is typically a difference in the timing for the event to end and when the vendors must vacate. Take all of this into consideration as you plan your timeline for the day. The sweet spot for wedding timing is around 6 hours from the start of your ceremony to the end of the night. Any shorter than this, you may feel rushed. Alternatively, going longer, you may lose guests. Or you may not be able to last to the end of your own wedding!

Sample Timeline

NOTE: This is solely for guidance. Refer to your pro vendor team for adjustments.

2:00pm Photographer arrives.

3:00pm First look

4:00pm Couple is hidden/tucked away somewhere with wedding party as guests arrive.

4:30pm Ceremony

5:00pm Cocktail hour

6:00pm Cocktail hour ends and reception begins.

6:10pm Introduction of the couple and wedding party into the reception – formal dances follow

6:15pm Welcome toast/blessing

6:20pm Dinner begins.

7:00pm Speeches

7:15pm Open dance floor

9:50pm Last song

10:00pm End time/getaway

Lean on your vendor team for input on your timeline to make sure the day is exactly as you imagined and that the vendors can deliver their services to the best of their abilities.

Tatiana Sizemore is the owner and lead coordinator/planner of Simply Charmed Weddings and Events. SCWE specializes in everything from full planning to month of/day of management and coordination. Couples interested in learning more about Simply Charmed Weddings and Events should visit