Wedding Day Timeline 101
By Sarah Mitchell with Sarah and Dave Photography
There’s nothing more stressful for a bride on her wedding day than getting off schedule. But how does one plan a wedding day timeline when you’ve never done it before? Ask for input from your wedding coordinator, wedding photographer, DJ, and venue coordinator. They have usually been to more weddings than they care to admit, and have seen countless different wedding day timelines (successful and unsuccessful) and are happy to offer suggestions.
Here’s a sample stress-free timeline:
9:30 a.m. Enjoy a hearty breakfast with your wedding party and close family.
11:30 a.m. Set out all of your wedding and bridal details in one place so you don’t have to search for them later.
12:00 p.m. Schedule your makeup artist.
12:30 p.m. Have your flowers delivered to your getting ready location. While you’re having your hair and makeup done, ask your wedding party to tidy up the room.
12:45 p.m. Schedule your hair stylist.
If your hair and makeup artist or photographer give you an estimate of how much time something will take, trust them. Don’t assume it will just happen to magically take less time.
1:45 p.m. Take time to relax while your photographer captures your bridal details.
2:30 p.m. Have your bridesmaids get dressed while you finish any last hair and makeup touchups
2:40 p.m. Get into your dress. Afterward is a great time to have a quiet moment to yourself while your photographer captures an iconic bridal portrait.
3:00 p.m. First look with parent and/or bridal party.
3:20 p.m. First look as a couple.
3:30 p.m. Couple portraits.
4:00 p.m. Wedding party portraits.
4:30 p.m. Family portraits.
5:00 p.m. Find a place to relax away from guests beginning to arrive while your photographer sets up for the ceremony and captures ceremony details.
5:30 p.m. Ceremony.
6:00 p.m. Cocktail Hour. Ask your caterer to bring a sampler tray out to you, or set aside a sampler tray when you’re getting ready to enter the reception, or even have the sampler tray waiting for you at the sweetheart table.
6:05 p.m. Extended family portrait and full wedding party portrait.
6:20 p.m. Sunset portraits. This is a great time for more romantic and relaxed portraits after your nerves are gone and you’re enjoying your first moments being married.
Take the sun into account. There are lots of apps that will tell you the time the sun will set on any given day. If you are having an outdoor ceremony, especially in the fall, make sure you schedule it to take place before the sun sets. A great rule of thumb is, the first two hours after sunrise and the last two hours before sunset provide the most flattering glow of light of the whole day. Do what you can to schedule any outdoor events on your timeline (outdoor ceremony, portraits, etc.) during these two times of the day. Keep in mind the direction of the sun if planning an outdoor ceremony, and feel free to ask for advice from the venue and your photographer regarding this!
6:45 p.m. Relax for a few moments with your spouse and get your dress bustled while your photographer captures reception details.
7:05 p.m. Allow guests to enter reception room.
7:15 p.m. Reception introductions.
7:20 p.m. First dance.
7:30 p.m. Dinner service, have your coordinator or maid of honor deliver your tips to wedding vendors.
8:15 p.m. Toasts.
8:25 p.m. Parent dances.
8:30 p.m. Anniversary dance.
8:35 p.m. Open up the dance floor.
9:15 p.m. Cake cutting.
9:30 p.m. Bouquet toss.
9:35 p.m. Open up the dance floor again. This is a great time to ask your DJ to announce groups of friends or family that you wanted to get group photos with (but don’t overdo it!)
10:30 p.m. Have your coordinator or trusted family member be in charge of gathering your important things while you’re still around in case they have questions for you.
10:45 p.m. Last dance.
10:50 p.m. Grand exit.
Decide on your priorities and then plan your timeline around those things. Are beautiful creative wedding portraits important to you? Schedule uninterrupted time before your ceremony and at sunset for portraits. Are food and drinks important to you? Get photos done prior to your ceremony and schedule a full sixty minutes for the cocktail hour to enjoy munching and mingling, and then don’t schedule any reception events to happen during dinner. Is getting down on the dance floor important to you? Schedule your reception events to happen at the beginning of your reception so you can let loose without any interruptions for the rest of the night! Use this sample timeline to ensure your day goes off without a hitch!
Photos by Sarah & Dave Photography. Sarah & Dave are a husband and wife wedding photography team capturing love stories through bright, joy-filled, authentic images. While their photography takes them all over the east coast, they’re based right in the heart of the city they adore- in Richmond, Virginia.