Wedding Timeline


How to put together a timeline for your wedding day


The time has come to think about a detailed run sheet to make sure everything on your wedding day will happen smoothly. This can be a little tricky so below I have compiled a few tips and ideas to help you out.


  1. Overview

The day generally starts with several hours of getting ready with your girls in the morning followed by lunch and making your way to the ceremony.

The ceremony is often scheduled between 3 and 4 pm and the reception from around 6pm.

The question is now how will these broad guidelines work for you?


  1. Getting ready

It is very common for the bride and bridesmaids to get up super early and have their hair and make-up done. For large bridal parties with 4 or more bridesmaids, plus mother, mother-in-law, perhaps grandma and flower girls, this can take a long time! However, I am often amazed when this process takes 6-7 hours or even longer to make sure everyone is done in time.

If you have many girls needing to get ready, PLEASE get more than one artist to do this. They may say they can do it alone, and that may be true. But it may get stressful if she is taking longer for one bridesmaid and is running late to get to you. And it means everyone else will just be sitting and waiting around. While this can be fun and relaxing to just enjoy the time with your girls and if that is what you want, absolutely go for it!

However, imagine this: You get up at a nice time to make sure you are rested for the big day ahead. Let’s say 8am. You go and have a nice breakfast with family or your bridesmaids. While the first 2 bridesmaids get started with hair and make-up (2 artists) at 9am, you can take a shower and join them later. Aim for everyone including you to be done by 12.30pm and enjoy some lunch (eat even if you don’t feel hungry!). Then allow an hour to put on your veil, dress, jewellery, perfume etc. and have your photographer take some photos. This often takes longer than you think!

And finally, allow half an hour at least to do absolutely nothing before heading to your ceremony. You will likely be nervous and excited and you should have this time to take some deep breaths, give your mom or dad a hug or calmly look at yourself in the mirror. Trust me, this last half an hour will feel like 1 minute!


  1. Your venue restrictions

Often, your venue will have an earliest start time for your ceremony and a time limit for that, as well as a time limit for your reception. For example, many reception venues limit this to 5 hours in total (e.g. 6pm to 11pm).

These restrictions will give you a framework for writing your timeline.


  1. Photos

Your next best point of call is to discuss with your photographer and videographer (if you have hired one) on their recommendations on timing. They are experts at knowing the best time for your portraits given the afternoon light. Most photographers prefer the late afternoon to early sunset time for the portraits as this light looks most flattering and romantic. This will depend on the time of year.


  1. Allow plenty of time for everything

While a lot of weddings might start at 4pm and end at 11pm due to venue restrictions or other reasons, my biggest tip I can give is to allow plenty of time for your wedding day. After all, you have been planning this special day for months or even years, and time will go so quick, that you actually want to enjoy the day, too. All too often brides say that everything was over in a heartbeat. Not to mention, you are spending a lot of money on one day and it should really be a day, not just an afternoon and evening.


Consider these 3 important points below:


  • Ceremony: Allow approximately 30 minutes for your ceremony and another 30 minutes for your guests congratulating you and herding everyone together for a group photo.

Do not underestimate time here, sometimes it can take a while to get everyone together, especially with large guest numbers. Maybe someone ran off to go to the bathroom or is chatting away somewhere with a relative or friend they haven’t seen in a while.

Also consider the possibility of running late. What if you and your bridesmaids are leaving late because someone is not ready, or cannot find their shoes (or whatever it is)? Or there is unexpected traffic? Arriving even 10 minutes late will push back your timeline for the day and means something else will have to be rushed.


  • Photos: Group and family photos do take some time to bring everyone together and everyone looking and smiling at the camera at the same time. Depending on how many family photos you desire, I would recommend allowing at least 20 minutes for this.

Bridal Party and portraits: To ensure that this is enjoyable and relaxing without having to rush it, allow approximately 1.5hours. Bridal party photos are great to have some fun and maybe a drink and some nibbles. Portraits are an opportunity to enjoy your first moment alone and take in the fact that you are now married! Plus you may wish to take advantage of the beautiful location you chose in order to get some great photos.

During this time, your guests can mingle and if you offer a “cocktail’ hour with some drinks, snacks and music, your guests won’t mind waiting for you to enter the reception. Many people worry that their guests will be bored while you are off getting your photos done. But in the end, it is 2 hours maximum and they can relax and catch up with friends and family. Perhaps provide some lawn games or another activity to keep them entertained?


  • Reception: Time to eat, drink and be merry!

Before you enter the reception, take a moment with your new husband or wife to share a hug or kiss. Cherish the moment as you probably won’t have time for this once you are surrounded by your loved ones.

Your reception timeline will depend on whether you chose a three course dinner, buffet, shared banquet or canapes. Think about when you would like to have your speeches, cake cutting and first dance. And visualise how much time you would like to spend on each while still allowing lots of ‘free’ time to dance the night away!


  1. Consider an alternative order of events for your day

Not every wedding has to happen in the same order as every other wedding. This is your day and you can design it however you like.

Want to do your bridal party photos before the ceremony? No problem.

Have your ceremony in the morning for a lunch time reception? Or perhaps a twilight wedding? Why not?

Or how about going outside the norm and cut your cake after the ceremony? And mingle with your guests first before your photo session? This way everyone can get a yummy bite to eat, too. This is a great option if you are serving dessert at the reception anyway.

Just make sure you re-apply your lipstick or straighten up hubby’s suit before your photos. Ask your coordinator or bridesmaids to double check your look. You wouldn’t want to notice in your photos later that the boutonniere on your husband’s suit has turned up-side down.

In any case, don’t feel like you need to fit into the standard structure. Do whatever you wish to do and ask the experts you hired on advice on how it can work.


I hope these tips help you get started on writing your timeline. Still need help with planning your wedding? Contact me now to find out how I can personally guide you along the way!