Wedding Day Timeline
One of the most commonly asked questions I’ve seen is “How do I create a timeline?”. So, here are some tips to help you create a timeline of events for your wedding day.
TIP #1 – Talk to your officiant about how long the ceremony should last. If at a church find out how early you can get in there and how late you can stay.
TIP #2 – Talk to your venue on how long dinner should last and when they like to cut the cake. They might go down to a minimum staff and want the cake cut before a certain time. Also, they would know Best how long dinner will take with the size of your guest list and the type of meal you are serving.
TIP #3 – Ask your DJ for a sample timeline. This is their Job! To keep the flow and momentum of the night going all night long. Different regions do things different from others. What is normal in your area might not be normal in another. Also, tradition and culture might add different events to your timeline.
TIP #4 – Talk to your photographer! You need to tell them how big your families are and the size of your wedding party. Also, you will need to discuss your photo expectations. Waiting to take ALL your photo combinations until After the ceremony and before dinner will drastically cut down on the number of combinations you will be able to get done. I highly encourage you to get some photo combinations done before the ceremony with your family and wedding party. The photographer will be able to tell you how much time to set aside to do this.
TIP #5 – Talk to your hairstylist and make-up artist about how much time they will need. Be sure you know how many in your family and wedding party wish to also get their hair and make-up done.
TIP #6 – BUFFER!!!! Add 10 – 15 min to every drive time. If you home is 10 min from the ceremony location, give yourself 20 min to get there. Put a buffer in your time line when ever you can. If you need your family to all be at your home for pictures at 1:30, tell them to arrive at 1:00. This gives those running late time to be “on time.” If you wish to have pictures getting into your dress, you will want your family and bridal party IN their dresses for the shots, not in their shorts and tee’s. Getting them at the location early gives them time to get dressed before your photos start.
TIP #7 – Look at your timeline from the point of view of your guest. Do your best to start your ceremony on time. Try to be no more than 10 min late if things get delayed. There is nothing worse than showing up to an outdoor wedding fifteen minutes early just to sit there for and additional thirty minutes waiting for the ceremony to start. Add on the thirty minutes for when the ceremony finally begins, makes it over an hour of being in the Hot Summer sun. Also, think of how long your guests have gone without eating. For a 4:00 wedding, as a guest, I would need an hour for my husband and I to get ready and 30 – 60min for a drive time. That has me eating 1:30 – 2:00 (or earlier). If my last meal was at 1:30, I am going to be Starving if you don’t have appetizers and make me wait until 9:00pm to eat dinner because you took pictures for 2 hrs between ceremony and reception, have a wedding party intro, a first dance, 30 min of toasts, and a prayer all before dinner. Check how long your guests are being asked to Sit in their chairs waiting for the dance floor to open. If guests are being asked to sit down at 6:30 and you don’t have the dance floor open to them until 9:30, that is a long time for them to wait for all of your events to be done before they can get out on the dance floor and boogie. Also, some of your guests with babysitters or your elderly guests might want to leave between 9 and 10pm.
TIP #8 – BE SURE YOU EAT!!!!!! Bring breakfast to your hair appointment, grab a snack on the way to the make-up artist, have non-messy snacks available while getting dressed and taking photos. Have a straw to drink with. Do not have your first meal at 7:30 at night.
*** How to write your Timeline ***
First collect all of the known times.
– Reception ends at 11:00pm
– Dinner will last for 60 – 70 min
– Cocktails/Appetizers for 50 – 60 min
– Reception starts at 6:00pm
– Driving time from Ceremony to Reception 20 min real time
– Start time of Ceremony 4:00 pm – sharp –
– Driving time from Getting ready location (Photo location) to Ceremony 15 min real time
Then start filling in all the events on the night by working backwards. Again, use the tips you received from your vendor on HOW LONG events should take and What Time they suggest you do them.
There are pros and cons to 1st dance before or after dinner. You need to decide which sounds like a better idea to you.
1st dance (before dinner)
* no food in teeth
* no stains on dress/tux
* dress not wrinkled from sitting
* make-up still fresh
* interruption in the tempo of the night – Upbeat intro, slow dance 1st dance, then mellow dinner. Then increase tempo again after dinner. When after dinner, you are building up the excitement and have it reach a plateau right after dinner.
* guests might be hungry
If you do your dance before dinner, I suggest toasts/speeches during dinner after everything is served. That way your guests are not sitting in their seats for a long period of time with no food. When they need to sit too long to watch dances and listen to toasts the food gets cold, their drinks get empty, their tummies start to rumble, and the guests get restless.
This is another event that the start time is determined by where you live and what is the norm for your area. Some cut the cake after dinner and their first dance. Some cut the cake near the end of the night. Again, talk to your venue on what works best for you and them.
************* Be sure to check out my Post on Timeline Templates *****************
**** A Sample Timeline Ceremony-Reception ****
break down in Minutes – not actual clock time
– 0:15 – 0:00 People arrive (Bride in bridal room doing touch ups)
0:00 – 0:25 Ceremony
0:25 – 0:35 Hug/greet guests
0:30 – 1:30 Cocktail hour (Bride & Groom take pictures)
1:30 – 1:35 Guests find a seat – Wedding party lines up
1:35 – 1:45 Wedding Party Introductions – people make their way to the table
1:45 – 1:55 Bride & Groom 1st dance
1:55 – 2:00 Welcome/Prayer – Start Meal
2:00 – 3:00 Meal (2:30 – 2:45 – You can have toasts During dinner, no reason for staff to wait until 3 toast are done to start bringing out the food) * 2:45 – 3:00 walk around to say “Hi” to guests
3:00 – 3:15 Father/Daughter – Mother/Son dance
3:15 – 3:20 Anniversary dance? to Open the Dance Floor
3:20- 4:30 Open Dance Floor
4:30 – 4:40 Cut Cake
4:40-4:55 Bouquet/Garter *serve cake
4:55 – 5:55 Open Dance
5:55 – 6:00 Last Dance
****** How to Write your Morning of Timeline *******
Your wedding day will FLY by. You will look at your watch and wonder where the time went. If you do not have a coordinator to set up your decorations I BEG you to find family members (Aunts, cousins) or friends to do the set up. You and your bridal party should be enjoying your time together getting pampered at the salon, Not getting all hot and sticky running around hanging tulle and filling vases with water and flowers.
Give yourself 1-2hrs blocked off for Bridal hair. *2hrs might be needed if you have really long hair and never had a trial. You want to have a buffer in there if things are not going well and you need to start over. 50 – 60 min for Bridal make-up. Ask the salon how many stylists they will need, and how much time, to do your family and bridal party.
Getting into your dress can take 30 min or more. Corset ribbons take time to get flat and perfect. Buttons loops are Super tight and you should get a Crochet Loop to help get the buttons done.
Getting everyone out of the house is going to take 10 min. Everyone needs to find their keys, their phones, their bags, a snack; you need to make sure all the lights are off, the curling iron is unplugged, the dog has been taken out, the house is locked – it all takes Time. Be sure you build a buffer into getting Out of the house and on your way. Arrive at the ceremony location 20 – 30 min early to give you time to not be seen by your guests and get in to the bridal room for a potty break and touch ups.
Allow about 20 – 30 min per combo
* 20 min Bridal Shots
* 30 min Bride w/wedding party and her family
* 30 min Groom w/wedding party and his family
* 20 – 40 min Bride and Groom and Giant family shots at altar/stairs/etc
* 20 min of just the Bride and Groom (at a pretty park?)
* 10 min of fun shots of the Bride and Groom with the wedding party (optional, but fun)
Allow 10 – 30 min for First Touch or First Look photos
* 5 -10 min first touch (10 – 20 min first look)
If you are DEAD SET against “first look” photos, please try to get some time set aside for a “first touch” session. You will have a door or a corner blocking the site of view from your husband and yourself. I have seen some AMAZING first touch photos and I just think they are beautiful. It gives you a chance to hold hands to calm your nerves and say a few words of encouragement and love to each other.
Pictures examples of Grooms Blown away by their Bride – 18 of the 24 examples are “First Look.”
7:00AM Wake up, shower, EAT, drive to appointment
8:00 Hair appointment
10:00 Make-up – drive to location getting dressed
11:15 EAT lunch – tell Wedding party and parents to be at location to get dressed
11:30 Start getting into dress (could take up to 30 min – stubborn button loops/twisted corset ribbon)
12:00 – 12:20 Bridal shots
12:30 – 12:55 Bride combo shots with family & wedding party
1:00 – 1:20 Groom does his combos with family and WP – Bride does touch-ups
1:20 Pack up to leave
1:30 Drive to park/beach – pretty outdoor location for photos
2:00 – 2:40 First look photo – a few bride and groom shots – B&G with Wedding Party
2:45 – 3:15 Drive to ceremony
3:20 – Arrive at Ceremony: Set up any decorations, Bride does touch ups, Groom does some altar photos
4:00 – 4:25 Ceremony
4:25 – 4:35 hug/greet guests – move them out to do Grand Exit photo (bubbles/ribbon wands)
4:45- 5:20 Bride and Groom with Family shots
(6:00 – 6:45 Cocktails for Guests)
5:40 – 6:10 Fun outdoor shots (Bride and Groom shots, Bride & Groom with Wedding party)
6:30 Arrive at Reception
6:35 Touch ups
6:40 Gather everyone and Line up for Introduction – Guests asked to take a seat
6:45 – 6:55 Intro
6:55 Prayer (6:55 First Dance) (7:00ish Welcome & Prayer)
7:00 Start dinner (7:10 Dinner starts)
Some other GREAT tips here –> www.stylemepretty.com/2011/06/27/wedding-day-timing-tips-from-robert-kathleen-photographers/
******** A Photographer’s Sample Breakdown ********
After the ceremony, I allot 45 minutes for the following at the altar or on the grounds of the ceremony site:
B/G/Both sets of Parents
B/G/Bride’s immediate family
B/G/Bride’s extended family (one shot and everyone in such as aunts, grandma, etc)
B/G/Groom’s immediate family
B/G/G’s extended family
This list becomes MUCH more complicated if there are divorces, remarriages, or additional shots requested….
After those shots are done, I do:
Bridal party at altar/ceremony site with bride and groom
Bride and groom at altar
The list above (starting with Officiant and ending with bride and groom at altar) takes 45 minutes to be safe. A good rule of thumb is allow 5 minutes per image. Someone will wander off, it takes five minutes for people to make their way back inside, someone is using the restroom, etc.
Then, we take the bridal party and bride and groom alone and work with them for 45 minutes at another location, or in a more casual setting.
*** In 45 to 60 minutes, you can do 9 to 12 different combinations of people, less if they are very large shots and more if they are small combinations of people.
– Kristen Wynn Photography – reply posted on a question on weddingwire.com
A few more links to sample detailed timelines, if you rather look at someone else’s and try to make it your own.
~ Reception timelines ~