Tips for a Wedding Day Timeline

Creating a Wedding Day timeline is one of the most important pieces of wedding planning. You can not, I repeat, you can not show up on your wedding day and think things will just fall into place. There has to be some pre-meditated decision making here. But don’t freak out, this is why you’re reading this.

If you’re just starting to consider wedding planning this might be what you look like right now:


First things first, decide what are the most important parts of your day that you want to remember forever and ever and ever. What are the bookends of your day, the beginning and end. Then fill in the space between.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you create your timeline:

Do you want your squad there helping you get ready? This can be a really cute moment for photos, your parents might help you get ready, theres a beautiful calm and sometimes chaos to the wedding prep.

Are you having a first look/reveal? A first look is when the couple sees each other before the actual ceremony, usually in private. This allows some cushion, some portrait time of the two of you and it also makes enjoying cocktail hour possible. And we all know that the best food is at cocktail hour.

How long is the ceremony? Additionally what time is the ceremony? Sometimes, this helps decide whether there should be a first look. For instance, if you get married during the winter, and your ceremony starts at 5PM, you’ll have no photos of you and your partner in natural light. The sun sets as early as 4:30 in colder months, plan in advance.

Does cocktail hour directly follow the ceremony or is it an entirely different location? This will dictate how much time you have for family photos and the overall wedding party if you choose not to do a first look. Is the reception an hour away from where the ceremony takes place? Is it at the same location, do you mind missing your cocktail hour? If they are in different locations, plan time for rounding everyone up and plan for traffic because you just never know.

What formalities will take place at the wedding? Are you having an “entrance,” when the MC, DJ introduces you for the first time ever as a married couple? Are you having a first dance, parent dances, toasts, cake cutting, bouquet toss, garter toss, any other cultural formalities? I highly recommend planning the timeline within the reception for all of these things, if you choose to do them, which you totally don’t have to do any of those.

Are you having a grand exit? Are you walking through sparklers or bubbles before you’re taken away in your chariot at the end of the night? Do you want that photographed?

Okay so those are the main questions to ask yourself when you’re creating a wedding timeline, now let’s fill in the blanks.

If you choose to do a first look, my rule of thumb is to be ready to go at least three hours before the ceremony, everyone you want photos with should be ready three hours prior. This allows time to have a first look, shoot portraits, gather everyone up, take photos of the wedding party, take photos of both sides of the family, touchups and a bite to eat and chill before the ceremony.

If you choose to see each other at the ceremony, you can be ready a half hour before the ceremony (if you’re getting ready at that location) if you aren’t, I would give an hour for transportation time. Directly after the ceremony you’ll have to cram all of the photos between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception. If you choose to have a bigger gap of time between these, expect some guests to not show up for the actual wedding ceremony.

Your timeline should look something like this:

9AM - 12PM Wedding Prep

12:30 PM - 3:30PM First Look / Photos

4:30PM- 5:00PM Ceremony

5:30PM - 6:30PM Cocktail Hour

6:30PM - Reception Starts

6:45PM - Entrances

7:00PM - First Dance

Some people choose to stack all the formalities up front and then enjoy the rest of the wedding drinking, partying and having fun.

If you’re one of those people, everything should happen after the first dance.

10:30PM Ending Formalities (cake cutting etc)

If you choose to not have a first look, your timeline might look like this:

12:30 PM - 3:30PM Wedding Prep

4:30PM- 5:00PM Ceremony

5:30PM - 6:30PM Photos / Cocktail Hour

6:30PM - Reception Starts

6:45PM - Entrances

7:00PM - First Dance


I hope this helps you plan your wedding timeline, If you have any questions please feel free to reach out. I will update this if any questions arise that might help you all!

Thanks for reading!