Wedding Day Timeline
For Wedding Virgins
“She said yes, I said wow…” – Chad Brock
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of getting engaged and pretend that wedding planning is going to be all fun and games, especially when this is the first time you are getting married. Wedding vendors, blog sites, and magazines can put a lot of pressure on brides and grooms to simply just know how to put together a wedding and quickly overwhelm you with ideas, offers and frankly nonsense information. I am here to help you wade through the bullshit and get right down to business.
*disclaimer: This is a how to on constructing a timeline per the view of a wedding photographer, I am not a wedding planner. I am open to discussion and helpful opinions in the comments.
It’s really important that I tell you now that weddings almost ALWAYS run a little behind. However, a timeline can be the difference between running 15 minutes behind, to an hour (trust me, I’ve been there). So don’t freak out on your wedding day if not everything begins and ends right as you planned it to. Consider your timeline as a helpful guideline. I have added some extra tips here and there to help guide you through this process.
Getting Ready + The Ceremony
Barring the lengthy Catholic and other ethnic or religious practices, your wedding ceremony can be expected to last 20-30 minutes. The main culprit in ceremonies getting a late start is underestimating hair and makeup, or it can be a freak occurrence like in the case of my last wedding where we lost power to the bridal suite for 30 minutes. If you hire a professional to do your hair and makeup they will be honest with you on how long it will take them, listen to them then add 30 minutes. Better to show up to your venue to get ready an hour or two earlier than making your guests wait too long for the start of the ceremony.
Things to consider:
Make time to eat, nobody wants to faint at the alter.
Be sure to include a moment for anything special, like gift giving ( and for heaven sake, let your photographer know all of the special details and when they are expected to happen)
Pay attention to time but don’t become a slave to it. This is your wedding day, relax a little and enjoy the experience.
These can either go really smooth or be a complete disaster. There are a couple of things that can help move along everyone’s most hated part of the day. Including…
- Letting everyone ( family and bridal party) know ahead of time that these are important to you and you hope they take the time to respect that.
2. Keeping the bridal party sober until the reception, this can be a hard one but I have seen many a groomsmen and bridesmaid make asses of themselves before the reception even starts.
3. Remember that you will be nervous, so if you (bride/groom) are a drinker to take it easy and pay attention to your intake ( and EAT).
4. Have your officiant make an announcement before the ceremony that immediately following, the formal portrait session will take place and that important family members must remain seated while the rest of the guests need to move straight to reception
*Two things with that last note: 1. Make sure important family member KNOW WHO THEY ARE before your wedding day, and tell them over and over. It may seem obvious to you who these people are and that they should be in your photos but it’s not something everyone stops to consider. Make sure grandma knows she needs to stay for pictures before she slips off to reception to party it up. 2. Please have your officiant make it clear that all other guests should leave the area in hopes of getting the bride and groom to reception quicker. Great aunt Susans and uncle Bobs across America love to stay and chat up the happy couple.
Bridal Party + Couples Creatives
The only thing I would take in to serious consideration here is the time of day. These are the photos that people print…. largely… and hang in their home. You want them to be stylistic, creative and beautiful. Especially those of the wedding couple!
- Take a moment to look up the time of day the sun sets on your hopeful wedding day and consider what time your ceremony is. The best time of day for photos is the hour before sunset. If your ceremony is close to sunset make sure that you allow enough time afterwards.
- Consider a first look. A first looks allows you to have a private moment together AND save time on your wedding day. Yes you all have to be ready a little earlier but you also are able to get ALL of the formals out of the way before the ceremony. So, as soon as the ceremony ends you can go off to reception.
Everyone has their own, different version of the perfect reception. From my experience, it goes smoothly if all of the important moments are taken care of at the beginning without a lot of fluff in between.
- Bridal Party, Couple Grand Entrance (10 minutes)
- Couple immediately goes in to first dance followed by mother/son – father/daughter dances (15-20 minutes if you are playing the whole song)
- Dinner ( perfect moment to give your vendors a break and let them eat, chances are they have been on their feet with you all day and need a moment, also make sure you specify to your caterer to serve your vendors FIRST if you are feeding them, this gives them ample amount of time to eat before returning to work) (about an hour)
- Cake cutting (10 minutes)
- Followed immediately by toasts and bouquet/garter tosses (depends entirely on the amount of people giving toasts and the length or their speeches)
- Then just simply open up the dance floor and party the night away.
- GRAND EXIT – Don’t schedule this too late, chances are your wedding guests will start to dramatically drop off between 1-2 hours after open dance starts. You want to make sure enough people are there to give you a good send off.
TOTAL – 3 to 4 hours
*A good DJ is imperative to a smoothly running reception. They also make or break the party. A great DJ can liven up a crowd and make sure everyone has a great time. Can’t afford a DJ? At least hire a co-worker or some other trusted person ( NOT a wedding guest) to keep your timeline on track and change music for you as necessary.
I hope this information post helped you to get a good idea of the inter workings of a wedding. Don’t forget to download your FREE wedding day timeline at the bottom of the page. I have included a blank one and a sample timeline. If you haven’t already, hop on over HERE and get a copy of your free wedding day priorities guide. Determining your priorities should always be the first things you do when planning your wedding.