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Building a Wedding Day Timeline

May 5, 2015


Building out a timeline for your wedding day is for both your peace of mind and for the vendors. You have spent months planning the perfect wedding and now you want it to go exactly as planned. Having a strong timeline for the weekend is key.


1. Start with the ceremony time and work backwards.

Guests will start arriving 30 minutes prior to the ceremony start time. You want your ceremony site to be decorated and the wedding party should be freshening up and relaxing.


2. Work with your photographer on the before ceremony picture schedule.

If you are doing a first look, give yourself enough time to have some fun get plenty of photos of the first look, couple only, bride only, wedding party, etc. First look photos can start as early as 3 hours before ceremony time (especially if you are off-site). Always consult with your photographer when working on the day of the schedule.

If you are not seeing each other before the wedding, guys' shots can start 2.5 to 3 hours prior to the ceremony, starting while girls finish getting ready. I always love it when there is a second photographer to get “getting’ ready” photos of the girls while another photographer is getting the guys. Bridal party photos should be 1.5-2 hours before the ceremony. You want to leave time for bridal portraits and time to get back and freshen up before guests start arriving. Flowers should arrive before photos begin.


3. Hair and Makeup

When deciding the start time for hair and make- up consider how many people are having hair and make-up professionally done and how many hair and make-up artists you have scheduled. Hopefully, you have already done a practice run and know approximately how long it will take to get you ready. The bride will go last so she is the freshest and most rested. There is nothing wrong with starting early and leaving time to relax and freshen up closer to ceremony time.


4. Vendor Set-Up

Having a planner or someone to coordinate the set-up of the reception is a life-saver. This person will make sure your vision comes to life while you are enjoying the day! The wedding day is not the time to delegate and decide who will be doing what. There should be a detailed plan of all vendor arrivals and decorations. IF you are doing everything on your own, try to get access to the reception site the day before to do as much setup as possible. You want to be able to enjoy the day and don’t need to stress over the details while walking down the aisle.


5. After the Ceremony

The average ceremony lasts 15 minutes. (Unless you are doing special songs, readings, or religious traditions) Family and wedding party photos can begin as soon as guests have left the ceremony site. Guests will start heading to the reception. Think about drive/walk time when scheduling cocktail hour start time and beyond. Shoot for an hour or less of photos before heading to the reception to be introduced.

Finally, the rest of the night is all about YOU and getting time with your friends and family. We love it when the couples get the ceremonial things (first dance, toasts, cake cutting, etc.) done in the beginning. This allows the couple to enjoy the evening and not worry about what time it is and what is next on the schedule.


It is your day. You know better than anyone how it should go. Be sure to communicate with others to make sure everything goes smoothly. Once the schedule is complete….. forget about it! It never fails that something will get off schedule. Don’t let that stress you out. The day will still be perfect and a night you will never forget!

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