top of page


What is a Wedding Day Timeline?

You have booked your venue or ceremony site and venue, bought your dress and hired all of your vendors. You've asked all of your wedding party to perform their very special roles. You've sent out invitations and are now just waiting for RSVPs. Now it's time to plan the day itself.

You have a certain amount of time for all of the events you wish to take place on Wedding Day starting with Hair and Makeup and ending with your Grand Exit (and it goes fast). The hours you have booked with your venue are set, and there is a limited amount of time to make certain everything you wish to happen on your wedding day actually occurs. The Wedding Day Timeline is a tool that vendors use to make sure the day runs on schedule and that all parties involved know where and when things are supposed to happen.

Lindsey Shea Photography

Who does the Timeline?

Though individual vendors may develop their own schedules, your wedding planner or wedding coordinator is ultimately responsible for creating your overall timeline. We work with your other vendors to make sure we are all on the same page. Your planner will collect the Hair and Makeup schedule and confirm timing of events with the photographer and your DJ or band and incorporate them into the overall plan for the day. We gather important information such as: are you doing a first look with your future spouse or your mother or father, are you wanting to do a bouquet toss or garter toss, what time are vendors allowed into your venue and what time do we have to vacate the premises? There are a lot of factors that go into building your timeline, and we will start working with you on it between 30 and 60 days before wedding day. Usually, however, the final timeline isn't set until a week or so before the big day as it is a constantly changing work in progress until then.

Reigh Walker Photography

How Do You Create a Timeline?

We start with your ceremony and your exit times. Everything that happens during the day is going to depend upon this window of hours. Even arrival times for your vendors depend upon when the ceremony happens and when you have to leave. From your ceremony time counting backwards we determine when you need to be finished getting ready (are you doing a first look, are you getting ready at a location other than your venue and how long will it take you to get there?) Also a determining factor when you need to be finished getting ready is the length of time you have contracted with your photographer and videographer. Photographers usually have packages of 6, 8 or 10 hours or they have a flat daily rate. You will want your photographer there until the end of the evening to capture your Grand Exit, especially if you have hired a great getaway car or have planned something spectacular for your exit. So, say your Grand Exit is at 11 PM and you have contracted your photographer for 8 hours, you would need to be ready to begin photography around 3 PM. If you wish your photographer to capture you getting ready you may opt to contract them for a longer package or recreate those last details and wait to get dressed upon the photographer's arrival. Once we decide what time you need to be ready, we can figure out what time Hair and Makeup needs to begin depending on how many people will be getting these services and how many hair and makeup artists you have hired in your package.

Wilderlove and Co. Photography

After deciding the start time of your ceremony we will also determine how long it will actually be. If you are having a fairly straightforward ceremony we will plan on 20 minutes to half an hour. If you are getting married in a church and are having a service or mass, more time will be allotted. If you are also doing a special element such as a sand ceremony or unity candle lighting, have readers or solo artists then we will factor in additional time. We will get that information from you and possibly your officiant and work those items into your timeline. Also after deciding your start time we work in prelude music. Half an hour prior to ceremony your prelude music will begin to greet your guests as they arrive.

Reigh Walker Photography

Once we determine how long the ceremony will be we will calculate when cocktail hour will begin. Several elements go into determining this. Is your reception venue in the same place as your ceremony site? If not, how long does it take to get from the ceremony to the reception? Do you want a certain break time between ceremony and cocktail hour? Some churches will only offer certain ceremony times, and if your ceremony is at 2 in the afternoon but you want an evening reception, you may wish to build in this recess time between the ceremony and your cocktail hour.

Length of the cocktail hour will depend on how long you need for pictures and whether you are doing photography offsite or at the same venue as your reception. How long it will take to bustle your dress is another consideration. Cocktail hours can vary between 45 minutes and an hour plus. Anything over an hour or so and your guests may begin to get antsy...especially if there is no seating for them.

We work with your caterer and bartending service to let them know when cocktail hour and then dinner will begin. If these services are included with your venue (such as an hotel or an all inclusive venue) we will collaborate with your venue coordinator and they will in turn coordinate with their banquet captain, chef and head bartender what time these services need to begin.

Wilderlove and Co. Photography

Next we will decide what time your Grand Entrance as a newly married couple will happen. Are you introducing the entire wedding party or are you and your new spouse the only introduction? Are you going right into your first dance or doing cake cutting before you start dinner? Are you having a welcome speech and/or a blessing before dinner?

Luisa and Douglas Photography

From there we will calculate what time dinner begins and how long it needs to be. How many guests will you have? Are you doing a plated dinner or a buffet? If you are doing a plated dinner, how many courses will you have? Are you having a single or double sided buffet? How long will it take to serve everyone or get them through the buffet line? These are all factors we consider in planning how long dinner will take. In general, we see the majority of dinners taking about an hour.

Purple Pebble Photography

After dinner it is time for toasts! We will cue you about 10 minutes before you start toasts to make sure you are ready and that your guests have something to toast you with in hand. How many people are giving toasts or are there welcome speeches happening post dinner? Are you cutting the cake before or after toasts? After toasts are you doing any special dances such as Father/Daughter and Mother/Son? Are you opening the dance floor with any special dances such as The Anniversary Dance or are you going directly into open dancing?

Jeff Brummett Photography

If you are doing a bouquet and/or garter toss we will usually place that halfway into open dancing. If you have a band instead of a DJ there will have to be band breaks between sets. These must all be built into your timeline. As you can see, a lot of time and effort goes into planning the perfect day with the perfect amount of time apportioned for everything.

The Importance of Your Timeline

From a planner's standpoint, the Timeline is one of the most important tools we use on Wedding Day. It keeps all of your vendors organized and on time. Of course there will be always be a hiccup or two...your timeline is more guideline than set in stone. We also like to say that if we lose a few minutes somewhere we will "make it up in the air". However, it should be adhered to as closely as possible. When one event gets off by more than a few minutes it really has a domino effect for the rest of the day. As an example, if you or your photographer decide that you want to take an hour more of pictures post ceremony than allotted for on the timeline, realize that the day cannot progress until you are finished with this. You are the star of the show! Your planner will not open the doors to the reception until you are ready. Too much of a delay and it can throw off everything that happens following post ceremony photography. Cocktail hour gets uncomfortably lengthy, guests will wait for dinner, said dinner might get a bit cold since the venue has been told what time food should be served...or they may keep it warm for your guests but the taste will be compromised because of holding it under warming lights or in chafing dishes too long. Events happening after dinner may be rushed or there will be less open dance time. All things to consider when working with us to develop your timeline. We will ask you what the most important factors of the day for you, and how much time YOU would like to allot for each event. If you want more pictures post ceremony, we can allow for that when creating or tweaking your timeline. Just remember, if there is a change to the timeline after completing the final draft, please make sure this is communicated to your planner so they can inform the rest of your vendors and make sure your wedding day runs smoothly and everyone impacted knows that things are a bit delayed. We are all working very hard to give you the day you expect and to do what you hired us to do.

Lockwood Studios Photography

Time to Go!

All of your vendors strive to make your wedding day the best day we can with as few issues as possible. After you have approved of your final timeline it is up to us to worry about timing and the flow of your day so you can relax and enjoy every aspect of the occasion you have planned and waited for! It is still YOUR day, however, and details can be changed even on wedding day! Just let your planner know of any alterations in timing you'd like to make so we can keep everyone in the loop and keep the day progressing seamlessly while being conscientious of your needs, your guests and the rest of your vendors.

99 views1 comment
bottom of page