A Breakdown of the Essential Wedding Day Timeline

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When it comes to wedding planning, it can be a bit hectic keeping track of what has to happen and when.  To prepare ahead and help lower the stress levels on the day of the wedding, there is no better way than to create a wedding day timeline! Here is a guide for breaking down the schedule of your very own wedding day.

Timeline for Pre-wedding Ceremony Prep

Hair & Makeup

  • Bride’s makeup: 60 minutes.
  • Bride’s hair styling: 60 minutes.
  • Bridesmaids’ makeup: 45 minutes per person.
  • Bridesmaids’ hair styling: 30 minutes per person.

Timing Tips for Hair & Makeup

  • When your hairstylist arrives, have her start on your bridesmaids first, while the makeup artist begins with the bride. This way, the bride can look fresh when the photographer arrives for photos.
  • The photographer should arrive one hour before the bride completes hair and makeup. When the bride is closer to being finished, makes for more flattering photos. And the photographer will be able to shoot those “finishing touches” shots, like the bride applying lip gloss etc. This also gives the photographer enough time to capture the details – gown, shoes, jewelry, and the precious moments between the bride and her girls.
  • If you have yourself plus four bridesmaids all getting hair and makeup done, allot at least four hours of getting-ready time.
  • If you have more than yourself plus four bridesmaids getting your hair done, ask your stylist to bring an assistant to cut down on time. For makeup, add an assistant after yourself plus two.
  • If you need to travel to the salon, double the travel time you anticipate.

Pre-Ceremony Photos

  • The “first look” photos: 15 – 30 minutes.
  • Bridal party & bride & groom portraits: 1 – 2 hours.
  • Family formal portraits: 30 – 45 minutes.


Timeline for Wedding Ceremony

Ideal Ceremony Length

Timing Tips

  • Arrival to the ceremony: groom and groomsmen should arrive an hour and a half before the ceremony; the bride can arrive an hour before the ceremony so that guests do not get an early peek at her gown.
  • “If the bride won’t be taking photos at the church prior to the ceremony, then she can arrive moments before walking down the aisle and wait in the limo until it’s time.” ~ Bridal Guide
  • Receiving line: For 100 guests or less, receiving line should take 12-15 minutes. For 150 guests, allow up to 20 minutes. If you are expecting over 150 guests, consider visiting guests during the reception instead.
  • Suggested gap between ceremony and reception: within one hour.
  • Post ceremony photos: allow 20 minutes for bride and groom to take photos post ceremony, and up to 30 minutes for photos if there was no “first look”.
  • Be prepared by compiling a list of all necessary shots, including who should be in which photos and where. “If your photographer isn’t familiar with the site, see if he or she would mind scouting it out. “This is a huge time saver on the wedding day!” ~ Bridal Guide


Timeline for Wedding Reception

Ideal Reception Length

Order of Events for Reception

  • Emcee introduces the wedding party and newlyweds.
  • First dance: typically takes place immediately after the bride and groom enter the reception, but it can also take place right after dinner or dessert.
  • Welcome speech or blessing: given by the father of the bride or by the bride and groom.
  • Dinner service begins, the band or DJ will play subdued, conversation-friendly background music as the waitstaff makes the rounds.
  • Toasts between courses: after the first course is served, the maid of honor gives her speech first, which is followed by the best man’s speech.
  • Dance with parents: father-daughter dance, followed by mother-son dance. Or they can take place simultaneously.
  • Party time: All guests are invited to join everyone on the dance floor. A dance set begins with more upbeat songs to entice most guests out of their seats. A couple of slow songs play. Back to more upbeat songs.
  • Cake Cutting: it should take place 1-2 hours before the reception ends.
  • The bouquet toss, followed by the garter toss, if you’re doing them.
  • The final dance set for wedding guests.
  • The last dance, followed by your grand exit if you’re making one. If you plan to have a grand farewell, then give at least 10 minutes for guests to step outside and blow bubbles, sparklers, rose petals, etc.
  • Reception concludes; guests depart; begin breakdown.

Sample Wedding Day Timeline Templates


Via Wedding Bee