How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

April 15, 2022

wedding ceremony and reception decor at HammerSky Vineyards

Your wedding day is going to be one of the most memorable days of your life. Because of that, it’s important to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. The best way to do this? To create an efficient, thorough, and stress-free wedding day timeline! These wedding day timeline tips will help ensure that all of your planned events happen on time and that you don’t miss anything important. In this blog post, I’ll be giving you so many helpful tips on how to create the perfect wedding day timeline!

Looking for a sample timeline for your wedding day? Click here to download my free templates!

The first thing you need to do is figure out the order of events for your wedding day.

This can be tricky, but it’s important to start with the big picture and then fill in the details. For example, you will need to decide if you want your ceremony and reception to be at the same location or not. You’ll also want to consider where you’ll be getting ready! Once you have the birds eye view of locations figured out, you can start to fill in the details of your wedding day timeline from there. Typically couples plan for an 8-hour wedding day (from the final touches of hair and makeup to the end of the reception). Buffer in a few additional hours beforehand to start your hair and makeup too!

Let’s say you’re planning a 3pm ceremony start time. This means that you’ll want to be mostly ready to go (hair and makeup done and ready to get into your wedding clothes) around 1/1:30pm (if you’re doing a first look) or 2/2:30pm (if you’re not doing a first look). You’ll want to be changed and ready to go at least 30 minutes before the ceremony start time so you don’t feel rushed before you walk down the aisle!

Wedding day couple drinks and beverage ideas

One big wedding day timeline tip to consider is to always leave wiggle room between your events.

It’s inevitable that some things will get behind schedule, so I always leave ~10-15 minutes of buffer between the events throughout the day. Looking for an example wedding day timeline? Click here to download my template!

Once your ceremony starts, it will typically last for 30 minutes (for non-traditional ceremonies) or up to an hour (for more traditional ceremonies). After that is the cocktail hour! Traditionally, cocktail hours lasted for about an hour and during this time, the couple is busy taking family portraits, couple, and bridal party portraits. However, couples are now opting for longer cocktail hours (so they can take the photos they need to take and then still have some time to join in on the fun!) I’m starting to see more and more couples opt for 1.5 hour cocktail hours for this reason – it gives them more time to mingle and chat with their guests!

Once guests begin to be seated for dinner, the reception usually lasts for anywhere between 3-4 hours in length. The first hour or so is filled with meal delivery (family style/buffet/plated dinners), as well as any toasts/speeches. Once meals are finished, then it’s time to get into the fun! This is when the dances usually happen (first dance & parent dances). To keep the momentum going, couples will sometimes opt to do their cake cutting and garter/bouquet immediately after so then once the dance floor opens, it can stay open the rest of the night without any additional events!

Wedding day timeline tips


One of my most favorite wedding day timeline tips is to plan to sneak away with your photographer for some sunset portraits. Depending on the time of year, this usually happens either at the very beginning of the reception, or after we’ve taken all of the family portraits during cocktail hour. I usually recommend heading out for sunset photos about 30 minutes before the sun goes down, but check with your photographer to see the best time for your exact location and venue! Not only do these photos give you gorgeous images of just the two of you, but it provides one final moment during the day where you can relax, be present, and soak it all in!

Wedding couple photos at sunset

Looking for more planning tips? Be sure to check out my blog post: Planning for a stress-free engagement session!

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