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How To Make A Great Wedding Day Timeline

How To Make A Wedding Day Timeline

By Jeffrey House Photography



Your wedding day is approaching - are you ready?

Most likely you've been planning your wedding for a good 9-12 months or more.  It's getting close now and you're feeling anxious.  You're worrying and wondering if your wedding day will be as perfect as you imagine!  When should your bridesmaids arrive?  When should your partner arrive?  When should you start your hair and makeup?  When should your photographer arrive?  So many questions to answer, but don't worry because in this article we are going to show you how to make a wedding day timeline!  

Today we are going to talk about one of the most important steps in wedding planning - creating your wedding day timeline!  Many couples overlook this step and it can go a long way in helping to make your wedding day successful.

In this article we are going to discuss the things you need to consider and we are going to provide some "professional" tips to further help you create your timeline.  By the end of this article you will be well on your way to knowing how to create the perfect timeline.  So, let's get going!

Many couples getting married today are having their ceremonies at the same location as their reception.  It not only makes the wedding planning process a little easier, but it also makes things easier for your guests - it's less driving, less chance of getting lost, etc.  With regards to your timeline, if you're getting ready "off-site"  or getting married at a separate location you will need to account for the additional travel time.  

Getting Ready

Every wedding day pretty much begins the same way - with hair and makeup........and maybe a few mimosa's.  There's always time for mimosa's!  So, how much time should you set aside for hair and makeup?


Hair:  1 hour

Makeup:  1 Hour


Hair:  30 minutes

Makeup:  45 minutes

Because there are usually several bridesmaids they should get their hair and makeup done first.  Once they are done the bride should then have her makeup applied followed by her hair.  Depending on how much time you have left before the ceremony and your picture schedule, the bride should look to get into her dress.  I would strongly recommend you request your stylist to stick around while you have the veil put on.  Your stylist should be able to help firmly secure it and make any necessary hair adjustments once it's on.  

When Should Your Photographer Arrive?

This will of course be largely determined by how many hours you hired them for, but I would recommend they are there to at least capture part of the bride getting her makeup and hair done.  This will also allow your photographer to capture pictures of you putting your dress on.  

What Pictures Are Typically Taken Prior To The Ceremony?

Once the bride is fully ready we will look to capture images of the bride with her family and bridesmaids.  Once these pictures have been captured we will then conduct a solo session of the bride - the bridal portrait session.  The family and bridesmaids images will take 2-3 minutes per picture on average.  I would recommend allowing 30 - 45 minutes for the pictures with family and bridesmaids (** If you have more than 5 bridesmaids and/or more than a few family members allow 60 - 75 minutes).  The bridal portrait session will approximately take an additional 30 minutes (** If you had a pre-wedding bridal portrait session we can eliminate this session or reduce it to 10-15 minutes based on your preferences).  

On average, the pre-ceremony pictures will take approximately 1 hour to complete.  

Are You Having A First Look?

Traditionally speaking, couples see each for the first time at the ceremony - It's one of those great photography moments!  However, more and more couples are electing to see each other for the first time prior to the ceremony - the pre-ceremony first look!  Why?  Because it's a more intimate experience and it saves time on the photography schedule following the ceremony; therefore, couples have more time to relax or spend it at their party.  

Now, you might be thinking that having a pre-ceremony first look is going to take away from the anticipation and excitement of seeing each other for the first time.  Ahhhh, that's where we, your photographers, come in.  Without getting into too much detail and sharing all of our secrets, we don't create a moment - we simply set the stage for the moment to happen naturally.  Let the magic begin!

If you are going to have a pre-ceremony first look it would follow the family, bridesmaids, and bridal portrait session.  You would also want to allow another hour to have your first look and take pictures with your soon to be spouse.  

When Should The Groom and Groomsmen Arrive?

Again, if you're having a pre-ceremony first look then the groom will arrive earlier than normal and the exact time will be worked out with your photographer to ensure we retain the excitement of the first look.  If you're not having a first look the groom and groomsmen typically arrive 1 hour prior to the start of the ceremony.  

Separate Ceremony Site

If you will be having your ceremony at a location that is separate from the reception, there are a few things to consider.  If you want formal pictures taken at the church prior to the ceremony then the bride and bridesmaids will need to arrive 60-90 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony.  If you are not having formal church pictures, the bride can arrive minutes before the start of the ceremony.  Either situation should prevent your guests and/or your partner from seeing you in your dress prior to the start of your wedding.  

The Ceremony

Ideally, your ceremony will not run longer than 30 minutes.  This will allow you to have a unique, meaningful, and memorable ceremony without your guests becoming uncomfortable.  

Ceremony events have also changed throughout the years.  Typically, most ceremonies include 1-2 readings.  Some couples will light a unity candle while other couples now pour two different colors of sand into one container signifying their unity.  Many couples are electing to mix a red and white wine together, and then they each take a sip of the combined wines.  

Towards the end of the ceremony the couple will exchange vows provided by the officiant or vows they wrote themselves.  Lastly, of course, comes the exchange of rings.  

* Bonus Tip:  I've never seen a wedding in which all the guests arrive on time.  Usually, you can expect a good 5 guests to show up between 5-10 minutes late.  Whatever time you plan on having your ceremony, send out invitations with a time that is 15 minutes earlier!  For example, If you're having a 4:00 pm ceremony, your invitations will say 3:45 pm.  This will help to keep your wedding running smoothly and on time, and time is very valuable!

What Happens Following The Ceremony?

You will want to make sure you have a solid hour between the end of the ceremony and the start of the reception.  Obviously, the majority of your guests will leave the ceremony to go enjoy themselves at the cocktail hour.  However, you, your spouse, your bridal party, and your family will stay behind to take pictures.  

Again, the family pictures will take between 2-3 minutes per image (longer if the groups are large).  We typically like to start with the largest groups first and work our way down.  This works great, especially if there are elderly people, because we can get their pictures done and let them go relax at the cocktail hour.  

Once the family shots are done we will move on to the bridal party.  Again, you should figure between 2-3 minutes per picture.  The family and bridal party pictures together should take approximately a 1/2 hour to complete.  Once the bridal party is done they too can be leave for the cocktail hour, however, I would recommend your go-to person or your maid-of-honor sticks around to assist with the remaining pictures of you and your spouse.  They can help hold your bouquet, assist with your wedding dress, etc.  We will spend approximately another 1/2 hour taking these shots as well.  

The Reception

Generally, the reception will last between 4 1/2 - 6 hours.  It will begin with introductions of important family members (typically grandparents and parents), the bridal party, and the newlyweds.  Immediately following the introductions the newlyweds will have their "first dance."  Traditionally speaking, the first dance is followed by the father/daughter dance and then the mother/son dance.  

Following the dances guests enjoy the first course of dinner followed by the "welcome toast" given by the father-of-the-bride.  If you're not having a welcome toast, this may be replaced by the newlyweds toasting their guests or the best man's toast.  Following the best man's toast the maid-of-honor will typically stand to deliver a toast as well.  The second course of dinner will be served and then any remaining toasts will be given.  

Once these events have been completed the DJ will invite your guests out to the dance floor for some fun!

Approximately 2 hours prior to the end of the reception you will have your cake cutting.  If you are having any other special events taking place then you can work with your wedding professionals on the exact timing, but be sure that all events are done while your photographer is present.  If they are schedule to leave at 9 pm, you won't have pictures of any events after this time.  

Many couples are trending towards wedding receptions with fewer events, because they would like to spend more time dancing and having fun with their guests.  Too many events can be difficult to schedule and it can cause your guests to quickly become bored.

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Final Wedding Day Timeline Tips.....

1.  Almost everything takes a little longer than expected, especially the "getting ready" portion of the day.  The wedding day is hectic and filled with plenty of distractions.  It's easy to lose focus and track of time.  Build some extra time into your timeline to account for this.  

2.  Assign a reliable individual as your "go to" person to assist your wedding photographer.  They can be a huge help when it comes to holding your bouquet during pictures, helping with your wedding dress, assisting with the family pictures, etc.  This can be a real time saver!

3.  Strongly consider having a pre-wedding bridal portrait session and a pre-ceremony first look.  These are two great ways to  reduce your wedding day stress and allow you more time partying with your guests!


Are you going to make a wedding day timeline for your wedding?  Did you find this article helpful?  Make sure to share it!