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The Wedding Day Timeline

Updated: Sep 5

Have you been wondering how to structure your wedding day but unsure where to start? Ever wondered how much time to allot for each element of the wedding day? Here are a few tips to get you started.


1) Do not schedule everything down to the literal minute; provide buffers around each activity. A perfect example of where this becomes handy is during the dances (first dance as a couple, father/daughter, etc..). For my clients I usually allot about 5 minutes per dance; this gives plenty of transition time between each one. There is more transitional time between each element to your wedding than you may initially think; it takes time to get all your guests seated, or in place for that special sendoff you are planning. If your timeline is too rigid it will not take into account the human element.

2) Have a clear end time. This is crucial for planning the day as it is a fixed point upon which everything else is determined. If your venue has specific exit time, your timeline needs to respect that. If the exit time is 11 then your reception should be over by 10 so that vendors have sufficient time for cleanup.

3) Give yourself and your bridesmaids plenty of time to get ready. Many of my clients do not initially realize how long it takes for hair and makeup. Standard practice is to allow 1 hour for hair and 1 hour for makeup. Sometimes for the Bride it can even be 1.5 hours for hair depending on how elaborate the hairstyle. That is about 2 hours for each bridesmaid and almost 3 hours for the Bride. This is your wedding day and you want to make sure you have plenty of time to get picture perfect before walking down the aisle. Do not rush the process; get an early start to ensure everyone is ready on time.

4) Pictures will take longer than you think. Everyone is excited to celebrate with you and socialize with family and friends. It might take a minute to reign everybody in for those precious group photos. Give yourself plenty of cushion in your timeline so your photographer can get the shots you want. Depending on the size of the wedding party, group photos can take 45 minutes to an hour. Also, if you want photos of just the bride and groom that can take an additional 30 minutes; it all depends on what you want. However, don’t rush the photos just to get on with the rest of the festivities, these are your key to looking back on your special day for years to come.

5) Allow plenty of time to travel between venues. Having the ceremony and reception at two different locations? Plan out your travel routes to avoid traffic and potential road closures, and then allow extra time in case the unforeseen takes place such as an accident or inclement weather causing traffic to slow. Be realistic about how long it takes to get from one location to the next and have a plan for guests in case the wedding party gets held up at the ceremony site.

6) Give your guests (and yourself) plenty of time to eat. Factoring in what service style, meal, and guests count you are planning on for the reception, the amount of time it takes for guests to get their food and eat it will vary. Your caterer should be able to give you a realistic amount of time specific to your event but factoring in at least 1 hour for the meal portion is a good place to start.

Keep in mind that every wedding is different. The timeline that your best friend used may not work with what you are planning. Be realistic about how long each element will take, and communicate with your vendors about their needs. Communication and an understanding of the needs of everyone involved on the wedding day is the key to a successful timeline.

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