If you've been reading my previous few blogs on timelines, you'll know that putting effort into perfecting your wedding timeline will make your day 10x more enjoyable. Want to be a laidback bride? Then have a timeline to ensure that your day flows with ease.
The key to a successful wedding day timeline is by planning ahead. BUT you can't plan ahead if you don't know how long each wedding day event takes. Enter this blog post. To avoid any scheduling hiccups, I've put together an outline on how much time you should allocate to each wedding day event.
Keep reading for a no-fail wedding day timeline cheatsheet (and be sure to check out these 6 Tips for Structuring Your Wedding Day Timeline) to see how my couples and I work together to bang out a wedding day timeline that not only ensures you get to do everything that matter most, but that it's documented!
It's important to familiarize yourself with the time range that it takes for each activity throughout a wedding day. This isn't to say you have to do each and every one of these events, but I did try to cover all the bases here. I've broken down the approximate time allocated to each standard event, from early in the morning all the way through to your grand exit at the end of the night. These time blocks are a guide, you should absolutely adjust them to suit your own wedding day needs. For instance, you don't necessarily need 30 - 45 minutes of wedding party portraits if you only have a maid of honor and a best man. You know what I mean!
- Details — 30 mins. This always takes longer than expected, especially if your photographer has to run around collecting the detail items. Think veil, florals, stationery, rings, shoes, etc. I always recommend to my clients that they have these items in a box or a corner so that as soon as I get there I can get straight to work.
- Preparation — 2 to 3 hours. This includes preparations on both sides, covering some of hair and makeup, getting dressed, a first look with your parents or perhaps your bridesmaids, and any other getting-ready shots that are important to you. If your wedding party is larger, I always recommend more time here (more people = more time required for hair and makeup). A good rule of thumb is one hour of prep for each person in the wedding party (30 mins for hair, 30 mins for makeup).
- Pre-ceremony photos — 1 to 1.5 hours. Part of this time would be spent on your first look, if you're doing one, as well as newlywed portraits. These two events combined take about 30-45 mins. In addition, group photos with your wedding party are a great option at this time, which could take up to 45 mins depending on the size of your group!
- Ceremony — 30 minutes to 1 hour. The ceremony + the details beforehand will always vary depending on two things. Firstly, how elaborate your ceremony/reception setup is and the second is the length of your ceremony itself. Non-religious ceremonies can be as quick as 15 minutes, whereas some religious ceremonies can go upwards of one hour. In terms of the details, these photos take about 30 mins!
- Family portraits/cocktail hour — 1 hour. Typically cocktail hour is just that, an hour! After the ceremony, guests can mingle and at the same time you can head off to capture group photos with close friends and family. Depending on the size of your family, these portraits can take up to 45 mins.
- Call to dinner — 10 minutes. An "event" that is often overlooked, but one that should be mentioned. Have your DJ or MC call out that dinner is about to start. Not surprisingly, this takes a little bit of time, but 10 minutes at the max.
- Wedding party entrance, first dance, and welcome toasts — 20 minutes. Once your guests have been rallied, allow about 10 mins for for everyone to be introduced. I like to suggest that the newlywed introduction leads right into the first dance, followed immediately by the welcome toast. This sequence is a simple but super effective timeline saver.
- Wedding party and family speeches — 30 minutes. In between each course, allocate about 5-10 mins per speech. From a traditionally stance, the parents of the couple and the maid of honour + best man give speeches. If you have a chatty Cathy within the group, I highly suggest giving them a time cap of about 5 minutes, knowing they'll talk for about 7.
- Parent dances — 10 minutes. Super simple, think five minutes per song if you are doing these dances.
- Golden hour portraits — 20 minutes. You, your spouse, me and the sunset. Less the first look, this might be your only time alone together at your wedding. I always suggest this time being added, not only because the photos or beautiful but it's also just a nice way to slow down and appreciate the fact that you just got married.
- Reception exit — 15 minutes. Have your MC or DJ to gather your guests outside for your grand exit. Think sparklers, confetti, and if you really want to go for it, even fireworks.
- Travelling to the ceremony. This amount of time will depend on the distance between your getting ready location and the ceremony location. You might even want to add in time for travelling to a special portrait location (not recommended on shorter wedding days). If you're getting ready at the same place that the ceremony is taking place, then forget you ever read this! If you are travelling, account for not only travel time, but consider traffic delays too.
Still feeling a little overwhelmed? Fear not my friend.
If you haven't checked it out yet, this Wedding Day Timeline blog where I've put together a few sample schedules for a few different variations of weddings. Start with whichever one looks closest to yours, and use the above cheatsheet to adjust! That last tip is crucial - no two weddings are ever the same, so make those amendments where needed.
If this isn't enough info. for you and you're still feeling stuck, let's connect! My 2023 books are open and I'd love to work with you not only to document your day, but to help you build a seamless timeline so that you can easily achieve that laidback mindset once your big day rolls around!