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Wedding Day Timeline

It's wedding day! This is a generic timeline on what to expect on wedding day. Of course you can use this at whichever lovely venue you book. It's complementary and it's fun to get an idea of how the day will play out! Your photographer will have some helpful information to help you with the timeline.


  • [time] — Hair and/or makeup appointments

    • The two most important pieces of information that you need if you’re offering hair and/or makeup are 1) how many people are getting something done and 2) what they’re getting done. Once you have this information, ask the salon, stylist, etc. how long each treatment takes and work back from there.

  • [time] — Venue rental begins at

    • Most venue rental windows run eight to 12 hours. Always leave a couple of hours at the end for clean-up (a.k.a. the time between when you and your guests leave and the time when your wedding vendors leave). Very few venues allow you to leave decorations, alcohol, etc. overnight either the night of the wedding. Keep this in mind as you figure out what’s getting to where and by when.

  • [time] — Photographer(s) begin at [location]

    • Things to consider when you’re considering when your photographer should start:

      • When do you want to see your partner? Often, this is either a “first look” (a private meet-up between the couple before the ceremony) or when one person walks down the aisle toward the other.

      • What type of photos do you want? The most common options are wedding party photos (usually 30 to 45 minutes) and family photos (usually 45 to 60 minutes). Sometimes couples like “couple-only photos,” too (usually 10 to 15 minutes). Your photographer may also recommend getting-ready photos (usually 15 to 30 minutes right after the photographer first arrives) and detail shots (usually 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day of such items as the wedding dress on a hanger, the wedding bands on a flower, etc.)

      • When do you want to take photos?

        • If you have a first look: Often, couples will move from the first look right into wedding party photos and then family photos. Family photos can also easily happen right after the ceremony but remember, any post-ceremony photos add time between the end of the ceremony and when you and your partner arrive at the reception.

        • If you first see each other walking down the aisle: All photos — wedding party, family, any additional couple photos — will happen right after the ceremony. My only note of caution here: Try and keep the list of photos you want on the smaller end so you don’t get caught up in a two-hour photo sess and miss your own cocktail hour.

      • All of the above applies to a videographer, too, if you and your partner hire one.

  • [time] — Videographer(s) begin at [location]

  • [time] — Florist and/or flowers arrive at [location]

    • If you have any flowers that you’d want in photos such as bouquets or boutonnières, make sure those flowers are with you when photos start. In other words, if you opt for a first look and the first look isn’t at the same spot where you’re having the ceremony, consider how the flowers are getting to the first look spot.

  • [time] — Ceremony music arrives at [location]

  • [time] — Reception music arrives at [location]

    • In many cases, ceremony and reception music are the same — a DJ hired to do the audio at the ceremony and at the reception or just at the reception. However, sometimes a couple will hire one type of music for the ceremony — a harpist or acoustic guitarist, for example — and another for the reception. That’s why I separate the ceremony and reception music on the timeline.

  • [time] — Caterer(s) arrives at [location]

    • Remember to include the arrival time for every caterer or food provider involved in your wedding, including for any dessert you may want.

  • [time] — Officiant(s) arrives at [location]

    • An officiant usually doesn’t need to be at the ceremony venue any more than 30 minutes before the ceremony starts but earlier is always better than later so that they can, as needed, find parking, get mic’d up, and be ready to get you married.

  • [time] — Partner #1 and partner #1’s party get ready at [location]

  • [time] — Partner #2 and partner #2’s party get ready at [location]

    • Often couples like to get ready with their respective parts of the wedding party, if they have a wedding party. If you do this, just make sure everyone knows where to meet and when.

  • [time] — Partner #1 and partner #1’s party take [mode of transportation] to arrive at [location, typically wherever the ceremony is taking place but this might also be a special location specific to a first look, if applicable]

  • [time] — Partner #2 and partner #2’s party take [mode of transportation] to arrive at [location, typically wherever the ceremony is taking place but this might also be a special location specific to a first look, if applicable]

  • [time] — Ceremony begins at [location]

  • [time] — Couple signs license at [location] with [name of witness #1] and [name of witness #2] and officiant

    • This takes, at most, 10 minutes. I recommend you do it right after the ceremony (preferably in a private room away from guests) just so you don’t have to worry about it. Be sure and double-check the paperwork that comes with the license to see the deadline for when you need to return the final license to the county.

  • [time] — Reception begins at [location]

    • This time is often considered your cocktail hour between the ceremony and the main meal. If you elected to do photos after the ceremony, this is when that would happen.

  • [time] — Couple introduced as [couple’s preferred name(s) for an introduction]

    • Like so much on this timeline, being introduced at the reception is so not required (or you can go the other way and introduce more than just the two of you — say, the whole wedding party).

  • [time] — Sunset

    • I know this seems funny but believe me, it matters, particularly when it comes to any photos you might want to take at the wedding. Photos need light so it makes a difference when the sun goes down :)

  • [time] — Main meal begins

  • [time] — Toast(s)

  • [time] — First bite

  • [time] — First dance(s)

  • [time] — Dance floor opens

  • [time] — Bouquet and/or garter toss

  • [time] — Any additional wedding “traditions”

    • All of the above “traditions” are totally optional. None are required.

  • [time] — Last call

  • [time] — Couple leaves via [mode of transportation] to [location]

  • [time] — Guests leave

  • [time] — Venue rental ends

    • Alcohol: goes with [name of person responsible for this item]

    • Decorations: goes with [name of person responsible for this item]

    • Leftover food: goes with [name of person responsible for this item]

    • Gifts: goes with [name of person responsible for this item]

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