Everything Wedding Day Timelines! / by Hannah Byrne

Timelines are BIBLE on a wedding day. Obviously there are some things that are out of our control. But for the most part, I stick to timelines as much as possible. Because each part of your day matters, being on time matters, and there are a lot of moving parts to a wedding day! So - I wanted to share HOW to create a timeline, WHEN you need to have a timeline set in stone by, and give you two REAL examples of timelines to help! (One with one venue + a first look and another with multiple locations + traditional)

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HOW to create a timeline:

Here are the main parts of your day that you need to know before you can create a timeline…

  • ALL locations - getting ready, ceremony, reception

  • Are you doing a first look?

  • What time is your ceremony?

  • How long do you anticipate it lasting?

  • Do you have a large family / Do you anticipate a lot of family portraits?

  • How big is your bridal party?

  • How long will cocktail hour last?

  • What time will you be introduced into your reception?

  • Are you doing a formal exit (ie. sparkler send off)?

Once I have this information, I’m able to give you a very detailed timeline.

BUT if you’re creating your own timeline, here is about how long certain parts the day take…

  • Details: 45 min

  • Bride getting dressed + portraits: 30 min

  • Groom getting ready: 45 min

  • First look + portraits: 45 min - 1 hr

  • ALL bridal party photos: 45 min

  • Ceremony: usually 30 min (Catholic ceremonies are 1 hr)

  • Family portraits: 25 min - 1 hr

  • Cocktail hour: 1 hr

  • Reception: 3-4 hrs

*PRO TIP: I always leave 30 minutes of buffer time BEFORE the ceremony. At this point, your guests are arriving and you don’t want to be out and about trying to finish up pictures! It’s best for you to hide away and take a minute to relax before the big moment!

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WHEN do you need to have a timeline set in stone:

I send my couples a questionnaire 2 months before their wedding. I gather all the information I need (as mentioned above), and then send over a custom timeline. Ideally you would confirm your timeline then, though I know that’s not always feasible. I would suggest having a firm timeline no later than 2 weeks before the wedding. This way you know ALL your vendors have the timeline and are on the same page. This also gives me time to communicate what’s needed to my second shooter!

*PRO TIP: Make sure your vendors are on the same page. Let your hair and makeup team know you need to be done by a certain time, let your florist know you’re doing a first look and will need the bouquets delivered early, etc.. Give them hard deadlines for your day so you know they won’t hold you up :)

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Two REAL timelines:

#1 - This timeline has 3 different locations (hotel, church, venue) and the couple did NOT do a first look

12:00 Photographers arrive to hotel (second shooter with guys)

12:00 Detail photos (dress, shoes, ALL 3 rings, invitation suite, bouquet, jewelry, etc.)

12:30 Groom + groomsmen drive to church

12:30 Bride to get dressed

1:00 Bride + bridesmaids drive to church

2:00 Wedding Mass

3:00 Family formal pictures at church

4:00 Drive to Reception Venue

4:15 Pictures with bridal party and family

5:00 Bride and Groom portraits

5:30 Cocktail hour to begin

6:15 Ballroom doors open, guests go to bar for last drink before sitting, ask to be seated, etc

6:35 Introductions

6:45 Bride and Groom's First Dance, guests invited to dance floor for short dance set

7:00 First course served; Blessing; Father of the Bride speech

7:15 Father/Daughter dance, Mother/Son dance, followed by everyone invited to the dance floor

7:25 Sunset Photos

7:40 Guests seated for Main Course

7:45 Main Course served

7:55 Speeches (MOH & BM)

9:15 Cake cutting

9:30 Photographers leave 

*NOTE: this was a 9.5 hour day!! The typical 8 hour coverage would not have been enough with the traveling, no first look, need for extra family formal portraits, etc. The couple knew this and chose a package that fit their needs and even ending up adding ADDITIONAL coverage! Know your day, be realistic and book a package that will WORK.

#2 This timeline has one venue (for getting ready, ceremony and reception) and the couple did a first look

2:00 Photographers arrive (second shooter with guys)

2:00 Detail photos (dress, shoes, ALL 3 rings, invitation suite, bouquet, jewelry, etc.)

2:30 Bride gets dressed

3:00 First look + Portraits

3:45 Bridal party photos

4:30 Guests start arriving

5:00 Ceremony

5:30 Ceremony ends

5:30 Family formal portraits, cocktail hour

5:50 Couple joins cocktail hour

6:35 Guests invited into reception

6:45 Introductions, first dance, welcome speech, blessing

7:00 Dinner is served

7:20 Sunset portraits

7:40 BM + MOH speeches

7:50 Mother/son, Father/daughter dances, Dance floor opens

9:00 Cut the cake

9:55 Sparkler exit, Photographers leave

*PRO TIP: Know what time sunset is on your wedding day!!!!!!! This seems so obvious, but if you want to get those dreamy sunset portraits you’re going to need to have 15-20 minutes to sneak out of your reception. Knowing when this needs to happen is CRITICAL!

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FINAL BONUS (If I haven’t convinced you that you need a timeline yet):

By FAR the best reason to create a cohesive timeline is so that you can FORGET about it. You can literally hand it off to your vendors, a family friend who wants to help or give it to your coordinator. You do NOT want to be running the show on your own wedding day. So do yourself a favor, take the time and MAKE A TIMELINE!

I hope this helps as you plan for your wedding day! Remember, the best wedding days are the ones that have a realistic timeline and stick to them as much as possible :)