The Perfect Wedding Day Timeline: Top Tips

Planning your beautiful celebration is no easy task, so we’re here to help you put together the perfect wedding day timeline. Every bride has their own vision of how they want their special day to go. For this to happen, couples need to be as organized and as prepared as possible. Although it’s not the most enjoyable part of the wedding planning process, it’s the best way for your nuptials to run smoothly with minimal glitches! This includes thinking about timings for hair and make-up, photos, traveling between venues, cocktail hour, and speeches. The aim is to make sure that you and your guests have an unforgettable day!

Keep reading below to discover our tips to guarantee the perfect wedding day timeline.

Start from Scratch

Creating your wedding day timeline might seem like it’s a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s best not to copy and paste other wedding timelines because each day is different. Of course, you can use others as a guide or rough template but you’ll still need to leave some time to work on your own.

Firstly, start early. The most common tip brides have for others, is to make sure they have plenty of time. Stress can be unavoidable sometimes, so be easy on yourself by not leaving things late. Secondly, start from scratch. Begin with the bigger parts of the day and work your way toward the smaller parts. Note down the start and end times. Then set priorities as an initial outline. Once you know what needs to happen, when and where, you can create a detailed schedule based on your priorities.

Be Detailed

When planning a wedding, the details can easily get lost. So, make sure that this doesn’t happen by breaking things down into bite-size chunks. Think about what you’ll need to be doing at each moment during the day. For example, allowing time to have breakfast and lunch. So many brides forget to take a moment to eat! Some more details include lighting any candles, lining up place cards, and placing favors correctly. You’ll be surprised by how the minutes add up!

Give Everyone Your Timeline

One tip that will help you enormously, is to make sure that everyone has a wedding day timeline. This means that every bridal party member and every vendor knows what’s going to happen and when, before the actual day. This will lift a big weight off of your shoulders because you won’t have to spend time on the day explaining things or trying to remember what needs to be done. Sometimes timing isn’t 100% on track, so make sure you’ve spoken to your vendors about their overtime stipulations too.

bride and groom
Photography: Alex Lasota | Planning & Design: TinSparrow Events | Florals: Simplified Celebrations | Wedding Dress: Berta | Bridesmaid Dresses: Fame and Partners | Hair & Makeup: La Bella Glo

Getting Ready Time

Every bride wants to look their best on their wedding day. So this is one part of the day you definitely don’t want to rush. You’ll need to leave plenty of time for you and your bridal party to get ready. Because of this, it’s much easier to book professionals. As they’ll know exactly what they’re doing and are experienced with sticking to time frames. When you go for your trials, the hair stylist and make-up artist should give you an estimate of how long they think it will all take on the big day. Sometimes, hair stylists and make-up artists know each other and are happy to work together to get everything done faster. It also helps to slot in time for some relaxation before the preparations begin. For example, a meditation session or a massage.

On The Road Travel Time

Don’t forget to plan travel time from your getting ready location to your ceremony, and between your ceremony and reception. Our tip is to test this out beforehand by driving the same route you’ll follow on the big day. Note down how long this takes and leave some extra time for any unexpected traffic. Make sure you look up any local events that might be taking place that day which could slow down your travel time. Also, once you’re at your venue, you’ll need to leave several minutes to greet guests. Everyone will want to say hello!

Think About Your Photos

Perhaps the most important consideration for your wedding day timeline is your photos. As they’ll be one of the most time-consuming parts of the day. Talk to your partner about what photos you’ll both want. For example, getting ready, solo portraits, bridal party photos, newlywed shots, and family photos. You might want detailed shots of your dress and decoration too. Discuss this with your photographer. They’ll have the best advice for making sure everything is streamlined. It helps to give them a shot list of the bridal party members, so they know who to focus on.

Also more recently, couples are choosing the see each other before the ceremony with a first look photo session. It’s an intimate and personal moment where the bride and groom get to see each other alone. So add enough time for this to keep everything on track.

wedding first look
Photography: Karra Leigh | Wedding Dress: Lovely Bride Denver

Reception Plan

Receptions can vary a lot between different couples. There are the typical moments such as welcome toast, meal, speeches, dances, bouquet toss, and opening of the dancefloor. So think about what you are or aren’t going to include, plus extras. One tip is not to make your guests wait too long to eat. It’s harder to have a good time if you’re hungry! Usually, dinner should be served around 30 to 45 minutes after the reception starts. Depending on the type of food you’re serving, you might choose to stagger courses between toasts. Also, don’t forget to leave time for reception photos. For example, cake cutting and the first dance. You don’t want to run out of time to capture those special moments.

Think About Your Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour is the prelude to the reception. It’s a time for everyone to grab a drink, mingle, and talk about how beautiful the bride looked at the altar. This is also the time the bride and groom might choose to take solo photos or bridal party photos too. But don’t let this hour drag on too long. Guests can start to get restless. They might even start to drink too much before they’ve eaten! So make sure that the cocktail hour is just enough time to get your guests ready for an unforgettable evening.

Careful With The Speeches

This is the moment you can lose track of time. Everyone will want to give a heartfelt speech about the happy couple, and you’ll probably get emotional listening to your loved ones sharing their best memories with you. But if this goes on for too long then it could delay the food service. Of course, there will always be one confident speaker that takes longer. But try to minimize this by talking to all of your speakers beforehand, and making sure they know the recommended speech length.

wedding day timeline
Photography: Carla Penoncelli | Planning: Il Giorno Che Vorrei | Reception Venue: Villa Bria | Catering: Cambusa Ligorini

Schedule in Buffers

Add in some buffer time, just to be on the safe side! You might need some extra time for smaller moments during the day such as signing the marriage license, setting up your decoration, and any delays. Even getting into your wedding dress might take longer than you think! Include 10 to 15 minute buffers between different parts of the day so that you have some extra flexibility.

Consider Any Unique Logistics

Think about any special moments or logistics that are unique to your big day. For instance, is your getting ready location different from your ceremony location? Do you want to have time before your ceremony with your closest relatives? Will there be any games or activities during the reception? Is there a noise curfew for your reception venue? You might even want some special golden hour photos. It’s essential to think about all of these logistics to make sure that your wedding day timeline is perfect.

Ask The Experts

You can never go wrong talking to professionals! Wedding planners and event coordinators are the best people to help you create your specific wedding day timeline. They’ll understand your vision and ask you the right questions to make sure there’s plenty of time for everything. The experts will also have experience with details you might not have thought about such as setting up and organizing vendors.

wedding day timeline
Photography: Sarah Noel

A Sample Wedding Day Timeline

Use this cheat sheet as a guide to creating your own schedule. These are the minimums you’ll need for each important part of the day. There might be some extras you need to include such as more time for a religious ceremony, travel, or unique moments you want photos of.


  • Wedding party getting ready (including bride and groom): 2-3 hours
  • Bride gets dressed: 15 – 30 mins
  • Solo photos: 30 mins
  • First look: 30 mins
  • Bride and bridesmaids photos: 15 mins
  • Wedding party photos: 15 mins
  • Groom and groomsmen photos: 30 mins
  • Family photos: 30 mins
  • Guests’ arrival: 30-45 mins


  • Ceremony decor photos: 30 mins
  • Wedding ceremony: 45 mins
  • Husband and wife photos: 30 mins
  • Family photos: 30 mins


  • Cocktail hour: 1 hour
  • Reception photos: 30 mins
  • Wedding party entrance: 15 mins
  • First dance: 10 mins
  • Welcome toast: 10 mins
  • Dinner: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Speeches: 15 mins
  • Parent dances: 10 mins
  • Bouquet toss: 10 mins
  • Cake cutting: 10 mins
  • Closing speech & dancefloor opens: 10 mins
wedding reception dancefloor
Photography: Jana Williams | Planner: Sterling Social | Venue: Tradition Golf Club | Music: West Coast Music | Lighting: Lighten Up

Wedding day timelines can be an under-appreciated aspect of wedding planning. But you’ll be so pleased when you see your dream day come true! For more tips and tricks to help you plan your special day head to WedBoard. You’ll find advice for all parts of the process including, How To Pick Your Wedding Menu, How To Choose A Getting Ready Location, and Unexpected Wedding Costs To Look Out For.

Featured image: Camera Shi Photography

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