The Average Wedding Day Timeline

Every wedding is unique in its priorities and therefore its overall timeline. Some couples choose to focus heavily on traditions during the ceremony making it longer, while other couples choose to keep it simple and short. Both options can be captivating and memorable, but the differences definitely impact the overall timeline of your wedding day. This same idea can be translated into getting ready, photo sessions, and your reception- everything in your timeline is dependent on how you personalize your day. Because of this, finding a timeline template for your day that fits with your exact vision can be difficult. If you hire a planner, they will most likely create your timeline for you in a way that is tailored to your day and ensures you have the best amount of time set out for each portion of your event. On the other hand, if a planner simply isn’t in your budget or your planner doesn’t offer this service, you may be looking for a place to start getting an idea of what your timeline could look like (congrats, you found it!).

Rather than creating an hour by hour timeline that can’t be translated to every couple’s wedding, I have created a basic list with each wedding day segment and how long it takes on average. This way, you can take these basic guidelines and apply them to your wedding by cutting out or adding in any segment, no matter what you want your day to look like.

Getting Ready/ Pre- Ceremony (5-7 hrs):

Bridal Hair and Makeup: Hair should take between 45m-1.5hrs (your hairdresser will be able to give you a better estimate once they know what style you are looking for), and makeup takes about 30m-1hr.

Bridesmaids Hair and Makeup: About 30m-1hr per bridesmaid should be enough, but this depends on how many bridesmaids to artists as well as the complexity of each look.

Getting dressed: 15-20m depending on photos.

Groom & Groomsmen: The men need only about 30m-1hr depending on what they need to do the morning of (usually it is just getting dressed, a few photos, and maybe shaving, so this is plenty of time).

Photos: 30m-1hr before the ceremony should be allotted for any bridal portraits as well as photos of the bride with her maids and the groom with his men

First look: If you are doing a first look you want to allot 1-1.5 hrs, depending again on how much time you need for photos (your photographer will be able to tell you how much time they need for your shots)

Ready to go: Though it seems like a silly thing, you want to give yourself 30m on the timeline before the ceremony begins to just be ready. This will give you extra time in case anything takes a little longer than expected so that your ceremony can still start on time. If you would like, this time can also be used to snap a few photos since everyone will be ready to go.

Ceremony (20m-1hr):

This depends pretty heavily on what traditions you want to include, and since they are so vast, having a chat with your officiant or planner will give you a good idea of how long each piece that you want to include will take. As a general rule, a simple ceremony with just a processional, welcome, vows, ring exchange, kiss, and then recessional will take 20-30m, and each tradition or ceremony you add after that usually takes about 5-10m.

Family and Bridal Party Photos (45m-1hr):

You want this step to go as fast as possible, as these are more formal photos that don’t tend to get looked at quite as often as the more creative portraits. Giving yourself 20-30m for family photos, and then another 20-30m for bridal party photos will be plenty of time as long as everyone knows they need to stick around for the photos.

Cocktail Hour (1-1.5hrs):

Some people choose to skip this step all together, especially if you have already done your portraits during a first look, but to allow more time for photos, having a cocktail hour where your guests can mingle is a good idea. Just make sure you don’t go over the 1.5hr mark, or your guests will start to get a little antsy,

Reception (4-6hrs):

Grand entrance: This step only takes about 5m, which gives you and your party time to enter and seat yourselves.

Meal: You want about 20-30m per course, this will give your guests enough time to chat and still enjoy each course.

Speeches/Toasts: Give each person making a toast a 5 minute limit (or better, give them a 3 or 4 minute limit, but allot 5m each expecting them to go over). You should have no more than 8 speeches (40m), but if you have this many, try to space them out if you can.

First dances: You want to allot 5m each for m/s, f/d, and first dance, which brings you to 15m.

Cake cutting: This only takes about 5m, and that gives you enough time to snap a few photos while doing so.

Bouquet/Garter toss: Give yourselves 5m each if you are including this step.

Dancing: You want to have at least 1.5hrs for dancing if you are having it, but this step can really go on as long as you like.

Grand exit: Depending on what you are doing for your exit, this step takes between 5-15m to get everyone ready and have you on your way.

There you have it! These are all the steps that you will have to include in your timeline, however, it is important to note that there are a lot of other steps going on within the set up (and tear down) of your event. This should be something your vendors will be able to coordinate, but if you want to have the vendor steps on your timeline as well, you can always chat with them to see how long they need for each portion of their tasks. Hopefully this was helpful to your planning, but if the task seems a little overwhelming once you see it on paper, feel free to use my Contact page to shoot me an email, as I offer timeline creation as a separate service if you are needing a little help!

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