The importance of wedding timelines: What are they and how to decide on one

Congratulations! You’re getting married. That means you have a lot of planning ahead of you. From picking out a venue, buying a wedding dress, deciding on a color pallet, tasting food options, and attending parties, you won’t be lacking for something to do over these next several months. While this is a very exciting time, planning a wedding can be stressful if not thought out fully before the big day. Luckily, there are a lot of tools and services to help you get through it with smooth sailing.

One of the most important things to decide on once your wedding gets a little closer is your wedding timeline. Do you want to have a morning, afternoon, or evening ceremony? What time will your vendors arrive? Do you need to plan for hair and makeup? A well-planned wedding will flow smoothly for you and your guests. People won’t even stop to think what’s next. Coming up with a wedding timeline may seem daunting right now, but by the end of this, you’ll know exactly what to do. Let’s get started.

Details, Details, Details

Prior to sitting down with a pen and paper, or freshly painted nails and a keyboard, you and your fiancé need to decide on a few different special moments you’d like to incorporate. Consider a few of these:

    • Do you and your partner want to have a first look together? If not, how about a first touch where you stand around a corner, holding hands, before the ceremony?
    • How about a first look with your dad, mom, or grandparent?
    • Would you like sunset photos?
    • How about getting ready photos of both the bridesmaids and groomsmen?
    • Is there a special place you have in mind for photos in between your ceremony and reception if you plan to have them in different locations?
    • What family members would you like included in your group photos?
    • Do you plan on having a long or short cocktail hour?

All of these are great questions to think about and will help you better plan out your wedding timeline. Want special photos posing with a photo booth? You’ve got it. Aren’t interested in cake cutting pics? We don’t have to do them. This is you and your partner’s day so whatever you want, you can do!

Different Types of Wedding Timelines

Depending on the time of day you want to get married, your timeline can vary. That’s why it’s important to detail out what you want to accomplish. If you and your partner plan to have a religious ceremony, just keep in mind that they do take about an hour to complete. The below timelines are spread out for a 15-minute ceremony, so some slight adjustments can be made to fit a longer-form ceremony.

Morning Wedding Timeline  

Morning weddings are very charming and easy-going. Mimosas and brunch for your reception? Yes, please! If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, here’s an example of a morning wedding timeline:

    • 7:00 a.m. – Getting ready, including hair and makeup
    • 8:30 a.m. – Vendors arrive, and setup starts
    • 9:00 a.m. – First look (if desired) and bridesmaids/groomsmen photos
    • 9:30 a.m. – Ready for guests, pre-ceremony music starts to play
    • 10:00 a.m. – Guests start to arrive
    • 10:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. – Ceremony
    • 10:45 a.m. – Cocktail hour starts. If couples portraits weren’t taken before the ceremony, you can do so at the start of the cocktail hour. Family and entire bridal party photos are at the beginning
    • 11:30 a.m. – Brunch starts
    • 12:15 p.m. – Toasts
    • 1:00 p.m. – First dance
    • 1:30 p.m. – Cake cutting and dessert
    • 2:45 p.m. – Couple exits
    • 3:00 p.m. – Guests leave, and breakdown starts

Early Afternoon Timeline  

This is for the couple who loves lunch, partying, and being at their hotel to unwind before dinner. Who doesn’t love the idea of sandwiches as their wedding meal? Check out this early afternoon wedding timeline:

    • 9:00 a.m.Hair and makeup, getting ready
    • 9:30 a.m.— Vendors arrive, and setup starts
    • 11:00 a.m.— Getting ready and detail photos start
    • 11:45 a.m.— First look and/or bridal party and groomsmen photos
    • 12:30 p.m.— Doors open, and music starts
    • 1:00 p.m.— Guests start to arrive
    • 1:15 p.m. – 1:35 p.m. — Ceremony
    • 1:40 p.m.— Cocktail hour starts. This is when you’ll take family portraits, couple portraits, and entire bridal party pictures
    • 2:30 p.m.— Lunch starts
    • 3:00 p.m.—Toasts
    • 3:30 p.m.— First dance
    • 5:00 p.m.— Cake cutting and dessert
    • 6:15 p.m.— Couple exists
    • 6:30 p.m.— Guests leave, and breakdown starts

Evening Wedding Timeline

This is the most common timeline for couples. Depending on the month you’re getting married and the lighting, you may start an hour earlier or later than the timeline below. For example, the sun in the summer months is a lot more intense. Starting your ceremony at 5 p.m. instead of 4 p.m. might help with heat and direct sun. Here is an example of an evening wedding timeline:

    • 10:00 a.m.—Hair and makeup and getting ready starts
    • 12:00–2:00 p.m.— Most vendors arrive for setup, pre-reception photos are taken
    • 2:00 p.m.— Wedding party and first look photos
    • 3:30 p.m.— Pre-ceremony music starts
    • 4:00 p.m.— Guests start to arrive
    • 4:15 p.m. – 4:35 p.m. — Ceremony
    • 4:40 p.m.— Cocktail hour starts. Wedding party, family photos, and couples portraits are taken
    • 5:45 p.m.— Move guests into dinner
    • 6:00 p.m.— Buffet opens, or dinner served
    • 6:20 p.m.— All guests have food
    • 6:30 p.m.—Toasts
    • 7:30 p.m.— First dance
    • 7:35 p.m.— General dancing music starts
    • 8:00 p.m.— Second set of pre-sunset portraits
    • 8:30 p.m.— Dessert
    • 9:45 p.m.— Last call
    • 9:55 p.m.— Music is turned off and guests start to depart

Remember to Have Fun

 This is such a special time in your lives. You and your partner and declaring your love for one another. Remember throughout this process to slow down and take it all in. The stress of wedding planning is only temporary. Hopefully with these different types of wedding timelines, Chelsea Schmidt Photography can help take some of the worries away. Cheers!