Making a timeline is an essential part of a wedding day, and whether you’re creating a timeline yourself or working along with your planner, it’s important to understand the basics of a timeline and why they’re so necessary.
Your DJ, photographer, videographer, caterer, baker, venue, and any other vendors are all going to be relying on the timeline on your wedding day, so it’s important to put in the work ahead of time to assure everything goes as planned.
I know it feels like a lot of pressure, but don’t panic! If you follow this guide, I can assure you that you will have a timeline that is simple, straightforward, and sure to get you through the day as smoothly as possible!
Every wedding day is unique, and therefore there is no “one size fits all” approach for wedding timelines. The timeline below will serve as an example as to how long traditional wedding day events take place, but by all means you should add/remove/move around things as you see fit.
A good rule of thumb is that you’re better off giving yourself more time than necessary than to not have enough time. It’s not a bad idea to add in the occasional 5-15 minute “buffer time” between events that are more likely to run over, such as hair and makeup and wedding party photos.
One thing that is for sure on any wedding day is that things are going to run behind. But as long as you have built “cushion” time into your timeline, there is no reason to worry!
9:15am: Bride and bridesmaids arrive to venue bridal suite at The Breakers West
9:30am: Hair stylist and makeup artist arrive and begin bridesmaid and bride’s hair and makeup
10:30am: Groom and groomsmen arrive to groom’s suite at The Breakers West
11:30am: Vendors arrive at The Breakers West to begin setup, photographer and videographer arrive and head to bridal suite
12:30pm: Everyone is dressed and ready, groomsmen head to wedding venue
1pm: First look and couples portraits
1:45pm: Wedding party photos
2:30pm: Family photos
3:30pm: Guests begin to arrive
4:00pm: Ceremony start time on invitations
4:15pm: Ceremony starts
4:45pm: Cocktail hour begins
4:45pm-5:15pm: More couple’s portraits
5:45pm: Reception begins
5:50pm: Wedding party/newlyweds introduction
6:00pm: First dance/father daughter dance/mother son dance
6:30pm: Dinner served
8:30pm: Cake cutting
8:45pm: Garter toss/bouquet toss
10:00pm: Newlyweds exit
Common Timeline Questions:
Should I do a first look?
Deciding whether or not to do a first look is an entirely personal preference, but as a photographer I generally recommend it, especially if you are running on a tight schedule for the day.
Some benefits of a first look are that you will get to spend more time with your spouse on your wedding day. You will also be able to take more photos before the ceremony and potentially attend the cocktail hour, which couples often miss!
If you’re still on the fence, I have another blog post here going more in depth about whether a first look is a good idea for you or not!
When should I do first dances/toasts/garter and/or bouquet toss/cake cutting?
The timing of these events will largely depend on your photographer and videographer’s coverage. If you opt out of keeping your photographer and videographer your wedding until the very end, then you will want to fit any important events in before they leave.
Even if your photographer and videographer are staying until the very end, sometimes couples still opt to do these events earlier in the night. The benefit of this would be that those giving speeches can relax, and your night can flow right into dancing without any interruptions.
Ultimately, this is all based on personal preference for you and your soon-to-be spouse! It may be helpful to think back on previous weddings you have been to and how you felt about the flow of their receptions.
When should my ceremony be?
Your ceremony time should be determined largely by the time of year you are getting married, and the sunset time as a result.
You’ll find that during winter months in Florida, the sun can set as early as 5:25pm, while in the summer the sun will set as late as 8:30pm! As a basic rule, the best light for photos is the hour before sunset. Let’s look at two common scenarios:
- If you’re doing a first look: When doing a first look, you will want the first look to occur approximately 2.5 hours before the ceremony begins. For example: if your wedding is happening in the winter when the sun sets at 5:30pm, you would want to do your first look at about 1pm, with couples photos happening at 1:15, wedding party photos happening at 2, family photos happening at 2:45, and then concluding at 3:15 with time to spare for makeup/hair touch-ups and time to hang out and hide before guests arrive. The ceremony would occur at 4:30-5, and during the cocktail hour some more couples photos could be done to capture the “golden hour” light.
- If you’re not doing a first look: Again, let’s assume your wedding is during the winter and the sun is setting at 5:30pm. Without a first look, ideally both sides of the wedding party’s photos can occur before the ceremony, with only full wedding party, family photos, and couple’s photos remaining after. An example timeline for this would be: Your ceremony at 3:30pm, family photos at 4pm, wedding party photos at 4:30pm, and couples photos at 4:45pm.
Once again, these examples are not “one-size-fits-all” and depending on the size of your family and wedding party, you may want to allot more or less time to each event.
I hope that this has been helpful for you! When it comes to timeline, there are basic rules and a commonly accepted flow that is accepted for weddings. But ultimately, this is your day and you should do what feels right for you and your soon-to-be-spouse.