You’ve booked your vendors, nailed down your decorations, and practiced your vows. As the big day draws near, one of the last (and arguably most crucial) items on your to-do list remains: creating your wedding weekend timeline.
When it comes to making sure your wedding goes off without a hitch, creating a detailed timeline is key. This ensures that every moment of your wedding weekend comes together seamlessly, from when your vendors arrive to capturing the best lighting for your first look photos. With so much coming together from all angles, planning your wedding weekend hour by hour will keep everything in check and minimize stress in the process.
While every couple’s wedding timeline is different, familiarizing yourself with how long each wedding activity generally takes is a great starting point for crafting the perfect itinerary. To help, we’ve outlined a sample wedding day timeline with the standard activities most couples will need to account for. Use this as a starting point, then customize it based on the specifics of your own big day. We’ve also included four sample wedding weekend timelines that you can use to build out your own.
Before creating your own wedding day timeline from scratch, it helps to get an idea of how long each activity typically takes. Below, we’ve broken down the approximate time needed for each part of the wedding day, from when you’ll start getting ready to when your ceremony music begins. Remember that this can all be altered according to your specific wedding plans—it’s simply a helpful guideline for knowing how long each item should take.
3-5 hours: Wedding party starts getting ready
Start the morning of your wedding day with plenty of time to get ready before the ceremony. Throw on your matching robes, have a nourishing breakfast, and enjoy the morning with your crew. If you have a larger bridal party, take this into account when it comes to scheduling hair and makeup for each person.
15 minutes: Bride gets dressed
Factoring in a time block for when you’ll put on your wedding dress ensures you aren’t in a rush. Don’t forget things like your shoes, veil, and accessories.
1 hour: Solo photos
If you’re taking solo portraits, schedule this directly after you and your wedding party have finished getting ready. This might take 30 minutes for some brides, and an hour and a half for others—it all depends on what you want and how many shots you’d like.
45 minutes: Wedding party photos
Round up your crew to capture all of your wedding party shots. This can also include photos with your parents and your partner’s parents if desired. We recommend scheduling at least 45 minutes for these.
15-30 minutes: First look photos
Once you’ve finished your wedding party photos and solo shots, carve out some time for your first look (if you’ve chosen to have one!). First look photos actually don’t take too long, and 15-30 minutes is usually enough time.
30 minutes: Travel from getting-ready location to venue
Unless your getting-ready location is the same as your venue, be sure to schedule in travel time for you and your wedding party to head to the venue. (Keep in mind you might move this time block to directly after you and your crew finish getting ready if you’re taking photos at the venue vs. your getting-ready location.) Be sure to schedule ample time to account for potential traffic delays.
30 minutes: Guests begin to arrive
At this point in the day, it’s time to start any pre-ceremony music you’ve planned to play as guests begin to arrive. We recommend blocking out around 30 minutes to ensure all guests have arrived and made it to their seats before the ceremony begins.
20 minutes-1 hour: Ceremony begins
This time block will vary depending on the type of wedding you’re having. A large ceremony with several rituals, readings, or other cultural elements will take much longer than a standard secular ceremony, so your ceremony schedule could be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Plan accordingly depending on your unique ceremony.
45 minutes: Family photos
Typically, couples schedule time directly after the ceremony to capture photos with both partners’ families. While you want to schedule enough time to get all the shots you want, you don’t want to keep your guests waiting too long before the reception officially starts. Be sure to plan with your photographer ahead of time to have a list of every shot you’ll need in order to stay on task and move quickly when the time comes.
45 minutes: Cocktail hour
Many couples plan a cocktail hour to entertain guests while family photos are being taken. This is an important transition period between the ceremony and reception, and getting the timing right is crucial to serving your guests while they wait. Touch base with relevant vendors like the band or DJ and the bartender to ensure everything is ready to go as soon as guests enter once the ceremony has ended.
15 minutes: Reception begins, newlywed entrance, and first dance
Once family photos are wrapped up and cocktail hour comes to a close, it’s time to kick off the reception with your grand entrance as newlyweds. Following the entrance of your wedding party, you and your partner will be announced as officially married while you make your way into the reception area.
In many cases, your first dance will immediately follow your grand entrance. Alternatively, you can wait until after the first course of the meal has been served.
40 minutes: Dinner or first course is served
After you’ve finished your first dance, everyone will take their seats for dinner. If you’re serving multiple courses, your first course is served at this time.
10 minutes: Welcome toasts Traditionally, the hosts will offer a welcome speech while the first course is served. Whether you and your partner want to take over the microphone to thank your guests for coming or you have your parents address the group, this is a great time to formally welcome your guests and lean into the rest of the evening.
40 minutes: Main course is served
Once the first course is complete, move on to the second.
15 minutes: Wedding party speeches
Scheduling your wedding party speeches while your guests are still seated and finishing up their meals is a logical transition, especially since this might be the last time all your guests are seated at once. The order of speeches is up to you, along with who will be making the speeches. Traditionally, the best man (or woman) takes the stage first, followed by the maid (or man) of honor.
10 minutes: Parent dances
Once dinner and speeches are complete, it’s time for parent dances. While they might be brief, both are special moments that many parents cherish as their kids transition into marriage.
1-2 hours: Party time
After parent dances are finished, it’s time to keep the party going and hit the dance floor. It makes sense to segue directly into inviting guests onto the dance floor as soon as parent dances conclude.
10 minutes: Cake cutting
After about an hour of dancing, set aside a few minutes to cut your wedding cake. You can make this a special ceremony for guests to see, or you can do it while guests are still dancing—whatever you prefer. Once the cake has been cut, guests can choose to head back to their seats for dessert or continue dancing.
15 minutes: Wedding exit
When it’s time to depart, make sure your wedding exit song is cued up for your departure. Make sure any fun favors like sparklers are arranged for guests to grab, and designate someone to show people where to line up before you and your partner make your getaway.
The following wedding weekend timeline is one of the most common—a Friday night rehearsal dinner, Saturday night wedding, and a Sunday brunch the morning after. Of course, this standard schedule can be tweaked any way you like, whether you’d prefer a Friday night happy hour over brunch or something else entirely. Work with your wedding planner or day-of coordinator to hammer out the specifics, but this sample wedding day timeline is a helpful starting point.
Note that the schedule below assumes that the ceremony and reception are being held at the same venue, and the couple and their wedding parties will be getting ready at off-site locations (like a hotel or Airbnb) before traveling to the wedding venue.
If you’re holding your wedding in the early afternoon, keep in mind that things will move more quickly on the morning of your wedding. Expect to adjust your morning-of schedule accordingly to ensure you have plenty of time, and consider handling any details you can the day before to avoid feeling rushed.
A micro wedding is an intimate affair consisting of no more than 50 of your nearest and dearest family and friends. This type of ceremony is like a bite-sized version of a traditional wedding with 100+ people, and tends to be more casual and relaxed. However, that doesn’t mean a timeline isn’t needed!
A destination wedding weekend means plenty of time to play, relax, and take in the destination with your loved ones. Many couples choose to throw their guests a welcome party upon arrival, followed by a day of relaxation and enjoying the resort the day before the wedding. However, this all depends on your schedule and how many days you plan to stay, and what you choose to include is ultimately up to you!
If you’re getting married in a tropical destination, crafting your wedding day timeline usually hinges on sunset time—not only to capture those romantic photos, but also because shooting photos any earlier than sunset tends to mean extra hot temperatures. Find out what time the sun will set on your wedding day at your destination and go from there.
Creating an hour-by-hour wedding weekend timeline might feel daunting, but trust us—you’ll be so glad you did when the big day finally arrives. It’s a surefire way to ensure things go as smoothly as possible amid the hustle and bustle of a jam-packed wedding weekend, and minimizes the chance of having to deal with any last-minute emergencies—or at least makes them less stressful to handle. Plus, your vendors will thank you for the organization!
For a seamless wedding weekend, download these editible printable timelines to keep everything in one place. Fill in the wedding party timeline and pass them out to all the members in your wedding party so everyone stays organized, and use the wedding weekend timeline to plan your unqiue day by the hour.
Executing your wedding day definitely requires some fine-tuning and attention to detail, but it’s more than worth it after seeing your dream wedding come to life. Happy planning!