How to schedule a complete wedding day timeline?

Your wedding day – the moment you have been planning for and dreaming about for months.

While a detailed play-by-play wedding day schedule of your wedding day timeline with strict time limits may seem absolutely boring, when it comes to having a smooth wedding day with no major hassles, the secret lies in your ability to schedule enough preparation time for each event. (download the wedding day timeline template below)

So what’s the most important thing you should do to play down the stress on your wedding day?

Let’s take a look at a complete wedding timeline that will help you relax and soak in every moment of your special day.

Before the Ceremony

Bride’s Hair & Makeup: Two hours. Don’t forget to include time to make any last minute changes or fixes.

Bridesmaids’ Hair & Makeup: 1 hour and 15 minutes per bridesmaid.

Tips: It’s best that the stylist starts make-up on the bride first. It lets her relax for the rest of the time. However, the hairstylist should start on the bridesmaid’s first and work on the bride’s hair last. This will let the photographer capture wedding preparation shots while the bride looks fresh. If there are more than two bridesmaids, request the stylist and hairstylist to bring a virtual assistant.

Photographer’s arrival: To allow the photographer to capture a few fun, emotional and candid photos of the bride and bridal party in their finished looks as well as the wedding dress, ask the photographer to arrive at least an hour before the bride is ready.

Tips: Discuss all the ‘getting ready’ shots in advance to save time. Factor in about 2-3 minutes for each shot.

Travelling to a salon? Make sure to factor in some extra travel time.

Put on your dress: Put on the wedding dress and let the photographer create a picture-perfect photo op.

Tips: Make sure whoever is helping with the wedding dress has clean hands. Put on the veil only after the dress. Ask the hairstylist to be there to make sure the veil is secure and for any last-minute adjustments.

Pre-ceremony photos: Call in the photographer to capture photos with family and wedding attendants. Make sure to allow extra time for unexpected delays.

Tips: Keep the number of shots down – it’s not that time of the day for those endless combinations of friends and family. Again, discuss all the shots in advance to save time and listen to your photographer’s location advice. Ask the photographer for both formal and casual shots.

First Look: If the bride and groom are allowed to see each other, then keep 15-30 minutes for their first photo together.


Groom and Groomsmen’s Arrival: The groom and his party should arrive about an hour and a half prior to the ceremony.

The Bride and Bridesmaid’s Arrival: The girls can relax a bit – they need to arrive only an hour before the ceremony.

Tip: If not planning any pre-ceremony shots, the bride can wait till just before walking down the aisle.

Ceremony: 40 minutes would be adequate to have a memorable ceremony that can include a few meaningful readings, the vows, and tributes to family and friends.

Bridal Party Photos outside the Church: About 20 to 30 minutes.

Tip: Save photos of very large groups (friends, co-workers, classmates) for the reception.

The Bride and Groom Location Photos: About 20 to 30 minutes for post-ceremony photos at one or two locations decided earlier.

Tip: Make sure your photographer has a detailed shot list.

Important Note: If the gap between the ceremony and the reception is more than an hour, have the guests arrive at the reception location early for cocktails and appetizers.


From 4-6 hours.

Cocktail Hour: The cocktail hour kicks off the wedding reception.

Receiving Line: Greeting your guests (100-150) could take about 20 minutes.

Tip: If you have over 200 guests, it might be a good idea to visit and greet them during the reception dinner.

Grand entrance: The grand entrance of the bridal party and the newlyweds.

The First Course Served

The Main Course Served

Speeches and Toast: While the dinner is being served, schedule the speeches and toasts. Start with the welcome toast from the father of the bride. The bride and groom can also thank the guests and raise a toast. This can be followed by speeches from the father of the groom, the best man, the maid of honour, and later by the guests who have been asked to toast.

Tips: It’s a good idea to split the toasts and speeches, i.e. a few before the main course and a few after dinner.

Cake Cutting: The wedding cake can be cut as dinner ends.

First Dance: After the cake has been cut, don’t let the spotlight slip away. Dim the lights put on the music and it’s time for the first dance as a married couple.

Father/Daughter Dance: After the first dance.

Mother/Son Dance: After the father/daughter dance.

Tips: The Father/Daughter, Mother/Son dance can be planned together – if the songs match!

Open up the dance floor: It’s time for the guests to shake a leg.

Bouquet and Garter Tosses: Ask all the eligible ladies and men to gather. Plan it about an hour before the end of the reception.

Another option: Toss the bouquet out of the car window to the waiting crowd as leaving.

Tips: Make sure the photographer does not leave before the tosses.

Farewell: If planning to change into a more formal dress, change the attire right after the tosses.

Tip: Do not wait until the last minutes of the event.

Now you have a clear idea of how your big day will unfold with a clear timeline in your hand. This will ensure that you and your core team know what to do and where to be – right from beginning to the middle to the end in the absolute right order.

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