The Friday Five

Tips for designing your Wedding Day Timeline

As you read this post, I’m likely thinking about all the last-minute wedding planning we have yet to get done before our big day (129 days…and counting). Being that we’re less than 5 months away from our wedding day, I’ve suddenly begun to feel the pressure from vendors to see our ‘wedding day timeline’ and to confirm exactly when they’ll be arriving to our event. As a photographer, I ask to see a detailed timeline of your day ~6 weeks before your wedding date; but I’ve now learned that other vendors (e.g. officiants and caterers) may need to see it much earlier.

I can tell you this : planning your wedding day timeline isn’t easy, but the tips I’ve learned over the years as a wedding photographer has made our timeline planning not only manageable, but exciting to create; now that we have ours written down, we have a pretty good sense of how the day will play out + the butterflies are officially starting to set in!

Today I’m sharing my tips on how we created our own wedding day timeline + how easily you can too!


  1. Check what time the sun sets + work backwards from there.
    This is my favourite tip and absolutely how we started planning our timeline. Sunset can vary from 4:30 in the Winter, to 8:30 in the Summer, which will dramatically impact the timing of your day. To find out when sunset is predicted for your wedding date, check out this link.
  2. Determine whether any vendors need to start at a certain time.
    Have you hired your photographer(s) for a set number of hours? Will your DJ only stay until 12pm? Or – as in our case – do you have vendor(s) (e.g. officiants) working multiple events on your day, with a strict timeline?
  3. Calculate travel time.
    Don’t let travel be the reason your timeline falls apart. Consider doubling your travel time if you anticipate any kind of traffic on the way.


  • Bride’s hair + makeup:
    45-60 min for hair; 45-60 min for makeup, as recommended by makeup artist, Liana LaCroix, who also suggests opting for a hair and makeup trial prior to the wedding. She says these trials “free up time on the wedding day” as you can decide on the style of your look in advance.
  • Bridesmaids hair + makeup:
    45 min for hair; 45 minutes for makeup, according to Erin of Elska Beauty, “as this allows for station resetting, a quick consultation, and the service itself”.
  • Photography of bride prep:
    60-90min before departing for the Ceremony, in order to give your photographer enough time to photograph your details (gown, shoes, rings, invitations, etc.) as well as candid moments with your bridesmaids + bridal portraits before the Ceremony.
  • Photography of groom prep:
    30 min minimum.
  • First look:
    10-15 min.
  • Bride + Groom portraits:
    30 min (immediately following the ‘first look’ or during Cocktail hour). 
  • Wedding party:
    30 min.
  • Bouquet/boutonnière drop-off:
    As close to the Ceremony depart-time as possible. For bouquet + boutonnières, Katherine of Pollen Nation suggests that it’s “…wise to get them as last minute as possible before the Ceremony so they are fresh and beautiful”.
  • Groom arrives at Ceremony venue to usher guests:
    60-90 min before Ceremony.
  • Photography of untouched Ceremony space:
    15-20 min before guests arrive.
  • Bride arrives at Ceremony venue:
    15 min before Ceremony.
  • Ceremony:
    20-30 min is average.
  • Receiving line:
    15-20 min (15 min for < 100 guests; 20 minutes for > 150 guests).
  • Cocktail hour:
    60 min.
  • Family formals:
    30 min (or 3 min per grouping).
  • Photography of untouched Reception space:
    15-20 min before guests enter.
  • Sunset photos:
    15-20 min.
  • Dinner:
    At least 60 min.
  • Bouquet + garter toss:
    5-10 min.


Planning a traditional, Catholic wedding? Check out this timeline created by Delightfully Bustled for Jess + Trevor’s wedding last Fall:

7:00am: Bridesmaid’s hair begins.
8:00am: MOB + Bride’s hair and makeup beings.
11:30am: Groom prep photography.
12:00pm: Bride prep photography
1:00pm: Groom + groomsmen arrive at Ceremony location to usher guests.
1:45pm: Bride + bridal party arrive at Ceremony location.
2:00pm: Catholic Ceremony.
3:00pm: Receiving line.
3:15pm: Family formals.
3:45pm: Travel to portraits location.
4:00pm: Wedding party photos + more photos with family.
5:00pm: Bride + Groom portraits; Cocktail hour.
5:40pm: Photographer documents untouched Reception space.
6:00pm: Guests are seated.
6:14pm: Sunset.
6:20pm: Formal introduction of Bride + Groom.
6:30pm: Dinner.
6:45pm: Speeches begin.
8:30pm: Cake cutting; first dance; parent dances.
9:30pm: Bouquet + garter toss.
9:45pm: Dancing.
11:00pm: Photographer departs.

Or, maybe you’re planning to do a first-look in the Summer months like we are?:

7:30am: Bridesmaids hair + makeup begins.
10:30am: MOB + Bride’s hair and makeup beings.
11:00am: Bride prep + Groom prep photography (2nd photographer) starts.
12:30pm: Bride gets dressed.
12:50pm: First look with Bride’s dad.
1:00pm: Bride + Groom’s first look!
1:15pm: Bride + Groom portraits.
1:45pm: Wedding party portraits.
2:15pm: Immediate family formals.
3:00pm: Groom + groomsmen arrive at Ceremony location to usher guests.
3:30pm: Photography of untouched Ceremony space.
4:00pm: Guests start arriving
4:20pm: Bride + bridal party arrive at Ceremony location.
4:30pm: Ceremony.
4:50pm: Receiving line.
5:00pm: Cocktail hour + Extended family formals.
5:30pm: Photographer documents untouched Reception space.
6:00pm: Guests are seated.
6:20pm: Formal introduction of Bride + Groom.
6:30pm: Dinner.
6:45pm: Speeches begin.
7:40pm: Sunset photos.
8:00pm: First dance.
8:05pm: Parent dances.
8:12pm: Sunset.
8:15pm: Garter + bouquet toss.
8:30pm: Dancing starts.
9:00pm: Photographer departs.


Have any tips on how you created your own Wedding Day Timeline?
Have any questions that weren’t answered in this post?
Did your timeline run late + how did you make up the time?
What do you think of our wedding day timeline?

Share your thoughts below! x

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