The Easiest Way to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

wedding timeline

Your wedding timeline is what will keep your wedding day (and all the people associated with it) on track. Once you create it, you’ll want to make sure your vendors, wedding party, and anybody else who needs to arrive at a certain time gets a copy. 

If you’re working with a planner or coordinator, they will typically create a wedding day timeline for you. If not, you can always ask your DJ. Alternatively, your wedding photographer can also help.

Before you come up with your wedding day timeline—on your own or with the help of a vendor—you’ll want to answer these questions first:

  1. Do you want to have a “first look?”
  2. Is your ceremony/reception at the same location?
  3. How long will it take you to travel to/from your various locations (such as your getting-ready hotel to your venue)?
  4. What time do you want your ceremony to start?
  5. How many hours do you have your venue for (including setup and breakdown)?
  6. How many hours have you booked your hourly vendors for? IE: A full-coverage photography package is usually 8 hours.

Wedding Day Timeline At a Glance

We consulted with one of our favorite wedding planners, Brooke Avishay of Orange Blossom Special Events, on the wedding timeline, below. While every wedding is unique, these are the average times you can expect to budget for each part of your wedding day. Just be sure to check with each individual vendor to see what their time estimate is first. 

How to Use This Guide: You can use these guidelines to help build your own unique timeline, starting from your ceremony and working backwards/forwards from there.

Vendor Arrivals

Hair + Makeup

  • 15 minutes before their individual start times


  • If full-day coverage: Arrives at prep location about 4 hours before ceremony 
  • If no getting-ready photos: Arrives at venue around 2.5 hours before ceremony


  • 2 hours before ceremony

If having personal flowers (such as corsages and bouquets), ideally they can deliver those to your prep location when you’re getting dressed


  • 2 hours before ceremony


  • 2 hours before ceremony


  • 45 minutes before ceremony

How Long Things Will Take


  • 1 hour per person

Sometimes the wedding party’s HMU can take less time. Just make sure you’re starting first in case there are any issues.


  • 30 minutes


  • 30 minutes


  • First Look/Couple Portraits: 30 minutes (aim to do this two hours before your ceremony)
  • Wedding Party Photos: 30 minutes
  • Family Photos: 30 minutes


  • Sip of Champagne/Gather Out of Sight from Guests: 30 minutes before invitation time.
  • Pre-Ceremony Music Starts: 30 minutes before

Your actual ceremony start time should be about 15 minutes after you invitation time

  • Ceremony Itself: 30 minutes (1 hour for some religious ceremonies)
  • Freshen Up/Bustle Your Dress/Additional Photos Post Ceremony: 15 minutes


  • Cocktail Hour: 1 hour

If your reception is at a different location, have your cocktail hour start no more than an hour after your ceremony ends, depending on travel time.

  • Time to usher guests to dinner: 15 minutes
  • Entrance/Intros: 10 minutes
  • Dances: 5 minutes each
  • Welcome Toast: 5 minutes
  • Dinner: 1 hour
  • Toasts: 5 minutes each 

Aim to have 1-2 speeches of no more than 5 minutes each.

  • Cake Cutting: 5 minutes

Aim to have your cake cutting 2 hours before reception ends

  • Bouquet or garter toss: Right after cake cutting
  • Wedding Exit: 5 minutes (give out any supplies to guests, like sparklers or bubbles, 5 minutes before)

We know it can definitely feel overwhelming to create a wedding timeline, but just know that you can do it! Take your ceremony time and work backwards and forwards from there using our helpful guide, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to let us know!

Are you creating your wedding timeline? How is the process going? Let us know in the comments section below!

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