There are A LOT of moving pieces on your wedding day, and creating a clear timeline is critical to minimizing stress and confusion so that everyone from your wedding party to family, guests, and vendors can be on the same page.
The best advice we can give you? Hire a wedding planner and work with them to build a seamless timeline for your big day. Below, we’re talking about six things to consider when creating your wedding day timeline and provided a sample schedule for you to snag and tweak to fit the needs of your wedding celebration!
1. WEDDING PARTY SIZE
Your wedding party size will impact how much time it takes to get ready. You may need a secondary location if you need to start this process earlier than when your venue contract starts!
2. TIME OF THE YEAR
We have noticed that couples who got married in the spring and summer had much more time for photos because of the length of daylight, whereas couples who got married in the fall or winter had to be very cognizant of the daylight and take advantage of it when they could for outdoor photos. If this is the case, keep in mind that sunset photos may mean heading out as soon as you get done eating to capture the last bit of light outside. Look to your photographer for guidance on timing and scheduling!
3. CLEAN UP
As much as we don’t want them to, every good night has to come to an end and making sure that you allow enough time for both set up and clean up is important. If you aren’t hiring a wedding planner to manage these tasks, setup and teardown will need to be accounted for in your timeline of the day.
4. VENUE TIMELINE
Many venues have a dedicated time that their bar services will start, for example, The Eloise bar service doesn’t begin until 4 PM. Because of this, we typically encourage couples to start their ceremony anywhere from 3:30-4:30 depending on how much time they need to get ready, if they are doing photos ahead of time, etc. Dust off that contract you signed a year or so ago and see what the case is for your wedding venue, being sure to double-check your hours of rental so you know when that last call and last dance will need to take place and avoid any surprises.
5. PHOTO SCHEDULE
Touch base with your photographer to get a better idea of when specific photo time blocks can be scheduled like your first look before your ceremony (if you’re doing one) and sunset photos. We highly recommend getting as many photos as you can ahead of your ceremony so you can actually take part in your cocktail hour! If you are not doing photos ahead of time, you’ll need to account for these larger group photos to take place somewhere in your schedule post-ceremony, most likely during the time of your cocktail hour.
6. YOUR SEND-OFF
If you are doing a send off, you may need to end the night early to make sure you get the last dance in and everyone outside. Keep in mind that if you didn’t hire a coordinator, people may need to return after your send off to clean up and grab things from the venue. You may need to have the last call and last dance a little earlier than what your venue requires to accommodate for this. For a Friday or Saturday wedding, we at The Eloise have a last call/last dance at 11:00 pm. When couples want to do a send off, we typically recommend ending at 10:45 pm. This gives everyone enough time to do the last dance, send off, and bring people back in to clean up and end the night on time.
SAMPLE WEDDING TIMELINE
*this sample wedding timeline is for a couple with a 4:00 PM Ceremony start time
10:00 AM – Arrive
10:05 AM – Time to Get Ready and Decorate
12:00 PM – Lunch
12:45 PM – Getting Ready/Toasting Photos
1:00 PM – Couple Gets Dressed
1:15 PM – First Look w/ Wedding Party
1:30 PM – First Look w/ Family/Parent(s)
1:45 PM – Couple’s First Look
2:15 PM – Wedding Party Photos
3:00 PM – Immediate Family Photos
3:30 PM – Guests Arrive
4:00 PM – Ceremony Starts
4:30 PM – Ceremony Ends, Couple Time to Themselves, Cocktail Hour Begins
5:30 PM – Guests are Seated
5:45 PM – Grand Entrance
6:00 PM – Welcome
6:05 PM – Dinner
6:30 PM – Couple Sunset Photos
7:15 PM – Speeches
7:45 PM – First Dance + Special Dances
8:00 PM – Dance Floor Opens
9:30 PM – Late Night Snack
10:45 PM – Last Call
11:00 PM – Last Dance
11:05 PM – Send Off
11:20 PM – Reception Ends + Guests Depart
12:00 PM – Out of Venue
Happy wedding planning!
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Photography: Anna Grace Photography
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