What a Perfect Wedding Day Timeline Looks Like

Written by Saliha Seyis.

4:38 minutes


Wedding receptions generally follow the same schedule, but the order can differ based on the couple's preferences. The timeline and recommendations below will help you plan a seamless wedding day, from arriving at your wedding venue to toasts!

wedding day timeline

1 p.m. Photographer Arrives

We recommend the wedding photographer shows up 30 minutes before the bride is ready. The photographer can get pics of the invitation, wedding dress, rings, and other small details during this time.

wedding day photos

Lush Wedding Studio

Lush Wedding Studio

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1:15 p.m. All Bridesmaids are Ready; the Bride's Hair & Makeup are Done

By the time the bride's hair & makeup are done, the bridesmaids and the mom of the bride should be prepped and ready. Getting dressed photos will look great with the whole group in the background.

wedding preparation

Raphaëlle Granger

Raphaëlle Granger

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1:30 p.m. Bride Gets Wedding Attire

Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and accessorize if you're wearing a traditional wedding dress. There should be no rush when you're getting ready for your big day.

wearing wedding dress

Ivy and Rose Photo

Ivy and Rose Photo

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1:45 p.m. Bridal Portraits

You are now ready for your photographer to snap your big day look. The more time you spend with your photographer, the more chances you have to get your most perfect glamour shot.

bridal portraits

2:10 - 2:30 p.m. Bridesmaids Photos

The purpose of these pictures is to capture you and your friends celebrating in a casual and fun way. If you'd like to toast with Champagne, make sure you have the necessary props (clean flutes, for example).

bridesmaids photos

2:30 p.m. First Look

Make sure you get a fresh first look with your lover before you turn the celebrations up. Since you're already in the mood, it'll just take a few minutes.

first look photos

2:30 - 3:10 p.m. Portrait Photos Together

First looks are a perfect time to take pictures of just you two at locations you've selected ahead of time around the venue.

wedding portrait

3:10 - 4:00 p.m. Wedding Party & Family Photos

Meet your family at your venue entrance around 4 p.m. Prepare a shot list for your photographer, and designate a family member to help him or her identify everyone. In the event that Uncle Jim wanders off, your sibling or cousin will be able to find him much easier since they already know who he is.

wedding party photos

4:30 p.m. Start Time Listed on Wedding Invitation

It is possible for you to put this time to better use if you are getting ready at the ceremony venue. You should, however, set the timer for 15 minutes if you will be coming to the venue with your loved ones. As people arrive, play some music to set the mood and avoid uncomfortable silences.

wedding time

4:45 - 5:15 p.m. Ceremony

Couples will vary most on this interval. It can take just 20-30 minutes for a secular wedding, but it can take almost an hour for a religious ceremony.

wedding ceremony

Need help planning your ceremony? We've got it all: Everything You Need to Know About a Wedding Ceremony

5:15 - 6:15 p.m. Cocktail Hour

A cocktail hour should last no less than an hour to kick off the reception. To promote mingling and a celebratory mood, the catering staff typically serves passed drinks and hors d'oeuvres during this time.

6 p.m.(ish) Sunset Photos

Take additional portraits together at sunset, when you'll have the opportunity to capture some amazing natural lighting.

wedding sunset photos

6:15 p.m. Invitation to Dinner

In the main dining room, guests are invited to take their seats following cocktail hour.

wedding dinner

Willow and Wolf

Willow and Wolf

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6:30 p.m. Newlywed Introduction & First Dance

It's great if you start your first dance immediately after your grand entrance. This keeps formalities in place while maintaining fun. You decide whether to dance for two minutes or for the entire song. Adding a dance set after the first dance will give your guests an energy boost before dinner.

first dance

6:35 - 6:45 p.m. Wedding Party Toasts

There's usually a little speech between meal courses by the maid of honour and best man. By doing so, the most anticipated and emotional moments are spread out throughout, which keeps guests interested. Make sure toasters keep their speeches under 4 minutes.

wedding toasts

You'll find some of the funniest wedding speeches here: Funny Ideas to Shake Up Your Wedding Speeches

6:45 - 7:30 p.m. Dinner

Depending on the style of meal service selected ( family-style meal, buffet, 4-course dinner, etc.), dinner will take approximately 45 minutes.

wedding meal

7:40 - 7:50 p.m. Parent Dances

Parent dances follow dinner. Despite their briefness, both are deeply emotional moments for parents.

Check out this article for more reception ideas: A Complete Guide to Planning a Personalized Wedding Reception

8:30 - 8:45 p.m. Time to Cut the Cake, Bouquet Toss & Garter Toss

You'll cut the cake first, then throw your bouquet and garter if you're keeping those traditions. During this time, the newlyweds may wish to thank their guests and speak a few words.

bouquet toss

8:45 p.m. Free Party Time

Get your groove on!

wedding dance

Zekar Photography

Zekar Photography

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11:00 p.m. Wedding Exit

After all the fun is over, you'll take about ten to twenty minutes to leave. Throwing confetti, getting into the getaway car, dancing, and smoking can add to the fun.

wedding exist

Every preparation on the wedding day needs a timeline, from the wedding venue setup to the pics. That's the perfect way for a seamless day. You can use our wedding day schedule to guide you. Take it as inspiration to create a schedule that lets you enjoy your special day!

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