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Importance of The Wedding Timeline

Creating Your Perfect Wedding Timeline: From Morning to Night

Lake Geneva Wedding

The anticipation of your wedding day is filled with excitement, love, and admittedly, a bit of stress when thinking about getting everything just right. One of the most crucial aspects of ensuring your day runs smoothly is crafting a perfect wedding timeline. A well-planned timeline serves as a roadmap for you, your vendors, and your guests, guiding everyone through the day’s events seamlessly. Let’s walk through how to create a wedding timeline that encapsulates the essence of your special day, from the first light of morning to the final dance at night.

Morning: The Prelude

The morning of your wedding day is all about preparation and savoring the quiet moments before the festivities begin. Start with allocating enough time for hair and makeup for you and your bridal party. A common oversight is underestimating how long this can take, so add a buffer to relax and enjoy these moments. Typically, you’ll want to begin these preparations at least 3-5 hours before the ceremony start time depending on the number of people who choose to have professional hair & make up done. It’s crucial to chat with your hair & make up team to get an accurate idea of how long this will take for your group.

Pro Tip: Schedule a first look or private moment with your partner before the ceremony. This not only calms nerves but also allows for intimate photos without rushing post-ceremony.

Afternoon: The Ceremony

The heart of your wedding day is the ceremony where you’ll exchange vows and officially start your life together. Consider the length of your ceremony, which usually ranges from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on religious and cultural customs. Allow extra time before the ceremony starts for guests to arrive and find their seats, typically about 30 minutes.

Pro Tip: Communicate with your photographer to capture guests’ arrival and the serene moments before the walk down the aisle.

Late Afternoon to Evening: Cocktail Hour and Reception

While you and your wedding party are busy with post-ceremony photos, guests can transition to the cocktail hour. This period serves as a wonderful bridge between the formal ceremony and the reception, giving guests time to mingle. Cocktail hours typically last about 60 minutes, which is ample time for your photo session and a refreshment break for guests.

The reception follows, kicking off with your grand entrance, followed by dinner, speeches, and, of course, dancing. A typical reception lasts around 4-5 hours, encompassing meal service, first dances, cake cutting, and open dance floor time.

Pro Tip: Schedule speeches and toasts during dinner to maximize time for dancing and celebration afterward. Also schedule time with your photographer for golden hour photos! This is the most beautiful time of day as the sun is setting.

Night: The Grand Exit

Conclude your wedding with a memorable exit. Whether it’s sparklers, bubbles, or a vintage car getaway, plan this moment 15-30 minutes before your venue’s curfew to ensure all guests can participate.

Pro Tip: Inform your photographer and videographer about the exit plan to capture these final, magical moments. If your photography coverage does not extend this long, consider doing a “faux exit”.

See our basic sample timeline for a typical 10 hour event

  • 11:00 Photographers arrive for pre ceremony photos, prep , etc
  • 1:00 First look with Bride & Groom, followed by their photos
  • 2:00 Wedding party photos
  • 2:45 Family Photos
  • 3:15 get ready for ceremony
  • 4:00 ceremony
  • 4:30 ceremony complete / greet guests / head to cocktail hour
  • 5:30 Guests sit for dinner, grand entrance, official welcome, etc.
  • 5:45 Dinner served
  • 6:30 Speeches
  • 7:00 Cake cutting
  • 7:30 First dance / special dances
  • Golden hour / sunset photos based on sunset time for that time of the year
  • Dancing continues
  • 9:00 Photographers depart

Pro Tip: Remember to make time in the schedule for drive time between locations and moving a large wedding party from place to place. Working with large groups takes time.

Creating your wedding timeline might seem daunting, but remember, it’s about structuring your day to reflect the celebration of your love. Communication with your vendors and a clear timeline can make all the difference in creating a stress-free, joyous day. Remember, this is your day—structure it in a way that feels right for you and your partner, leaving room for spontaneity and the unforgettable moments that will define your wedding day.

Remember, the perfect timeline is not just about sticking rigidly to a schedule; it’s about creating a flow that allows you to enjoy every moment of your special day, surrounded by those you love.

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