How to plan the perfect wedding ceremony timeline

Planning is key to a smooth and successful wedding day. You can organize your wedding day into a detailed and organized timeline so that everything (and everyone!) is on the same page when the big day arrives.

Planning your wedding day will reduce stress and avoid confusion. It will keep everyone on the same page, from your bridesmaids, your glam squad, to your photographer. We’ve created templates and tips to help you plan your wedding day.

Here are some tips to help you plan your wedding day.

  • Get started as soon as you can. This is something we cannot stress enough: get started early! You’re already working hard and will need to start earlier than planned. This will allow you to enjoy the day and relax more. You will have more time to take photos and share a few moments with your partner during the day.
  • Think about logistics. Although the templates below are great for starting your planning process, each couple’s wedding day will have unique logistics. Do you have your ceremony and reception in different places? Are you having an afternoon or a day-only wedding? Are you planning to do a first look? These logistics will impact your schedule.
  • Keep your guests busy. Keep your speeches short and sweet, and arrange activities for guests to entertain them between the ceremony, reception and dinner. This article will show you more ways that your guests might hate it.
  • Share your schedule and timeline with suppliers. Make sure to share your schedule at least one month before the wedding with your venue, your bridal party and all your suppliers. This will help everyone get on the same page and ensure everything runs smoothly on the big day.
  • Make sure to include your videographer and photographer in your wedding planning. They will need a detailed day rundown to plan where and when they are needed. If you don’t have the budget for full-day coverage, the amount you pay will determine the cost of videography and photography.

How to allocate time for each activity

Before creating a timeline, ensure you are familiar with the time required for each activity on a wedding day. We have broken down the time allotted to each event from getting ready in the early morning until the grand exit. These time blocks can be modified to suit your plans.

  • Preparing for the wedding — 2 to 3 hours. Allow two to three hours to do the hair, makeup and get-ready shots. If you have a large bridal party, you should allow more time for this step. Most hair and makeup artists need 30 minutes to do hair and 30 minutes to do makeup for each bridesmaid.
  • Pre-ceremony photos – 1 to 1.5 hours. After you have been dressed, take at least one hour to photograph solo portraits or group photos with your wedding party. We recommend allowing an additional 30 minutes if you have a first glance with your partner before the ceremony.
  • How to travel to the ceremony. It will depend on where you are getting ready and how close it is to the venue. This time block is unnecessary if you plan to get ready at the ceremony location. However, allow enough time to avoid traffic delays if you are travelling to the ceremony.
  • A ceremony that takes between 30 and 1 hour. This period varies from couple to couple. While non-religious ceremonies may take 20 minutes, religious ceremonies can last more than an hour.
  • Family portraits/cocktail hours — 1 hour After the ceremony, guests can enjoy a cocktail hour before heading off to take group photos with their closest friends.
  • Welcome toasts and wedding party entrance — 15 minutes. The couple and their guests should allow approximately 15 minutes to make their grand entrance.
  • Family and wedding speeches — 30 minutes Allow for about 30 minutes for speeches between the main course and the entree. The maid-of-honour gives traditional speeches, the best man and the parents of the married couple. We recommend that each person keep their toasts to a maximum of five minutes.
  • First dance — 10 minutes. After clearing the main course, you can head to the dancefloor to start the party! If you are doing parent dances, we recommend serving dessert between the first and second dance brackets.
  • Parent dances — 10 min. You will need at least ten to fifteen minutes to decide to do the parent dances.
  • Reception exit — 20 min. After the festivities wind down, play your wedding exit song outside and make your grand exit. Ask your coordinator or MC to gather your guests outside the venue for a memorable farewell. We love wedding exit photos that feature sparklers and confetti.


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