How to Create A Wedding Day Timeline

Making a wedding day timeline can be stressful, and without a wedding planner, it can be challenging. However, having a timeline is important for the big day, so everyone involved will know what, when, and where to be. The timeline eliminates any confusion or scheduling conflicts. It covers the entire day of events. Ideally, you want to finalize your wedding day timeline at least a month prior to your scheduled date. This provides plenty of time to provide it to all those that will be involved. Confirm timings again about a week prior to the date.

The following tips will help you create an efficient wedding day timeline that is simple for everyone to follow. 

Padding The Timeline

You always want to account for extra time for unforeseen issues. Do not make the timeline so close that a minor problem can throw the entire day off. Even the best-planned weddings tend to have the oddest surprises occur. By including padding within the timeline, you can reduce your stress if something runs over a few minutes. 

The Shot List

Because time is limited, you should reach out to your photographer several weeks before the scheduled date with a list of friends and family you want them to photograph. If you provide your relationship to each guest, the photographer will be able to organize the shots more efficiently. 

Hair and Makeup

This is often a time-consuming process, and sometimes changes are needed. Leave plenty of time in case any bridesmaids (or the bride) have additional requests to avoid being rushed. If the extra time is not used, it’s additional time that can be allotted somewhere else if needed. 


Venders should have a timeline for setting up and taking down the venue. In many cases, it can take several hours to fully set up, so it is photo-ready. Ask ahead of time if the venue has any time restrictions that need to be considered prior to create the timeline.  Some venues may require certain load in times that impact the set up timeline. 

For example, if the ceremony begins at 5 p.m and the venue does not allow vendors to arrive until 3 p.m, they may require a larger team to set up on time and impact the cost.

Limit Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour is often used for kicking off your reception, but don’t let it drag out too long. This can end up causing your guests to get restless or make use of an open bar early. Give people time to mingle, get a couple cocktails, and snack a bit. But, keep them wanting more by keeping it just long enough for a ‘taste’ so they still have an appetite afterward. 

Outdoor Lighting

If you factor in outdoor lighting, you can time your portraits in time for the sunset, aka the golden hour. This will give you an amazing photo of the day. 

Reception Timing

Speak with the venue or host to create a timeline for your reception. Things to include are the toasts and speeches, food services, and time for dancing. Have an idea of what you want to include in the caption, and create a timeline for it. Pushing dinner services on the big day can have a major impact on the timeline!

If the time runs out for the cinematographer or photographer, you will miss likely miss out on dancing or the cake cutting or paying for additional time.

Include the Kids

When creating your timeline, remember that, kids. You want them to be well-rested and fed, so they are well behaved. This means planning things around nap times, keeping snacks available, and other necessities to help reduce or eliminate meltdowns. If possible, provide a place parents can take their children for some privacy if needed. You may choose to have a 1st aid station as well because kids will be kids.

Remember to Eat

When you make the timeline for your reception, be sure to include plenty of time for people to eat. With the time allotted for speeches and dancing, it can be easy to miss the time for eating. Depending on the caterer you choose, they may keep a few extra entrees available warm and ready for the bride and groom; that way, they can grab a bite when they have a moment. 

Time the Toasts

If you do not limit the time for toasts, it can reduce the time for other events such as eating and eventually causes boredom. Ask that all toasts are pre-planned and discuss the length with those who plan to give a speech before the reception. In general, the best speeches range between 3 – 5 minutes and do not ‘roast’ the couple. Be prepared with a plan for chattier guests.

Discuss Vender Overtime

When choosing your vendors, discuss overtime possibilities. You want to be sure the party will not be cut short if it is going well and everyone is having fun. Ensuring the flexibility of extending the vendors is available, and what the additional cost will be if needed. 

The Venue

If you are planning a venue location that is familiar to you, this step may not be as critical to include. However, if you want a venue location that is known for landscapes and views but is less familiar, you may want to visit it and decide on placements.