So you’ve been writing your vows, planning the perfect toast, and choosing the song that will set the tone for the night for your perfect first dance as Husband and Wife. But what about the game plan for the timeline? Is it better to get married in the early afternoon, or early evening? Should photos take place before the ceremony? How much time should you plan to get ready??
There is so much to consider, but I want to make it easy for you and create a cheat sheet you can customize for your perfect day! Say that golden hour is happening at 6:45pm the day of your wedding – this cheat sheet is going to be planned to allocate perfect golden hour photos with you and your love, and give you a moment to just breathe and enjoy a beautiful sunset together.
Wedding Timeline Cheatsheet
2:45pm: Your Photography team arrives. You want this to be set for about 30 minutes before you think you’ll be ready for your day, that way your creative team can capture all the details – your dress and shoes before they’re on, the rings, invitation, etc.
3:00pm: Your tribe is ready, hair and makeup done, they’re dressed for the wedding and can be present in the back ground as you get dressed. If you’re wanting those cute, matching robe photos, you’ll want to start those before the girls get into their dresses.
3:30pm: Bride steps into her dress, and intimate moment of her maid of honor or mother helping button and lace up the back of your dress and slip into your shoes.
3:45pm: Bridal portraits. Fun, celebratory and posed shots with your ladies – if you were wanting any special shots, such as toasting with champagne, make sure you have your props available and ready.
4:15pm: the first look, or first touch. This is such an intimate moment. If a first look isn’t something you’re ready for, you can do a touch but don’t look and save your initial reaction for the walk down the aisle.
4:30pm-5:15pm: If you opted for the first look, this is an ideal time to capture the bridal party and family photos without feeling rushed post ceremony. Make sure you have a list of all the family shots you want, and a family member or close friend who knows everyone and can help the creative team gather the right grouping for photos.
5:15pm: Regroup, do hair and makeup touchups. Capture gift giving. Eat a small snack, drink something and check teeth/freshen breath for that wedding ceremony kiss!
5:30pm: This is when your ceremony is scheduled to start on the invitation, but you want to give your guests about 15 minutes to finish arriving and be able to find their seats.
5:45pm: Actual ceremony start time
5:45pm-6:15pm: The creremony. Ceremony time varies – for venue ceremonies it’s common to have a 15-30 minute ceremony. Though if you are being married in a church, some ceremonies can take up to an hour.
6:15-7:15pm: Cocktail hour. While guests are sipping on drinks, catching up and enjoying the start of the reception, this is the time to slip away for a little golden hour magic with your creative team. Take a moment here to breathe in the moments, and intimately celebrate the initial moments post ceremony. You’re MARRIED!
7:15pm: Guests invited to take their seats and prepare for the grand entrance.
7:30pm: Grand Entrance + First dance. After the bridal party and bride and groom are introduced, it flows so smooth to step into the first dance here. I’ve seen brides plan their first dance to just part of a song if dancing in front of a room of people makes you feel anxious, a full length song to keep tradition.
7:45pm: The first toasts. These aren’t the speeches made by family and the bridal party. This is the initial welcoming of your guests to the reception traditionally by the father of the bride. Some will welcome guests; thank them for coming and say a prayer before dinner is served.
7:45pm-8:30pm: Dinner. Make sure you sit down and eat dinner. The rounds can be made afterwards to say hello to everyone and catch up, love. Also, make sure that your venders have not only a chance to eat, but also something to eat during dinner or give them about an hour to go off site and get something nearby. Many photographer teams have meal provisions in their contracts, but you also want to just make sure they are taken care of and can keep focus on capturing your special day.
8:30pm-8:45pm: Bridal Party toasts.
8:45pm: Parent dances – fauther/daughter, mother/son. If there are children, I’ve even seen bride and groom parents do a dance with their little’s as well!
9:00pm: Open the dance floor. If you’re doing an anniversary dance to see who’s in attendance has been married the longest, this can be the gateway dance to opening the dancefloor as well!
9:30pm-9:45pm: Cake Cutting, Boquet Toss + Garter Toss.
9:45pm: Optional fake exit if you booked a 7 hour package with your photographer. This can be an intimate exit, or a grand exit – just make sure the DJ explains it’s a fake exit and to invite guests to come right back inside afterwards to continue the celebration!
10:00pm-midnight: Dance until the night ends!
11:45pm: If you booked a 9 hour photo package with your photo team, you can do your official grand exit! Plan the timing out – have your DJ or band arrange a final song ahead of time, say your final goodbyes and give final hugs. If you’re using sparklers or ribbons, make sure you’ve assigned 2-3 people to help pass them out and organize your guests in an exit path. After your final song ends, grab hands and walk through the doors to your happily ever after!