How to Plan a Wedding Day Timeline

Where do you start? It seem that so many vendors may have feedback and suggestions of the best time for ceremony or for photos. This is all true there are better times for different part of your day. One important thing to remember is that the venue you have booked may dictate your ceremony time. If they need to flip the room or have limited time to host the ceremony. 

STEP ONE – find out if your venue is flexible on the ceremony time. Then after you find the flexibility within the venue you know hove a workable gap. Next is to decide if you are doing a first look or more traditional timeline. Having a traditional timeline will mean photos afterwards. So your ceremony will need to be earlier in the day. If you are planning a first look then your ceremony will be closer to cocktail hour or dinner time. 

Couple doing first look on top of Charbar Calgary
First look Fairmont Banff Springs wedding

The second most important person to discuss timeline wit is your officiant or minister preforming the ceremony. This person is vital to getting married so making sure they also have flexible schedule is very important. Some officiants often book two or three ceremonies on a Saturday. So checking to see if they have restrictions can help add to your timeline. 

So now you know the following:
  • You know if you want a first look or a traditional see each other down the aisle. 
  • You know what your venue needs to turn over the room or any restrictions they have for time frame.
  • You know what time your officiant or commissioner is available on the day. 
  • Now you need to find out how much time your other vendors require on the day of the wedding. 
Personally I would start with hair and make up. Depending on the number of attendants you have standing with you or other family members in need of this service it could legitimately take hours. Then you need to think of what time are you willing to wake up in the morning. Not all of us are early risers. Knowing before hand how many people will need hair and make up and contact your stylist you can also add to your timeline. If don’t require these services then yay! You just saved lots of money and time. 
The next step is to discuss with your creative team (photo and video) on how much time they require. Having predetermined locations can help you plan for travel time when discussing options and timelines with creatives. If your location is 30 min away and your team need an hour to capture content then your portrait time will be 2 hours.  
girl in a red dress kissing boyfirend
same sex wedding planning
Horses at engagement photo

So now we can break down the day from the first choice of the venue stipulations on start time. Plus we can add in the option in this column to have a traditional non seeing each other before the ceremony.  Your ceremony is at 2pm to create time for photos after. You would be looking at a timeline similar to the following: 2 PM ceremony with time for photos and video after. 

  •  Family photos likely will take 30 min or more depending on size. 
  • Now we are at 3pm and have two hours set aside for photography. 
  • You can decide to join/have a cocktail hour before dinner or allow yourself more photo and video time. 
  •  Dinner will likely run from 6-7:30pm I highly recommend not having speaking through dinner. It may be nice to move up your dance time but think of plates being cleared and the lack of attention from guests eating. Speeches are an important time for people to share word of love and thought with you. It’s important to hear them. 
  • That said having your dance start before 8:30 pm allows for older family to enjoy the first dance and few steps themselves. Typically family over 65 leave after 10 pm. 
  • Depending on the size of your wedding and open bar HAHA you may want to move up the midnight snack. 10:30pm is a great time for more food for guests to keep the party going!!! 
  • The timeline before two o’clock completely depends n your other vendors and amount time that you may beed as couple with pre wedding prep or any DIY things may happen. 

A wedding with  first look allows for a more relaxed timeline with you in control of more of the structure. Im going to break this day down for the potential of having a first look and the day. The main point to a first look is to keep your guests together and you involved with more time with the guests:

  • Ceremony typically happens around 4 or 5 pm 
  • You only need to plan for timing of family photos and cocktail hour needed
  • You now have the ability to spend more time directly with guests 
  • You also have the option to start your photos at any time you deem fit. If you want 3-4 hours with multiple locations and travel time you now have created that freedom
  • The rest of your timeline will likely follow the same as non first look. 
  •  Dinner will likely run from 6-7:30pm I highly recommend not having speaking through dinner. It may be nice to move up your dance time but think of plates being cleared and the lack of attention from guests eating. Speeches are an important time for people to share word of love and thought with you. It’s important to hear them. 
  • That said having your dance start before 8:30 pm allows for older family to enjoy the first dance and few steps themselves. Typically family over 65 leave after 10 pm. 
  • Depending on the size of your wedding and open bar HAHA you may want to move up the midnight snack. 10:30pm is a great time for more food for guests to keep the party going!!! 
  • The timeline before two o’clock completely depends n your other vendors and amount time that you may beed as couple with pre wedding prep or any DIY things may happen. 
wedding day timeline.

Please remember these are suggestions to help you build a timeline. Every wedding day is unique and will take considerations that others will not. Only you know as a couple what you need and where value is spent in the timeline of your day. Please remember what you value and where you want to spend your time. That will be the greatest factor to planning a wedding day timeline. 

Here are some other great resources for planning your wedding day timeline. 

Scroll to Top