Your Wedding Day Timeline
(Actual times may vary)
Remember to account for travel times and possible snafu's like a late flower delivery, an ill-fitting suit jacket, etc...
2 p.m. Photographer Arrives
The photographer will arrive about 45 mins to a half hour before the bride is ready. A second photographer will meet up with the groom and groomsmen to photograph them getting ready. Please have the guys in their pants and shirts and the rooms picked up before the photographer arrives.
2:15 p.m. Bridesmaids are dressed and ready, bride’s hair and makeup is complete
Unless you want girls photos all in matching robes, the bridesmaids as well as the mother-of-the-bride should be dressed and ready by the time the bride’s hair and makeup is complete. This way, everyone can be in the background of the photos featuring the bride getting dressed.
2:30 p.m. Bride Gets Dressed
Once you are mostly dressed, have your photographer capture your mom or maid-of-honor helping you zip up your dress and put your earrings and jewelry on.
2:45 p.m. Bridesmaids Photos
These photos are meant to be casual and fun, capturing the moments of celebration between the bride and her friends.
3:10 - 3:30 p.m. Bridal Portraits
3:30 p.m. First Look
The first look is a special moment where the groom sees his bride for the first time, away from the hundreds of eyes that will be watching during the ceremony. The photographer or second photographer will get the groom in the predetermined location for the First Look. You can even have a first look with your Dad instead of the groom!
3:30 - 4:00 p.m. Bride and Groom Photos
4:10 - 5:00 p.m. Wedding Party and Family Photos
Make sure your photographer has a shot list of every family combination you want captured, and designate a family member to help the photographer identify each family member.
5:30 p.m. Start Time Listed on Wedding Invitation
Most weddings don't start at the actual start time listed on the invitation. Most starts about 15 minutes later than the invitation time. This gives guests a little extra time if they are running late and ensures all the seats will be filled! You don’t want anyone to miss your special moment due to traffic. Plan to have your DJ start the music at this time.
5:45 p.m. Actual Start Time
5:45 - 6:15 p.m. Ceremony
This will depend greatly on your preferences. Typically most religious ceremonies are closer to 45 minutes while non-religious ceremonies are anywhere from 10 minutes to 25 minutes. Speeches, songs, and special ceremonies like sand, wine, or knot tying will take a little bit of time.
6:15 - 7:15 p.m. Cocktail Hour
Invite guests to cocktail hour and take some post-ceremony photos with the photographer. Depending on how many photos you want to take, you can join cocktail hour halfway through, or spend some time in the bridal suite having appetizers and drinks privately. This will give you a much-needed break to re-energize for the rest of the night!
7 p.m.-ish Sunset Photos
Sunset photos are an opportunity you don't want to miss out on. Set aside time in your wedding itinerary to take more bride and groom portraits during the sunset. I'll always find the time of sunset and offer a chance to get photos around this time. Of course, some times the clouds don't always cooperate!
7:15 p.m. Guests invited to Dinner
7:30 p.m. Grand Entrance and First Dance
This works well if you plan to walk right in to your first dance. Decide with your DJ ahead of time whether you'll finish the song or fade out after 2 minutes.
7:35 - 7:45 p.m. Welcome Toasts from Hosts
The first two toasts in the wedding reception timeline are considered welcome toasts and they are typically offered by the parents or a family member of the bride and groom. This is about the time that salads are served to guests.
7:45 - 8:30 p.m. Dinner
Feed your vendors at this time so they don't miss a minute of the festivities!
8:30 - 8:40 p.m. Bridal Party Toasts
As dinner is wrapping up, the best man and maid-of honor can offer their toasts during this slot of the wedding schedule. I recommend they keep their toasts short and sweet, ideally under 4 minutes.
8:40 - 8:50 p.m. Parent Dances
After the parent dances I recommend opening the dance floor to all guests.
9:30 - 9:45 p.m. Cake Cutting, Bouquet Toss and Garter Toss
First up is the cake cutting, followed by bouquet toss and garter toss (if desired). This is also a good time for the bride and groom to say a few words and thank their guests for coming.
9:45 p.m. Open Dance Floor
Party like it's 1999!
11:30 p.m. Grand Exit
Arrange for a final song with your DJ ahead of time and also arrange to be cued that the song is coming up. Say your final goodbyes and hug your hugs. If you're having a exit with sparklers or bubbles, have someone organize all the guests along your exit path and hand them out. When your final song comes on, grab hands and make a dash for happily ever after!
Chantal Paradis is a Maine based Wedding and Event Photographer.