How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

June 13, 2024

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline


Planning your big day can be super overwhelming, but creating a wedding day timeline is key to making sure everything runs smoothly. In this guide, we’ll show you how to create a wedding day timeline, covering every detail to make your wedding day unforgettable. Whether you’re starting from scratch or just tweaking your schedule, this step-by-step guide will help you put together the perfect timeline.

Steps to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

Creating a wedding day timeline involves several steps to make sure every moment is well-planned and enjoyable. Follow these steps to craft a timeline that works for you:

Start with the Ceremony Time

First things first, figure out what time your ceremony is. This is the anchor for your entire wedding day timeline. Knowing when your ceremony starts will help you plan everything else, from hair and makeup to the reception. We like to recommend starting your ceremony at 3 hours before sunset so you have enough time for all the post ceremony photos.

Example Timeline:

  • 4:00 PM: Ceremony Start
  • 7:00 PM: Sunset

Plan Your Morning Prep

Make sure to set aside enough time for hair, makeup, and getting dressed. This part of the wedding day timeline is often underestimated, but it’s super important for a relaxed start to your day.

Example Timeline

  • 8:00 AM: Breakfast
  • 9:00 AM: Hair and Makeup for Bridesmaids
  • 10:00 AM: Hair and Makeup for Bride
  • 12:00 PM: Bridal Party Photos

Tips for Morning Prep:

  1. Hire Pros: Professional hair and makeup artists can save you time and stress. Ask them how much time they will need to complete everyone’s hair and makeup.
  2. Have a schedule: Share the schedule with your bridal party and vendors.
  3. Pack an Emergency Kit: Include items like hairpins, makeup touch-up kits, and stain removers.

bride getting ready on wedding day

Emergency Kit Essentials:

  • Hairpins and Hair Spray: For last-minute touch-ups.
  • Makeup Touch-Up Kit: Lipstick, powder, and blotting papers.
  • Stain Removers: Tide to Go pens or similar products.
  • Safety Pins: For any wardrobe malfunctions.
  • Sewing Kit: With needles, thread, and scissors.
  • Mini First Aid Kit: Band-aids, pain relievers, and antacids.
  • Tissues: For happy tears.
  • Mints or Breath Fresheners: For fresh breath.
  • Snacks and Water: To keep your energy up.
  • Phone Charger: For emergency calls or last-minute checks.
  • Deodorant: To stay fresh all day.
  • Hand Sanitizer: For cleanliness.
  • Comfortable Shoes: For breaks from your wedding heels.
  • Nail Kit: Clippers, file, and clear polish.
  • Body Tape: For securing tricky outfits.
  • Blister Pads: To avoid shoe-related discomfort.
  • Straws: To drink without messing up your lipstick.

First Look and Pre-Ceremony Photos

If you’re doing a first look, plan it well ahead of the ceremony. This gives you some intimate moments together, important pre-ceremony photos, and enough time to be tucked away before any guests arrive.

Example Timeline:

  • 1:00 PM: First Look
  • 1:30 PM: Couple’s Portraits
  • 2:00 PM: Family Photos

Benefits of a First Look:

  1. Calms Nerves: Seeing your partner before the ceremony can help ease any pre-wedding jitters.
  2. More Photos: You’ll have more time for couple’s portraits and family photos before and after the ceremony.
  3. Private Moment: Enjoy a quiet moment together before the day’s events kick off.

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Detailed Wedding Day Timeline Breakdown

Ceremony Details

Include all aspects of the ceremony in your wedding day timeline, from guest arrival to the processional and recessional.

Example Timeline:

  • 3:30 PM: Guests Start Arriving
  • 4:00 PM: Ceremony Begins
  • 4:30 PM: Ceremony Ends

Ceremony Tips:

  1. Rehearse: Schedule a rehearsal to make sure everyone knows their roles.
  2. Assign Ushers: They can help guide guests to their seats.
  3. Backup Plan: For outdoor ceremonies, have a contingency plan in case of bad weather.

Cocktail Hour and Reception

Plan your cocktail hour to start right after the ceremony, giving guests time to mingle while you take more photos.

Example Timeline:

  • 4:30 PM: Cocktail Hour Begins
  • 5:30 PM: Reception Starts
  • 6:00 PM: Dinner is Served

Cocktail Hour Tips:

  1. Offer Refreshments: Provide drinks and light snacks to keep guests entertained.
  2. Background Music: Soft music can set a nice ambiance.
  3. Photo Ops: Use this time for relaxed and candid photos with guests once you’re done with couple’s photos.

Reception Events

Schedule important reception events like the first dance, speeches, and cake cutting.

Example Timeline:

  • 7:00 PM: First Dance
  • 7:15 PM: Speeches
  • 7:45 PM: Cake Cutting

Reception Tips:

  1. Create a Playlist: Make sure the DJ or band knows your music preferences.
  2. Coordinate with Vendors: Confirm the timeline with your caterer, photographer, videographer, and other vendors.
  3. Relax and Enjoy: Remember to take moments to enjoy the festivities and celebrate with your loved ones.
bride-and-groom-black-and-white-wedding-inspo-images-arizona wedding photographer videographer bridal-bouoquet

How to Adjust Your Wedding Day Timeline

Even with a perfect plan, flexibility is so important. Be prepared to adjust your wedding day timeline as needed.

Buffer Times

Include buffer times (10-15 minutes) between events to accommodate any delays or unexpected issues.

Tips for Adjusting Your Timeline:

  1. Stay Flexible: Be ready to adjust your plans as needed.
  2. Communicate Changes: Keep your wedding party and vendors informed of any updates.
  3. Don’t Stress: Minor delays are normal; focus on enjoying your day.

Common Mistakes in Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

Avoid these mistakes to ensure your wedding day timeline is effective and stress-free.

wedding reception dinner table details boho aesthetic

Underestimating Prep Time

Make sure to allocate enough time for each getting ready event.


  1. Consult with Pros: Ask your hair and makeup artists how long they need.
  2. Add Extra Time: If they need 2 hours, add an extra 30 minutes. It’s better to have extra time than to feel rushed.

Forgetting Travel Time

Account for travel time between venues to avoid running late.


  1. Map Out Routes: Know how long it takes to travel between locations.
  2. Add Cushion Time: Include extra time for unexpected delays like traffic, construction, road closures, or city events.

Tips for a Stress-Free Wedding Day Timeline

Delegate Responsibilities

Assign tasks to trusted friends or family members to keep things on track.

Example Tasks to Delegate:

  1. Guest Coordination: Someone to manage guest arrivals and seating.
  2. Vendor Communication: A point person to communicate with vendors.
  3. Emergency Kit Manager: Someone in charge of the emergency kit.
  4. Box of Details Manager: Someone to be in charge of making sure your photographer gets all your details like rings, vow books, shoes, heirlooms, jewelry, and anything else you want photographed.

Use Technology

Use apps and tools to keep your wedding day timeline organized.

Recommended Apps:

  1. WeddingWire: Offers timeline planning features.
  2. The Knot: Provides customizable wedding day schedules.
  3. Google Calendar: Share your timeline with all key participants like family, bridal party, and vendors.

Additional Resources for Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

For more detailed guidance, consider these resources:

Our FREE Timeline Creator Template

Need help organizing your own timeline? Use our customizable “Timeline Creator Template” to plan out your perfect timeline for your wedding day!

The template includes a timeline with a First Look and one without a First Look so you can really cater it to your day. Simply type in your wedding day sunset time and watch everything else adjust to the recommended start times.

customizable wedding timeline creator template
how to plan your wedding day timeline handbook

Additional Resources for Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

The Handbook

Get the “How to Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline” Handbook with 62 pages of EVEN MORE in depth timeline planning assistance. The handbook includes real timelines, sample family shot lists for your photographer, ideas of what to include in your timeline, and much more.

Our Timeline Creator Template and our Handbook go hand in hand when planning your wedding day timeline.

Get our “How to Plan Your Wedding Day Timeline” Handbook.

Why a Wedding Day Timeline is Important

A well-structured wedding day timeline helps ensure that every part of your big day goes off without a hitch, providing peace of mind and a smoother experience for everyone involved.

Benefits of a Wedding Day Timeline:

  1. Reduces Stress: Knowing what to expect next can ease nerves.
  2. Ensures Organization: Keeps everyone on the same page.
  3. Maximizes Enjoyment: Allows you to focus on celebrating rather than logistics.

Final Thoughts on How to Create a Wedding Day Timeline

Creating a wedding day timeline might seem daunting, but with careful planning and flexibility, you can craft a timeline that ensures a seamless and joyous celebration.

I’d also like to mention, while timelines can be important, the MOST important thing is that you have a great wedding day. Everything doesn’t have to be exactly perfect. If planning something into the timeline is gonna stress you out, don’t do it. It’s better not to include something and feel at ease than to include an event and be overwhelmed or uncomfortable.

Remember to enjoy the process and cherish every moment of your special day.

Meet Rebecca

Wedding Videographer & Photographer

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