Planning ahead and creating a timeline will allow your wedding day to run smoothly. A detailed timeline helps your vendor team and bridal party. It lets them know when all the big moments are happening so they won’t miss anything. It also provides you a peace of mind knowing everything that needs to be done is taking place. With so many details, you’ll also want to be aware of when your vendors are arriving. It’s crucial you send your vendor team a timeline so they are aware of the day and what is involved.
When you first start creating your timeline, you will need to know when your ceremony starts and when reception ends. A wedding typically lasts 6 hours; 30 minutes for ceremony, 1 hour for cocktail hour and 4 and a half hours for reception. Of course, not all weddings are the same. Some ceremonies will take place at a church and be about 1 hour long. When a ceremony takes place at a different location than reception, you will want to give your guests enough time to travel. Once you have this information, you can start planning out your reception.
Something to keep in mind when planning this part of the wedding is: What traditions will you be including in your reception? Below is a list of popular wedding reception traditions. Once you have these traditions, you can plan out your evening.
- Grand Entrance– This is the kick off to the reception portion. Some couples choose to include their bridal party or you can do this alone as a couple.
- First Dance– You can do your first dance immediately after grand entrance of after toasts along with your parent dances. Have more questions about your first dance? Check out the blog!
- Welcome Speech– Some couples like to have a welcome or blessing before dinner takes place. This is a great place to include a family member who is wanting to play a larger role in the day.
- Toasts– Toasts typically take place after dinner or while guests are finishing up their meal. I recommend there be no more than 4 toasts.
- Thank You Speech– If you are wanting to say a quick thank you to your guests, I recommend doing it as the last toast or before dinner.
- Father Daughter Dance– I love when the father of the bride finishes up the toasts and takes his daughter on the dance floor. This is such a perfect time for that!
- Mother Son Dance– I usually see the mother son dance happen right after the father daughter dance or some couples choose to do these dances at the same time.
- Anniversary Dance– One of my favorite traditions is the anniversary dance. This dance is a great way to get people on the dance floor and showcase true love stories.
- Cake Cutting– After you give your guests some time to dance and enjoy themselves you can cut the cake or open your dessert bar.
- Money Dance– This fun tradition can be done after you cut the cake or along with the parent dances.
- Bouquet & Garter Toss– I like planning these traditions back to back on the dance floor during the height of the party time. Since everyone is already on the dance floor, it will be easy to gather everyone.
- Grand Exit– If you are choosing to do a grand exit, I recommend starting this 15 minutes before the wedding ends. This will give the planners, photographers and videographers enough time to get everyone lined up and get the photos and footage they need.
Once you have your event timeline planned out, you can begin working on your pre-ceremony timeline. It’s important to know if you will be doing a first look or not. If you choose to do a first look, everyone will need to be done getting ready sooner which means hair and makeup will start sooner. Another thing to keep in mind when creating your pre-ceremony timeline is how long you have your photographer and videographer contracted for. I recommend sending your timeline to your photo and video team so they can review it and make sure everything lines up with their personal timeline.
30 Minute Ceremony Timeline Example
1:30- Getting Ready Photos
2:30 PM- First Look
2:45 PM- Bridal Party Photos
3:15 PM- Newlywed Photos
4:00 PM- Ceremony
4:30 PM- Cocktail Hour & Family Photos
5:40- All Guests Seated & Grand Entrance
5:45- First Dance
5:50- Dinner Is Served
7:00- Father Daughter Dance & Mother Son Dance
7:10- Open Dancing
8:00- Cake Cutting
8:10- Open Dancing Continues
10:00- Wedding Ends
1 Hour Ceremony Timeline Example
1:00 PM- Getting Ready Photos
2:00 PM- Everyone Dressed & Ready
3:00 PM- Ceremony
4:00 PM- Family Photos, Bridal Party Photos & Newlywed Photos
5:00 PM- Cocktail Hour
6:00 PM- Reception
6:10- Everyone Seated & Grand Entrance
6:15 PM- Welcome or Blessing
6:20 PM- Dinner Is Served
7:15 PM- Toasts
7:30 PM- Father Daughter Dance & Mother Son Dance
7:40 PM- First Dance
7:45 PM- Open Dancing
8:45 PM- Cake Cutting
9:00 PM- Money Dance
9:10 PM- Bouquet Toss
9:15 PM- Garter Toss
9:20 PM- Open Dancing Continues
11:00 PM- Wedding Ends