How to Build the Perfect Wedding Day Timeline
You have finally reached the point in planning where you need to start planning the flow of the event and the timing of the wedding day. Do not worry, for the most part, wedding timelines are standard and follow a basic schedule, with some customization for each wedding. Here is the suggest timing for a wedding, keep in mind that all items are fluid, based on event start time.
Early morning- Hair and makeup: It is best to get your hair and makeup started in the morning so that you have enough time to get through all the appointments. Getting yourself ready, as well as any mothers’, and bridesmaids’ hair and makeup, can take quite a while, so make sure you allow enough time to do so!
Groom and groomsmen gather to get ready: While it will take the gentlemen of the evening a shorter amount of time to get dressed and ready, it is still essential to have a time set on your schedule to let everyone know when they should arrive to get ready, for photos, etc.
Leave for the venue: The ladies will want to wait until their hair and makeup is complete before getting their dresses on. If your site has an on-property bridal room, you may get dressed and do some last-minute makeup touchups before photos and ceremony begins.
First Look and formal photos: If you are opting to do a first look with your soon-to-be spouse, or someone else (we have seen brides do first looks with their father), now is the best time for that! We suggest doing this early on while not many others are around, so you can privately share that special moment. After you finish with your first look, your photographer will capture photos with your wedding party and immediate family, taking advantage of the beautiful scenery of the property as your backdrop before guests begin arriving.
Guests arrive: Typically, guests will start to arrive at about thirty minutes before the ceremony begins. They will be able to sign your guest book, enjoy a welcome beverage, and mingle while waiting to be seated. The bride, groom, and wedding party are hidden away as guests are arriving, so the guests do not see them.
Ceremony: Ceremony will begin as soon as the guests take their seats and the wedding party is ready. The service typically lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.
Cocktail hour: Cocktail hour will be the hour after the ceremony where guests can grab a drink, eat some appetizers, and mingle with one another before dinner begins. Some more formal photos with extended family and friend groups can happen during this time. The duration of the cocktail hour can vary, but it is typically an hour.
Grand entrance & welcome toast: After guests are invited to take their seats for dinner, the wedding party makes their grand entrance, and someone will offer a welcome toast, thanking everyone for attending the wedding, this typically takes a total of 15-20 minutes.
Dinner: After the welcome toast or blessing, dinner is served! The menu may be a plated meal, family-style, or stations! You can expect dinner to take approximately 30 minutes per course.
Sunset photos: The best time to take sunset photos will vary based on your location, but it is typically 30 minutes before sunset. This window of time is when the lighting is best for photographers to capture intimate moments between the newlyweds. Your photographer will generally take you for about 15 to 20 minutes for these pictures.
Toasts: At the end of dinner, you can expect the rest of the formal toasts to take place. We suggest allotting 5 minutes per speaker.
Cake cutting: If you want all your guests to watch you cut the cake, we suggest doing this before dancing. However, if you’re going to cut the cake privately with your photographer, you may want to wait until later into dancing. Either way, this should take no longer than 5 minutes.
Specialty Dances: The three specialty dances that we typically see are the first dance, the father and daughter dance, and the mother and son dance. These are a great way to start the dance party! Each dance typically lasts the duration of one song.
Last Song and Sendoff: The last item on your wedding day timeline will be the last song and the sendoff. The final song of the night will begin about ten minutes before the end of the event, so there is enough time to enjoy that song and gather around/line up for the sendoff.
About the author: Milestone Events Group is Northern California’s most experienced Wine Country Wedding Experts & largest event management company providing site selection services to multiple locations throughout Sonoma County. Over the past 6 years Milestone has helped hundreds of couples simplify the venue selection process by providing clarity, predictability and ultimately confidence for clients who work with them to evaluate wineries, ranches, and other locations for their private events.
After the venue selection process is complete, Milestone is also available to help produce events in a stress reduced and highly professional manner. www.MilestoneEventsGroup.com