I’ve seen that one area of difficulty for a planning bride is how to create a timeline and what comes when. It varies from religion to religion and culture to culture, but here are the basics so you can create your timeline!
Let’s start at noon:
12:00-3:00pm – Set-up
- This will depend on your decorum and your rental company, but some need 3 hours to set up all tables, chairs, lighting, and decorations. Talk with your rental company (or venue, if they are handling it) about how much time they need.
- An hour may seem like a lot, but if you need hair and make-up and to get in your dress, an hour is a good idea. Plus, you’ll be followed by your photographers during this time as well as your bridesmaids as they get ready. If you just need to get in your dress, you can cut down this time. If you want posed photos or a “First Look” prior to the ceremony, add an hour after getting ready for that.
4:00-4:30pm – Ceremony
- Ceremony lengths vary. We’ve seen 5 minutes, we’ve seen half an hour, and we’ve seen a full hour-long mass. For the purposes of this timeline, we’ll assign it to half an hour.
- It’s always a good idea to allow an hour for posed photos. This will (hopefully) take you away from your guests, so this hour is a good time for them to mingle, grab appetizers and a drink, and sign your guestbook. We recommend having the cocktail hour in a separate location from where you are taking your photographs. Otherwise, you’ll get curious guests mingling around you and potentially disrupting the photos.
5:30pm – Announcement of Couple and First Dance
- Once you finish with your photos, it’s time to greet your guests as husband and wife. Generally, your DJ or a bridesmaid/groomsman will announce you so you can enter the party formally. Many couples follow this announcement with their first dance and then go straight into dinner. Others choose to hold off on the first dance until after dinner.
5:30-6:30pm – Dinner & Toasts
- Even with the appetizers, your guests will be hungry – though probably not nearly as hungry as the two of you will be! So, this is a good time for dinner. Toasts can happen before dinner or towards the tail end of everyone eating.
- This is just an estimate, but if you want to shoot at Golden Hour (the hour just before sunset when the sun is low and there is a golden glow over everything), then check to see when sunset is, and schedule the photos for the hour approaching sunset. These photos are best if it is just the two of you. Everyone else can finish up dinner, while you take some shots in this magical glow.
6:30/7:00pm – First Dances
- If you haven’t had your first dance yet, have it now. That’s followed by the Father-Daughter Dance. If you wish to have a Mother-Groom Dance, you can do that with the Father-Daughter or just after. My personal feeling is that each dance should be kept separate in order to give each couple their own special time. If you wish to do a Money Dance, this is a good last dance of the “First Dances” because it can lead into everyone dancing. After the first dances, it’s a good idea to ask your DJ to announce free-for-all dancing.
7:30-8:30pm – Dancing
- Dance the night away!
- About an hour into dancing, it’s a good idea to switch gears to the bouquet toss and garter toss (if you are having this event). For our wedding, we used the song “Single Ladies” as a transition and had it announced that all the single ladies come to the dance floor for the bouquet toss. Then, you can go straight from that to cake cutting. You don’t want to wait too late to cut the cake because some guests will want to retire early. Once that’s done, start the music again, and let the party continue!
9:30-10:30 – Dancing
- More dancing!
10:30-12:30 – Breakdown
- This may need to be longer, so again, talk with your rental company or venue.
Photography by ShootAnyAngle Wedding Photography