The secret to a smooth and stress-free wedding day that goes off without a hitch is all in the planning. A detailed wedding day timeline helps you break down everything into manageable chunks, letting you stay on top of everything when your big day finally arrives. The more details it has, the better.
On average, wedding ceremonies last anywhere from between 30 minutes to one hour, depending on their size and complexity. Receptions range from between four to five hours. But what about all of the pre and post-ceremony prep? From the moment you both wake up, all the way until you fall into bed, time management is key.
This wedding timeline guide assumes that your wedding and reception are held at the same venue, eliminating the need for you and your guests to move from one location to another. If your wedding and reception are being held in separate venues, make sure you factor in travel times, potential delays, lost guests and getting everyone together in one place.
Example Wedding Day Timeline
- 8.00 AM Wake up - coffee & breakfast in the hotel room
- 9.00 AM Hang out robes, enjoy a long shower
- 10.00 AM Hair & Makeup for the happy couple and their bridal party, etc.
- 12.00 PM Brunch of champagne and light bites
- 1.00 PM Photographers arrive at the couples individual suites for photos
- 2.00 PM Both partners begin to get dressed - photos of getting ready
- 3.30 PM First half of the couple arrives to the ceremony venue
- 3.45 PM Second half of the couple arrives to the ceremony venue
- 4.00 PM Guests are seated - ceremony begins
- 4.30 PM Ceremony ends - photo time
- 6.00 PM Wedding reception begins
- 7.00 PM Meal, speeches and cake cutting
- 8.00 PM First dance opens the entertainment
- 11.00 PM Wedding reception ends
Rouse your bridesmaids, groomsmen and attendants and enjoy a champagne brunch as you prepare for hair, makeup and stylists to arrive. Go easy on the bubbles, you don't want a headache by the time the ceremony arrives. The morning is all about making sure clothes, hair and makeup are ready. Once this is out the way you can relax a little.If you managed to sleep through the excitement of your upcoming nuptials, you should be rising with butterflies in your stomach - refreshed and ready to take on the day. Hopefully, you spent the evening relaxing and being pampered in a luxurious hotel room or suite and are feeling amazing.Rise and Shine - it's your WEDDING DAY!
You have lots to do today and you can't do this on an empty stomach. Aim to eat something light and enjoy a steamy cup of freshly roasted coffee to kick your brain into gear. Once breakfast is out the way, it's time to enjoy a long, hot soak in the shower. If you're having an elaborate hairstyle done, avoid washing your hair as this makes it harder to style and set.
Looking good isn't only for brides
Possibly the most important part of the preparations for most brides and bridesmaids is the hair and makeup. But remember, both halves of the couple should get some extra special treatment. For those who prefer not to be made up and styled, a relaxing facial or massage can help give them a wedding day glow and ease their nerves.
While men's hair tends to be easy to style, they may appreciate a quick trim or have somebody coming in and doing it for them. Another nice touch is having a professional barber come in to do a close shave (to avoid all of those nerve-induced shaving cuts and razor bumps). Factor this into their wedding day timeline - both of you should have one
Time to get dressed up to the nines
Approximately an hour and a half before you both make your way to the ceremony venue, start to get dressed. Don't underestimate how many parts there are to wedding clothing. From stockings, shoes, dresses, corsets and jewellery to trousers, shirts, waistcoats, ties, cumberbands, and jackets - everyone needs time to dress without stress.
Individual Happy couple portraits
As you both get ready, it's a great idea to have a photographer capture the nerves and excitement you're both feeling. This is the last moment before you finally see each other again and these photos tell a story of their own. The story of two individuals getting ready to commit themselves to each other as one. It's easy to overlook one half of the couple here, but the day is for the both of you - this should be reflected in your wedding albums.
Just the two of you
Some couples like to wait and see each other at the altar, while others want to enjoy the moment privately and away from prying eyes. The second option lets you enjoy your emotions, feel the excitement together and prepare to meet each other shortly to say 'I do'.
You're about to share your union with your nearest and dearest and there's nothing wrong with sharing a special moment together - the choice is one you can make together. It's also the perfect time to exchange small gifts, such as a corsage, cufflinks or a piece of jewellery.
Guests arrive and are seated
Approximately 15 minutes before the ceremony is due to begin, have your guests ushered into the venue to take their seats. If you're following traditions, families and friends are separated by relation to the couple. A more popular way nowadays is to say "we're all family here, pick your own side".
Once everyone is seated, it's time to begin.
It's time to exchange those vows
This part is the part you have rehearsed in your mind a thousand times already. It's time to forget about everyone in the room and focus on the person standing opposite to you as you officially join your lives together.
Cocktail hour commences
Congratulations, you're now officially married. Celebrate the union with an elegant cocktail hour where you get to mingle with your guests, take those wedding day photos and enjoy the euphoria. If your wedding reception venue is in a different location, you can bypass cocktail hour as people will be driving. Instead, arrange for a 30-minute session on arrival at the venue.
Head to the reception venue
If your reception venue is located in the same place as your ceremony venue, this will be easy. However, if you and your guests need to travel to a separate location - make sure you allow plenty of time in between. Unless everyone is familiar with the location, it's easy for people to take a wrong turn and get lost. Arrange for your car to lead the way and have everyone follow behind.
Dinner, toasts and speeches
Typically, parents will offer a welcome toast to kick things off. While traditional for the father of the bride to speak first, not all weddings or family situations are the same, so the order you choose is entirely up to you and should fit your day, not the other way around.
Once welcome toasts are out of the way, announce dinner. Once everybody is seated, the maid of honour, best man or delegates attendants make their speeches, followed by the newly-weds. Again, the order you choose is up to you - don't feel pressured to follow the usual routines.
Happy couples first dance
Some people do their first dance as part of a grand entrance, while others like to wait until everyone has eaten and is seated. The best thing about doing your first dance now is that all eyes - and cameras - are on you two, and you two alone.
It's not uncommon for couples to put on a choreographed dance routine, but this isn't something you absolutely need to do. While fun, sometimes an 'old-fashioned' slow dance together embodies the spirit of the day perfectly without any distractions.
Move from your first dance straight to the cake table, which is the next milestone of the evening.
Cake Cutting and open dance floor
If you're a stickler for traditions, now is the time to do the cake cutting. While some people enjoy tossing the bouquet, there's nothing wrong with wanting to keep it as a momento - so don't feel pressured to do it.
Before you cut the cake, take a moment to thank your guests for making your day so special, hand out small gifts to key attendees who have helped with the planning process and get those all-important photos taken. Then it's time to open the dance floor and dance the night away.
Time to say thank you and good night
It's a good idea to arrange a final song to end your evening in advance. This gives you an opportunity to thank everyone for attending and say your goodbyes before things wind down. It's at this time you can hand out your wedding favours, take each other by the hand and make your exit. Don't just skip off into the night without saying goodbye. Your guests have made a lot of effort too and deserve to be able to wish you the best before you depart.
Dream Weddings in a Dream Location
Planning your dream day can be exhausting, which is why we are proud to offer our highly-experienced wedding planner to assist you. Let them take care of all of the finer details, coordinating with the best local vendors and industry connections to bring all of the moving parts together for a seamless, stress-free day. No wedding is too large or small, too extravagant or simple - you make the decisions and they will make it happen.
Say “I do” in a fairytale venue, decorated and styled exactly as you dreamed, celebrate your union without relocating to another destination and enjoy soaking up every single magical memory along the way. Ready to take the next step toward the first day of the rest of your lives in style? Contact us now.