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What to Include in a Wedding Timeline

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What should you include in your wedding day timeline? Check out this list of events and moments to include in your wedding timeline.

What to include in a wedding day timeline

If you are a DIY bride and plan on handling most of the logistics yourself, you will need to create a wedding timeline once you get close to your big day. Each vendor will want a copy of this, and it is a good idea to give them to your bridal party as well. This will help everyone stay on track throughout the day and make sure things are getting done when they should. At some point, things will likely be a bit behind, but it’s always good to know what needs to happen next.

When creating your wedding day timeline, remember to leave some buffer room around each piece. Also, be detailed. Instead of having “stylist arrive” at 10am, separate it into “Brides makeup”, “Bridesmaids makeup group 1″, “Bridesmaids makeup group 2”- this will help separate the day, and most importantly make sure the Bride is where she needs to be for everything else.

Items to Include in Your Wedding Day Timeline

You might be wondering, what should I include in a wedding timeline? This list will include all of the details to incorporate into your schedule from start to finish on the big day!

Brides Makeup

Typically this will take around 50-60 minutes. You will have likely had a trial before hand to have a better idea, but an hour is a great amount of time.

Brides Hair

Same as above for the trial time, but an hour is a perfect amount to allow for any changes.

Bridesmaids Makeup

30-45 minutes depending on type of makeup. If they are getting airbrush the amount of time will be different than the normal makeup. Also, think about eyelashes.

Bridesmaids Hair

45 minutes. This may be even less if they only have their hair lightly styled, but count on 45 minutes a girl on your timeline.

The Bride should also go first for makeup and last for hair. The photographer and videographer can catch the last minute steps of the hair styling when they arrive. If there are more than 3 people having makeup or hair done, ask the stylist to bring an assistant, even if it is only for cleaning brushes.

Getting Ready Shots

After all of the bridal party is finished, the Bride can get into her dress.

Depending on location, this is either a time for the bridal party to go to the venue for photos, or if they are already there, leave 30 minutes for photos before the groom and groomsmen arrive.

First Look

Leave at least 20 minutes for this. If not, make sure the bride is hidden during all of the photos with the men of the wedding.

The time prior to the ceremony is also a good time for the bride and groom to have shots with their respective families, before everyone becomes one single family.

Typically a ceremony will begin 15 minutes after the time on the invitation. Count on guests beginning to arrive 30-40 minutes prior to the start time, and 15 minutes later than the start time.

Ceremony Start

When planning your timeline, remember to include a few extra minutes for late arrivals. Typically 15 minutes after the start time on the invitation is good. Example: if your invitation said 5 o’clock, put a 5:15 ceremony start time on your timeline. If you happen to start earlier- that is great!

Ceremony End

Note how long you expect your ceremony to last, and include a few extra minutes towards the end. If you plan on doing a receiving line directly after the ceremony, include that in this time as well.

Cocktail Hour & Formals

The cocktail hour time should be listed for the guests, and the formal photos will be a time for the newlyweds, bridal party and their families. Even if you were able to get most of these done prior to the wedding, it’s always nice to take some more after you really are married.

Guests Seated

Even though it’s called cocktail “hour”, you only need to block out about 50 minutes. 10 minutes before that hour were to end, have the emcee (or DJ) announce that guests should begin taking their seats. This will leave 10 minutes for everyone to find their chair and for the bridal party to get ready for introductions.

Grand Entrance

Introductions for the bridal party and couples entrance normally will only take a few minutes. Leave about 5 minutes in the schedule.

First Dance

The first dance does not always have to be as soon as the couple arrives. You can do this after dinner and toasts if you wanted. Whenever you decide to have it, block out about 10 minutes for the first dance, it will leave some extra time before and after to get ready.


This depends on the type of dinner- formal sit-down will take much longer than a buffet. The best way to schedule this is to ask your caterer.


While you are still in the planning stages, decide who will be making toasts during the reception. It is normally the Best Man, Maid of Honor, and father of the Bride. 15 minutes should be a good amount of time for all three of these toasts. Adjust based on the number you will have.

Family Dances

If you plan on including a mother/son or father/daughter dance, these normally take place after the toasts. 10 minutes for both is a perfect amount of time.

After the family dances, the dance floor can be opened to everyone until the next big event.

Cake Cutting

After everyone has worked off their dinner, it’s time for dessert. 2 hours after the dinner is served is a good time for the cake.

Bouquet and Garter Toss

Other things to keep in mind when creating a timeline are the traditions such as the bouquet toss. Many couples are replacing these with other things, but be sure to include them if you plan on taking part!

Anniversary Dance

This is a dance when the DJ invites all the married couples out on the floor for a dance. The emcee will make announcements asking for the couples who’ve been married more than 1 year to continue, while anyone married less than that period would exit the dance floor and take their seats. This continues throughout the years like 2 years, 3 years, and so on, until only the longest married couple is left dancing.

More Dancing & Last Dance

Start the reception playlist music again as soon as the couple is finished cutting the cake. Most guests will want to grab a piece and get back out there. The last dance should be scheduled 10 minutes before the ceremony is set to end.

Couple’s Exit

The grand exit should take place 5 minutes before the reception end time. This will leave a few minutes for goodbyes, and then a grand sendoff for the newlyweds.

There is no right or wrong order because it is your day! This is simply a guide to creating your own timeline. It’s fine to replace, leave out, ignore or double the time for any of these items listed. Just have fun!

Are you creating your own wedding timeline?

If you’re looking for our wedding planning timeline and checklist, you can find it here.


is an Event Manager turned Lifestyle, Wedding, and Travel blogger who got married in 2015. You can read her wedding planning posts here.